What do you like best?
This is by far the most elegant (ie, powerful yet simple) integration of excel and a dimensional database I've yet used. The relative ease (ie, speed) with which you can develop your current excel-based models into enterprise-class applications probably has to be experienced to be believed. This product brought the terms self-service business intelligence, analytics, and data warehouse down from the domain of large-scale waterfall projects (hundreds of thousands of dollars) to an agile and practical reality for tens of thousands of dollars.
What do you dislike?
Honestly, very little. Further, most minor annoyances have been addressed during the period of our ownership. The current rate of development of the cloud-based application is very impressive. Significant releases of new or improved functionality almost monthly. It is likely beyond the scope of this review, and far beyond the interest of most users/readers here, but my most technical criticism would be directed at the maturity of the user interface for server side scripting - ie, the ability to do calculations "on the database side" rather than in excel. The tools exposed to the user for evaluating errors in advanced VenaCalc scripts are not as robust as you might expect from other programming tools.
Recommendations to others considering the product
It is important to understand that Vena is predicated on the idea that Excel is the front-end tool that finance professionals prefer to use. If you want to continue to be able to leverage the full power of native excel but need enterprise-class data reliability and efficiency, I would strongly recommend this product. If you are not seeking to retain any part of your existing Excel-based workflow, then Vena is not as easy to recommend. For example, if you are looking for a "pre-built" solution that has considered all the necessary business logic of your given problem, with a stock suite of forms and reports that are more comprehensive than your existing Excel-based analyses (ie, you want to throw out everything you have and start over), then Vena may not be the right solution.
What business problems are you solving with the product? What benefits have you realized?
We were looking for a solution to increase the reliability (data integrity, audit trail, etc) and efficiency (aggregation / roll-ups, roll-over, etc) of the income tax provision process for our $3 Billion multi-national with over 150 entities aggregating into several different federal consolidations and annual reports. We dedicated one tax professional, not IT professional, and self-implemented a working proof-of-concept within a couple of weeks and all core functionality in less 8 weeks. We were able to extend that functionality to all of the information that flows through our income tax cycle (including returns, estimates, etc) in the first year of ownership, and are piloting processes in other areas of finance. For the income tax provision alone, roll-over went from several weeks to a couple of days. Perhaps more importantly, we have eliminated the mystical -- no more "glitches" or otherwise unexplained changes. The audit trail allows us to identify the source of all issues and correct them.