Partly cloudy with a chance of savings: 4 ways to improve financial planning, budgeting and forecasting

A chance of savings? Yes, both time and money.

Financial planning is a fact of life for companies, regardless of size or industry. And at one time or another, every CFO or finance manager has experienced a difficult, tedious budgeting, planning and forecasting process that requires a huge amount of effort while trying to meet expectations of fast and accurate results.

If this sounds familiar, you may want to explore these practical ways to drive change and improve results. For if addressed properly, your financial planning and budgeting can be turned into a smooth-running process that truly supports — and leaves time for — strategic activities.

Simple yet incredibly complex

On the surface it seems pretty simple. A budget is just a financial plan for a set period of time that includes projected income and expenses of the business. However, budgeting and planning relies on data collected from multiple people and systems in the company. Surprisingly — even though it happens the same time every year — there are often delays, unclear expectations of roles and deadlines, and inaccurate or outdated information. So, first of all …

  1. Put together a current picture of the “status quo”. This is your starting point to see what works and where improvements can be made. Ensure there is a clear understanding of the current cycle across the organization, so your team knows what is expected of them (requirements, deadlines, etc.). And make sure the planning comes before the budgeting.

Simpler Planning

Spreadsheets have long been a favorite in the finance department; they are relatively simple to use and inexpensive. The problem: they require a lot of maintenance, are not scalable, are prone to user-error, and so on. In the end, a corporate budget process in Excel is simply inefficient, inflexible and unreliable. So, here the right step is:

2. Off-load Excel handling in a professional planning tool.
Finding the right professional planning solution that is simultaneously fast in execution, flexible, and thorough is key to smooth operations. Being able to monitor and analyze all relevant data on a regular and ad-hoc basis contributes to a better understanding of the company’s performance and health. They are a variety of tools available to streamline your financial planning, forecasting and budgeting activities and allow you to focus on the outcome rather than the process.

Painless input collection

In order to be valuable, budgeting requires input, data, and collaboration across the entire organization in a timely manner. Unfortunately, collecting data from multiple contributors is difficult, time-consuming, and often still results in each part being created alone, without consideration of the bigger picture. So, what to do?

3. Ensure that information is up to date and available.
Take a look at your status quo picture… where does the organization’s data lie and how current is it? Do the users have access to the same data? A central data repository that is regularly updated with the latest data ensures that all data used in the planning and budgeting process is up-to-date and consistent across the organization.

Reporting and presentations

Senior management, board members and other stakeholders require financial planning reports for a timely view of the organization’s financial health. Creating these reports and presentations is an arduous but necessary task for the finance team. In many cases, presentations and reports are still created manually in Excel and PowerPoint. This is time consuming and cumbersome. When updates emerge it usually means starting over from scratch. The right way is…

4. Visualization & reporting
Take advantage of automation. When the data for reporting is collected and checked automatically, the team can focus their time on analysis and strategy. Create visualizations of the data in clear, interactive dashboards to give users a chance to explore the data for insights and support their decision-making.

Your company’s financial planning, budgeting and forecasting doesn’t need to be a painful exercise. Moving from a spreadsheet-based system to a scalable and cost-effective solution is possible for companies of any size or complexity.

Learn more at:

Data science and analytics company, located in the center of Zurich

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store