Empowering Finance Teams with Advanced Technology: Streamlining the Budgeting Process

Empowering Finance Teams with Advanced Technology
Empowering Finance Teams with Advanced Technology
Written by Heather L. Cole, September 28th, 2023

In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) play a pivotal role in steering their organizations towards financial success. One of their key responsibilities is the budgeting process. CFOs are increasingly recognizing the need to streamline this process and foster collaboration among various departments to create a budget that aligns with the company's strategic objectives. However, achieving this goal can be challenging without the right tools. In this blog post, we'll delve into the problems associated with outdated budgeting tools and explore the benefits of empowering Financial Planning and Analysis (FPA) teams with advanced technology. We'll also estimate the return on investment (ROI) of adopting modern budgeting solutions.

The Problem with Outdated Tools

1. Inefficiency and Error-Prone Processes:

Traditional budgeting tools, often reliant on spreadsheets, are highly manual and time-consuming. FPA teams spend an inordinate amount of time gathering, inputting, and reconciling data, leaving little room for strategic analysis. Furthermore, manual processes are susceptible to errors, which can lead to inaccurate budget projections and financial decisions.

2. Lack of Collaboration:

Collaboration among various departments is essential for creating a budget that reflects the organization's true needs and priorities. Outdated tools hinder effective collaboration, as they lack real-time sharing capabilities and often involve cumbersome email exchanges of spreadsheet files. This siloed approach can result in misalignment and inefficiencies.

3. Limited Data Visibility:

Traditional tools typically lack robust data analytics and visualization features. This limits the ability to gain insights from historical data and make informed decisions. Without a clear view of the financial landscape, CFOs and FPA teams may struggle to identify trends, risks, or opportunities.

4. Lengthy Budgeting Cycles:

Outdated tools contribute to lengthy budgeting cycles that can hinder an organization's agility. These extended timelines can make it challenging to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions or seize emerging opportunities.

The Benefits of Advanced Technology

1. Efficiency and Automation:

Advanced budgeting tools, such as cloud-based financial planning and analysis platforms, leverage automation to streamline data collection, consolidation, and reconciliation processes. This frees up FPA teams to focus on strategic analysis rather than data entry.

2. Enhanced Collaboration:

Modern budgeting solutions offer real-time collaboration features, enabling multiple departments to work together seamlessly on budget creation and revisions. This fosters alignment and encourages cross-functional communication.

3. Data Insights:

Advanced technology provides sophisticated data analytics and visualization capabilities, allowing CFOs and FPA teams to gain deep insights from historical and real-time data. These insights can inform more accurate budget projections and support data-driven decision-making.

4. Agile Budgeting:

With efficient tools and automation, organizations can adopt agile budgeting practices. This means they can quickly adapt their budgets to respond to market changes, new opportunities, or unexpected challenges.

Estimating the ROI of Advanced Budgeting Tools

Investing in advanced budgeting tools comes with a price tag, but the potential return on investment is substantial. Here's an estimation of the ROI CFOs can expect:

1. Cost Savings:

Modern budgeting tools reduce manual data entry and reconciliation, leading to significant time and labor cost savings. Fewer errors also mean fewer resources spent on correcting mistakes.

2. Improved Decision-Making:

Access to enhanced data analytics and insights enables more informed financial decisions. This can result in better resource allocation, cost optimization, and revenue growth, all contributing to increased profitability.

3. Faster Budgeting Cycles:

Streamlined processes lead to shorter budgeting cycles, which can help organizations react faster to market changes and opportunities. This agility can lead to revenue growth and cost savings.

4. Enhanced Collaboration:

Improved collaboration can lead to better cross-functional understanding and alignment, potentially reducing costly departmental conflicts and inefficiencies.

Conclusion

CFOs play a critical role in driving financial performance and strategic decision-making within their organizations. Streamlining the budgeting process and promoting collaboration across departments are essential steps towards achieving these goals. Outdated tools can hinder progress, but investing in advanced budgeting technology can yield significant benefits.

