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Customer Series: Urban Ventures

May 3, 2023
FP&A Software
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with Renee Sherman, Vice President of Finance

Seamless Integration and Greater Detail Leads to Better Scenario Planning for Personnel

Q: Can you tell us a little about your organization?

Urban Ventures is a nonprofit social services organization that provides ‘cradle-to-career’ support for youth and families in one of Minneapolis’ most under-resourced neighborhoods. We are a faith-based organization works alongside 70 local partners to address opportunity gaps in academics, nutrition, physical activity, parenting resources, and more—all with the overarching goal to prepare and send every youth in the neighborhood to college or postsecondary education.

Q: What were some of the budgeting challenges you were facing? Why did you begin your search for a new solution?

I joined Urban Ventures in 2018 and immediately noticed that the budgeting and planning was very complex. Our long list of services, including options from prenatal care all the way through adult life, created many challenges, especially when combined with budgeting and planning for our biggest expense – our employees. Some of the 75+ team members were part time, some were seasonal, and others were full-time, and everything from unemployment insurance rates, taxes (employee and employer), salaries, insurance etc. – all needed to be budgeted and planned for. At the time, we were doing all the budgeting and planning in Excel, with Microsoft Dynamics GP providing the necessary data export/import and reporting features.

When I first started, the Excel worksheets that my predecessors built were really robust, however, the complexities of budgeting and planning for our staffing were not something I wanted to tackle in Excel.

Q: What were you looking for in a budgeting and planning solution?

When I first started her search for a solution that could handle the complexity of our personnel planning needs, I was not only focused on streamlining and simplifying the process, but I also wanted an affordable solution that would integrate seamlessly with Dynamics GP. That was one of the biggest requirements – we didn’t want multiple places where we would have to enter budget data.

During the selection process, we looked at several budgeting and planning tools, but quickly narrowed it down to Planning Maestro because of the solution’s personnel planning and forecasting capabilities and its ability to easily integrate with Dynamics GP.

Q: What are the biggest benefits you are seeing with Centage’s Planning Maestro?

With payroll being about 85% of our expenses, when it came to building the personnel budget, it was critically important that the numbers we used were accurate. Because Planning Maestro seamlessly integrates with Dynamics GP, the exchange of financial information is always secure, forecasts are accurate, and budgets can be created faster without the risk of data entry errors.

I love having the two systems that work together because I really felt a vulnerability with Excel – relying on it and having to constantly check formulas as well as getting the data into Dynamics GP – there was always a long reconciliation process – which is why we really needed Planning Maestro.
While I could potentially develop the first pass of the budget in Excel, I could not imagine doing a revision if it was needed – especially if I needed to move staff from one project to another or add another part time employee. Budget revisions in Excel would take me five or 6 hours – doing them in Planning Maestro, it’s 20 minutes – so it’s a pretty significant time savings.

In addition to a faster, more accurate personnel budgeting process, another benefit we experienced right away was the staffing detail Planning Maestro offered. With ease, I can build out a team of people working on a project, and then look at various scenarios for what happens to the budget when certain changes are made – whether it is rates or hours worked over a period – and then carry those numbers into the future. I don’t think the staffing changes that we talk about would be feasible to forecast if we didn’t have this tool.

I can make changes quickly and easily – whether it is an employee’s hours or a program allocation – and then see that change reflected throughout the budget and the forecasts. This is particularly helpful in providing leadership with the insight they need to determine whether the organization can take on additional staff and if so, when. I am now able to answer those key questions accurately and with confidence.

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