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Excel - a high risk planning tool

29 October 2020
Hotels are extensive users of Excel. It seems like Excel is the preferred tool for anything from staff schedules and email lists to budgeting and forecasting. When hotels use Excel for more advanced tasks is when Excel becomes a high-risk tool.

Still in “Back to the Future” of 1985?

Excel spreadsheets are not databases, nor are spreadsheets analytics tools—and the fact that hotels treat them as such are holding them back. Research has found that almost 90% percent of spreadsheets contain errors that change analytics and forecasting results. Errors are so common that there is a need for a spreadsheet risks interest group, European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group (EuSpRiG). Their purpose is to establish best practices for handling spreadsheets to limit the risk of errors. They have a rich collection of horror stories from many industries.

Version control issues make it a long and difficult process to update spreadsheets correctly — imagine changing the same figure across many spreadsheets. This is probably part of the everyday work for marketing, sales, and revenue management in hotels. Lastly, spreadsheets are not secure, which means hotel critical data can end up under the wrong set of eyes.

Given all these drawbacks, why do 62% of executives in all industries, according to research, still rely on spreadsheets? It turns out breaking hold of traditional tools can still be a drawn-out process. Excel, first launched in 1985, is what people are familiar with, and new powerful analytics tools can seem scary and unfamiliar. What hotels need is a tool that can replace Excel and provide the robust data juggling capabilities that they need to analyze their business.

Excel is an exceptionally bad fit for hotels

Hotels is a fast paced business with huge volumes of transactions handled by many employees. The hotel industry has a high employee turnover. Knowledge is continuously lost and new employees have to be hired and trained.

Mastering Excel takes experience and patience. It is easy to make mistakes even if you have been using it for a long time. Even software produced by professionals is buggy, such as your hotel PMS. So no surprise when spreadsheet logic created by untrained amateurs is worse. Do you have anyone auditing the Excel sheets to verify that the formulas are correct and producing the right insights and results. Do you require that all Excel spreadsheets are well documented, so that the knowledge stays in the company when your employee leaves. Most likely, the old spreadsheet is not the right flavor for the new employee. Everything will have to be re-worked which takes time and costs money.

Users sometimes use the same spreadsheet for new data by overwriting the existing data. For example, you might enter this week's sales figures over last week's -- destroying last week's data. This process seems practical, but if the data is important enough to record, it is probably important enough to keep. Using Excel as a serious database could get you into serious trouble--the two concepts simply are not interchangeable.

Why Is Excel Inefficient at Planning?

One problem with Excel is that it often ends up as the repository for a hotel’s entire data store. Vital data used by marketing, sales, revenue, and top management all end up in one sheet or another. Another problem is that Excel does not have robust visualization tools that allow getting insights from the most relevant data. It is all raw data as far as Excel is concerned. This means that business leaders miss out on actionable conclusions amidst all the rows and columns.

The data visualization tools that are within Excel include simple pie charts, bar charts, and graphs. Simple is not always better. Pie charts are ripe for misinterpretation. It is hard to accurately determine relationships between pie slices, and more colorful slices are likely to be disproportionately weighted in decision-making. Basically, built-in Excel visualization tools give people the opportunity to make poor information design choices, which leads to wrong conclusions.

Excel is also susceptible to data loss. If you are using traditional Excel, and not the cloud-based Office 365, losing Excel data is as simple as deleting the wrong file. Alternatively, these files are susceptible to cyberattacks and employee theft. Lastly, you can lose vast chunks of data or render them meaningless by reordering your management schema or converting files from .xlsx to .csv. In other words, the longer you store your data in Excel, the greater chance that you will lose it.

Lastly, the importance of real-time data cannot be overemphasized. Excel is not real-time. There is no way to natively use Excel to generate real-time foresight into business drivers. To get a conclusion from an Excel spreadsheet, you need to manually manipulate the data in it. By the time you finish, you may have missed a window of opportunity. Missing a favorable business outcome or to mitigate an unforeseen failure can become very expensive.

What Factors Would Comprise an Efficient Planning Tool?

How do you take information out of all your Excel spreadsheets sitting in different departments and stored on individual computers? How do you compile the data to generate accurate forecasts for your business in real-time? What's more, how do you do this without hiring new FTEs, or extensively train your employees?

Demand Calendar offers the answers you need. It’s a planning, tacking, and optimization tool that is explicitly designed to replace Excel with rich forecasting, planning, and data visualization capabilities.

What is more, Demand Calendar introduces a new more human user interface that can be used by anyone without extensive training. For more advanced users digging deeper into the data, the interface is more approachable to Excel users with data in rows and columns.

Talking about data. Demand Calendar stores all data in one place so you easily can access the data and be sure that it is secure.

Demand Calendar benefits include

Sales CRM

Manage all contracted business and track the performance. The automatic data feed from the hotel PMS keeps track of the production. Overview to see the trends and detailed information to analyze individual accounts.

Forecasting and pick-up tracking

All data in one place needed for an easy forecasting process and improved accuracy. Pick-up tracking to understand how the business build up. Detailed information to analyze individual days.

Marketing campaign management

Track the pick-up and production for each campaign. Detailed information of how each rate code performs with a number of variables to track consumer behavior.

Consolidated reporting

Speed is essential when making decisions. Consolidated reporting for all hotels in a group in a few minutes instead of the manual Excel produced reports that might take days. Overview to see the early warning trends as well as the details needed to explain the trends.