Apps vs Excel – Who wins in the battle of Financial Reporting

Image of Excel and the Pros & Cons of Apps for Financial Reporting

“Job satisfaction comes from being creative in this space,” says Scott Miller, the founder of Scott’s add-ins. 

This is not what you’d expect to hear about financial reporting, particularly with Excel. 

But in order to craft financial reports that offer valuable insights for clients, the right tool is crucial.

Should you rely on the tried-and-true Excel or explore the latest apps designed for financial reporting?

In a recent webinar discussing apps vs. Excel for financial reporting, Scott (representing team Excel) sat down with Martin Bown, the founder of My Management Accountant who uses apps for financial reporting at his tech-first accountancy firm. 

Stick around as they discuss the pros and cons of Apps vs. Excel for creating financial reports for both practice and industry accountants. 

Why Excel takes the cake for financial reporting 

“As accountants, we don’t often have the chance to be creative—it’s usually frowned upon in our field,” says Scott. “But with the Excel add-in, you can have fun creating something that will delight your client or boost your identity within your firm.” 

The pros

Let’s take a look at some of the benefits of using the tried and tested spreadsheets over apps. 

Flexibility and creativity

Scott emphasises that Excel offers unmatched flexibility, stating, “With Excel, you have a blank canvas to be creative.” 

Reports can be tailored to meet any requirement, providing bespoke financial reporting. “There are no limits to what you can create for your company or your clients,” he says.

Multi-entity reporting

Excel is well-suited for consolidating data from multiple organisations. Scott mentioned a client with a chain of pubs who efficiently used Excel to analyze KPIs across 30 locations: 

“The Excel workbook I saw for this chain was impressive; it contained 30 different tabs, one for each pub, with KPIs and comparisons. Without Excel and our tool, managing the financial aspects of such a business would be unfeasible, says Scott.” 

This is a prime example of how traditional accounting systems can’t match the flexibility and granularity that Excel provides.

With Scott’s add-ins, you enhance Excel’s existing capabilities. This makes way for sophisticated analysis like tracking code categories, “which is extensively used but poorly supported by apps like Xero, adds Scott.”

This functionality is crucial for client write-ups at the month’s end, allowing immediate visibility of any adjustments made in the books directly within Excel.”

Graphical representations

Excel’s graphical capabilities enable users to create dashboards that are visually engaging and tailored to specific business needs.

As pretty as graphs can be, “The key is really in the interpretation,” notes Scott. “This is where accounting firms and chief financial officers add significant value.”

While numbers and graphs provide the data, the true power lies in their interpretation. 

Effective interpretation involves bespoke reporting that focuses precisely on the key performance indicators and financial statements needed for a specific client in their industry, based on their unique business context.

Clients don’t care about how you get to the numbers, they just want to know their KPIs. 

The cons of Excel for financial reporting

The drawbacks of using Excel for financial reporting are primarily related to its perceived complexity and traditional image. 

Excel has unfairly garnered a reputation for being mundane and intimidating, which can deter some users. 

However, this is often a matter of familiarity; those who grasp even the basic functionalities of Excel can enhance their capabilities significantly through add-ins. 

It’s a bit of an IYKYK (if you know you know) situation at play here. 

For those in the know, Excel combined with powerful add-ins can transform from a mundane spreadsheet tool into an essential asset for detailed and dynamic financial reporting.

Or as Scott likes to put it, “Make financial art.”  


The manual process of exporting and importing data often leads to errors. There’s the exporting of the data, importing, changing the columns, and using arcane functions. “Excel can be a nightmare for financial reporting,” particularly when connecting it to accounting systems,” admits Scott. 

However, this is only true if you’re operating without Scott’s add-ins, an Excel add-in that instantly syncs data from QuickBooks and Xero into Excel

Limited scalability… Is it a myth? 

Martin notes that using Excel exclusively isn’t scalable for growing businesses, especially when reports need to be customised for different clients. 

This is true, to an extent.  

“If you have the right tool, [Excel] is completely scalable because you can build once and simply Recalc or refresh at the end of the month or quarter with current accounting data,” Scott notes, adding: 

“This makes it completely scalable in terms of deployment capability as well. Many accounting firms use a standard template that they customize for each client, providing a truly bespoke feel in terms of their advisory service, which is great for the client and delivers a lot of value.” 

