Save Time and Money by Streamlining Your Budget Process

Internet.com writer, Michael Pastore, looks at how small and medium businesses can improve their budgeting and forecasting processes.

March 23, 2009

Sponsored by Intel® Business Exchange
by Michael Pastore, Internet.com

Budgeting is a low-value process at companies of all sizes, from the largest enterprises to the smallest of small- and medium-size businesses (SMBs). Valuable time is often spent filling out spreadsheets, holding meetings and gathering changes and input from various departments and managers.

This is especially troublesome for small businesses that don't have the time or personnel to devote to budgeting and where a small group of people is responsible for the core business activities, budgeting and everything in between.

Budgeting and forecasting can form the foundation of superior financial management and company performance when it's done properly. Low-level clerical tasks are, in most cases, the biggest drain on the budget process. The circulation of spreadsheets, ensuring everyone is working off the most current version and correcting errors takes time away from the strategic analysis that can make or break your business. Most budget processes also suffer from a lack of effective collaboration among the parties involved.

Eliminating these tasks speeds up the budget cycle time, giving you more time to focus on your core business, reduces errors and lets you make faster, more informed decisions.

Adaptive Planning offers centralized, Web-based financial management software complete with workflow and collaboration features. Web-based access allows budgeting, forecasting and reporting from any Web browser at any time. Web-based software that is available on demand also makes it easier to offer scalable editions that serve organizations of different sizes. Adaptive Planning is no exception. The software is available in Express, Corporate and Enterprise Editions.

Adaptive Planning Express Edition is designed for small companies and teams that need help with basic expense and revenue planning. It is free and is also available as an on-premise application. Adaptive Planning Corporate Edition is designed for small and medium companies. It adds additional capabilities for budgeting and forecasting, reporting and analysis and data integration to the Express Edition. Enterprise Edition is designed for medium-sized organization and divisions of larger enterprises. It adds features for managing more complex requirements on a greater scale to the Corporate Edition. Enterprise Edition is also available as an on-premise solution.

Adaptive Planning users get a full set of planning components to help plan personnel, expenses, sales and capital. Linking elements of these features together lets users create a complete set of dynamic financial statements, including cash flow, balance sheets and income statements.

The foundation of the Adaptive Planning solution is its collaborative modeling environment, which makes it easy for individuals to set up and work with the underlying financial model. Users accustomed to working with spreadsheets will make an easy transition to Adaptive Planning. It features an intuitive, spreadsheet-like interface that lets users revise formulas, change assumptions, enter new data and add metrics by pointing and clicking. Users can easily add a department or division, change headcount or adjust expense allocations. Adaptive Planning's configurable data entry sheets are customized to show only relevant data. Much like a spreadsheet, Adaptive Planning users can create formulas in any data cell and reference data and assumptions from other cells. Formulas can be established centrally for easy modification across the model.

Adaptive Planning users can automatically consolidate changes at the department level into the corporate plan, eliminating broken links and manual cut and paste exercises that often lead to errors. The software's multi-dimensional data collection provides users with a simple and intuitive way to plan across multiple dimensions such as product, geography and customer, for example. Drill-down features show users where data originated. Adaptive Planning also lets users add notes to document budgeting and forecasting assumptions. The notes rollup with sheets, so managers with broad responsibilities can see notes from all sub-plans in one place. One of the advantages of Adaptive Planning's software is the ability to budget, forecast and create reports without the need for investment in a costly business intelligence application.

Adaptive Planning features a drag-and-drop report builder that enables users to create sophisticated reports and analyses with ease. Users simply select relevant items from a menu, drag them onto a graphical workspace, choose formatting options and generate the report. The software allows users to create custom reports that filter based on multiple data dimensions, such as expenses by project or sales by product by region. Reports can be shared among other users or kept private by a single user. Customizable dashboards provide at-a-glance views of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), graphs, metrics and tables from multiple systems or departments in a single location. Automatic security filtering shows only the data on a report that is allowed by the user's security access. Reports can be output in PDF, HTML or Excel formats and Adaptive Planning even handles seamless, real-time report distribution.

Small business owners who don't specialize in finance or technology will find Adaptive Planning's combination of on-demand software and a simpler budget cycle saves time, money and aggravation and helps them run a more efficient business.

For more information, visit Intel® Business Exchange.

Michael Pastore is the Executive Editor, Special Projects for Internet.com. He's written on a variety of technology-related topics over the past 10 years, including online marketing, enterprise software, security, IT management and nano-electronics.