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Optimizing the Yearly Financial Planning and Budgeting Process

Tim Williams's Profile

I am doing my best to get a "head start" on the budgeting and planning process in 2012.   Just like most other things in the realm of treasury and finance, the alignment of people, process, and technology is critical in driving the success of any initiative. It seems as if I am "behind the curve" in terms of technology. I am still "lost in the land of Excel" for budgeting and planning. Does anyone have any insights as to solutions in the "Cloud" that may be able to help me "get out of the weeds" and offer strategic value as opposed to being an Excel guru? 


Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

First off, hard to knock Excel, b/c even a lot of automated systems are based on it, and it's free (b/c you already have it). However, there are any number of budgeting tools available, from "really large enterprise strength" (e.g. Cognos) to more broad-based cloud offerings (Host Analytics, Adaptive Planning, etc.) to Quickbooks add-ons. And I'm sure these players would argue that their platforms span pretty far in terms of the size of the entity that can utilize them. Can you give us a bit more about your company and what you need? e.g. size, national vs. global, multiple BUs to roll up, etc.? That'll make it a lot easier to make useful suggestions for you.

Tim Williams
Title: CFO
Company: Private
(CFO, Private) |

Bryan, thanks for your comments. I work at a global manufacturing company that has manufacturing and sales operations in several countries, and of course that means several currencies. I have people passing Excel sheets back and forth and also have general communication issues given the the geography of those involved in the budgeting and planning process. I would say that the lack of an ability to "revise" the forecast without jumping through many "hoops" is a big obstacle, so obviously scenario and sensitivity analysis prove challenging.

Bryan Frey
Title: VP Finance/Corp Controller
(VP Finance/Corp Controller, ) |

Once you are multi-location and multi-entity you should definitely toss Excel. It's just way too crazy trying to keep track of multiple spreadsheet versions and the complexity is too high to have in Excel without a lot of undiscovered errors.

That begs the question of where to look. For a global entity you are probably looking at anything from mid-sized cloud offerings (e.g. Host Analytics) to hard core enterprise apps (e.g. Cognos).

There are a number of planning/forecasting seminars and webinars you can find on Proformative through a search (top-right of every page on the site). If you get closer to the type of platform you are interested in, reach back out here and ask for opinions b/c this is the largest and most active finance user group I know of online.


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