Budgeting Workflow is the process of formalizing the flow of budgeting approvals throughout the organization. It is a process in itself that typically starts with corporate allocations for the new budgeting year. The workflow outlines who in the organization is responsible for approving specific sections of the budget. Modern budgeting workflow systems allow management to assign budgeting tasks to certain employees. Once those employees enter their budget numbers, they are then submitted to the next person in the workflow process for approval. This process moves forward until the budget is finally approved by the person responsible for the entire company’s budget. This is typically an executive, or group of executives within the organization. Continue reading this post>>
Business intelligence is the key to unlocking insights from data and empowering company leaders to make impactful decisions, act swiftly even in volatile market conditions, and plan strategically for the success of the organization. arcplan is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and BI has been around at least as long as we have. Over the last 2 decades, we’ve seen companies make similar mistakes – mistakes that undermine the success of their BI initiatives. Those new to BI should learn from their predecessors. Here are 5 common BI worst practices and how to avoid them:
1) Blindly buying technology without considering your analytical requirements
BI projects do sometimes fail; it’s not something anyone likes to talk about, but most of the time these failures can be blamed on a lack of requirements gathering. Vendors like us have to ensure that we understand our customers’ requirements inside and out in order to deliver a solution that will be successful and demonstrate concrete ROI. But the truth is, some companies don’t have a thorough understanding of their users’ needs before they start evaluating solutions. Too many organizations start “feature wars” with vendors and end up buying the solution with the most perceived bells and whistles – features they barely understand and will never have a use for.
This is a much of a problem for customers as it is for vendors; it’s our job to ensure that what we’re selling you will have value to your organization, and a lot of that comes down to understanding your users’ needs. But if you don’t understand your users’ needs, how can we?
The first thing you must understand before you try to purchase a BI solution is the analytical problems your company is trying to solve. Don’t get side-tracked by fancy bells and whistles that will not solve your business problems. Avoid the feature wars and make your shortlisted BI vendors prove that their solution is a match with a custom demo or proof-of-concept application.
2) Using BI as a gateway to Excel
Data Management & the Continued Use of Excel
Small and medium-sized businesses aren’t able to afford business intelligence software platforms that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Fortunately, that’s no longer an obstacle with the rise of affordable, easy to use BI tools like arcplan. Once you’ve decided that you need better, faster answers to your business questions, you start to get into the nitty gritty details of what a BI deployment means and how you need to prepare your data. Let’s continue with our series on the most frequently asked questions SMBs have when it comes to BI. This time I’ll address questions about data management and spreadsheets.
5) How much data do we need?
The #1 technology challenge for SMBs is getting insight from the data they already have. The average SMB has over 27 unique data sources according to research conducted by The Aberdeen Group – from ERP systems and General Ledgers to CRM tools, social media and more. Your company should carefully consider the amount, type, and “freshness” of data that your organization requires for its reporting.
- How many data sources are really critical to our decision-making?
- Do we need real-time data access or will daily or weekly updates do the job?
- How far back do we need to go? Do we need 5-year-old data or is only recent data important?
So far in this series – a planning software buyer’s guide – I’ve written about the benefits of workflow and the interesting ways our customers are using spreading to automate plan creation. Today I’ll address another key component of modern planning systems: offline planning, which is particularly helpful for a geographically distributed workforce.
Whether planners are in remote locations or simply travel frequently, there is value in being able to access a planning system offline. One of our non-profit customers has staff responsible for project-based budgeting located in Africa – in areas with limited bandwidth and a sporadic internet connection at best. Spotty internet isn’t an excuse for a late budget. In this situation, it’s easy to see why their arcplan planning system needs to be functional for offline staff. Once they reach an access point, they can sync their plans to the centralized repository and their supervisors can proceed with suggesting edits or approving the plans.
Perhaps this is more relevant to your company…
What’s the most popular reporting and planning tool out there? As much as I’d like the answer to be “arcplan” – it’s not. Even in 2011, it’s “Excel.” Excel has been around for 25 years and believe it or not, it’s still the most often used technology in 60% of the organizations surveyed by Ventana Research in August 2011.
There are so many reasons analysts and planners love Excel: it’s easy to use, adjusting reports takes seconds, it’s the perfect tool for local ad-hoc analysis, and it has an extensive formula and function library to address complex calculations. On the other hand, there are times when Excel falls short. After the manual process of collecting, consolidating and reconciling data, Excel leaves little to no time for actual analysis. And worst of all, you may find that your data is outdated or fraught with errors, which compromises your ability to make business-critical decisions. Unfortunately, Excel also lacks data security, which is a paramount concern for IT professionals.
Truly, I’m not bashing Excel here. I’m a data analyst myself and I help our clients develop Excel-like BI applications, so I understand that Excel has its benefits. Power users are going to want to use Excel, at least for the foreseeable future. So consider this how you can reconcile the use of Excel at your organization. The answer may be as simple as your BI system’s Excel add-in!