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Lauren Bahr, VP of Finance at Occupier — Death to Spreadsheets?

Lauren Bahr, VP of Finance at Occupier, discusses the destiny of spreadsheets and Excel, why people still use them despite technological advances, how to keep the finance and accounting professions alive, and why the future of finance lies in automation.

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Episode Summary

No one denies Excel’s contribution to the business world and how it took operations to the next level. However, it’s time to admit that there are use cases that have outgrown spreadsheets and can make the lives of finance professionals easier.

Whether spreadsheets will soon become part of the past is a burning topic among finance professionals across various industries. In this episode of The Role Forward, Joe Michalowski chats with Lauren Bahr, the VP of finance at Occupier, a lease management solution that breaks down the silos between finance, real estate, and facilities departments. They discuss the destiny of spreadsheets and Excel, why people still use them despite technological advances, how to keep the finance and accounting professions alive, and why the future of finance lies in automation.

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Featured Guest

Lauren Bahr

Lauren Bahr

VP of Finance, Occupier

Lauren has over 10 years of experience in the finance space, where she started her career in the audit practice at PWC. She then transitioned into a consulting role where she helped emerging growth companies with their month-end financial reporting requirements. Lauren served as the Director of Accounting & Finance at Neocova, and is now the VP of Finance at Occupier.

Key Themes from the Episode
  • We must keep the finance and accounting profession alive. A new statistic from the AICPA discovered that 75% of CPAs are expected to retire in the next 10 years — but college students are not racing to study accounting and finance. The way to keep people more interested in the finance profession is to change the stereotype of finance professionals from “bean counters” to strategic contributors that are critical to the business’ mission and success.
  • Excel will always have its place among finance professionals. As technology develops and new solutions appear, many people still won’t say goodbye to the methods they are used to due to the comfort level and universal language and understanding that Excel provides across the finance industry.
  • Automation saves time and leads to faster and more accurate decision-making. It’s critical for finance departments to look for solutions that free them from repetitive tasks and allow for more focus on flexibility for critical models and forecasts that provide decision-makers proactive, strategic insights into the business.

Episode Highlights from Lauren Bahr

10:04 — Are We Close to Saying Goodbye to Spreadsheets?

“I would love to get to that place where we can eliminate them entirely. I don’t think we’ll ever get there, but it would be a nice place, if we put much less emphasis on it. […] 

I do not care if you are amazing at Excel in the future because I want you to be leveraging software, and I’m more curious about how you think through problems and your analytical skill set.

Being able to generate the coolest Excel formula of all time is amazing to some folks, but it is not where I want you to be focusing your skill set in the future.”

15:48 — Excel Is Like a Safety Net 

“Excel is sometimes hard to combat because people are comfortable with it. People have been using it for 30 years or as soon as they have gotten out of college, and they’ve been using it for the past ten years. 

When people are that good at Excel and building files in a way they’ve done historically, sometimes it’s hard to fight that good fight of bringing them over into software that could do it better for them.

And so, with people reverting to Excel, maybe they didn’t fully lean into the software. And it could be Mosaic, or it could be Occupier, but they never leaned into the software to understand its capabilities and how it could solve those edge cases that you thought you could only do in Excel.”

24:23 — Efficiency Is What Makes Various Software Solutions Life Saviors

“We had our board meeting this week, and getting your board package ready can sometimes be daunting because you have different sources of truth for different areas of the business. You are sometimes calculating items important for your metrics like churn, expansion, and all that fun stuff. 

Sometimes, it’s very difficult to calculate based on your source of truth. Layering in Mosaic made that process a lot easier because it already did all of the consolidations for you. So, you didn’t have to run around; they already had the charting for you. 

And then the other thing is being able to do things on the fly. The morning of the board meeting or after the board meeting, there were certain questions about metrics and different scenarios, and you’re able to do it much faster because you already have the data plugged in.”

Full Transcript