By embracing modern budgeting solutions, CFOs can improve efficiency, reduce errors, enhance collaboration, gain valuable data insights, and create agile budgets that adapt to changing market dynamics. The estimated return on investment from these tools, including cost savings, improved decision-making, faster budgeting cycles, and enhanced collaboration, makes the case for their adoption compelling. In today's competitive business environment, empowering FPA teams with advanced technology is not just an option; it's a strategic imperative for financial success.

If you think it’s time to explore updating your Budgeting and Planning Tools, join us for our webinar on October 19, 2023.  The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics. To learn more and register visit www.fpa-future.com.

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics

Did you find the blog insightful? Check out another recent Lodestar Blog: Unlocking Efficiency and Innovation for Midmarket Companies with IBM Planning Analytics.  

Escaping the Budgeting Blues: Rolling Forecasts with IBM Planning Analytics

Escaping the Budgeting Blues Rolling Forecasts with IBM Planning Analytics
Escaping the Budgeting Blues Rolling Forecasts with IBM Planning Analytics

Written by Heather L. Cole, September 1st 2023

Budgeting – the word alone can send shivers down the spines of even the bravest financial warriors. It's like a necessary evil, a financial straitjacket that stifles our creative dreams of abundance. In this blog, we're diving into the reasons why budgeting can be a real buzzkill and exploring a financial superhero - rolling forecasts, here to save the day with a little help from IBM Planning Analytics!

The Scarcity Mindset of Budgeting

Picture this: traditional budgets are like the Grinches of the financial world, setting a "maximum spend" for departments and a "minimum earn" requirement, making us feel like we're always one step away from bankruptcy. While we need benchmarks, budgeting can sometimes feel like having a budget babysitter watching our every financial move.

(Reference: Annual Budgeting is for the Birds)

The Excel Nightmare

And oh, the horror of using Excel for budgeting! It's like trying to build a sandcastle in a windstorm. Here's the lowdown on why Excel can be a real party-pooper:

  1. Siloed Data: Excel budgeting often results in data islands, where different departments use their own spreadsheets, creating a maze of disconnected plans.
  2. Human Error: Fat-fingered numbers can easily sabotage our formulas, leading to financial fiascos that are harder to spot than Waldo in a crowd.
  3. Endless Changes: Executives have a knack for demanding last-minute changes. Updating Excel sheets with these tweaks is like trying to juggle flaming torches – it's bound to end in chaos.
  4. Lack of Agility:   Excel budgets are as flexible as a brick wall - they can't adapt to the ever-changing business landscape.

A Better Way: Rolling Forecasts

But fret not, for there's a shining knight in financial armor - rolling forecasts. But what's this magical solution all about?

What is a Rolling Forecast?  

Rolling forecasts are the agile acrobats of financial planning. They keep things fresh by continuously planning with a set number of periods. For example, if your forecast covers 12 months, as each month ends, another month magically appears, ensuring you're always peering 12 months into the future. Rolling forecasts can be like a box of chocolates - you can have 12, 18, 24, or even 36 months! (Rolling Forecast According to Gartner)

 Why Use Rolling Forecasts vs. Traditional Budgeting? 

The deal-breaker with rolling forecasts? They're nothing like traditional budgeting:

  1. No Countdown:   Traditional budgets create an annual countdown, making us feel like we're stuck in a financial time warp. Rolling forecasts are the cool kids - they're a living document, no more annual budget dread!
  2. Accuracy:   Traditional budgets often become relics before they're even finished. Rolling forecasts allow for quick fixes, preventing financial fiascos from piling up.
  3. Agility:   Rolling forecasts can adapt to the ever-changing business landscape, like a chameleon changing colors. Your outlook is continuously updated, giving you the power to make informed decisions faster.
  4. Driver-Based:   Rolling forecasts aren't stuck in the past; they use key business drivers like market share and customer satisfaction to improve forecasting accuracy.

