CTRM Versus Spreadsheets: Agiboo Versus Excel Mania

It’s not an easy task to plug in all the necessary variables of a particular industry into a workable software solution. Trust us, we know. We’ve been fighting the good fight for well over a decade, on a veritable quest to reduce time-consuming labor by developing best-in-class solutions that actually simplify the daily practices of commodity trade professionals. It has brought us to where we are today: commodity trade and risk management with just a single touch. Meanwhile, with over three-quarters of a billion users worldwide, Excel remains the go-to tool for presenting and analyzing data. 750 million people can’t be wrong – right? 

Well, that very much depends on whom you ask, and what the purpose is for your tool of choice. Because it’s hardly just housekeeping, home economics and school projects where Excel is being called into service. It’s recruited for anything and everything from accounting and project administration to compliance and risk management. And a surprisingly large number of commodity businesses use excel as their core data management as well, from preparation and visualization to analytics and reporting. It’s what they know – and what they know, works for them. It’s good enough

So, let’s talk ‘good enough’. If one of the greatest challenges in our industry is to keep a good eye on performance and position through real-time, reliable data, how does a solution that is traditionally error prone, labor intensive and having the connotation ‘Excel Mania’ hold up…?

Sure, Excel can get you where you need to go. But aren’t those data errors affecting efficiency, reporting, output and your bottom line? Isn’t the time-consuming process of doing the same over and over again hindering your progress? Doesn’t the lack of timely available input harm your position, the adaptability of that position and the need to make effective, data-driven decisions? In an effective analogy our managing director has used on several occasions, getting to where you need to go simply isn’t good enough…

Can I drive from Amsterdam to Paris using a globe?

Of course you can drive from Amsterdam to Paris using just a globe! Or it’ll give you all the general guidelines, at least. It will show you to drive south. It will show you to keep the ocean to your right, and steer clear of the water. It will give you a universal overview of the situation, as well as an approximation of the distance. But wouldn’t you rather use Google Maps and drive with an actual sense of direction, efficiency and time-sensitivity?

paris-seine

Now, imagine you’re not just driving from Amsterdam to Paris in one car, but are instead managing a whole fleet of cars. Or what about being an air traffic controller monitoring all in- and outbound traffic between the two cities? The globe-approach becomes less and less favorable. Why? Because capturing all underlying details is simply a necessity for success – behind the wheel as well as at the helm of any commodity trade operation. 

You need the data, and it needs to be reliable to respond to the real situation. It needs to be supported by quality mechanisms, available in real-time and capturing everything from pricing/hedging to trading factors and specific functions and features. And that’s where a commodity-specific system comes in: to match the intricacies of the industry. 

The case for CTRM software

CTRM solutions are by default complex and rich in functionalities to support all the dynamics that characterizes the industry. It provides a large number of detailed features and functions, in many cases specialized for a certain commodity or commodity group. 

Of course, any software solution should feature any and all variables and properties related to commodity trading; it needs to be auditable, which is to say banks should be able to verify it as a reliable product; and you should be able to link it, directly or indirectly, to your accountancy system in order to reduce manual maneuvers there as well. But the key component, the real heart of the matter, is that the software matches all the intricacies of the industry, in much the same way that a spreadsheet solution does not. The commodity trade – the products, the price volatility, the actual day-to-day essence – is very peculiar and very specific. Your software should reflect that and have all those variables and requisites built-in to allow you the freedom and flexibility necessary to do your job.

“Excel was manageable, for all intents and purposes, but it got to be rather time-consuming as it grew into a bit of a monster. Editing all those separate files, ever-expanding and growing more intricate, requires a lot of manual modifications. Whenever there’s a small adjustment, say in weight or in price, you have to change that number in every file and hope for the best in terms of linking your Excel sheets together.”


Erik van der Flier, managing director of Agroforce – who switched
to Agiblocks two years ago. |
You can read the full testimonial here

So, back to the features and possibilities of Excel. Because we’re not here to slander Excel in any way. Quite the contrary. However, when your company is growing and the Excel Mania is getting out of hand, it for sure seizes to be the right tool. The practical use for day-to-day needs starts to diminish when you lose sight of the bigger picture. 

