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Budgeting Best Practices

I am sure many are in the budget planning process. We do ours a little later than most, but certainly on the mind. Do you budget in your software, in Excel or an external sources? Lets share some best practices.

Answers

Ernie Humphrey CTP
Title: CEO & COO
Company: Treasury Careers
LinkedIn Profile
(CEO & COO, Treasury Careers) |

I would also be interested in "what not to do" in addition to best practices.

Anonymous
(Senior Finance Manager) |

Excel

sandesh mundra
Title: ca
Company: sma
(ca, sma) |

excel

Kathy Bowers
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Liberty Coating Company LLC
(Chief Financial Officer , Liberty Coating Company LLC ) |

Excel

Peter Jackson-Ajimuda
Title: Manager, Finance and Accounts
Company: Serve Consulting Ltd
(Manager, Finance and Accounts , Serve Consulting Ltd ) |

We do ours in excel and later upload to the software after approval

Topic Expert
Mark Sphar
Title: Chief Accounting Officer
Company: Veracity Payment Solutions
(Chief Accounting Officer, Veracity Payment Solutions) |

Doing in Excel again, after swearing I would move to a 3rd party after last year. Someone has to make this easier for companies w/o big budgets for this project.

Liz Perpich
Title: Director of Finance & Administration
Company: Ann Arbor SPARK
(Director of Finance & Administration, Ann Arbor SPARK) |

Excel, the more detail the better, with the ability to roll up to high level numbers, or drill down to the details.

Ben Murray
Title: Vice President and CFO
Company: Cartegraph
(Vice President and CFO, Cartegraph) |

I have budgeted in small private companies to Fortune 20. I really like Cognos TM1 . It integrates very nicely in Excel so that you can upload forecasts, budgets, metrics into Cognos. The formulas are "free-form" so that can build it around your existing Excel models. You can also download data into Excel and create whatever type of financial statement, analysis, etc that you can imagine in Excel. It will make your life so much easier. In one company, I cut the budget season from 3 months to 2 months using Cognos.

Jeremy F
Title: FP&A Manager
Company: Insuarance
(FP&A Manager, Insuarance) |

I am a Cognos TM1 user as well. It has great Excel interfaces, real time recalculation, web capabilities, a built in ETL tool. Having calculations programmed into cube rules eliminates so much of the error risk associated with Excel formulas. The task of learning the ins-and-outs of cube rules, feeders and TI Processes can be a little daunting, but it is well worth the effort.

A best practice that is essential for me is having clear defined parameters that are backed up by senior management. Otherwise it can become too much of a negotiation with individual business unit leaders.

Harold D. Tamayo
Title: Vice President of Finance
Company: MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company
LinkedIn Profile
(Vice President of Finance, MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company) |

Ben, I agree that Cognos TM1 integrates very nicely with Excel and has easy to use capabilities that you can develop your analyst to become an admin and develop tools for reporting, planning and budgeting. Of the tools that I have had experience with is the most versatile and easy to use. The challenge like most BI tools with an Excel front end, the company needs to spend the time in the front end to develop the proper Excel templates. In a global company I was able to reduce 2 weeks of the monthly reporting cycle and a month on the forecasting and budgeting cycle.

Kimberley Szalkus
Title: Vice President of Financial Planning and..
Company: HAVI Global Solutions
(Vice President of Financial Planning and Analysis, HAVI Global Solutions) |

Excel this year but moving to Hyperion Planning next year. Used Hyperion at a previous company. Cannot wait to use it!

Chad Gardner
Title: Vice President, Finance
Company: Sage
(Vice President, Finance, Sage) |

We used Cognos TM1 for a number of years. It was our first official Budgeting system (after Excel) and worked well for us for years. Allowing multiple legal entities and OLAP cube-based technology, it really took us to the next level. Within the last year we have migrated to SAP's BPC. It has been..................tough. While much of the same technology, the intent was to leverage integrations with SAP's ECC and HCM (Human Capital Management) tools. Like TM1, it's nice working in a dedicated system, but we have had our challenges with data feeds between the platforms. Overall however, being on either platform (TM1 or BPC) has been a clear reporting and consolidated budget improvement over Excel.