IBM Planning Analytics: Your Financial Superhero

But here's the real game-changer - IBM Planning Analytics. It's like giving your financial planning a superpower boost! With IBM Planning Analytics:

  • Interconnected Components:   All the components of your plan are interconnected. No more scattered spreadsheets; it's like having a financial control center at your fingertips.
  • Dynamic Adaptability:   Easily change components to meet your dynamic business needs. Just as having the right gear is essential to finish an Ironman, having the right tool is crucial for a successful rolling forecast.

Challenges of Rolling Forecasts  

Rolling forecasts aren't without their hurdles. Some organizations resist change because they're stuck in the quarterly earnings rat race. And yes, transitioning to rolling forecasts can require a bit of a financial facelift.

Is Rolling Forecasting Right for Your Organization?  

Ask yourself:

  • Is your organization stuck in a time warp when change is needed?
  • Have budget targets been missed, and the reasons are shrouded in mystery?
  • Does your budgeting process feel like an episode of "Survivor," with siloed departments and unclear ownership?
  • Are budget discussions more about financial mysteries than business operations?
  • Does the annual budget process feel like a never-ending episode of "Groundhog Day"?

If you nodded along, rolling forecasts might be your financial superhero, and IBM Planning Analytics is your trusty sidekick.

Join Our Event on October 19th.

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics

Ready to learn more about the financial superhero known as rolling forecasts and how IBM Planning Analytics can help you conquer Excel's clutches? Join us for our event: "The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics."

Date: Thursday, October 19th, 2023
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern

In this event, we'll uncover the secrets of breaking free from Excel's grip and embracing a world of financial freedom with rolling forecasts and IBM Planning Analytics. Don't let Excel rain on your financial parade. Register now to secure your spot and set your financial plans free:

Conclusion

Budgeting may have its woes, but it's not all doom and gloom. Rolling forecasts are here to save the day, offering flexibility, agility, and the power to adapt to the ever-changing financial landscape. With IBM Planning Analytics by your side, you're not just escaping the budgeting blues; you're soaring to new financial heights! So, let's bid farewell to budgeting blues and welcome the future of finance with open arms – it's time to roll with the forecasts and let IBM Planning Analytics light your financial path!

For more insight on some of what we are discussing in our upcoming Webinar, check out another recent Lodestar blog - Unleashing Profits with Strategic Analytics: Introducing the PROFIT Framework.

Unleashing Profits with Strategic Analytics: Introducing the PROFIT Framework

Unleashing Profits with Strategic Analytics: Introducing the PROFIT Framework
Unleashing Profits with Strategic Analytics: Introducing the PROFIT Framework
Written by Heather L. Cole, August 18th, 2023

In a world driven by data, the quest for higher returns on investment (ROI) from analytic solutions is a common pursuit among executives. Surprisingly, the answer to enhancing ROI isn't solely in the tools themselves. After more than 25 years entrenched in the realm of analytics, I've uncovered a fundamental truth: the journey to optimizing ROI begins from the top. For CFOs, CEOs, CIOs, CTOs, and beyond, it's time for introspection. It's time to recognize that the key lies within you. Using our PROFIT Framework, I will shed light on this revelation... so you can Unleash Profits with Strategic Analytics.

The Basics: Shaping a Data-Driven Future

In the ever-evolving business landscape, the supremacy of data-driven decision-making is indisputable. The ultimate goal for any thriving organization is to amplify profits. But this entails more than just investing in tools; it requires a well-structured framework. The flaw in the strategy of too many companies lies in adhering to the "Build It and They Will Come" philosophy. Unfortunately, this approach works only in movies, not in the complex realm of analytics.

If you're eager to harness data and analytics to propel your profits to new horizons, then look no further than our "PROFIT" Framework for Analytic Success. PROFIT is a holistic approach that empowers businesses to unlock the latent potential of analytics, translating it into well-informed decisions that propel profits to uncharted heights. If you're searching for a transformation in your Planning, Budgeting & Analytics process—one that marks a pivotal shift in your profitability trajectory—circle Thursday, October 19th, 1:00-2:30 PM Eastern on your calendar. Join us for an event poised to reshape the trajectory of your business.

