Budgeting can be a tedious task, usually because of the traditional process of manually linking spreadsheets together for a comprehensive budget. Fortunately, third party Business Intelligence (BI) software vendors are offering modern upgrades to your budgeting and forecasting tasks with consumer-driven technology. If your company is healthy and growing, your planning responsibilities are probably too complicated for manual Excel budgets, so you should be looking at third party solutions to simplify and improve your planning processes. The best modern budgeting tools enable you to securely facilitate collaborative budgeting by distributing ownership to your department heads without annoying logistics.
Financial planning typically involves more than one person, comparing historical, actual financials to researched projections for the upcoming year. Microsoft Excel is globally utilized and trusted, but it can be a logistical mess when multiple people are contributing to the budget. A lot of organizations are still using Excel, while others are depending on native Acumatica budgeting functionality. Because an independent software vendor (ISV) tool is an additional investment beyond their current software licenses, most might think this an avoidable cost, but this article will discuss the benefits and opportunities you can have with a third party budgeting tool for Acumatica.
ISV budgeting software is more popular than ever today, most likely because of how flexible, secure, easy options are for collaboration across the organization. Furthermore, you have choices. Some are based in Excel, some are on the Web, and others are hybrid in nature, providing the flexibility of the spreadsheet program and the accessibility of the internet. The premier ISV budgeting tools additionally offer native accounting logic for easy automation and templates that business end users can repurpose.
Third party budgeting software manufacturers have designed their planning products with consumer demands for enhanced security and efficiency in mind. Some of the stronger budgeting tools enable the budget manager to bring department managers into the planning process, so they can oversee the development of budgets they have to meet, while eliminating back-and-forth e-mail conversations with typically substantial Excel attachments that need to be manually linked together. Budget managers can then coordinate singular, complete, and collaborative financial planning teamwork. And it’s not too good to be true, with benefits ranging from money, time, and energy.
When you make an investment in a modern, business user friendly planning tool, you can measure your return in time and money saved, and resources you can reallocate to other areas of your company. How do you even start shopping for a budgeting solution to upgrade your Acumatica budgeting process? The main aspects to think about involve your end user platform (Excel, web, and/or proprietary), database options (data warehouse or OLAP cube), and the power of a complete suite of fully integrated BI software. You will also want to ensure that the budgeting solution can easily load your actual data from Acumatica and simply export the completed budget back to the ERP, whether on-premises or in the cloud.
We’ve already acknowledged the familiarity and flexibility of Excel that finance professionals around the world associate with their budgeting processes. Good news: Excel add-in solutions upgrade the Microsoft program for planning tasks. More specifically, Excel add-ins empower your team to work together easily and securely on reusable budgets due to more flexible, more dynamic functionality. You can also opt for a proprietary interface.
Some ISVs argue that Excel should be avoided because of how logistically messy it can be for budgeting. Typically, these third party vendors have brought their own proprietary, non-Excel tools to market, some of which are Window-based and others are Web-based. Here’s what you need to know: outside of Excel, your team will have to learn a whole new set of formulas and formatting, so they can generate their budgets and forecasts. When it comes to training on a new tool, Excel add-in software is easier and more affordable for implementation. But you should also think about moving to the Web.
Since you’re already using Acumatica, you know that the Web is the future of the tech world, and it’s already here. Web budgeting is somewhat new to the scene, but provides budget design with Excel formatting or proprietary formulas. If you have a large group of Acumatica users, it is usually easier to maintain a web budgeting tool in terms of licensing, but the main selling point lies in your ability to access your budgets and forecasts from anywhere you can connect to the internet. The best software will combine web flexibility with Excel formatting familiarity. Once you figure out what platform you want, you can evaluate key functionalities.
In terms of modern planning processes, you’ll want to consider the following functionalities. You need the capability to compare your historical, actual figures with projected numbers side-by-side, spread totals across a year, simply add multiple line items for accounts, perform roll-ups, convert currencies, design reusable templates, view authorships, utilize what-if scenarios for potential variations to your plan, and plug in parameters like Department, Division, and Entity. Today’s software options will enable you to plan beyond the General Ledger, such as for sales by location/sales person/customer, assets, payroll, projects, and assets, all more in-depth than traditional budgeting tools have. These abilities are already here and will continue to expand in the future, but ease of use should be your number one priority. These functionalities are available now and will expand in the future, but business user friendliness is the most important of priorities.
This blog has covered both integration types – an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cube versus a data warehouse. It is up to you to decide which is the business user friendlier option for your team. Do you have someone on staff who has OLAP experience and skills? Do you plan to store multiple types of data from different sources in a data warehouse? If you have other objectives in your BI roadmap, how does this budgeting tool fit into your analytics plan?
Some budgeting tools are a part of a comprehensive suite of completely integrated BI software. If you’re responsible for other BI processes, like financial reporting, consolidations, and/or dashboards, whether that’s now or down the line, you should be looking at planning software that is part of a BI suite. When it comes to ease of use, you only have to work with a single team of vendor, reseller, consultant and support professionals. Solver offers BI360 as a stand-alone solution with Excel and web budgeting user interfaces 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 Acumatica.