MIKE HEATHERLY
Title: CONTROLLER
Company: LESMAN INSTRUMENT COMPANY
(CONTROLLER, LESMAN INSTRUMENT COMPANY) |

We use Alight Planning

Edward Thill
Title: VP - Finance & Operations
Company: Performance Trust
(VP - Finance & Operations, Performance Trust) |

Excel

Topic Expert
Christie Jahn
Title: CFO
Company: Prime Investments & Development
(CFO, Prime Investments & Development) |

I had looked into using software other than Excel but it's seemed so darn costly. I may revisit some of the suggestions here.

Harold D. Tamayo
Title: Vice President of Finance
Company: MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company
LinkedIn Profile
(Vice President of Finance, MHA Inc., a Roper Technologies Company) |

In my opinion you need to look at your needs. You can use a client version of some of the software available that have an Excel front end, develop the proper Excel templates and load the templates when you received them. Consolidation is a challenge but if you do the work on the front end, you don't have to spend a lot. However, if you have a mid to large company, then yes, you will need to spend the money on an enterprise solution.

Dawn Hall
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Bionix Development Corp
(Chief Financial Officer, Bionix Development Corp) |

2 years ago we started using Adaptive Insights (formerly Adaptive Planning). It is a SAAS product, so there is no hardware and the cost is very, very, reasonable. The software feels like excel, but it has a lot more flexibility. We can import actuals into the software very easily for reporting and comparison purposes. They have a demo and a trial on their website, which I would encourage Excel budgeters to check out.

Garvin Chan
Title: Director
Company: Cervello Inc
(Director, Cervello Inc) |

We like Host Analytics and Oracle PBCS (basically Hyperion Planning in the cloud). Both are cloud based and both are cost effective/quicker to implement. I don't think anyone will ever get out of excel...but tools like these help minimize the risks of using excel.

Topic Expert
Alan Hart
Title: Consultant
Company: Pacific Shine Group
(Consultant, Pacific Shine Group) |

From my experience in corporate accounting and finance I've learned the importance of proper budget preparation and more importantly, continually monitoring the actual results against the approved budget. To be able to do that you have to make a commitment to doing what is required and also have the right tools to do the job.

The best practice in the budget planning process, as well as the analysis of actuals vs. budget is to employ a purpose designed software application that is tightly integrated with your ERP or accounting software. Excel or any other spreadsheet was not designed to do these tasks and can be extremely deficient in budgeting the organization's balance sheet and the statement of cash flows, both important in forecasting the future financial health of the company.

Using the ERP or accounting software built-in budget feature is probably worse because you normally cannot model any revenue and expense items and of course you cannot really forecast the balance sheet accounts, other than placing static numbers in them.

When you choose a purpose designed planning, budgeting and analysis software you may want to closely pay attentions to the following 10 "must have" features (used from various articles I have written on this subject):

1. Must be delivered as a database application for better control and management.
2. Should have a system-generated integrated set of forecasted financial statements.
3. Must have a modular approach with a complete array of functions such as: revenue forecasting module with cost; operating expense module; personnel module; fixed assets module; loans and other debt module.
4. Must have driver-based forecasting, which is the ability to work with unlimited and varied types of drivers.
5. Must have the ability to allocate forecasted amounts to pre-defined accounts.
6. Its business intelligence and rules must be built-in and available to users to choose from and with no user programming required (formulas, links, etc.).
7. The application chosen must allow users to set up a chart of accounts representing the actual accounting system’s chart of accounts (or mirroring it).
8. There should be either a direct link or simple interface to the accounting or ERP software’s general ledger, where actual data can easily be populated in the budgeting software and immediately used in the analysis process, following the accounting period close.
9. Reports—both visual and alpha numeric—must be readily available and with minimal effort. All budgeted financial statements (with a minimum of Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows) should mimic their actual financial statements produced by the actual accounting software.
10. The budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence software application needs to act as an extension of the accounting software or ERP system’s actual financial data.

