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I have a confession to make. I’ve been living a lie. And, it’s time to come clean. For ten years, I’ve been called a Budget Analyst when, in reality, I did nothing more than gather and prepare the budget. I didn’t do it on purpose; of this I can assure you. I always had the best intentions to analyze the data, spot important trends and help drive the business forward.  The thing is, I've never had the time. Every last minute of my budget process was spent just pulling the data together, finding every error (never quite did find all of them) and putting it in a presentable format. “Wait till next year” were my final words year in and year out.

There are as many budgeting/planning tools out there as you can imagine. But I've been through the ringer, and I urge you to take my advice when looking for a solution—I learned it all the hard way. 

  1. The solution better be integrated with your ERP system.
    Why on Earth would you invest so much into your ERP system just to pull data out when it comes to financial planning? I don’t care if it’s a data warehouse, spreadsheet, or whatever else. As soon as you pull that data out and copy it somewhere else, you’re eventually going to have integrity and reconciliation issues that will consume your time and efforts. And in the case of spreadsheets, you’ll inevitably have three different people with three different answers on three different spreadsheets in the same meeting. Plus, what value is there in comparing your budget to actuals if you’re just looking at a static copy of your actual data refreshed from the night before as opposed to being in real time?

  2. The solution better not require additional expensive infrastructure and resources.
    Additional hardware an army of consultants several months deployment = a very, very expensive planning system. You have to ask yourself what you're truly gaining with such a costly implementation. And don’t forget all of those “hidden taxes” that suck real and tangible resources away from driving the business forward. Managing a whole new infrastructure that has to be babysat by an army of consultants or employees is going to sway your cost/benefit analysis the wrong way.

  3. The solution better allow all of your players to collaborate.
    Planning is AND should be a distributed process. What this means is that everyone involved in the process (your contributors, managers, senior management, etc) should be working from the same data.  If there’s not an integrated framework that can define the roles of everyone, verify that they are contributing where and when they should and keep the process within a designated timeline, otherwise you will continue to have the budgeting chaos that you live in now. In addition, make sure any notes and comments you wish to capture are captured directly in your planning system. There's nothing more frustrating than having to hunt for this information in your email or as comments in a spreadsheet.

  4. The solution better also serve your reporting and analytic needs.
    Let’s be honest, do you really want to deal with multiple solutions, multiple vendors, and multiple maintenance agreements just to come up with a complete picture of where your business is coming from, where it is today, and where you want to see it go? I didn’t think so. One integrated solution that includes reporting, analytics, and planning functionality and connects directly to your ERP in real-time will go a long way in helping you keep your sanity.

I had to share this with you to atone for the lie I’ve been living with all these years. With the right financial planning solution, you’ll be able to stop spending all of your time gathering data and actually begin to be the Budget Analyst you were meant to be. Let this be the last time you say “Wait till next year.” 

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