Pros and Cons of creating promotions off-line in Excel

Pros and Cons of creating promotions off-line in Excel


I find it interesting that the challenges and advantages of doing promotion planning off-line in Excel hasn’t changed much over the past 10 years.   Even if your organization has an excellent trade promotion solution, you’ll probably hear promotion planners ask for the option to plan next year’s promotions in Excel, and have those promotion ‘uploaded’ into the system.

Here are the most pros and cons this ‘hybrid’ approach of using Excel and a Trade Promotion Management solution:

Advantages for the promotion planner for planning in Excel & uploading to TPMS:

  • Excel is familiar, and sometimes perceived as taking less total time to plan a whole year’s promotions.
  • Flexibility in planning, allowing planners the ability to adapt the spreadsheet to specific needs for the customer, how you go to market, etc.
  • Planning can be done off-line. Note, that as fast Internet becomes available almost everywhere, this is one advantage that has diminished over time.


Disadvantages for the promotion planner:

  • Most Excel planning is done ‘off-line’ in one-off copies of spreadsheets. This creates several challenges:
    • Which version is correct? Do I have the most recent version?
    • Master data can be out-of-sync with the TPM solution and/or the ERP master data. Promotions created with old master data is more challenging  to upload into the TPM solution.
    • Aggregating individual spreadsheets from different users into one ‘master’ planner can also be challenging. In an on-line solution, you have real-time roll-up of results across all users.  There is no real-time visibility for stakeholders when planning is in Excel spreadsheets.
    • Missing or incomplete data validation. Your TPMS solution will prevent users from creating bad data, and enforce you enter all the required data.  Your Excel planner probably doesn’t have these same validations.
  • Flexibility is also a negative. Unless locked down, users can change fields, add columns, etc., which make it more difficult to upload into your TPMS solution.

Most TPM solutions today give promotion planners the option to create some or all of their promotions in an Excel spreadsheet, and then upload the results into the online solution.  While TPM solutions support this, your company should review the pros and cons to make sure the advantages of planning in Excel and uploaded out-weight the disadvantages.


Alex Ring

Co-founders, CG Squared, Inc.