Even if you are not in the market for a cloud budgeting and forecasting software, you probably are curious about whether such a tool can streamline your budgeting and forecasting process. Creating a budget or updated forecast with a dedicated tool can help you feel more in control of your budgeting and forecasting process and let you obtain trusted numbers while saving valuable time. The trick is to figure out the right combination of tools and processes to help you get the job done with reduced stress. This post will help teach out how you can use cloud budgeting and forecasting software to streamline your budgeting and forecasting process.
Step 1: Understand your current budgeting and forecasting process
The first step in using cloud budgeting and forecasting software to streamline your budgeting and forecasting process is to understand your existing process deeply. Keep in mind, however, that it’s easy to get caught up in too much of the details. It is important to chart the budgeting and forecasting process at a high level so you can determine the pitfalls associated with it.
Many organizations that we deal with want to reorganize their chart of accounts into P&L statements for each budget head. Using these Actuals, the budget heads will work with their internal team and build a new forecast. Then the finance team consolidates these forecasts and produces management reports and does further tracking.
Tip: Try to get to a high-level process in the form of a flow chart so you can discuss this with your finance team and refine it further. This step is very useful in understanding how your cloud budgeting and forecasting vendor of choice will help you streamline your budgeting and forecasting process.
Step 2: Map out how a Cloud Budgeting and Forecasting Software will improve the process.
Almost all cloud budgeting and forecasting software is built around three fundamental concepts:
Rearchitecting your data storage in the form of Multi-dimensional Cubes:
Almost all cloud budgeting and forecasting software is built around the concept of Cubes. Multi-dimensional Cubes allow for a more robust way of data storage as supposed to Spreadsheets. You can imagine a cube as a spreadsheet with more than 2 dimensions. If the chart of accounts takes up the rows and months are used up for the columns then the third dimension can be Year, the fourth dimension can be Scenario and etc.
Cubes are the foundational aspect of a Pivot Tables. The data in the Cube can be easily sliced and diced using Pivot Tables. Your cloud budgeting and forecasting vendor of choice should provide you with easy tools to do data analysis on your Cubes.
Separating the presentation of data from the storage of data:
The biggest benefit of storing the data in Cubes is in separating the storage of data from the presentation layer. Any good cloud budgeting and forecasting software should allow you to present the data in the cubes in the form of multiple presentation templates. This is important because each budget head will require different forms of data presentation. All the data can be connected to a centralized cube and can be easily consolidated.
Tip: Most finance users are savvy in Excel so ideally selecting a cloud budgeting and forecasting software that uses Excel as its primary presentation layer will be easy to adopt.
Utilizing a task management system as an alternative to email chains:
If you are still using email chains to manage your budgeting and forecasting process, you know how painful the process can be. Emails were meant to be for one-off messages. For managing Tasks, there needs to be specific task management functionality in your cloud budgeting and forecasting software.
Ensure your cloud budgeting and forecasting software has a robust task management system so you can run a stress-free budgeting process. The common features of the task management system
- Ability to create a task calendar where appropriate roles and due dates can be scheduled
- The task management system should email regular updates so everyone associated with the task can see the risk of completing the task on time.
- The task management system should have a role-based approval system so the finance team knows that they are consolidating approved numbers.
- The task management system should be closely tied with the Cube data and Templates. For example, the tasks should have the capability to assign specific templates along with it. When the final approval is done, all the cells associated with that task should lock-up so no further edits can be done. This allows for clear audis and trustability in the numbers.
Step 3: Determine the role of Excel in your Cloud Budgeting and Forecasting software
There are many cloud budgeting and forecasting software vendors. Many of them tout themselves as Excel replacement software. While replacing Excel may have some advantages, it is important to remember that many Finance users have already built deep expertise in Excel. Excel has great ways to organize and present data, derive calculated numbers through formulas and create charts from the data. It is the most ubiquitously used spreadsheet software in the market.
Any good cloud budgeting and forecasting software should let you work within Excel. Make sure your cloud budgeting and forecasting software vendor let you use Excel as the primary interface. If it doesn’t, you’ll have trouble adapting to a new presentation layer.
Many do not know that Excel is actually very cloud friendly. Even Excel that you use on your desktop or laptop is fully integrated with the cloud. Office 365 provides a cloud API connection to each individual cell in Excel. Through this method, multiple apps can be developed and deployed in the Excel app store.
Note: PivotXL is an Excel Driven Cloud Budgeting and Forecasting software. contact us to learn more.