Best Budgeting and Forecasting for Microsoft Dynamics NAV

In this article, Microsoft Dynamics NAV customers can learn about top features and functionalities of third party planning software options to expand budgeting and forecasting processes.

My theory for why budgeting is such a dreaded responsibility has to do with how tedious manual Excel budgeting processes can be for budget managers.  Excel might be globally entrenched in the finance culture, but the spreadsheet application performs below par for any healthy organization.  More and more Microsoft Dynamics NAV users are turning to independent software vendor (ISV) budgeting tools to expand and modernize their planning tasks.  Some of the modern ISV tools streamline and expedite budgeting and forecasting by focusing on secure collaboration.  Budgeting and forecasting are regular processes elevated by teamwork because of the necessity to live within the financial means of an organization based on actuals and research from all areas of the company.

Financial planning usually involves more than one – and oftentimes, a number of professionals bringing together department-specific historical figures and projected numbers to form a budget.  Excel might be ubiquitous in the finance world, but it can be frustrating in terms of logistics and security for collaborating across an organization.  Most companies still depend on Excel – and/or perhaps Microsoft’s Forecaster offering – so an ISV solution might be perceived as an avoidable expense.  This article will cover the benefits you can reap from today’s ISV budgeting tools, so you can invest in the right tool to modernize your planning processes with Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

A budgeting software investment has become more common in recent years due to the accessibility that is a direct result of consumer demands for ownership for budget contributors and managers to achieve more through teamwork in planning for a project, department, or the whole company.  Furthermore, there are planning solutions that are database-powered Excel add-ins, translating to familiar formulas and functions, upgraded with a ribbon on the toolbar, getting rid of the manual linking together of spreadsheets for a comprehensive budget.  Some third party planning software also comes with accounting logic built right into the solution, so the software is business user friendly in the form of automation and reusable templates.

Today’s ISV budgeting tools are responding to consumer needs for secure, commonsense logistics to upgrade collaborative planning.  Budget managers can distribute ownership to department supervisors for the budgets they have to manage throughout the year, without back-and-forth email conversations, heavier attachments, or messy manual linking of spreadsheets because of streamlining and security.  Then, a budget manager can pull together a complete budget thanks to smart collaboration.  It all sounds too good to be true, but it’s not – and the potential return on your investment is important to note, in terms of money, time, and energy.  When seeking a planning tool to expand your Dynamics NAV data management, be prepared to evaluate Excel versus proprietary platforms, budgeting functionalities, how you integrate your data, a comprehensive BI suite, and web budgeting.

Because of how prevalent Excel is in the finance world, Excel add-ins are important offerings because they upgrade the application so that you can simply and dynamically design reusable budget templates within the window because of more secure collaboration functionality.  There are some ISVs claiming, on the other hand, that Excel is a logistical mess, usually because they want you to invest in their own proprietary on-premises or web-based offering.  Since they are not an Excel platform, training will probably be lengthier for your team because of the non-Excel formulas and coding required to craft a budget.  Training is going to be an investment anyway, but an Excel add-in tool will curtail the learning curve, no matter how many Microsoft Dynamics NAV users you have.  Training expenses might not be a big deal when it comes to making a decision on a product, but it is at least one aspect to consider, amongst others like budgeting abilities and how you integrate your data.

No planning tool is going to answer every business problem you might have, but there should be a foundation of functionality in budgeting software.  Today’s budgeting tools should offer you the ability to line your historical actuals up next to your projected figures, spread totals across a year, easily add multiple line items for accounts, perform roll-ups, convert diverse currencies, see authorship, and implement parameters, like Entity, Division, and Department.  You should have the ability to perform what-if scenarios when you are planning for a potential variation in the cost of goods.  For example, some tools allow your HR director to budget for new personnel with sub-ledger analytics, providing room for onboarding materials and other equipment, salary, and training, calculating for headcount numbers and statistical reports.  All of these elements should come built right into the product for ease of use that leaves IT out of managing the software.

I’ve written about online analytical processing (OLAP) cube versus data warehouse integrations – and decided between a live integration and a BI data store integration.  Your top priority should be business user friendliness in planning processes for your team.  Do you have someone on the payroll who can maintain an OLAP cube?  Do you have diverse data types that you need to aggregate into one place, like a commercial data warehouse?  When thinking about other analytics, how does a certain budgeting solution fit into your BI software plan?

You might notice that some budgeting software is positioned within a BI suite of multiple tools, fully integrated for a unified analytical approach.  If you are looking at the future, in terms of potential upgrades to financial reporting, consolidations, data visualizations, or data storage, you should be considering solutions that are part of a comprehensive BI suite.  Regarding ease of use, you will only have to interact with one group of vendor, reseller, consultant, and support professionals.  And finally, probably coming as no surprise to you, budgeting has moved to the web.

Browser-based or Cloud technology is all the rage these days, and now, budgeting is on trend.  Browser-based budgeting options provide you the same output and modernity, but you can also get to your data and budgets from anywhere you can connect to the internet.  Web budgeting continues to build momentum, especially now with some tools offering direct write-back to select ERP systems, so shop around and evaluate whether this is the right option for your team.  Solver offers an Excel- and Web-based 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 NAV.

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