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: A Path to Relief

In this event, we delve not only into the realm of outgrowing Excel or your existing planning and forecasting models, but we also unveil our PROFIT Framework for Analytic Success. The PROFIT Framework comprises six steps that serve as the pillars of your journey toward profitability optimization.

1. Precise Vision Definition: Illuminating the Path to Success

At the core of the PROFIT Framework lies the Precise Vision Definition. This initial step involves formulating a clear and succinct vision statement that becomes the guiding star of your journey. A potent vision encapsulates your organization's aspirations, goals, and core values, acting as the bedrock on which strategic goals are crafted. Every subsequent move is directed toward a shared purpose.

2. Rally Team Communication: Forging Unity in Purpose

However brilliant a vision might be, its potential remains untapped until shared and embraced by the team. The Rally Team Communication phase breathes life into your vision. It's the point at which you effectively disseminate your vision to your workforce. By fostering alignment and motivation, you create a unified front that collaboratively pursues your goals. Success in your analytics initiative hinges on the dedication and comprehension of your team members.

3. Optimize Data Discovery: Precision-Fueling Decision-Making

When your vision is embraced, the Optimize Data Discovery phase comes into play. Here, you orchestrate a Requirements Discovery Workshop—a platform for exploring the data prerequisites of your team members. This step ensures that your collected data isn't just vast, but also pertinent and in sync with your strategic objectives. As informed decision-making hinges on accurate and timely data, this phase takes a pivotal role in your journey.   (Reference our earlier blog on this topic.)

4. Formulate Advanced Analytics: Forging Gold from Data

Armed with the requisite data, the moment arrives to harness the potential of analytics. The Formulate Advanced Analytics phase is where your organization assesses prevailing tools and methodologies, uncovering ways to employ cutting-edge technologies. These technologies, including IBM Planning Analytics, Cognos, SPSS, and Watson, breathe life into raw data, transforming it into actionable insights. By decoding data into actionable intelligence, you forge a pathway for daily decisions that inherently bolster profitability.  (What is IBM Planning Analytics?) 

5. Increase User Adoption: Bridging the Success Gap

Yet, deploying advanced analytics solutions like Cognos and Planning Analytics is merely half the equation. For these solutions to catalyze profitability, they must be embraced by end-users. The Increase User Adoption phase, the fifth stage in the PROFIT Framework, centers on crafting a user-centric environment. It's a phase of comprehensive training, ongoing support, and an ecosystem designed for intuitive user engagement. By making analytics tools accessible and understandable, you cultivate an environment where users seamlessly integrate data-driven insights into their daily decision-making routines.  (Reference our earlier blog on this topic.)

6. Track and Enhance: Navigating the Path to Unceasing Profits

The final stage, Track, and Enhance, propels your PROFIT Framework to unceasing progress. Here, you perpetually monitor and evaluate your analytics initiatives. By tracking your trajectory, you glean vital insights into the efficacy of your strategies. Moreover, you're poised to identify realms for refinement, fine-tuning your approach to optimize profits. Given the dynamic nature of the business world, this stage perpetuates the evolution of your framework, ensuring it stays aligned with ever-changing demands. Indeed, agility becomes the crux, and the PROFIT Framework for Analytic Success unfurls a repeatable method to surmount business, industry, and global changes.

Ready for a Journey Toward Enhanced Profitability?

If you're primed to ascend your Planning, Budgeting & Analytic process, and unshackle untapped profitability, don't overlook our event on October 19th. The PROFIT Framework stands as the gateway to recalibrating your business through precise vision formulation, effective team communication, optimized data discovery, advanced analytics formulation, increased user adoption, and unceasing tracking and enhancement. Embrace the potent force of analytics and embark on a voyage toward fortified profitability and strategic decision-making.

On Thursday, October 19th, immerse yourself in an exploration of the PROFIT Framework. Here, you'll delve deep into its facets, glean success stories from industry trailblazers, and connect with peers who share your ardor for profit amplification. Secure your spot today, and together, let's drive profits to realms beyond imagination through the power of data-driven decisions.

