The internet is full of articles about how to get ready for swimsuit season, but it can be difficult to find many on improvements to get ready for your next budgeting season. If you start now, you can reduce some stress from your next budgeting process…and maybe even get that promotion you deserve.

1. Schedule out your next Annual Planning Cycle

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, then you are planning to fail.” The budgeting process schedule should be well thought out and agreed to ahead of time.

  1. Pick a start date and stick to it! eCapital has found about 1 week after a month is closed sees the best results.
  2. Give your users enough time to conduct their own internal meetings. They need time to think through their budget. 2-3 weeks seems to be the optimal amount of time. Anything more and users tend to procrastinate, anything less and you put quality at risk.
  3. Plan a week or two to give the budget a good review and put together all of the necessary reports for the Executive review meetings.
  4. Lockdown and archive the budget. Load them back to your GL system if you need to and run any final reports…then take your team out for a nice happy hour to celebrate a successful budget season!

A 6-week Annual Planning process sounds about as real as Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, but it can be a reality with a good plan and any one of the top budgeting applications on the market, such as IBM’s Planning Analytics, Workday’s Adaptive Insights, or Oracle’s PBCS.

2. Make use of Exception Reports

Our recommendation is to create a report that will allow you and your team to quickly focus on the major increases and decreases in budget from the prior year. Rather than sifting through mounds of data, cost center by cost center, and account by account, you can easily see and focus on large variances and react.

A good Exception Report will allow you to spotlight:

  • Incorrect data
    • Places where users might have not entered or had incorrectly keyed in their budget
  • Significant Variance
    • Large increases in specific accounts or cost centers

You should be able to run an Exception Report by the following criteria:

  • Total Company level, or by Cost Center
  • All Accounts, certain grouping of accounts, or by individual accounts
  • All months, or individual months
  • Budget vs prior year actuals, prior year budget, or the current year forecast
  • Largest increases, largest decreases, or both

3. Use Visualizations

I am sure you don’t need another article or blog to tell you how much data your company has or how much data your team looks at every single day. But the fact is that most of your budgeting users would greatly benefit from a few simple visualizations.

Some simple ideas for visualization could include

  • Pie chart showing the breakdown of your cost centers budget into the various groups of accounts. This could be useful to compare against a similar pie chart for the previous year. Users might be surprised to find that salaries made up 40% of the cost center’s budget last year, but will make up 50% this year.
  • Line chart showing the monthly trends by account or cost center.
  • Heat maps or bubble charts easily show differences in quantity between various groupings of accounts or cost centers.

Start now to have your best budget season ever

If this was an infomercial, I would tell you to call now, operators are standing by.  But, many of these improvements you can make on your own. Whatever time you can dedicate to implementing some of these suggestions prior to your budgeting process starting, will likely save you exponentially more time (and stress) during your budget season.

If you do want assistance with your upcoming Annual Planning Cycle, or would benefit from a customized and detailed budget process review, please contact us.