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Stop Using Excel – WSJ Reports CFOs Tell Staff to Focus on Insights, Not Administrative Tasks

  • November 27, 2017

Last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that CFOs are directing finance staff to reduce how much their teams use Excel for planning, analysis, and reporting.  Adobe Inc’s CFO Mark Garrett said “I don’t want financial planning people spending their time importing and exporting and manipulating data, I want them to focus on what the data is telling us.”  EnergyWatch has been advocating this approach in energy/utility/sustainability management and reporting for the past several years.  CFOs are “turning to new, cloud-based technologies” to “aggregate, analyze, and report data on one unified platform.” Operations, engineering, property and asset management, and sustainability teams should be making the same decision.  Read on to learn why more companies are turning to cloud-based energy data management platforms and the benefits realized by this decision.

Just like Adobe’s CFO doesn’t want finance teams spending time acquiring, importing, exporting, and manipulating data, energy management staff (operations, asset & property management, engineering, sustainability, accounting) should also be focused on higher level tasks.  Many of the problems encountered by finance teams are also problems shared by energy management staff:

  • Pulling utility data from disparate sources and systems takes considerable time, and often the data is rife with errors
  • If utility data lives in Excel, it cannot easily connect to other enterprise systems, and isn’t automatically updated
  • Distributed data slows down analysis and hampers collaboration

 

Cloud based energy data management systems, such as EnergyWatch’s watchwire platform, solve these problems:

  • Utility invoice data is automatically acquired, audited, and consolidated in one unified platform, maintaining “one source of truth”, as described by Adobe’s CFO Mark Garrett. Additionally, any billing issues are resolved by EnergyWatch analysts so your energy management team can reduce administrative burdens.
  • Through an open API, utility data can be connected with multiple enterprise platforms (e.g. accounting systems to export payment files with G/L codes) and sustainability reporting platforms such as ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager and GRESB, further cutting time-sucking administrative tasks.
  • On-demand and automatically distributed monthly reports deliver trend visualization, variance reporting, and operational insights in the most efficient manner possible, allowing teams to focus on the important issues (e.g. reducing expenses and GHG emissions, increasing NOI), rather than data management tasks that can be cheaply and more effectively outsourced.

“Excel just wasn’t designed to do some of the heavy lifting that companies need to do in finance,” said Paul Hammerman, a business applications analyst at Forrester Research Inc.  This applies to energy management teams as well. By integrating data streams such as weather variables, interval data, tariff rates, power/capacity market data, and occupancy information, a unified energy management platform can quickly deliver advanced analytics such as weather normalized reporting, benchmarking against peers, IPMVP and ASHRAE Guideline 14-2014 compliant measurement and verification, and more.

As mentioned in the article, “You’re still going to use Excel for the things you’re not using a tailored solution for.”  We understand that Excel isn’t going anywhere, which is why watchwire natively integrates with Excel.  EnergyWatch’s custom Excel plug-in allows users to create ad hoc reports, and update existing internal Excel reports, which pull data directly from watchwire so invoice data is automatically updated and you don’t have to copy, paste, import, or export.  Additionally, our reporting system is native to Excel, allowing export of investment grade reports to Excel (as well as PDF and csv), retaining formatting integrity so you don’t have to waste time rearranging data or making the reports more presentable.

In a world full of hot buzzwords like artificial intelligence and sexy topics like battery storage, the discussion of utility invoice data is decidedly not sexy.  However, utility invoice data is the foundation for additional advanced energy management tools and strategies.  Without a solid foundation of centralized, audited, and continuously updated invoice data:

  • insights gained from interval and/or real-time data is half as valuable, if that (i.e. no cost information, just use/demand)
  • AI-based operational program performance cannot be verified (i.e. are the savings suggested by these operational adjustments showing up in the invoices? Or are you just taking them at their word?)
  • Battery storage (and other distributed generation) proposals are not easily analyzed (i.e. lots of assumptions regarding rates), and once installed, not easily measured and verified to ensure performance/savings/ROI

Bottom line, cloud-based utility invoice management is good for your bottom line.  Reduce energy expenses, simplify reporting, and increase energy income by leaning on EnergyWatch for cloud-based utility invoice management.

Download the watchwire  Fact Sheet