Suresh Bala

Chief Product & Technology Officer, Cube Software

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My favorite product: Excel

As a product person, I am often asked: what’s your favorite product?

With a bow to my inner nerd, I invariably say Excel. Excel may not be the coolest product around, but it is a bit hard not to be awed by its success.

One can be introduced to Excel and, within 10 minutes, can identify something useful to do with it—it may be a simple to-do list or a basic table tracking your stock portfolio. 

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s incredible to contemplate how large portions of the Fortune 500 companies still perform data analysis on Excel today. It’s estimated that Excel has north of one billion active users across the globe, and that number could be significantly higher if you add the volume of Google Sheets users.

It’s hard to think of another product that is as flexible and versatile as Excel, yet is still as easy and intuitive to use.

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Discovering Cube

Fast forward to last fall. I was chatting with Rajeev Batra, who happens to be on the board of Cube. I was coming off of a break, and Rajeev encouraged me to take a look at Cube and meet up with Christina Ross. 

I met Christina with an open mind, but with a specific question: What is the edge for Cube? 

The FP&A software space is extremely crowded, and there seems to be more startups than ever—with good funding to boot—jumping into the fray. We chatted over multiple sessions, and I ended up loving the mission Christina and the Cube team are on. 

The core thesis is to begin by acknowledging that there is a reason why finance teams love Excel.

As I mentioned earlier, it’s an incredible data analysis tool; one can calculate, review, and present complex data on it in a compact manner. It’s also an extremely flexible platform on which a seasoned user can rapidly build rich financial models and perform interactive what-if analysis. 

However, there are also some serious downsides to Excel that can frustrate users. Excel-based models are fundamentally fragile and hard to maintain over time. Data refresh from source systems can be hard and manual. Collaborative work across teams and departments is difficult. It’s cumbersome to ensure data security and prevent accidental disclosure of sensitive information, and with large volumes of data, Excel can grind to a halt.

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A vision for the future

That leads me to the thesis of Cube: What if we can let finance users leverage Excel for what it’s good at (compact analysis, immediate what-ifs, and local modeling) and augment that with clean, up-to-date data, rich company-wide financial models, granular data access controls, and cloud-based collaboration and workflows? 

Then, what if we could apply some of the amazing advances that AI/ML technologies are driving towards to help finance teams guide their companies toward predictable performance? That would be the best of both worlds—leveraging Excel where it shines, and complementing it with a modern, cloud-based solution. 

It’s an exciting vision, and the Cube team is on a mission to make it a reality.

I couldn’t be more excited to be joining Cube. There’s such an interesting journey ahead—developing an FP&A solution that meets users where they want to be, and providing the industrial strength to support the planning process at scale.

It’s an inspiring mission to be on, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it. Here’s to the road ahead!

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