6 Benefits of an Integrated Budgeting and Planning Process

Matthew Dziak

Breaking Down Budgeting and Planning

The technology supporting accounting and finance has come a long way since the release of ERP systems and Excel. Due to the inflexibility of ERP systems, companies were forced to rely on Excel. Unfortunately, Excel introduces version control issues and other data complexities that make budgeting and planning difficult. Relatively quickly, a company outgrows Excel and is ready to take that next step in its finance maturity. 

Perhaps you’ve raised money from highly interested investors and assembled a board of directors who not only require regular reporting packages, but an updated view of your future outlook. This puts tremendous pressure on your finance team as they cope with time non-automated complex data exercises.

Regardless of your reason, analyzing  variances at a granular level begins with the ability to structure and orchestrate disparate financial data. This is the point where Excel and ERP systems begin to break down. You now have numerous data sources coming from non-integrated systems that aren’t updating in real time to inform accurate and comprehensive models and forecasts.

Trying to manipulate and decipher all of your financial data from multiple systems is an antiquated process that requires countless hours of tedious work, is prone to error and isn’t scalable. Conversely, relying on cookie-cutter templates doesn’t satisfy all of your finance operations needs and leaves you with gaps (no, not that GAAP) in your reporting.

Leverage Integrations to Enhance Efficiency

Direct integrations are a convenient solution to transform your budgeting and planning process. Using a centralized platform, integrations can automatically pull data from multiple systems and organize and securely store it in the cloud. 

From there, finance teams can work within a single platform without toggling through endless spreadsheets, tabs or other system interfaces. Here’s a list of some of the primary benefits of leveraging direct integrations across your budgeting and planning function.

1. Operate From a Single Source of FP&A Truth

You might have heard the term ‘single source of truth’ before. For every data set in a company, there’s a system that is the most accurate depiction of that data. Employee-level details are maintained in a human resources information system (HRIS). Customer information in a customer relationship management (CRM) single source of truth.

The same holds true for budgeting and planning software used by financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals. Financial data from various systems (ERPs, HRIS, etc.) integrate into a single platform, which becomes the single source of truth for all of the financial data used by the FP&A team.

An FP&A platform ensures all departments are operating from the same version or scoreboard. This streamlines version control and eliminates timing differences and other errors.

2. Maximize Your Finance Team’s Abilities

Finance teams are an essential part of your company’s success, though their efforts can sometimes be overlooked. Executives, investors, board members and other stakeholders are interested in the finished product — the reports, visualized in a manner that’s easy to understand and most importantly, accurate.

Simplifying the functionality of end-user technology will help you reach that goal. Working in a single platform for all reporting, budgeting and planning needs is an ideal scenario for finance professionals. Previously, finance teams had to juggle dozens of Excel sheets, sourced from multiple systems, requiring messy data imports and exports that lacked any structure.

Manually extracting data from various sources of truth required weeks of effort to convert the data into actionable information. The best FP&A platforms solve this issue. The technology centralizes all of the necessary data and uses a familiar Excel-like interface, so there’s no true learning curve after a speedy implementation.

Check out our free white paper to learn how you can accelerate the process of creating a mature and impactful finance function.

3. Facilitate Strategic Discussions and Strategy

Company objectives and strategies begin with conversations across decision-makers. It’s the responsibility of the FP&A team to provide decision-makers with the necessary reports, budgets and forecasts to drive strategic conversations. Your finance team’s ability to closely manage company performance is indicative of your company’s success. 

If your finance team has to scramble or spend weeks on manual tasks to develop these critical reports, it hinders their ability to effectively analyze the data. An integrated budgeting and planning platform streamlines the process and infuses all strategic conversations with detailed financial information. With the right solution, finance teams can better facilitate strategic decision-making, enable business drivers and growth.

CFO Best practices from seasoned CFOs

4. Adopt a Detailed Annual Budget To Model Planning

Traditionally, budgets are created once a year and actual monthly results are compared with the budget for that month. The problem with that approach is that it makes for an awkward analysis of variances. Rarely does the phasing of expenses and revenue assumed in the budget play out that way as the year unfolds. 

You may have straight-lined travel expenses when you built the budget, but now you are in the midst of the year and plans are more concrete. If you continue to compare actual results to budget, most of your variances will simply be timing-related and not reflective of changes in decisions. To have meaningful variance analysis, it is critical that you have a regularly updated monthly forecast.

Embracing a continuous forecasting process provides clarity into evolving decisions keeps everyone on track without rushing to conclusions or reassessing strategies that haven't been fully carried out. Adopting an integrated budgeting and forecasting software allows you to continuously iterate on forecasts, leverage automation and develop other what-if scenarios to plan for the future.

5. Create a Collaborative  Environment 

Budgeting not only dictates the allocation of funds but also provides a framework for department leaders to strategize. For finance teams, it's inefficient to try and connect the dots or manually enter in updates in disjointed systems and spreadsheets. This antiquated process is also prone to user-error.

For example, the marketing executive knows exactly how much the Company has allocated to marketing. They can develop plans to optimize spend for the upcoming year accordingly. As the year progresses, marketing can alter spend based on a common view of the year-to-date results.

By using direct integrations with built-in automation to update details throughout the platform, you create a collaborative process amongst budget owners where your finance team can develop future budgets and forecast scenarios using the most up-to-date metrics.

6. Provide Visibility Across Critical Data and Reports

Executives, board members and investors crave visibility into the company’s high-level metrics and the company’s financial results. While the finance team obsesses over the details, key stakeholders need a view of results, and forecasts that are relevant to them on a monthly basis.

By integrating accounting, budgeting and planning tools into a single platform, your data remains connected and up-to-date with minimal effort, and your executives, board members and investors remain on the same page. 

A centralized platform makes creating and sharing reports much easier for finance teams. The time spent between monthly close and reporting is eliminated. This saves your finance team days of data extraction and compilation. Your team can create and share reports immediately knowing the data is up-to-date. 

FP&A Systems created by finance for finance

Leveraging FutureView System’s FP&A Platform

If you’re looking to transform your reporting, budgeting and planning process, FutureView Systems is for you. Our platform is equipped with direct integrations into your EPR and other systems to automate manual tasks and stage your data for analysis. Once staged, you’ll be able to easily create various reports and what-if scenarios to measure  the impact your business  initiatives will have on your budgets and forecasts.

Using Netsuite, Quickbooks or Intacct? Our detailed, yet quick implementation process takes weeks, not months and requires little internal effort. To see what you can achieve with FutureView, schedule a demo with one of our finance experts today!