It’s no secret that budgeting is not the most enjoyable undertaking for professionals at every level, perhaps due to the old school process of linking spreadsheets together manually. However, independent software vendors (ISVs) are dramatically upgrading your choices by modernizing budgeting and forecasting processes with consumer-driven tools. If your organization is healthy in size, your planning tasks are likely too complex for manual Excel budgets, so you should be considering third party solutions to streamline and upgrade your processes. Today’s premier budgeting software empower you to oversee budgeting teamwork in secure ways and distribute ownership to managers without the traditionally messy logistics.
For most companies, financial planning usually entails multiple players coming together to craft a budget or forecast. Budgeting involves a comparison of historical, actual figures to gathered research for projections. Microsoft Excel is implemented and trusted worldwide, but it can be logistically messy when more than one person has to contribute to the same budget workbook. Plenty of companies are sticking with Excel, while others are relying on built-in Intacct budgeting functionality, both of which mean that an ISV tool would be an investment beyond their current licensing. Perhaps you are thinking this could be a cost you can avoid, but in this article, I will explore the benefits you can experience should you implement a modern third party budgeting solution for Intacct.
Specialty budgeting solutions are more popular than ever these days, probably due to the secure, flexible, and business user friendly capabilities to collaborate across departments. And you have choices. Some budgeting tools are Excel-based, some are web-based, and others are hybrids, offering the flexible formatting of the spreadsheet application and the mobility of the internet. The best third party budgeting solutions also offer built-in accounting logic for accessible automation and reusable templates for the business end user.
It appears that budgeting software vendors have heard consumer demands for more secure, more efficient budgeting and forecasting. Some of the smarter planning solutions empower the budget manager to invite department supervisors into the budgeting process, so they can manage the budgets they have to meet, but eliminating lengthy e-mail threads with usually heavy attachments of Excel files and the frustrating linking together of separate spreadsheets. Budget managers are able to facilitate a comprehensive, unified, and collaborative financial planning taskforce. Seems too good to be true, right? But it’s not – and the benefits range from time, money, and staff morale.
When you go about investing in one of today’s easy-to-use and powerful planning tools, your return can be measured in time saved, energy earned, and money to put into other areas of the business. How do you even begin your search for a budgeting tool to accelerate your Intacct budgeting experience? The top things to consider include your end user interface (Excel, web, and/or proprietary), database platform (OLAP cube or data warehouse), and the option of a comprehensive suite of completely integrated Business Intelligence (BI) tools. Of course, you also want to make sure the budgeting tool can easily load your actual data from Intacct and that it can export the finished budget back to Intacct.
I have already pointed to the familiarity and flexibility of Microsoft Excel that finance teams are globally associating with budgeting, and the good news is that Excel add-in software upgrades the spreadsheet program for planning processes. In particular, Excel add-ins allow you to work together securely and easily on budgets that you can reuse because of more dynamic and more flexible functionality. You can also go with a proprietary platform.
Some third party manufacturers are arguing that you should avoid Excel as a platform because of how tedious it can be for budgeting. Usually, these ISVs are selling their own proprietary products that don’t offer Excel add-ins, some Windows-based and some web-based. But here’s what you have understand about this option: without an Excel interface, your team is going to have to acclimate to a whole new set of formatting and coding in order to create their budgets and forecasts. In terms of training on a new product, Excel add-in solutions are going to be easier and more cost efficient for most finance professionals to implement. However, you should also consider the web as a platform option.
As an Intacct customer, you are well aware that the web is the future of technology, and it’s already in full swing. Web budgeting is relatively new on the scene, but offers budget design with Excel formulas or proprietary formatting. If your team is made up of a larger number of users, it is often easier to manage a web budgeting product when it comes to licenses, but the real perk is that you can access your budgets and forecasts from wherever you can connect to the internet. It just makes sense to me to find a product that combines the flexibility of the web with the familiarity of Excel formatting. After narrowing it down in terms of platform, consider key functionalities.
When it comes to modern budgeting, consider the following capabilities. You need the ability to compare historical actuals with projections side-by-side, spread totals across the year, easily add multiple line items for accounts, produce roll-ups, convert currencies, build templates you can reuse, view authorships, use what-if scenarios for possible variations in your budget, and apply parameters like Department, Division, and Entity. More modern solutions will allow you to budget beyond the General Ledger, such as for projects, payroll, sales, and assets, and all with more in-depth analytics. These functionalities are available now and will expand in the future, but business user friendliness is the most important of priorities.
I’ve discussed both types of budgeting integrations – an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cube versus a data warehouse, but you need to decide which is the easier-to-use option for the business end users on your team. Is there someone on your staff who knows how to manage an OLAP cube? Do you have multiple data sources to consolidate in a data warehouse? If you have other BI objectives, how does this budgeting tool contribute to meeting those goals?
Some budgeting software are positioned within a comprehensive suite of fully integrated BI solutions. If you are charged with managing additional BI analytics, like financial reporting, consolidations, and/or dashboards, whether you are doing it now or plan on doing it in the not-so-distant future, you should consider planning solutions that are part of a suite. Regarding business user friendliness, you would only have to work with one team of manufacturer, consultant, partner, and support professionals. Solver offers Excel and web budgeting stand-alone solutions or as part of the comprehensive suite of BI360 modules and would be happy to generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Intacct.