The other side of the coin: Team App

Now, looking at this argument from the app perspective, the first benefit of apps for financial reporting is the user experience. 

But what about when you need custom metrics for financial reporting? 

Let’s see what Martin had to say about the pros and cons of apps for reporting at his firm. 

Pros of apps for financial reporting

The benefits of using financial reporting apps tend to lean on UX and integrations. “We use apps because they eliminate user error and reduce the time taken to deliver to get to the point that the clients value,” says Martin. 

Martin needed a tool that would allow his team to spend less time on setup and data input, and more time extracting the necessary information.

Efficiency and scalability

“It’s a very quick task that anybody in the business that knows how to use that app can do,” says Martin, of his preferred reporting app. Apps have an inherent time-saving potential, which makes it efficient when you’re onboarding new team members and need to do reports at scale. 

Real-time reporting

“Within our team, even when building reports for a new client, the way the apps function is seamless,” says Martin. 

“Setting up standard reports like the profit and loss account, actual versus forecast, balance sheet, and cash flow, along with a couple of graphs, is straightforward and efficient.”

Customization for non-financial data

Martin shared how apps allow for non-financial data integration. “As a recent example, I created a gross profit report for a business which also included the number of appointments they had over the month,” he says. 

This allowed the business to see the correlation between gross profit and operational activity when they integrated headcount analysis into their reports. 

Previously, the business heavily relied on third-party associates, which posed a financial risk. By presenting this data alongside their profit and loss accounts, we could observe a shift towards more employed staff over time, which contributed to an increase in their gross profit percentage. 

This comprehensive view helped the client easily understand the financial impact of their staffing strategy.

Cons of apps for financial reporting

Whilst easy to use, the thing is, apps can be quite rigid in their reporting capabilities. Which brings us to our first point: 

Lack of flexibility

Apps are known to produce canned solutions to complex tasks when it comes to financial reporting. (Martin even noted that his preferred app couldn’t generate pie charts). 

Limited client usage

Martin mentioned that clients are often uninterested in the dashboards apps provide, preferring to see the reports during monthly discussions.

As nice as they might look, it doesn’t matter to clients so much in the end. 

Feature by feature comparison of Apps vs. Excel 

Here’s a table comparing the use cases for each financial reporting tool.

Flexibility and CreativityHigh customization and creative possibilities; enhanced with add-ins for specific needs.Depends on the app–some may be limited by pre-set features and templates. 
Multi-Organisational ReportsEasy consolidation of data across organisations; can be tailored extensively–with add-ins.Capabilities can vary.
Graphical RepresentationCustom dashboards and visualizations; advanced graphical tools with add-ins.Depends on the app’s features. 
ComplexityStreamlined with the right tools and add-ins, reducing typical setup and error issues.Simplifies data integration.
ScalabilityHighly scalable with add-ins that automate data processes, matching the needs of growing businesses.Efficient and scalable with preset templates. 
Real-Time ReportingCapable of real-time data integration with the appropriate add-ins.Provides real-time data access. 
Non-Financial Data IntegrationRobust integration capabilities, especially with add-ins designed for complex data scenarios.Generally automated.
Client InteractionHighly adaptable to client preferences and more familiar to most users.Clients may prefer discussions over basic dashboards.

The verdict

Should apps and Excel… coexist? 

The decision between Excel and apps for financial reporting often comes down to the specific needs of a business or accounting firm. 

While not everybody in your business is an experienced Excel user, Scott notes: “You do not have to be an Excel guru to use Excel combined with our add-in.” In fact, to prove his point, he’s never had to do a single demo to date.

The primary advantage of apps is their user-friendliness and ability to integrate seamlessly with other platforms. 

Excel alone may not offer these features, but when it is enhanced with Scott’s add-ins—especially those designed for financial data—the choice becomes clear. Using Excel with these add-ins provides a powerful, user-friendly solution.

While Scott argued that apps don’t offer enough differentiation, Martin believes they can coexist. He admits that he still uses Excel for specific tasks but relies on apps for efficiency for most of his financial reporting.

Share this article with your thoughts by tagging us on LinkedIn @Scottsaddins! And tell us: are you team app, or team Excel? 

Watch the full webinar recording below. ⬇️

Get started with a free trial