Best Budgeting Solutions for Sage 300

Independent budgeting software vendors (ISVs) are bringing more business user friendly, secure, and powerful tools to market for Sage 300 users.  This article will discuss the features and functionalities of the best planning tools for Sage 300.

Budgeting is such an important task that also tends to be logistically challenging because we’re used to manually linking spreadsheets together, but there’s good news.  Third party software vendors are producing smarter, streamlined tools for today’s budgeting and forecasting needs.  If you’re like most companies, you are outgrowing the homegrown, manual Excel budgeting processes, so it might be time to look at your ISV planning solution options for upgrading your budgets and forecasts.  The premier modern planning tools empower you to organize secure teamwork, distributing ownership to contributors and less mess as a budget manager.

Budgeting and forecasting usually entails multiple people coming together to shape a financial plan.  Planning involves a comparison of historical actuals with research-driven projected numbers.  Finance teams around the globe trust and use Excel, but it can be a pain when you have more than one contributor in the planning process.  While plenty of finance professionals are still relying on Excel, some have over the years moved to Sage Budgeting & Planning, so any best-of-breed third party tool would be an investment beyond their current licensing, which might seem like an expense they could avoid.  In this article, we’ll explore the benefits you can experience by implementing third party budgeting software for an upgraded Sage 300 experience.

Best-of-breed planning tools have become increasingly more popular in recent years, most likely due to the flexibility, in-depth budgeting functionality and the security surrounding collaboration capabilities for contributors.  Furthermore, with choices in platform that include Excel, proprietary, and/or Web, consumers are empowered to invest in an interface that will benefit their team the most.  The best ISV planning solutions also build accounting logic right into the product with business user friendly automation and reusable templates.

In this consumer-driven business world, ISVs have answered the need for more secure, streamlined, and collaborative budgeting and forecasting.  The best planning software allows budget managers to distribute real ownership to department heads in the process of putting together a budget they have to manage through the year, without lengthy e-mail threads, hefty spreadsheet attachments, or the challenge of linking together spreadsheets.  The budget manager can then make sure that the process leads to a final product of a comprehensive budget that is a result of strong teamwork.  This is the best part – it’s not too good to be true.  You can expect a multi-faceted return on your investment: money, time, and energy.

When investing in one of today’s dynamic planning tools, you will likely see monetary, time, and morale returns.  However, you might be confused as to what you should be looking for when seeking the best budgeting tool to help you meeting your goals with Sage 300.  Things to consider: Excel, proprietary, and/or a web interface, integration types, and a budgeting solution positioned within a fully integrated, complete suite of Business Intelligence (BI) software.

Given how prevalent Excel is in the finance realm, Excel add-ins are powerful options in the marketplace because they take the familiarity and flexibility of Excel and upgrade the program for planning processes.  Excel add-in tools enable you to securely work together on budget templates you can reuse with more robust, dynamic functionality.  On the other hand, proprietary platforms are another option.

Some third party software vendors argue that Excel is a pain when budgeting, and these ISVs are bringing their own proprietary platforms to market, some Windows-based and some browser-based.  Because these interfaces offer formatting outside of the familiar Excel, users have to acclimate to a completely new set of formatting and formulas in order to produce a budget.  In other words, the learning curve for an Excel add-in is going to be easier, shorter, and cheaper for most finance departments to implement.  But the most buzzworthy platforms these days are Web-based.

It should come as no surprise to you that the Web is the present and future for the technology world.  Even though web budgeting is relatively new, you have the choice to deploy Excel-powered or proprietary software.  If your budgeting team consists of several users, it can be more affordable to go with Web budgeting, when it comes to licenses, but more importantly, the ability to access your company data from anywhere you can connect to the internet might be the most valuable element of this option.  I think the best of both worlds combines the Web as a platform with Excel-based input form design and formatting, so you can achieve familiarity and flexibility.  Beyond platforms, you will want to look for important functionality.

There are some modern, fundamental features that you should be seeking in a product, despite the fact that not every tool can be the right fit for every company.  You will need the ability to put actuals and projections side-by-side for comparison, spread totals across a fiscal year, simply add multiple line items for your accounts, perform roll-ups, convert multiple currencies, produce templates you can reuse, view authorship, use what-if examples for fluctuations that can happen in any budget, and utilize parameters like Entity, Division, and Department.  The more modern tools will allow you to plan beyond the General Ledger, with more in-depth analytics.  This kind of functionality is the future – and it’s already here, but you should never forget that you need a product that is business user friendly.

I’ve written about your BI data store options in regard to integrating with an Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cube versus a data warehouse, but you should also remember that it should be easy-to-use for your team.  Is there someone on your staff with the right combination of skills and experience to manage an OLAP cube?  Will you require a data warehouse because of your distinct data sources – and the diversity of data you want to store and analyze?  And if you have additional analytical goals beyond budgeting and forecasting, is your favorite offering positioned within a suite of BI solutions?

Some planning tools are one solution within a bigger suite of BI software, fully integrated for a unified approach to connected, but distinct analysis.  If you are responsible for other BI tasks, like financial reporting, visualizations, consolidations, or data storage in a warehouse, whether it is a current responsibility or as part of the not-so-distant future, you should be shopping for a tool that is part of a BI suite.  Especially when it comes to business user friendliness, you can then work with one team of vendor, partner, consultant 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 answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Sage 300.

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