In a pre-Microsoft Office era, a financial team may have consisted of one or two people, working solely with "old school" tools - calculators, pens, paper, and typewriters to produce the report. Contrast that with today's hectic Finance Teams (sometimes containing dozens of team members), collaborating online and in the office with a myriad of software to produce, interpret and report on data. Is life simpler? Probably not - your business can probably make your finance team's life easier with MS Office automation.

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The quarterly board meeting is often dreaded by today's Finance teams. Three months of data has to be produced in a way that is both clear and makes sense to everyone present within the business, and that means lots of reports and presentations. Even worse: these all have to be produced within a short timescale before the meeting, so there's no time to double check everything. The result? An overstressed and overworked financial team, deadlines missed, reports and presentations that aren't proofed and may contain mistakes, and a board meeting descending into chaos. How can this be avoided?

One of the key functions that can be used to good effect in this scenario is using the powers of automation that MS Office has. As your IT department will tell you, this is down to Visual Basic programming (VBA) that can be used in all Microsoft Office applications to automate the process. A good example is that in the past, the finance team have to produce a new chart within a PowerPoint spreadsheet every time there's a new bit of financial data.

Let's say that a zero was missed off the profit balance (ouch!). If this is spotted and corrected, the finance team still have to re-enter the data, produce a new chart, delete the old one, and copy the new one over to the presentation slide. Time consuming and stressful, all for the sake of one keystroke.

With VBA, your IT department can program Excel to "talk" to PowerPoint, so that the software knows something has changed, and does the corrections itself within the presentation. In other words, completely automating the process. Now doesn't that sound easier?

Another example to show this would be if the PAs within the business were using a mail merge to send invites to the quarterly meeting. Let's say the company "contacts sheet" is in Excel or Outlook, and they copy across the email or postal addresses to Word. If there's a typo or someone's email address has changed, they would have to go through both the spreadsheet or contact card, change it, then go back to Word and correct it. Not so with VBA automation - Word would 'pick up' on the correction and update the invite. Much easier.

The upshot of using the simple power of automation is that there is less stress, less duplication by your financial (and other teams), and best of all, people want to attend that quarterly meeting because they know it's fast, up-to-the-minute data that is mistake free. Result!