In looking for a budgeting solution to enhance what Dynamics NAV has to offer, there are several features to consider.  This article will lay out leading functionalities to consider, including easy and secure collaboration, with built-in business and accounting logic.

Budgeting within an Excel spreadsheet is perhaps sufficient when planning for a household or small business budget, especially because of the small amount of data, but growing organizations that are using Microsoft Dynamics NAV are starting to notice that a budgeting solution is a relevant option, especially as today’s software is able to invite collaboration into a much more streamlined process, moving way beyond built-in capabilities.  Company-wide budgeting and forecasting is an undeniable and unavoidable responsibility because management of money within the means of a corporation empowers growth and expansion.

When it comes to budgeting for any company, there are multiple entities, departments and/or groups with data to report to analyze and plan for the future.  Excel is the arguable standard bearer of spreadsheet software, but when it comes to simple and secure collaboration for multiple players, it can be a logistical nightmare.  However, most Dynamics NAV users already own Excel licenses, so the return on the investment for a budgeting solution might not be clear.  This blog will go about discussing the benefits of budgeting software options for Dynamics NAV – and tips to picking the right product for company needs.

Today’s budgeting solutions have become a more popular purchase recently because they allow multiple players to simply and securely create and manage their own budgets, as contributors to the company-wide budget.  Several budgeting and forecasting solutions are Excel add-ins, meaning that the familiar spreadsheet program is empowered in response to intuitive user enhancement requests, without the hassle of disparate, manual spreadsheets.  Additionally, independent budgeting software utilizes accounting and business logic that allows for business user friendly template reuse and automation.
Today’s budgeting software is created with security and logistics at the forefront.  No longer requiring a back-and-forth e-mail thread regarding departmental spreadsheets and afterward, linking the data to plan for the whole company, CFOs can empower their department managers to securely contribute their own budgets to the database.  The budget manager can then generate a consolidated, comprehensive organizational budget.  Sound less painful than the status quo budgeting process?
Of course it does.  The value of a sophisticated budgeting solution can be measured in dollars, time, energy, personnel morale.  Furthermore, there’s ownership and ease built into a process most would like to avoid altogether.  From here, most then want to know what they need to know to pick the right solution for their company.  Feature considerations should include Excel-based or proprietary software, budgeting capabilities and the integration between the solution and Dynamics NAV, positioning within a suite, and data storage versus a live integration.
Excel is globally used – and has been a normal part of accounting functions for decades.  When looking for a budgeting solution that works with Dynamics NAV to enhance the process, there are several products that are Excel add-ins.  This means that all of the same Excel formulas, functions, and capabilities are present.  The budgeting add-in accelerates the program so that users can build reusable, collaborative, secure templates without ever leaving the trusted spreadsheet program.  However, proprietary interfaces are also offered in the budgeting software marketplace, and learning those ropes may entail more cost or higher learning curve to cover.
Some independent software vendors (ISVs) might argue that Excel is not good enough – and they are offering their own alternative.  These alternatives often require that the customer learn proprietary, software- specific formatting and rules to create budgets.  This learning process is a cost either way, but the cost of Excel add-ins is organically smaller.  This could very well be a big factor in decision-making when selecting a budgeting solution, but budgeting capabilities and integrations are equally noteworthy.
This is a basic concept: budgeting solutions should offer a myriad of capabilities that ensure better decision-making that leads to a successful future for the company.  However, even though it would be ideal if Dynamics NAV or Excel did it all, it is simply not happening.  A budgeting solution therefore should offer actuals versus projections, ease in adding multiple line items for accounts, reusable templates, authorship visibility, parameters – Entity, Division, Department as examples, roll-ups, and multi-currency to name a few.  If a manufacturer is planning for the future and has to consider dealing with raw foods, cost of goods could fluctuate, which would impact the bottom line.  What-if scenarios can also be played out in some budgeting solutions.  An HR director cannot really budget for new employees if the only option is to budget for salary and benefits at the General Ledger account level.  Again, there are solutions on the market empower this role to budget for salaries by employee and for equipment, training and any supplies that are required in the onboarding process, with headcount numbers and calculations for statistical reporting.  These products are customer-driven offerings – and the focus should be on ease of use for the business user.
Most vendors offering budgeting solutions will require Online Analytical Processing (OLAP) cubes to generate budgets with actuals versus projections.  OLAP cubes require management by those who have cube-specific experience and skill set.  They are unique per Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) module, and they are not an open SQL server data warehouse that can be managed by the business user.  If there is not someone on the payroll that can take on this responsibility, looking for a pre-built data warehouse or other relational database-driven budgeting will often be the most cost-efficient approach to data storage.  Perhaps more importantly, they offer high performance and speed.  The other option is to look for a planning product that integrates live to and from Dynamics NAV, but if that is the only option, it can slow down the NAV server.
Finally, when looking at budget software, consider that some solutions are positioned as a module within a suite of Business Intelligence (BI) software.  Therefore, whether purchasing other BI modules for enhanced decision-making capabilities, such as financial reporting, dashboards, consolidations, and/or a data warehouse, now or in the future, it might be important to think ahead and go with a module within a BI suite, so that you can keep your BI tools within the same product line and from the same vendor with the same place to go for support and training.  Solver offers a 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.

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