The are software applications designed for small and mid sized companies, some better than others, that were designed to deliver on these 10 points. Surprisingly, cost of implementing a well designed solution is a lot lower than what many expect, and certainly much lower than what was available only a few short years ago.

Robert Hull
Title: Sr. Accountant
Company: Baptist Health
(Sr. Accountant, Baptist Health) |

We used Host Analytics this year. I liked that we could pull the data from the cube into our Excel reports instantly. This made reviewing much easier.

Cindy Boyce
Title: Senior Manager, Outsourced Financial Ser..
Company: BDO USA, LLP
(Senior Manager, Outsourced Financial Services, BDO USA, LLP) |

I have used mostly excel. I did implement Adaptive Planning (I think now Adaptive Insights) several years ago. Found the cost reasonable for smaller businesses, highly adaptable, loading of historical data easily accomplished, ability to have a collaborate process and scenerio planning a huge plus.

Anonymous
(Sr. Financial Analyst) |

My company uses Host Analytics, it is cloud based SAAS tool which is fairly easy to implement and not as costly as Hyperion. They have connectors to Netsuite, Intacct, Salesforce, Workday and several other applications so you can automate data loads to Host. We didn't use any IT resources in the implementation process and the application is administered by the finance team.

Previously we were a 100% excel driven finance department. Having a tool ensures version control and save us hours of time which was previously spent checking and re-checking excel formulas!! Also we now have budget, actuals and forecast in one place. A luxury given what we were dealing with before. Finance is now enabled to be business partner providing valuable insight.

As for budget process, I say figure out what matters to your business. Figure out the business drivers (headcount, bookings..whatever is relevant to your company) and model your budget in way that is dynamic. If a change in bookings impacts your marketing expense budget then the tool should have a way to flow the changes automatically.

Topic Expert
Jaime Campbell
Title: Chief Financial Officer
Company: Tier One Services, LLC
(Chief Financial Officer, Tier One Services, LLC) |

Excel...albeit a sophisticated Excel budget tool that I developed for my company. We use it on a rolling, weekly basis and it helps us:
* make sure we are spending on our top priorities first
* see which desired products & services are funded
* keeps us tuned to our short-term and long-term spending priorities + wish list
* to compare our overall spending categories (Marketing, G&A, etc.) to best practices for the age and industry of our company
* have total visibility into our monthly burn

I recently added a link to a modest projection tool in the same workbook so we are always in a position to easily estimate what the P&L is going to look like at the end of the month, for the month and for YTD.

Andrew Nussbaum
Title: Director of Finance and Adminstration
Company: **--**--**
(Director of Finance and Adminstration, **--**--**) |

Christie,

We are in the thick of budget planning now... dump G/L accts reports (by class) from QBs into excel and determine new budgets there... once approved, excel will be transferred to QBs.

Wish there were a more efficient (cost effective) way... we are a non-profit, so no resources to improve this process.

Mark Matheny
Title: VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis
Company: Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)
(VP - FInancial Planning and Analysis, Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly)) |

Hyperion, Excel, and paper.

Anthony Bavaro
Title: COO
Company: Brookfield Asset Management
(COO, Brookfield Asset Management) |

Used Excel in the past and very recently implemented Adaptive Planning, a cloud-based budget, planning & forecasting tool. As Dawn mentioned, it's easy to implement and user friendly.

Lenny Wu
Title: Management Reporting Analyst
Company: Seaspan Ship Management Ltd
LinkedIn Profile
(Management Reporting Analyst, Seaspan Ship Management Ltd) |

We moved from Excel to Adaptive Insights 3 years ago. So far we are happy campers in terms of version control, payroll access control, ease of budgeting, and instant consolidating.

Kurtis Philips
Title: Customer Planning Specialist
Company: Tyson Foods
(Customer Planning Specialist, Tyson Foods) |

We use both Adaptive Planning and Excel for different parts of budgeting.

