Best Budgeting Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics SL

Third party budgeting options for Dynamics SL are empowering CFOs and budget managers to effectively and dynamically plan for organizational and departmental growth, through secure and simple collaboration.  This article will discuss elements to consider when shopping for the best budgeting tool for your team.

I think it is safe to say that budgeting for a business is a task most would prefer to avoid.  Maybe this has something to do with the tedious nature of the tools available to budget managers.  Excel spreadsheets that are formatted into a budget might be okay for household planning, perhaps for a smaller company’s budget, due to the relatively small set of data, but growing corporations using Microsoft Dynamics SL are taking notice of the benefits of a third party budgeting solution to enhance their accounting and finance objectives.  Some of today’s more modern solutions streamline the process of budgeting by empowering contributors through secure collaboration.  Planning and managing profit and loss, employee budgets, project budgets, and other areas of a business is a necessary task so that corporation leaders can operate within their financial means, ensuring progress.

For most, if not all of companies, budgeting requires multiple players to bring analytics to the table to piece together a budget.  While Excel is the trusted spreadsheet application, it can be logistically challenging when it comes to inviting different departments and entities to collaborate in simple and secure ways.  Most finance teams have Excel – and perhaps Microsoft’s Forecaster, too – so investing in an independent software vendor (ISV) product might seem excessive.  This article will explore the benefits of budgeting solutions in the context of selecting the best product to enhance the Microsoft Dynamics SL experience.

 

Budgeting software purchases have become increasingly more popular these days due to the flexibility and ownership that all contributors and managers can have in the process of planning for specific units or the organization-wide budget.  Furthermore, there are budgeting and forecasting software applications that are Excel-powered, which translates to familiarity of formatting and functionality accelerated through a ribbon added to the top of the application without linking together manually built, separate spreadsheets.  Some third party budgeting solutions also utilize accounting logic with the business user in mind, with user friendly automation and template reuse.

Modern ISV budgeting and forecasting software are consumer-driven in the sense that logistics and security are prominent features.  CFOs can give department supervisors the ownership of their own budgets without a long e-mail thread with spreadsheet attachments or a messy linking of spreadsheets.  Whoever is managing the budget can then pull together a cohesive, collaborative, complete company-wide budget.  Sound too good to be true?  It’s not.  And the potential return on investment also might seem that way.

In terms of time, money, energy, and staff morale, a dynamic budgeting software can be an extremely valuable investment.  At this point, most professionals usually want to know what they should be looking for when they start shopping for a budgeting solution to enhance their Dynamics SL accounting.  You should consider proprietary versus Excel software, budgeting abilities, integrations between the product and SL, data storage source integrations, the option to acquire additional fully integrated BI modules via a suite, and the horizon of web budgeting.

We have already discussed the perks of Excel and the finance community’s familiarity with the product, but you should know that Excel add-ins enhances the program so that you can more powerfully and intuitively build secure, collaborative and reusable budgets within the interface.  On the other hand, proprietary platforms are also prevalent in the marketplace.

Some third party BI manufacturers have argued that Excel is a frustrating mess, and they have alternatively built their own proprietary interfaced Windows products or web-based products.  Because they are not situated within Excel, users should expect to go through significantly lengthier training to learn the formatting and functionalities in order to produce budgets.  Modern web-based budget interfaces can be an exception.  You’re going to spend money on training and the learning process either way, but an Excel add-in is going to be a logically smaller cost, unless you have a large number of users in which case, the time savings in managing the process is often worth the extra cost.  I’m not sure if the cost of training will be a big aspect in the decision-making process, but it is important to consider alongside things like budgeting abilities and types of integrations.

Software cannot be everything to everyone, but you should be looking for a foundation of features.  In today’s offerings, look for the ability to put actuals versus projections right next to each other, spreading of totals across a year, simple ways to add multiple line items for accounts, roll-ups, multiple currencies, templates that are reusable, visibility of authorship, and parameters like Department, Division, and Entity.  If you are budgeting for a potential fluctuation in the cost of goods, there are what-if scenarios that you can play out within some budget solutions.  For example, some software can empower professionals like the HR director to budget for new employees beyond the General Ledger, with room for salary, equipment, training, and supplies for onboarding, with calculations for statistical reporting and headcount numbers.  This is the present and future of business user friendly products – and ease of use is arguably the most important aspect.

I have written about the Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes versus data warehouses integration decision-making – and deciding between live integration versus a data storage source data pull – but the important thing to focus on will be the ease of use.  Do you have someone on staff to manage an OLAP cube?  Do you have diverse types of data that you need to store in one place like a fully built data warehouse?  If you have other BI needs, how will a certain budgeting solution fit into that strategy?

Some budgeting tools are positioned within a BI suite of different modules, fully integrated for a unified approach to related, but distinct analysis.  If you are also responsible for financial reporting, generating dashboards, financial consolidations, and/or managing data in a warehouse – now or in the not-so-distant future, you should really consider going with a tool that is a part of a comprehensive BI suite.  This way, you can keep all of our tools under one manufacturer, consultant, partner, and support team.  Finally, the future of budgeting is in the Cloud.  Surprised?

Me either.  Cloud computing is the present and the future, and budgeting is following suit.  Keep your eye out for web budgeting for the flexibility of accessible and truly access-anywhere budgeting, but do not abandon the other elements that should inform your investment decision.  Web budgeting will inevitably continue to build momentum, so I will write more about this BI option in the future, but it should  be on your radar.  Solver offers a budgeting module stand-alone and as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Microsoft Dynamics SL.

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