Budgeting is essential to progressive organizations that want to lead their competition and control the financial direction of their organization. Having real forecast numbers to illustrate the effect of business decisions and current competitive conditions is invaluable. However, most companies entrust this essential task to a time consuming, static process that delivers numbers that are discounted by those involved before they are even returned.
Participants in the process become frustrated due to the large amount of time required to assemble the plan, the complexity of tracking the numerous spreadsheets being distributed and assembled, and the overall span of time the process involves.
This inefficiency and frustration can be directly attributed to the use of spreadsheets for a task that demands a much more intuitive tool. Typically budgets are created within individual spreadsheets with no ability to automate the relationship from one sheet to another. Input is gathered through the distribution of individual sheets, with manual intervention (or ‘rekeying’) required to combine or ‘roll up’ the numbers on a summary basis. This manual entry of data is both time consuming and provides additional opportunities for mistakes to be introduced. In addition, the beginning of a new budget cycle then further requires the manual updating of each sheet to reflect the new numbers and time spans, in essence requiring each budget period to almost start from scratch with little efficiency gained from one year to the next.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Budgeting can be automated with advanced software tools that can reduce the time involved, and increase the viability of the numbers provided. A good tool designed for this type of application should work with your accounting application along with any other software products you may have. Software designed specifically for budgeting should provide significant ability to do rolling forecasts and to automatically draw in data from your various business applications. It would allow you to create plan ‘sheets’ (similar to spreadsheets) that can be arranged in a process plan flow to automate the passing of data and information from one sheet to another. This in essence would allow numbers entered in one sheet (such as salaries) to be automatically summarized and passed up to a high lever sheet as a component of it. It should also allow budget numbers to be dispersed among lower level sheets so that decisions made at the top can quickly and easily be reflected in line level planning.
In addition, budget planning software would allow numbers to be entered manually or drawn in automatically from your accounting software or other data sources through the use of simple or complex calculations. Plans could also be rolled forward with automatic updating of calculations to simplify and streamline the budgeting process from year to year. Other advantages of budget planning software should include:
- Support for “what-if” analysis
- Control over access to sensitive data
- Integration of budget with enterprise data sources
- Ability to allocate budgets from bottom-up, top-down or a combination of both
- Web based access to your budget
- Advanced reporting capabilities
Budgeting is essential to moving a business forward in a planned profitable manner. It can be arduous and time consuming is done incorrectly. As always, when you use the right tool for the right job, the time savings, quality and efficiency gains can be significant. Users of budgeting and forecasting solutions have reported time savings of days, weeks or even months. In addition, they have experienced more confidence in their budget process and more accurate results.
If you’d like to take control of your budget process, contact us today – we’d love to help.