A CTRM system is not just a container for data, you need to be able to quickly access and adjust that information as well. You want to be able to check your position every day. What is going on with this deal here, what are the various developments vis-à-vis estimates and expectations, how can I quickly and effectively adjust my position? In Excel, that puzzle will take you several hours easily – let alone implementing the proper adjustments. You’ve basically come at the end of its efficacy. Or worse: it has become an overall impediment. To growth. To progress. To taking the next step. You’ve reached Excel Mania.

spreadsheet-excel

Let’s get another analogy in there. 

Because Excel, while useful for numbers and statistics, is increasingly being thrown into the ERP-mix. Still, today. Which is to say, it’s being asked to play the part of Enterprise Resource Planning – the type of software that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities such as accounting, procurement, project management, risk management and compliance, and even supply chain operations. Here, the limitations are even clearer. Because if an ERP cannot properly fill the shoes of any CTRM worth its salt, how can Excel?

But wait, you were promised that second analogy. Here goes. You simply can’t use the same pan to cook eggs, pasta or stew meat. Even if you manage to fit the stew inside a pan designed specifically for eggs, you will not be able to cook it properly. So too it works with the commodities business: you simply can’t have your ERP system perform all your commodity functions, transactions and risk monitoring. Even if you attach 10 more ‘add-ons’ offered by your ERP supplier, your “stew” will be still be spilling out of the pan and all over your stovetop.  Your software needs to be as adaptive to the complex landscape of your industry as well. The commodity trade is, if anything, dynamic. Any software solution should reflect that by being able to adapt to new developments and conditions. 

Agiblocks: Fast, Accessible and Scalable
We take pride in the fact that our software matches all the intricacies of the industries it intends to support. A true multi-commodity system right out of the box, not limited to a particular commodity and built on modern technology.

Agiblocks provides all functionality for trading physical agricultural commodities and their terminal market instruments. It supports contract management, logistics, forex and hedging and has powerful tools for real-time risk analysis and management. Its modular structure is designed to fit any and all company sizes, allowing implementation on the basis of desired necessity – from just the functionality you need to a full end-to-end solution.

Our software is easy to install, simple to maintain and integrates well with existing systems or IT-platforms. On-premises, Cloud-hosted or SaaS. It supports trading as well as financial management from the same source of data and within the same, fully web-based application – accessible anytime, anywhere on any device with a browser.

That’s not all. Our software is continuously being upgraded as well. We have commodity trade in our hearts and understand that technology – having new and innovative features – is an important part of a CTRM solution. We’ve got you covered – from the latest tools and functions to assisted integration (including custom connectors), fueled by industry-leading partnerships. From vertical microservices, Point in Time Recovery (PITR), Messages, JSON, RabbitMQ, OData, Azure SQL & Atlas MongoDB to Kubernetes, Linux and Windows containers, OAuth 2.0 with MFA, container orchestration on server clusters and .NET Core.

technology-factor-agiblocks

Do you want to be in control?

In the end, you come to a crossroads, as with any business decision. Do I invest amount X in a supplement to my current solution as an easy fix, say ‘Excel-plus’, keeping expenses low but risking that my newly implemented solution will be outdated within the next few years? Or do I take the leap by turning to an innovative business solution that has already been tried and tested by other firms, and has become the go-to solution for commodity traders?

Agiblocks provides detailed insight in your commodity trade chain and offers full control of every aspect of your business operation. Within a single, consistent environment offering customizable configuration, our software enables you to drill down in your trade book, your logistics chain or financial documentation and allows you to act quickly and easily if need be. It also keeps a full audit trail of transactions. 

Agiblocks is the go-to solution for any commodity, but support for our ‘specialized commodities’ – Sugar, Cocoa, Coffee and Grains/Oilseeds – is unrivaled. Our CTRM offers unique features to cater to all their complexities – from origins, grades and unique conversions to certifications and exchanges – that are either not supported in a generic CTRM solution, or would require time-consuming work-arounds.

Agiboo’s offer

  • Decrease in overall cost
  • Increase in overall efficiency
  • Assistance with implementation and onboarding
  • A personal approach to clients and potential new customers
  • Simplification of the daily practices of commodity trade professionals

Agiblocks is the first CTRM software solution that truly simplifies the daily practices of commodity trade professionals. It has been developed with the single goal of making your fixed routine of commodity trading and risk management more efficient. Experience our solution for free and get a front-row seat to all the benefits Agiblocks has to offer with our free demo. The full range of functionalities is available within our demo environment.

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Commodity trade and risk management
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