RSVP for the Event Today:

Explore the PROFIT Framework for Analytic Success, dissect the pain of outgrowing Excel, and unleash profits with strategic analytics.

 Join us on Thursday, October 19th, from 1:00 PM to 2:30 PM Eastern for "The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics."

Reserve your spot here!

Strategies for Boosting Confidence in Business Analytics Professionals

Strategies to boost confidence in business analytics professionals
Strategies to boost confidence in business analytics professionals
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 31st 2023

Business Analytics professionals in finance are often tasked with managing a plethora of responsibilities that require a lot of time and expertise.  They are responsible for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting financial data that informs decision-making across an organization.  Moreover, they must keep up with the latest technological advancements in the field, such as IBM Planning Analytics software, to ensure that their analyses are both accurate and efficient.  On top of all that, these professionals face numerous challenges that impede their ability to achieve their goals, including a lack of time, understanding the ever-changing business landscape, and dealing with imposter syndrome.  This article outlines how business analytics professionals can overcome these challenges and implement new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics, along with the benefits of doing so.

Lack of Time

When was the last time you said, “Wow, I have nothing to do?”  As a financial and analytic professional, I am guessing you have never said that.  One of the biggest challenges that business analytics professionals face is a lack of time.  They have to juggle multiple responsibilities including preparing financial reports, forecasting budgets, analyzing data, and presenting findings to stakeholders.  Often they must work under tight deadlines, which further compounds the time crunch.  To overcome this challenge, business analytics professionals should prioritize their tasks, delegate responsibilities where possible, and automate repetitive tasks.  Moreover, they should identify areas where they can improve their efficiency.  We shared some ideas on this in our blog, Find More Time for Analytics Projects  But one of the biggest time savers I have discovered is learning when to just say NO and doing it more often.  Focus on the needle moving tasks.

Tools for More Time

One area that can use improvement for many is making sure you have the right tools for the job.  I am amazed how many mid-market companies still use Excel for their budgeting planning when there is power like IBM Planning Analytics.  I compare using Excel for budgeting and planning to mowing your ½ acre yard with a weed whacker.  You can do it, but should you?  To learn more about Excel see Mike Bernaiche and I’s video, Have You Outgrown Excel for Budgeting and Planning? 

Imposter Syndrome

Another significant challenge that business analytics professionals face is imposter syndrome.  Imposter Syndrome is that little voice in your head that says, “Who do you think you are?  They will discover you don’t know what you are talking about…”   According to Psychology Today, “Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold a high office or have numerous academic degrees.”   

Imposter Syndrome can be particularly challenging in finance, where the stakes are high, and there is little room for error.  To overcome imposter syndrome, professionals should focus on their strengths and accomplishments, seek feedback from trusted colleagues, and continue to develop their skills and knowledge through training and education.  I have discovered that little voice in my head doesn’t show up when I am watching Netflix, but it does show up when I am growing, learning, challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone.  So next time that little voice says, “What do you think you know about AI, and Analytics?”  Know amazing growth is about to happen.  And remember you are part of a team and your contributions are valuable.

Implementing Financial Planning and Budgeting Software

We mention having the right tools can be a huge time saver and help you lead the company to achieve strategic goals.  But implementing new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics can be daunting, especially for those who are not familiar with the technology.   It is common knowledge that there are numerous benefits of having advanced technology.  But often clients doubt their own organizations to be successful.  This is where having the right partner like Lodestar Solutions,  that has walked in your shoes and has implemented IBM Planning Analytics at hundreds of organizations, can help you achieve success.  IBM Planning Analytics can help streamline your financial planning and budgeting processes, reduce errors, and provide real-time insights into financial performance.  Moreover, it can help businesses make better-informed decisions based on accurate and timely data that results in achieving organizational goals.

To implement financial planning and budgeting software successfully, business analytics professionals should start by identifying their organization's specific needs and goals.  They should then research available options, taking into account factors such as ease of use, integration with existing systems, and cost.  Once they have selected a software solution, they should work with stakeholders to develop a plan for implementation, including training and support for end-users. 

