You’ve realized that your company is either too big or too complex for Excel to serve as your budgeting software any longer. With multiple budget owners, hundreds of products, or several regions to manage, you need more flexibility and better analysis and projection tools.
But where do you start? And how do you determine which tool will add the most value to your business? It’s important to note that your choice must meet your business needs today, tomorrow and ultimately provide you with the ability to plan for the future. Here you’ll find some of the most important considerations and steps for finding the right tool.
Know What You Want
Before you even begin looking at budgeting software, you should have a good idea of what you need. Take the time to define your high-level requirements and understand which are “must-haves” and which are just “nice to have.” Do you need reporting but want easy forecasting? Must it allow for scenarios and rapid what-if scenarios, but you would also enjoy easy integration to other software?
Be sure to get input from key stakeholders as well. Not everyone needs to have a say, but key members of your company – like your accounting group and your IT team – should have input into your requirements.
Also, be sure you have a firm handle on what you’re willing and able to spend, annually, on the software. A package that doesn’t meet your budget, as well as your functional needs, is a bad fit.
You’ll Need a Key
Once you know what it is you need and want, define a way to objectively score the different packages you choose to evaluate. Obviously, must-have features should carry more weight than things you’d like to have, but don’t lose track of the importance of things like usability and training.
Budgeting Software that has everything you want but is difficult to use won’t be effective. In that case, you’ll need to include training time and budget for staff, and that might drop one package out of the running but make another look like a better deal.
Integrating Your Business
Another consideration that is sometimes missed is the ability of budgeting software to integrate with other business software.
There are a range of different ways to get data from one application or data store to another, from built-in integrations with specific vendors, to easily available APIs, all the way to custom built interfaces. Is it a high priority that your budgeting software easily integrates with your data warehouse, but you’re willing to take on the work of building out other integrations?
Security is Always a Concern
Whether you have only a few people accessing your budget and forecasting data today, or dozens, security of the data and who can access it should be a concern.
Protecting your financial data from the outside world is a given, but it’s still something that should be looked at closely when evaluating software. Be sure that your vendor is as concerned about the safety of your data as you are, especially if you are considering a cloud-based solution.
You should also investigate the ability of the software to provide role-based security solutions. How important is it that heads of departments be able to see their budgets, but no one else’s? Do you want certain roles to have full access? Are there some people who should be able to view budgets, but not change them? You’ll want to consider closely the flexibility, but also the complexity, of setting up access to your budgets and forecasts.
Useful Today and Tomorrow
What you need for business budgeting today may be significantly smaller than what you need tomorrow. Be willing to look at the scalability of any budgeting software you evaluate. One package may support the number of users you currently have, but the cost of additional licenses is cost-prohibitive.
Financial reporting is another area of growth that might warrant a closer look when it comes to your needs today versus tomorrow. For instance, a package’s built-in reporting might meet your needs today, but based on your 5-year growth plan, you’ll need custom reporting in the near future. How difficult is it to create custom reports? Can end users do it, or will IT need to be involved? These are considerations that might not end up on your must-have list for today, but they will be critical for you tomorrow.
Choosing the right budgeting and forecasting software can be daunting. The last thing you want to do is to be going through the same process again in only a few years. Take the time to think about what you need for business-as-usual today, and what will help you grow and maintain your business in the future, before signing that contract.
Choosing the right budgeting software is critical to the growth and stability of your company. When modernizing their budgeting and forecasting systems, organizations of every size rely on Centage Corporation’s Maestro Suite which includes Budget Maestro™ to help them keep track of and manage their cash flow. Budget Maestro improves the efficiency and effectiveness of business budgeting and planning, financial forecasting, financial consolidation and reporting processes. For more information, take a tour of Budget Maestro, contact Centage, or call 800-366-5111 now.