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5 Best Practices for a Less Painful Budgeting Process

Was it fast and efficient?  Or did you struggle through an extended process with spreadsheets and email or legacy applications that you’ve outgrown?

If the latter is the case, watch the replay of a recent webinar titled “5 Best Practices for a Less Painful Budgeting Process.”  The webinar was sponsored by Planful and included a presentation by Peter Emerling, Director of Technology and Management Consulting at RSM – a world-leading provider of audit, tax, and consulting services to entrepreneurial growth-focused organizations globally.

The webinar included a review of the challenges organizations face in budgeting and planning and a review of the 5 best practices for a less painful budgeting and planning process from Peter Emerling of RSM.  This was followed by a Planful overview of the advantages of cloud-based budgeting and planning solutions, and a demonstration of the key features in the Planful Enterprise Performance Platform that directly support the 5 best practices highlighted by RSM.  Here are the highlights of the webinar.

The Vicious Cycle of Budgeting

RSM’s Peter Emerling reviewed what the firm sees as the typical budgeting process.  This process may vary for a lot of companies, depending on their size, complexity, and maturity.  We believe that the 5 phases identified here are consistent across most companies:

  1. Set Goals and Objectives
  2. Planning and Preparation
  3. First Budget Iterations
  4. Adjust and Finalize Budget
  5. Monitor and Measure Results

Peter commented that too often he hears clients talk with dread about their upcoming budgeting process, that they’re too busy because they are in the middle of the process, or that they’ve finally completed the process in late January early February – even after starting in September/ October. Why?   Well, the words “budgeting, forecasting or reforecasting,” or some other variation, carries with it a negative connotation for most organizations.

For many, this process has become a vicious cycle of dread, pain, late nights, and general frustration. The obvious question here is – why don’t companies just fix the problem?  Well, for many companies, they simply don’t have time after the process is complete to evaluate their overall process and identify opportunities.

Peter then reviewed the 5 best practices that can make each phase less painful, more efficient, and enable the budgeting process to drive better insight and add greater value to the organization.   The 5 best practices are highlighted in the section below.

Using the Cloud to Support the 5 Best Practices

During the Planful segment of the webinar, I reviewed how enterprise performance management (EPM) has evolved over the past 10 years and the advantages organizations are achieving by moving EPM processes, including budgeting and planning, to the cloud.  During our presentation and demonstration of the Planful Enterprise Performance Platform, we highlighted key features that support the 5 best practices identified by RSM.

Reduce the number of cycles per process

  • Workflow and process management
  • Rapid collection and consolidation of data through standard templates

Simplify as much as possible

  • Ability to leverage global drivers
  • Ability to perform scenario analysis
  • Ability to use modeling to support more complex analytics when needed – keeping the budget process streamlined

Continuously evaluate past performance

  • Ability to manage multiple versions
  • Ability to easily compare budget vs. actual

Drive accountability through accessibility

  • Ability for end users to access reports/dashboards and drill down into data
  • Ability to automatically distribute budgeting and reporting packages

Refine frequency and level of detail

  • Ability to do line-item detail planning (i.e., buildup of data at a level below GL data)
  • Ability to do detailed workforce planning
  • Ability to do capital expense planning
  • Ability to create rolling forecasts

Lessons Learned

The key takeaways from the webinar were that maximizing the value of best practices requires the proper balance of people, process, and technology.  Most organizations lack the technology to achieve this balance and continue to rely on spreadsheets, email, and manual processes to support budgeting and planning.  Investments in cloud-based EPM platforms, like Planful, can drive measureable ROI within the first year of implementation.  Many organizations are reaping the benefits:

  • Automation and reduction in errors
  • Acceleration of budgeting and planning cycles
  • Improved alignment between finance and operations


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