Conclusion

Business analytics professionals in finance face numerous challenges, including a lack of time and imposter syndrome.  However, by prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, automating repetitive tasks, focusing on strengths and accomplishments, seeking feedback, and continuing to develop their skills, they can overcome these challenges.  Additionally, by implementing new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics, they can streamline their processes, reduce errors, and provide real-time insights into financial performance, enabling their organizations to make better-informed decisions.

Are you ready to learn more about Leveling up your skills and achieving Analytic Success in the office of Finance?  Contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule your complimentary roadmap discussion.

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times (Part 2)

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Written by Heather L. Cole, October 13th, 2022

Budgeting and Planning is even more important in times of uncertainty!  And I think we can all agree that we are in one of those crazy times.  This is a year of extreme uncertainty!  Inflation, supply chain issues, workforce issues, and crazy political unrest in many countries are all creating a budgeting environment we have not seen in decades.  Last week we blogged about things corporations should consider when budgeting for expenses.  This week we will cover Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times and focus on, revenue, the other important component of the Cash Flow and Balance Sheet. 

Revenue Planning

When times get uncertain, and scary, organizations usually tighten their purse strings and look at what expenses can be cut.  But wait, there are two parts to the Profit and Loss statement.  The revenue is a key component to profitability. 

There are only a few ways to increase your revenue. 

  •  Increase prices
  • Sell more to your existing clients
  • Find new clients

But there are additional ways to increase profitability even in uncertain economic times.

Profitability

Losing Clients on Purpose

One way I find interesting is to purposely lose the non-profitable clients.  I was talking to a CFO friend and client of mine a few years back and their industry was in a difficult situation.  Competitors were slashing prices, and it was putting them in jeopardy.  The CFO made a bold decision, after doing the analysis he determined if he increased his prices, he would lose about 20% of his clients.  He believed that the 20% of the clients he would lose were also the high maintenance, non-profitable clients.  At first people thought he was crazy, but they did it.  When they increased prices, they lost a little more than 20% of their clients but their profits soared. 

It's the old Pareto Principle, which states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes, also known as the 80/20 rule.  If you want to learn more about Pareto Principle I think you will find this Entrepreneur article interesting, The 80/20 Rule is True for What’s Holding You Back, Too.

Talk to Key Customers

Don’t just look at expenses and guess at revenue.  Talk to your key customers.  Remember they are facing the same uncertain times you are.  Talking to your customers about their business, their struggles, and their fears, will not only build a stronger relationship but give you clarity on your revenue stream. 

Another advantage to talking to your customers, is that you will also learn if the staff shortages you may be experiencing are jeopardizing your relationship with your customers.  I don’t know about you but recently I have experienced horrible customer service at companies I used to love to patron.  In some cases, I am not going back.  To accurately forecast your revenue, you must evaluate your customer service.  According to a Forbes article, Ninety-Six Percent Of Customers Will Leave You For Bad Customer Service.

The Other Important Statements

Most companies still focus on capital expense, operating expense and revenue in their budgeting and planning cycles.  But in uncertain times it is even more important to not ignore the other statements.  Yes, the cash flow and balance statement.

Typically these statements are viewed at the highest level of the organization but according to the Harvard Business Review article, Setting Your Annual Budget Amid Economic Uncertainty, “Business-unit budgets generally track revenues and costs — items on the income statement — but not cash-flow or balance-sheet items.  The three get tied together at the highest level of the company, but P&L owners should see them, too.  They’re likely to be the first to spot slowing orders, growing inventory, or delayed collections, but they effectively ignore the cost of capital and rarely look to the balance sheet as a source of funds or savings.  As a result, they often miss the broad significance of what they see.”

Lodestar Solutions recommends our IBM Planning Analytics clients redesign their models to incorporate all the financial statements - P&L, Balance Sheet and Cashflow.  But we also recommend monthly and quarterly reviews at the budget unit level to understand where the potential issues lurk. 

