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How FinTech Accounting Software Is Overcoming Spreadsheet Challenges

Electronic spreadsheets have been a mainstay of business operations since their introduction four decades ago, but the way organizations use them has changed significantly during that time. Today, the financial industry needs FinTech accounting software that facilitates online spreadsheet collaboration without creating unnecessary risk or disrupting workflows. 

Spreadsheets in the Tax and Accounting Industry

Although many tax and accounting firms use dedicated software solutions to manage complex financial workflows, they still rely on conventional spreadsheets for a variety of tasks. In fact, a recent study by Deloitte found that 62% of companies are still relying heavily upon spreadsheets for business insights. The data used to inform risk analysis, growth projections, and financial modeling is often collected and sorted in individual spreadsheet files by individual employees. In many instances, that data will eventually be transferred into a more sophisticated accounting platform, either through manual entry or an API integration.

Spreadsheets also play a critical role when it comes to presenting complex financial data. Whether it’s for an internal presentation to key stakeholders within the organization or a customer-facing report designed to relay important information about their business, tax and accounting firms routinely need to create, edit, view, and share spreadsheets. 

Although Google Sheets has gained quite a bit of traction over the last few years, Microsoft Excel remains the preferred spreadsheet solution for most financial industry professionals. Practically every CRM and CMS platform allows users to easily export data into Excel’s XLSX file format for convenient viewing, making it the de facto standard for most companies. Online spreadsheet collaboration is also easier than ever before thanks to public cloud tools like Office 365.

5 Major Spreadsheet Collaboration Challenges

Unfortunately, all of that ubiquity and convenience comes with a few drawbacks. There are also some inherent shortcomings with Excel spreadsheets that pose significant challenges to tax and accounting firms in particular.

1. Version Control

One of the great benefits of spreadsheets is their ability to track data over time, with new information constantly being fed into the spreadsheet formula to generate different results. Unfortunately, that typically means that the document could potentially be outdated the moment it’s copied, shared, or downloaded because a more current version might exist elsewhere. While cloud-based software like Google Sheets or Office 365 theoretically ensure that everyone is viewing and referencing the same document, if there are too many people making changes, errors can easily escape notice and break entire spreadsheet formulas (or possibly corrupt the file). Even then, people may clone their own version to work on independently, which creates the same version control challenge posed by Excel-dependent files. 

2. Security

Familiarity has a way of breeding complacency. That’s certainly true when it comes to sharing XLSX files. People are accustomed to sending and receiving spreadsheets over email and other messaging platforms. What they may not realize, however, is that 38% of malicious email attachments disguise themselves as Microsoft Office file types. The last thing a tax or accounting firm wants is for an employee to accidentally infect their network with harmful malware by opening what they thought was a spreadsheet. At the same time, even conventional spreadsheet collaboration can pose a serious security risk. Excel files offer limited security controls, and downloaded or shared files could be easily hacked to compromise important financial data. With more people working remotely in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FinTech accounting software needs to account for the common security risks posed by home offices while still meeting consumer demands for high-speed, low-friction digital solutions in 2020 and beyond.

3. Asset Protection

Spreadsheets often contain more than just important financial data. The spreadsheet formulas buried within the many rows and columns of cells may represent important intellectual property for a tax or accounting firm. Any time a company shares a spreadsheet, it runs the risk of those formulas being stolen and distributed. Even if these proprietary assets remain safely tucked away within the spreadsheet, there’s still the matter of anyone with a copy of the file being able to use it however they want, potentially cutting into the firm’s business.

4. Workflow Efficiency

Managing a large number of independent XLSX files can quickly become burdensome for any organization. Take, for example, a situation where a tax firm’s customers must download a spreadsheet to enter their tax information and then send that file back to the firm so the data can be entered into its FinTech accounting software. Not only does this create numerous opportunities for manual errors, but it also introduces several unnecessary (and potentially risky) steps into the process. What if a file is not attached to an email? Or if someone downloads the spreadsheet, but then misplaces it? How does the tax firm verify that the version sent back to them is the most up-to-date version? This approach to spreadsheet collaboration ends up wasting time and is highly prone to mistakes.

5. Software Dependencies

While Excel may be the most widely used spreadsheet software in the world, that doesn’t mean every organization has access to it. Smaller companies and startups are much more likely to rely upon cloud-based tools like Google Sheets due to their low cost and ease of online spreadsheet collaboration. Although Google’s Chrome browser offers extensions capable of reading, viewing, and editing XLSX files, the conversion process is often imperfect due to differences in feature sets. Transferring data back and forth between Excel and other spreadsheet programs can create formatting problems and potentially break internal formulas. 

The PrizmDoc Cells Solution

One of the best ways for FinTech accounting software developers to address these issues is to simply integrate spreadsheet viewing and editing functionality into their applications. PrizmDoc Cells is a web-based spreadsheet editor that natively supports XLSX files by storing them on a secure server and allowing users to interact with them online through an Excel-like interface. 

Secure Spreadsheet Functionality

PrizmDoc Cells provides essential spreadsheet features within a familiar UI. After opening an XLSX file, users can review and edit cell content within a secure web-based environment. Firms can also restrict features to protect spreadsheets from errors and unauthorized alterations. 

No Microsoft Dependencies

Deployed entirely within a Docker container, PrizmDoc Cells can import, view, edit, and export XLSX files entirely within a firm’s FinTech accounting software or web-based application. No one needs access to a copy of Microsoft Excel to access files.

Manage End-User Access

In addition to hosting their source files securely within a proprietary server or private cloud environment, organizations can control what end-users can access within the spreadsheet. Proprietary data and spreadsheet formulas can be safely hidden from view to protect valuable IP.

Maintain Version Control

As an entirely web-based viewer, PrizmDoc Cells eliminates the need to email, copy, or download spreadsheets, ensuring that the file being viewed is always the most up-to-date version. Editing access can also be adjusted to ensure that only authorized users are able to make changes.

White Label Customization

Developers can easily remove all branding to seamlessly integrate PrizmDoc Cells with their applications and FinTech accounting software.

Say Goodbye to the Old Way of Spreadsheet Collaboration

Today’s tax and accounting firms need to work more efficiently than ever before to keep up with the demands of their clients. They can’t afford to keep relying upon outdated approaches to spreadsheet collaboration. The pressure is on for FinTech developers to build applications capable of accommodating their security, workflow, and version control requirements when it comes to spreadsheets. 

With PrizmDoc Cells, developers can build FinTech accounting software solutions that allow for true online spreadsheet collaboration without compromising the security or control organizations expect from their applications. Experience the functionality of PrizmDoc Cells firsthand by trying a demo today. To get a closer look at how PrizmDoc Cells will operate in your own development environment, sign up for a free trial.