Financial Planning and Budgeting

Today it’s a spreadsheet management hassle. Tomorrow it’ll be an integrated planning process.

Budgeting time is over, and you’ve finally managed to get almost all the input from all your departments. Now you just need to spend the whole weekend mastering spreadsheet data and ensuring that the formulas are still correct. Sounds familiar?

And how about that feeling when your CEO asks you to create rolling monthly planning? Are you a financial specialist or a spreadsheet transaction administrator?


Here are typical challenges we’ve seen when doing rolling plans with spreadsheets:

  • New spreadsheet templates need to be created and distributed for each period. A lot of time is wasted doing this manually.
  • People complain that they do not have access to the spreadsheet because someone else has locked it. So you create a separate spreadsheet for each department.
  • That again creates performance problems, like how to consolidate all data. The worst-case scenario is that you wind up doing it manually.

Then there are technical problems:

  • The spreadsheet has absolute references to specific cells. When people add new rows and columns (against your advice), they break.
  • The actuals need to be manually entered and are easily out of sync, presenting a different truth than the accounting system.
  • The data and business logic are together in the spreadsheet. When people add their own data, they break the formulas by mistake.

And then there are the security concerns:

  • It is relatively easy for people to see each other’s data. No role-based access control.
  • Spreadsheets are distributed by email and understanding what is the latest version is unclear.
  • There is no information about who has changed what and when.

When looking at the above list, it is actually surprising that we manage to run the budget rounds with Excel in the first place!


The important question is: Can you trust your numbers?

Something needs to be done to get rolling planning done each month smoothly – and in these volatile times – to react faster.  There are many ways to improve, from merely agreeing to do it better next time, all the way to implementing a massive and expensive planning system.

While Excel is probably the most efficient user interface on the market for data management, many of the above problems exist because it was initially designed to be a personal tool. It needs a good set of enterprise enablers in order for it to work well as a planning tool. Luckily it has a useful add-in framework so it can be enhanced to meet the process needs.

At the very least these requirements must be met to make Excel work in the budgeting process:

  • A rolling plan can be executed without creating and distributing new plan templates for each time-period
  • The same spreadsheet template can always be used and rolled forward automatically
  • Collecting information from many departments or business functions concurrently needs to be easy: All budget owners can simultaneously modify their data, and their data only
  • There is no need to use absolute references or formulas in the spreadsheet
  • Logical APIs are needed for in and out connections to other systems
  • Still, you want to have all of Excel’s excellent capabilities available related to charts, formulas, and pivot tables!

If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in hearing how we can help you. Reserve a time to meet from our calendar: Book a Demo.

Econia eases corona life with a free app that digitizes receipts

Due to the coronavirus, working from home will continue through the spring and summer for many. Econia, a full-house accounting company, has developed a new Artificial Intelligence-based mobile application to digitize accounting documents. The Econia Pocket app is now available free of charge to Econia customers.

“We wanted to provide an easy and secure way for our customers to deliver receipts and other accounting documents even if their company has not yet made the jump to e-financial management. So, we developed an app that enables users to send accounting documents via a mobile app thus avoiding unnecessary travel and personal contact,” says Elina Salmivala, CEO of Econia Ltd.

The corona virus pandemic accelerated the project – Econia made the app free of charge

“We have developed the Econia Pocket app and underlying system together with Koivu Solutions, a company specialising in Artificial Intelligence solutions and enterprise software. The onslaught of the corona virus pandemic threw the project into high gear and also changed our pricing logic: As a gesture of good will, we want to support our customers by offering the mobile app free of charge and even give them a discount on monthly accounting fees,” explains Salmivala.

Econia Pocket makes accounting routines easier

The Econia Pocket app allows you to quickly capture pictures of various vouchers – such as receipts, contracts, sales summaries and reports – and send them electronically to the financial management system. The browser-based app works on all smartphones and can also be used on a tablet and computer without installation.

The app was piloted in May. Thanks to positive user feedback, it will be offered free to all Econia customers starting June 2, 2020.

