Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan
4Oct/110

Quick Tips for Using BI to Improve Budgeting & Planning

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The end of the fiscal year can often be a stressful time for businesses, which is why you need a sophisticated way of managing critical budgeting and planning processes. If you're still using Excel and you're bogged down with dozens (or hundreds) of spreadsheets, think about taking advantage of your company's BI system to make this budgeting cycle a little less overwhelming. Or maybe it's time to consider dedicated budgeting software that's part of your company's larger business intelligence (BI) strategy.

Maybe you don't think that BI and planning go hand-in-hand, but trust me - after working with literally hundreds of customers who are using BI to manage their planning - they do. BI allows the finance department to provide timely consolidated budgets and forecasts that leverage data from a variety of sources so you can understand how your business may perform by modeling a range of scenarios.

Here are a few tips to consider when using BI for budgeting and forecasting.

1. Move on from spreadsheets and think about adopting dedicated software as part of a larger BI initiative. Organizations with revenues of $35M or more are typically at a stage when financial planners must deal with a plethora of spreadsheets during budgeting season (not to mention a number of versions of each spreadsheet). This amount of data quickly becomes unwieldy and prone to errors. By integrating dedicated budgeting software into your BI platform, you can perform real-time "what if" predictive modeling and monitor performance against a target to improve performance. Think about all the value you'll add as a financial planner with up-to-date data - not plans that are outdated as soon as they're formed.

2. Integrate BI software into existing budgeting processes. If you're a smaller company, you likely don't have the time or resources to reinvent the wheel. Use your company's existing BI tool into your already-defined process. If you don't currently have a tool, look for software that easily and flexibly integrates with your existing data sources, includes adjustable templates and offers your planners a Web interface for offline planning.

3. Create an organized workflow for your BI collection and analysis process. Logically order your planning tasks and keep an eye on where your team is in the planning cycle. This will help you better monitor, analyze and make tactical adjustments to the budgeting process throughout the year.

4. Collaborate within your organization for increased efficiency. Make sure the right people have access to your budgeting system. Operational department heads should have the ability to key in their budgets, adjustments, and notes. Let them participate directly in the budgeting process - right in the system - and they're likely to feel real ownership. And it lifts some of the burden off of you, so you can concentrate on forecasting and planning.

5. Make adjustments along the way. The ability to anticipate change is invaluable to any company that survived the recent economic downturn. Your budgeting and planning strategy should include re-planning based on changing market conditions, monthly and rolling forecasts, and "what-if," "best case," and "worst case" scenarios that allow your company to adapt for the future.

6. Go mobile. The ability to track, analyze and adjust your budgeting and forecasting plans from the palm of your hand means you can make decisions at a moment's notice. Deploying a mobile BI solution is about more than convenience - it's about making business critical decisions in the moments that matter. Just remember to turn off auto-correct!

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: http://www.arcplan.com/en/company/events/. You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.
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