For many, budgeting rounds are hellish, with no treats in store. If the mere mention of the 'B' word causes terror then maybe its time to look for another way.
It's that time of year when budgeting rounds loom. For finance, this inevitably soaks up weeks of work, long hours, not to mention frustration. For the business it's not any more fun either. Spreadsheets get passed around, numbers calculated with convoluted formulas, and commentary added to help make sense of it all.
When all these sheets hit finance the real hell starts. Amalgamating tens or even hundreds of sheets together, ensuring cells haven't been over written or lines not added, and the numbers are correct can be a painful process. Once the numbers are in, they have to be verified and checked, before the real objective of reviewing the result can even start.
Frustrations can be largely be put down to the tool you are using. Excel is the tool of choice, or indeed the only tool available to most in finance. It is powerful, copes with enormous amounts of data and handles some very complex calculations. The problem for finance is having to create one document from many versions filled in by many people.
Sharing Excel is tricky. To budget, multiple people need to fill in workbooks which then need to be collated. This can run to tens of sheets. To reduce error and for ease, Finance teams may sit with key personnel to complete workbooks, but this soaks up days of time for both sides.
Who ever fills them in, there is the laborious job of collating. A messy job whichever way you cut it. Once you have a final version and it finally gets to CEO, and they question or refute certain figures, you have to repeat the process all over again!
Excel is pretty two dimensional. So if you budget segments like product, customer and location together, as well as time that will mean Excel struggles to cope . This means expanding the number of workbooks and sheets that need to be created and collated, and probably increases complexity too. This can create large unwieldy documents which are difficult beasts to control. Add to this no way of tracking who has completed what or where they've got in the process of filling them in.
A lot of this time wasting is because Excel is tough to share, it is very difficult to secure and is very limited in how it can model many segments of information. Is it time to tame those spreadsheet monsters and look for another way to budgeting beyond the limitations of Excel?
World beyond Excel
So how do you make budgeting take 80% less time and make the process easier for everyone involved. Let's look at a world beyond Excel?
Well what if you could:
- share the SAME version of a budget
- Have multiple people complete and update a their own data at the same time with live updates?
- Drill down to see the detail behind the numbers.
- Understand how a number is calculated with formulas written in plain English and commentary behind the numbers.
- lock particular cells and allow only certain people access others, and have the security to ensure only selected personnel can access sensitive information.
- Track what people have done with a live update on what processes are complete.
- Allow users to generate their own reports easily updating date ranges and pulling in data to update information in minutes, so it's relevant.
Is it time to budget a new way?
Timing is always a difficult one. It can depend on the level of pain you are feeling, the cost of lost time and resources, or the impact of new commercial demands such as growth, funding, or change? It's common to ask what the return on investment is when spending on new solutions, but less common to calculate the cost of doing nothing? Finance is driven by endless deadlines, on top of budget cycles, there are month end reporting, end of year and additional forecasting demands. Sometimes finding a window to make a change in systems is tricky, but a clear idea of payback can focus the mind. Implementing a better solution may take far less time than you think.
If budgeting hell looms, ask yourself these questions,
- Does budgeting fill you, your team and the business with dread?
- Does budgeting take too long?
- Do you worry about how secure information is in spreadsheets?
- Is the business demanding plans and updates faster?
- Are your team spending more time number crunching than thinking?
- Do you have confidence in the final numbers?
- Does the company need to collaborate and share information more?
- Do need more time to analyse the numbers?
- would you like to move away from an annual budget and forecast more regularly?
- Is your budgeting restricted by what Excel can cope with?
- Do you need more data sources pulled into your budget?
- Do you need to model a different way?
If you answered YES to 5 or more then it's time to make budgeting hell a thing of the past.