This article will discuss the details of the revolutionary future of planning processes that has officially arrived for Microsoft Dynamics NAV users – web budgeting.

What can I say about budgeting and forecasting that I haven’t already said?  On this blog, I have written about the importance of shopping for business user friendly, dynamic, and collaborative planning solutions.  A discussion of the costs associated with implementation of planning software drilled down into the details of budgeting for…a budgeting solution.  I’ve pointed out some tips on how to shop for the right tool for your team’s specific business needs, and all the while, I have been quick to acknowledge how frustrating of a process that budgeting has traditionally been.  But there’s something on the horizon – the future of budgeting, as we currently know it, has arrived.  Web budgeting is rolling out from some independent software vendors (ISVs), and this article will cover this development for Microsoft Dynamics NAV users.

First of all, let me say that there are plenty of third party products that can accelerate and sharpen your budgeting processes.  While Dynamics NAV is undeniably a powerful product and Microsoft Excel is globally popular, neither of these products can be all things to all users.  Without ISV enhancement, Excel is a logistically tough, if even possible, method of planning for any healthy sized organization.  As for Microsoft Dynamics NAV, there is a budgeting input within the accounting tool, but again, it is limited in its ease of use, as it is not the Excel platform of familiar formatting, and restricted in its power to generate dynamic, accessible company-wide budgets or forecasts.  ISV offerings bring to the table customer-driven responses to common business needs in the budgeting process.
Ease of use has been a premier characteristic to third party products, but the best software also focuses on delivering powerful functionality.  Reusable templates, multi-year budgets, and rolling forecasts are just some of the modern features and functions that businesses can rely on with today’s best ISV solutions.  Automated budgeting and forecasting allows you to set up the process and get out of its way, so that you can tackle other tasks.   Additionally, the simplified capability to add multiple line items for accounts, view authorship, perform roll-ups, work with multiple currencies, produce what-if scenarios, and incorporate parameters, like Department, Division, and Entity, all can upgrade your planning experience with modern ISV products.  And considering how many people can be involved in budgeting and forecasting, ease of use and collaboration should be major considerations.
I think the most important thing to note about some of the new third party budgeting and forecasting products, besides their business user friendliness, is their focus on collaboration.  If you are reading this article, you are probably familiar with planning processes, so you know that actual figures and transactions, paired with research on relevant variables (cost of goods, staffing expenses, etc.), come together by required involvement of multiple players in the process.  Collaboration has always been important to business, and specifically to budgeting and forecasting, so a proper acknowledgment has been a long time coming.  With collaboration functionality, the budgeting process can now involve discussions and comments related to the corporate strategy that will drive the budget targets as well as written dialogue from the analysis of monthly actual to budget variance reports.  ISVs have also been extremely successful in giving secure ownership to multiple contributors.  Besides the logistics of allowing access to specific participants, security has historically been a hurdle for transcending homegrown budgeting processes, Excel budgeting, and/or the Dynamics NAV budgeting input.
Security should be a top priority in planning, due to the sensitive information involved.  Third party products have again answered consumer concerns that larger entities like Microsoft Excel, Forecaster, or even Dynamics NAV have not been able to focus on, specifically in regard to budgeting.  Built-in password protection and budget distribution allow for designated parties to access relevant parts of the budget, contribute actuals and projected figures without sensitive material getting into the wrong hands, all the while avoiding long, back-and-forth, attachment-heavy e-mail threads.  The budget manager can much more easily put together a comprehensive budget without having to manually link disparate spreadsheets together.  And now, budgeting is taking flight, entering a new plane, redefining itself – and whatever other bold phrases you can think of to recognize a true product category upgrade.
Web budgeting is here, and the flexibility to access and contribute to budgeting and forecasting processes from anywhere you have an internet connection is a big deal.  Almost all traditional budgeting tools, whether web-based or not, require an extraction of actual data from Dynamics NAV and the budget process happens outside of NAV in an online analytical processing (OLAP) cube or a data warehouse.  The finished budget or forecast is then usually exported back to NAV at the end of the budget process for variance reporting against actual data.  The other option involves remaining in the budgeting software, and you would load in actual data on a monthly basis to compare against budgets.  But that’s about to change.
Web budgeting tools will bring about a new normal.  There is a new generation of budgeting solutions coming to market that allow for live budgeting direction from web budget forms and into the budget tables in Dynamics NAV.  This might not be desirable for companies with very complex budget processes, in which case they should use the traditional OLAP cube or data warehouse method previously mentioned.  On the other hand, this can be a very efficient way for many organizations to easily and quickly deploy a budget model in a few days, since no cube or data warehouse needs to be set up and populated.  In the web, as your budget users save their budget or forecast from the web input forms, the data goes directly into the budget tables in NAV and are immediately available for consolidation and variance reporting.  No wonder the web is building momentum as a platform for software of all kinds.  Budgeting was bound to follow suit, and now it has.
There are plenty of other things to consider when deciding which web-enabled budgeting solution will work best for your team, like integration options, Excel formatting, and positioning within a fully integrated, customizable, and complete suite of BI tools.  BI360 is an Excel-powered budgeting stand-alone tool, with web budgeting front-end options (release in Q4, 2014), as part of the comprehensive suite of BI solutions.  With all of these factors to consider, Solver would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution with collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities for Microsoft Dynamics NAV.

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