Often when we first meet a company for the first time, we are asked if we have any template/pre-built applications for planning, with a standard set of reports. Typically, request is for a Revenue, Capex, Payroll, and Overheads Model, with a set of reports including a P&L Statement, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow.

At eCapital Advisors, some of our software vendors offer pre-built applications, for very good reasons, and other vendors do not offer such applications, also for very good reasons. However, somewhere in the middle is a happy medium.

As we evaluate a new customer and make a determination on which software selection is the right fit, the need for a template or pre-built applications is taken into consideration.

Advantages of Template/Pre-Built Models

  1. Cost

The application has already been developed and can be purchased for a fixed price. Since the development cost can be spread across multiple customers, it is often cheaper than creating something unique.

  1. Time

When used correctly, a template/pre-built model only requires minor modifications before going live. These often include the addition of company logos/colors, and updating organization structure, product, and general ledger account lists.

Drawbacks of Template/Pre-Built Models

  1. Your Uniqueness

Every planning application is constructed to align with a specific business process. Template/pre-built applications are constructed to follow a generic planning process. Before you can take advantage of their benefits, you must modify your business process to fit the application.,

  1. Modification Requests

Pre-built application modifications can be somewhat cumbersome. Development often needs to be unwound to shoehorn your budgeting process into the pre-built application

  1. Your Existing Planning Process

Consider how long it has taken to develop your existing excel models. Is it something you have modified organically over time? How much of the modeling is unique to your business strategy? Do you want this captured in your new planning solution?

  1. Beyond Tomorrow

Consider Planning Functions such as Allocations, Product Profitability, Self Service Analysis. These are all capabilities you may not wish for today, but are capabilities you will likely be seeking once you have improved the foundation of your planning process.

The Happy Medium

Template/pre-built applications do harbor one hidden benefit and that is that they can be used as a reference point to fast-track development. As a result, we often create unique applications for customers that have borrowed from template applications. This is the commercial equivalent of copy from your neighbor during a test. The only difference here is that you get extra credit for copying someone else’s work.

Template/pre-built application provide design, formatting, layout inspiration and bridge a communication gap, by providing you with a visual depiction of the art of the possible. Often such inspiration can be gleaned from a model that is from a different industry and/or functional area to the model currently in development.