Chris Snelling
Title: Senior Financial Analyst
Company: TASC (Total Administrative Services Corp..
(Senior Financial Analyst, TASC (Total Administrative Services Corporation)) |

This is the first year I am leading the budgeting process at my firm. What I've learned is that it pays to plan ahead. I use Excel templates to gather important drivers of the budget, such as sales and margins, sales team expenses, and the information needed to make assessments and allocations. This part is done in Excel, but it is all brought together in our budgeting software (Adaptive Planning). Without software like this, I don't think I could manage budgeting for our 230 cost centers without a team of ten.

Brian Moran
Title: Financial Analyst
Company: Westerra Credit Union
(Financial Analyst, Westerra Credit Union) |

We use Adaptive Planning and Excel for our budgeting system. Adaptive Planning is great and has created many reports that automatically update when needed. The excel use now is limited to the special ad-hoc reports that we need to build. It depends on how complicated the model is and how much special formatting is required.

Steve Hornbaker
Title: SVP - Corporate Controller
Company: FirstCity Financial Corporation
LinkedIn Profile
(SVP - Corporate Controller, FirstCity Financial Corporation) |

We have used Excel in past years, but are also attempting to bring in most, if not all, into Adaptive Planning.

Gustavo Velez
Title: Financial Planning & Analysis Officer
Company: First City Financial
LinkedIn Profile
(Financial Planning & Analysis Officer, First City Financial) |

I think Excel will always have a role to play in finance/budgeting, but it shouldn't be your only tool. After working with Adaptive Insights for several years, I can't imagine doing my job without a BI tool or relying solely on Excel. The ability to lock down versions and create new plans or what-if scenarios, roll up/down through levels in the organization to dig into questions, and to harness the raw data streams from multiple business systems to include ERP are just a few reasons to consider using a BI tool like Adaptive Insights.

Anders Liu-Lindberg
Title: Regional Finance Business Partner
Company: Maersk Line Northern Europe
LinkedIn Profile
(Regional Finance Business Partner, Maersk Line Northern Europe) |

Why do a budget at all? ;)

At the lowest level we use Excel despite being a large multinational company however at some point or another it is fed into a system that can consolidate based on SAP.

Alabbas Almusaed
Title: Sr. Financial Director
Company: Alkhorayef Group Company
(Sr. Financial Director, Alkhorayef Group Company) |

we do it on excel than upload it to ERP- oracle for control purpose.

Sabastain Nkongho
Title: Financial Planning & Reporting Analyst
Company: Hygeia HMO Ltd
(Financial Planning & Reporting Analyst, Hygeia HMO Ltd) |

Excel

Michelle McDonald
Title: Director of Finance
Company: The Annenberg Foundation
(Director of Finance, The Annenberg Foundation) |

We switched over from Excel to Dynamic Budgets a few years ago and like DB very much. Managers now input their 2017 assumptions and budgets into the DB templates, which have Excel-like functionality, for their areas of responsibility. We can import from Excel into DB (which makes monthly budgeting for payroll and benefits very easy), or export from DB out to Excel.

Anonymous
(Analyst) |

My company switched from excel to XLerant's BudgetPak. We use it in a decentralized environment. It's pretty easy to administer and the users like it.

David Haberkorn
Title: Finance Manager
Company: Ambassador
(Finance Manager, Ambassador) |

I have used Anaplan in the past for a mid-sized business and it was excellent. I believe, it's best suited for companies that can allocate a minimum of one FTE to building and managing the financial models. It also integrates very well with excel, but it is costly.
A similar, less robust and costly, planning tool that I have looking into is Adaptive Insights.

Debra Tramantano
Title: Controller
Company: St Dominic\'s Home
(Controller, St Dominic\'s Home) |

We use Adaptive Insights. It is a great tool, combining actuals with budget and offers a strong reporting tool.

Michele Boccardi
Title: dr
Company: Wapp srl
(dr, Wapp srl) |

(corporate financial advisory firm)
excel with MS PowerBI. I'm finding the right solution for Small Biz

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