Ask Questions at Lower Levels

In the book, Seeing around Corners How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath the author discusses how team members at the lower levels often see changes, risks and opportunities first.  We recommend clients get more people involved and ask more questions to thrive in uncertain times.

Having the Right Tools

As a software reseller of IBM Planning Analytic software, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that having the right tools for your budgeting and planning process is essential.  I am amazed how many mid-market and large organizations still rely on Excel for their planning and budget process.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel, but also appreciate it’s limitations.  One of the things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times is the tool you are using.  If you want flexibility and to be agile in your planning, you need software that helps streamline the modeling and planning processes when budgeting in uncertain times.

LEARN MORE!

If you would like to learn what industry leading tools like IBM Cognos Planning Analytics can do for you, join us on Thursday, Nov 10th, 2022, at 1 PM Eastern for our webinar, Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech.

Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times
Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times
October 6th, 2022

It’s that time of year again when most companies are frantically creating their budgets.  But this is not a normal budget year.  This is a year of extreme uncertainty!  Inflation, supply chain issues, workforce issues, crazy politics and unrest in many countries are all creating a budgeting environment we have not seen in decades.  For many in the budgeting and planning world this means late nights, and stress as they try to contort their models to provide the modeling they need in this uncertain world.  So, we thought we would share a few things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times.  First, we will start with expenses and then look at revenue.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!

The models or Excel spreadsheets you used last year are probably not designed to handle the questions executives have today!  Companies that use the same templates year after year without updating them for the changes in their industry and world are going to struggle more to gain certainty than those that see around the corners and anticipate changes like interest rates, and inflation.  If your models don’t allow you to do “what if” modeling, well you really need to look at a redesign and maybe even invest in more robust tools. 

If you don’t have flexible models and software that allows for rapid changes, then it’s like you are mowing your acre lawn with a weed whacker.  It can be done, but how long will it take? 

If you want to discuss your current models or want to see the power of an industry leading planning and budgeting system, IBM Planning Analytics/TM1, email us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.

Change Your Frequency

According to McKinsey in their article, Just-in-time budgeting for a Volatile Economy
A volatile economy makes traditional budgets obsolete before they’re even completed.” 

We agree, many corporations still do the big annual budgeting process that is outdated the day it is approved.  The annual budget process worked in a stable world.  But news flash, we are not in a stable world.  Changing your frequency to quarterly instead of annual or better yet a rolling forecast will allow your budget to be more current.  As the Harvard Business Review article, Three Ways to Bring Flexibility to Your Budget states, “These “just-in-time budgeting” solutions got popular during the 2008–2011 economic crisis but for many were perceived as a temporary fix. Today, with high volatility a permanent feature, it’s time to accept that they’re here to stay.”

At Lodestar Solutions we have been encouraging clients to move to a Rolling Forecast for years.  Here’s a link to my 2016 video Rolling Forecast verse Budgeting – Let it Roll.  This may be more relevant today than it was when I initially presented this at CFO conferences years ago.

Zero Based Budgeting -

We appreciate that taking last year’s actuals and providing them to business units as a starting point for the budget is easier.  However, given the uncertainty and changes in almost every industry, Lodestar Solutions recommends a zero-based budget.  By having budget unit owners start from zero, you will cause them to really think about how their department budget has changed or how it needs to change.  A zero-based budget mentality will allow team members to reflect and understand how the business drives value and where it is lacking.  I am not opposed to providing last year’s actuals, but you really want to encourage people to reflect on changes and anticipate the future.  Unfortunately, I believe inflation and employment challenges will be here for a while.

If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, check out Zero-Based Budgeting Gains Clout as a Way for Companies to Find Savings.

