The Importance of Easy User Security in Budgeting (Budgeting Series)

This article will discuss the topic of easy user security in budgeting software.

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We live in a society where security should never be overlooked. We hear and witness hacking stories and security issues all the time. Legendary Limp Bizkit frontman Fred Durst not so famously once said “if you want to know how not secure you are, just take a look around. Nothing’s secure. Nothing’s safe. I don’t hate technology, I don’t hate hackers, because that’s just what comes with it, without those hackers we wouldn’t solve the problems we need to solve, especially security.” In the same way, companies too have to assume that their data is not in a safe place. Over all, as technology moves to the cloud and/or web-based budgeting solutions, data is making the move, too. This article will approach the topic of security, the fifth installment of our series on budgeting.

The first example I will be focusing on is payroll. When it comes to budgeting, the most critical function of an organization is payroll. Payroll needs to be kept secure and confidential because it involves sensitive information. Budgeting for payroll is typically owned by each department head of the organization. In a budgeting solution such as BI360, Adaptive Insights, and more, security is module and dimension specific. For instance, most of the time, you will see modules for areas such as payroll, capital expenses, general ledger (GL), and sales data. When your company budgets, you are essentially creating transactions and saving the data back to the database. When you do this, you are budgeting to a specific data module. Think of modules as multiple folders in a shared location. The security is module-specific and role-based. Therefore, it restricts access to authorized users. For instance, as someone in a Marketing role, it is most likely that I will not have access to the Accounting department’s payroll or a specific module in a different department.

I will discuss three types of budgeting tools most organizations use – cloud-based, Excel-based, and on-premise, and why security is important when using these budgeting applications. More and more businesses are moving to the cloud, but there are a handful of security concerns to keep in mind such as data transfer, budgeting software interfaces, stored data, and user access control. Firstly, make sure the data that is traveling between your network and whatever service you’re accessing in the cloud is traveling on a secure channel. Secondly, the Cloud Security Alliance (CSA) encourages that you be aware of the budgeting software interfaces or application programming interfaces (APIs) that are used to interact with cloud services. Thirdly, ask potential cloud providers how they secure your data not only when it is in transit, but also when it is on their servers and accessed by the cloud-based solutions. Also, find out if providers securely dispose your company’s data, for instance, by deleting the encryption key. Fourthly, data can potentially be accessed by any employee. Consider the sensitivity of the data you’re allowing out into the cloud and ask providers for specifics about the people who manage your data and the level of access they have to it. Cloud-based budgeting products have dealt with user concerns regarding security by equipping software with powerful, modern security features.

Everyone knows Microsoft Excel or have used Excel at some point in his/her life. Nearly 90% of all organizations still rely on Microsoft Excel for homegrown budgeting models. This application is easy to use because of how prevalent it has been, but Excel can only handle so much. Security is weak in Excel. Mark Chaplin, a research consultant with Information Security Forum (ISF), said Excel spreadsheet security problems arise because spreadsheets tend to grow over time, but they are not subject to the same controls and disciplines as properly managed IT projects. Many organizations start by doing a few calculations, but slowly their spreadsheets grow, and companies begin to make critical decisions based on them. Spreadsheets suffer from a range of issues. Several research studies have found that up to 70% of spreadsheets contain errors, which would result in serious miscalculations. These spreadsheets are most likely operated outside the scope of the people (often IT) responsible for information security and hence it can be freely copied without proper organization and control. Excel users are able to set up spreadsheet passwords that may decrease the risk of having unauthorized users accessing any company data. Excel users are also able to enable and disable macros.

Finally, security is still an issue with on-premise budgeting tools (software installed and ran on computers on the premises of the organization using the software) perhaps because the tangibility and possession of the tool makes users feel more comfortable, but many people believe on-premise infrastructure is more secure and reliable than Cloud-based tools since it is on-site, and the company can resolve all issues themselves. For example, Active Directory has been Microsoft’s directory service used in companies’ on-premise infrastructure since the release of Windows 2000 Server. Active Directory on-premise is used to organize objects that makes it easier for administrators to get their tasks done, and it is the means by which users authorize and authenticate others when they log on to a workstation or attempt to use an application or local web-based portal. Active Directory contains objects that define the user, any groups the users are a member of, and what rights and permission they have as a user or an employee. You can add active directory to your reporting tool, and instead of uploading an employee individually, users can populate the entire employee list and typically use the budgeting software’s administration tool to assign access to modules and dimensions for specific roles/employees. This is a perfect example of an on-premise tool that protects your data to get it easily secured.

Most companies who have a data warehouse (DW), such as BI360 (Microsoft SQL Server-based) or Oracle, will have similar tools such as a Data Warehouse (DW) Manager. A DW management tool, sometimes a part of the planning application, enables users to make simple adjustments to the database, such as adding an attribute or dimension as well as creating a module. A DW manager allows the end user to make these adjustments without having to be tech savvy. Also, users can limit access to a particular scenario or time period for storage.

Security spending is rising, but secure results are not. In terms of cloud-based financial software, the main issue for organizations has arguably been data privacy related to security. Clearly, easy-to-use security in the Business Intelligence (BI) budgeting realm is valuable as it can prevent many damages to the organization. When looking for a good secure budgeting tool to manage your financial, operational, and other types of data, consider ease-of-use, collaboration, and the security issues that concern you.

Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.

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