This article will discuss your options for modern budgeting and forecasting software, zooming in on premier features and functionalities for Acumatica customers.

I’m getting better at planning and more specifically, budgeting in my personal life, but it has never been an enjoyable experience for me.  With this personal development experience and talking to plenty of finance professionals, I can fully understand why financial planning processes in the business world can be tedious, especially with limited tools to address complex budgets.  Excel might serve me just fine for a simple household budget, but falls short for any organization of a healthy size.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably shopping for third party budgeting software that pulls historical data from Acumatica and maybe a payroll system like ADP to simplify and turbo-charge your planning processes.  Modern budgeting and forecasting software provide secure ways to collaborate on planning processes, which streamlines the typically team-oriented task to live within a company’s means.

Budgeting generally entails multiple people bringing historical actuals and research-driven projections to piece together a financial plan for the fiscal year.  Internationally, Excel has been an integral part of the finance profession for decades, but the manual linking of spreadsheets tends to be a logistical user security mess.  Most finance departments are still relying on Excel, so investing in a third party software might seem like an expense you could avoid.  In this article, I will lay out the top features and functions you can benefit from with modern budgeting software for Acumatica.
Independent software vendor (ISV) software has gradually been becoming more prevalent because they have zoomed in on manufacturing business user friendly, accessible, and collaborative solutions.  Excel add-in interfaces are popular, fusing the familiarity of the spreadsheet software and dynamic power of a ribbon at the top of the Excel screen, empowering users to avoid linking manually built, disparate spreadsheets.  The premier ISV solutions are equipped with accounting logic, automation, and reusable templates for the business end user to more easily manage their data.
It is logical to be concerned about security and maybe logistics, considering you are investing your time, money, and energy in a solution.  Modern features like passwords and access rights are bringing collaboration into the process with ownership for supervisors who have to manage budgets.  And you can avoid the excessive e-mail threads, usually with heavy spreadsheet attachments.  A budget manager can facilitate a budgeting processing that covers all bases and includes all key players.  Your potential return on investment will prove that all of this is not too good to be true.
When you consider all of the time, money, and energy your company spends on budgeting, modern planning software can be a valuable asset.  What do you need to have when it comes to features and/or functions when shopping for an upgrade?  Aspects you will want to consider: Excel or proprietary interfaces, budgeting functionalities, integration types, stand-alone software versus a complete suite of BI tools, and web-based planning options.
We’ve already discussed the global popularity of Excel, which makes it that much more easy-to-use because of its familiarity, but to clarify, Excel add-in solutions basically enhance the spreadsheet application.  In other words, Excel gets an additional set of functionality, focused on elements like secure collaboration, reusable budget templates and database driven processes.  On the other hand, proprietary platforms are also prevalent as an option.
Some ISVs posit that Excel is not an easy program to utilize for budgeting, typically due to their mission to market their own product functioning on a proprietary platform, whether on-premises or on the web.  Since these software options are not powered by Excel, the budget design process might be a lengthier learning curve for your team to master the software-specific formatting and coding.  This might mean more training or consulting dollars, which is just one price tag to consider.
No software is going to be a solution for everyone’s problems, but you should not invest in a tool that doesn’t assist you in streamlining with specific functionalities.  Modern planning solutions should enable you to compare historical actuals with projections for the upcoming year right next to each other, easily add multiple line items for accounts, spread totals across the year, design reusable templates, view authorship, perform roll-ups, and utilize parameters like Department, Division, and Entity.  Furthermore, you should look at what-if scenario capability, allowing you to illustrate different routes to take.  For example, if you’re planning for new employees and want to move beyond the GL, including on-boarding materials, training, and payroll, with headcount calculations and statistical reporting.  And these tasks should all be business user friendly to manage with the software.
I have written about the difference between online analytical processing (OLAP) cube and data warehouse integrations – and evaluating what will help to best accomplish your goals in regard to live integrations versus relying on a BI data store, but ease of use should underscore the entire experience.  Is there someone on staff that has OLAP skills and experience in order to manage the BI data store?  Do you need to store multiple types of data?  Do you plan on upgrading other BI processes?
Some third party software vendors produce complete suites of fully integrated BI tools.  If you plan on eventually needing to upgrade financial reporting, data visualizations, and/or data storage, you should consider a BI suite.  Instead of piecing together software, you can work with one team of consultant, vendor, reseller, and support staff.  And fully integrated suites have similar interfaces, meaning it is easier for the end user to learn and manage.  You should invite your Acumatica users, and specifically budget contributors, to evaluate your processes to determine which need an overhaul, so they can have ownership in the deployment of new software.  Finally, with Acumatica as a great example, the web has become a very popular technology platform, and budgeting is on trend.
Web-based BI tools have been rolling out, and budgeting has arrived.  As an Acumatica user, you know how helpful and practical flexible access to your data can be for on-the-go work, from anywhere you can connect to the internet.  However, don’t just flock to the first web budgeting software you find – make sure it meets your specific business demands.  Web budgeting is going to gain in popularity, so you will for sure hear more about it.  Solver produces an Excel-powered budgeting stand-alone tool, with web budgeting front-end options, as part of the comprehensive suite of BI solutions and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with Acumatica.

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