Outsourcing Verse In-House

Consulting:

Many companies are dealing with staff shortages in their finance and analytics teams.  This can result in team members bearing the burden of doing the work of two or more people.  This can cause them to start considering their options.  This is one of several factors that cause companies to take a closer look at what functions are handled internally vs externally.  If you are like many clients and you have experienced attrition during the great resignation, you know how difficult it is to find talent.  When you find talent, they are very expensive.  These increased labor costs may motivate your organization to think maybe instead of hiring we should outsource.  This is a valid question, but it’s important to note that the consulting firms are having the same talent pool challenges.  Therefore, we want to remind everyone that in your budget, you need to include an increase in consulting fees.  We are seeing inflationary increases in almost every service industry so make sure you are increasing your professional service fees, including IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consulting.  Everyone is raising their rates! 

Software as a Service:

Another option to consider when you are faced with staff shortages, especially in IT is to consider moving more software applications to a hosted or Software as a Service (SaaS) model.  When you have SaaS your IT department typically does not have to allocate internal resources for patches, upgrades, backups… 

SaaS is a good option if your IT resources are limited.  Additionally, many SaaS structures like IBM Cognos’ structure allow you to add more users for a short period of time. 

Take IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud (SaaS).  Let’s say throughout the year you need 100 users in the system but during budget cycles you need 100 additional users for only 3 months.  You will pay a small upcharge for users not originally contracted for the year, but you could end up paying only for three months for the budget season users.  The result is you have more control over your expenses and therefore cashflow.  For more info on what you need to know when moving to the IBM cloud, see our blog, What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on Cloud

If you are an IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics client and would like to explore an outsourced model where your power user is a consultant contact use at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Having the Right Tools

As a software reseller of IBM Planning Analytic software, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that having the right tools for your budgeting and planning process is essential.  I am amazed how many mid-market and large organizations still rely on Excel for their planning and budget process.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel, but also appreciate it’s limitations.  One of the things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times is the tool you are using.  If you want flexibility and to be agile in your planning, you need software that helps streamline the modeling and planning processes.  

LEARN MORE:

Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech

If you would like to learn what industry leading tools like IBM Cognos Planning Analytics can do for you, join us on Thursday Nov 10, 2022, at 1 PM Eastern for our webinar Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech.

Have You Secured Funding Yet? It’s Budgeting Season, Secure Funding Now For IBM Cognos

Have You Secured Funding Yet?  It's Budget Season.  
Secure Funding Now for IBM Cognos!

Do you need process improvement and require funds for Cognos consulting or need additional IBM Cognos licenses? Now is the time to reach out and get your funding in the budget! Far too often we see companies that have a need for a new software solution and services, but they don't factor it in their budget. As a result, this pushes their initiatives out another year!

We all know it's that time of year: budgeting season! So now that budgeting season is ramping up for most companies it is time to reach out to Lodestar Solutions. You need to solidify IBM Cognos software quotes, Cognos upgrade consulting resources, etc. Therefore, it's more beneficial to get what you think you'll need next year in your budget and secure funding now for IBM Cognos!

What You Need to Consider 

Here at Lodestar, we are big believers in helping you realize the importance of how to secure funding now for IBM Cognos. We have found with several clients the earlier you have these software and services conversations the easier it is to get them approved. Hence the longer you wait the less likely you are to get what you want.

In summary, think about it this way, it's kind of like saying what you want for the holidays now. If you don't start thinking about it and talking about it you're just going to get an ugly sweater you will never wear (no one wants that). You want to make sure to cover all topics: net new install or upgrade consulting,  IBM Cognos licenses, training and Cognos consulting services for next phases, etc. You want to get estimates now to put in your budget. Remember, it's all about securing funding now for IBM Cognos!

Budget to Upgrade to Cognos Analytics

Looking to upgrade to Cognos Analytics?   Don't forget Cognos BI 10.2 is unsupported after April 2018!

To help build your budget, check out our complimentary Cognos Analytics Upgrade Evaluation Kit.  

Challenged to get funding?  ​See our blog on 5 Steps to Get Funding.

In conclusion, email us at Sales@Lodestarsolutions.com to set up a call to discuss your needs in 2018. Furthermore, we will provide free estimates for your IBM Cognos licensing needs, Cognos upgrades and services needs to get the most out of your analytic solutions.

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