“I was surprised by how easy Econia Pocket is to use. I can just take a picture of my invoices and send them in minutes regardless of how many pages long they are. This makes life so much easier for entrepreneurs like myself and ensures that all my supporting documents are saved electronically,” says Virpi Nikula, owner and operator of beauty salon Kauneussalonki Silkki, who participated in the pilot.

“When a customer sends us their digital receipt soon after the transaction, the accountant can make the entries earlier so the monthly reports are completed faster. Digital material also accelerates completion of financial statements,” says Salmivala.

Artificial Intelligence helps automate accounting

Econia Pocket’s AI recognizes vendor information, labels and sums from photos and pdf files, making the work of both the sender and accountant easier. As a result of ongoing use, AI learns to know the company’s accounting practices.

“Econia challenged us to develop a cost-effective AI solution. We used our long enterprise software experience, powerful cloud platforms and the latest technology to develop an AI system and supporting software that fits perfectly into Econia’s new operating model,” says Sami Lahti, founding member of Koivu Solutions.

“In the long term, digitization saves time and resources for both the customer and the accounting company. And to help our customers through the corona crisis, we decided to pass these savings directly onto our customers in the form of discounts,” Salmivala sums up.

For more information, interview and image requests:
Elina Salmivala, CEO of Econia Ltd, M.Sc. (Economics), KLT, HHJ PJ, HT
Tel. +358 40 544 7344, elina.salmivala@econia.com
www.econia.com/pocket
www.econia.com

Sami Lahti, Founding Member of Koivu Solutions Oy
Tel. +358 40 544 4088, sami.lahti@koivusolutions.com
www.koivusolutions.com

Econia Pocket is a browser-based application for digitizing accounting documents. The application enables taking pictures of receipts, invoices and other accounting documents and sending them electronically to the accountant. AI recognizes and categorizes information from vouchers, facilitating accounting routines.

Econia Ltd is a Finnish company founded in 1996. It employs over 100 experts in financial and human resource management, and international business. Econia operates in 14 locations in Satakunta, Pirkanmaa, Central Finland, Uusimaa and Fuengirola, Spain. Econia’s revenues are approximately 11 M€. The company has grown strongly in recent years, and the growth forecast for 2020 remains positive despite the corona crisis. For more information, see www.econia.com.

Koivu Solutions Oy is a company focused on Artificial Intelligence and advanced digitalisation solutions with more than 25 years of experience in developing enterprise software. Koivu Solutions’ services consist of consulting, software development and proprietary products such as the Koivu Value Flow Cloud, which integrates Excel spreadsheets into your company’s business processes and other IT systems. For more information, see www.valueflowcloud.com. 

Leading North American retailer is using the Koivu.Cloud for campaign planning

A distinguished fashion brand with hundreds of stores in North America is using the Koivu.Cloud to plan its sales campaigns. Previously, the chain used only Microsoft Excel to plan its sales campaigns, which created many challenges including pricing mistakes.

The so-called Amazon effect has markedly changed retail competition in many countries in recent years. The ability of Amazon and other online retailers to change prices fast has affected the entire marketplace. Brick and mortar stores experience it as a challenge because they usually use very traditional IT systems for pricing and sales campaign planning. These systems do not match today’s demands for various pricing models and general agility.

This often leads to a situation where a process is created outside enterprise systems with tools such as Excel. Even if such an “Excel process” may be usable, it causes delays and errors and is tied to one person. If that person is, for example, out sick the process can stall altogether.

Koivu’s solution digitizes the process, automates the workflow, and eliminates human errors in data entry. Campaign planning no longer requires the manual input of previously approved discounts from one system to the next because the Koivu.Cloud transfers the data automatically from Excel. Also, the user interfaces of rigid traditional enterprise systems do not stand in the way of changing prices quickly.

Koivu.Cloud also manages data tracking and change history. User actions are limited by user roles but Excel can still be used as a tool for data creation, gathering, review, and confirmation.
Koivu Solutions, together with its North American partner, implemented the project on a fast timeline at the beginning of 2019. Configuration, integration, and deployment took three months in its entirety. User feedback has been glowing – we can say that for the first time an enterprise system actually delights its users.