Best Budgeting and Forecasting Tools for SAP Business One

This article will contribute to the conversation regarding third party budgeting and forecasting tools and their key features and functionalities for SAP Business One.

Unless you are a part of the special interest population of people that enjoys budgeting, it’s safe to say that budgeting and forecasting are probably some of the most dreaded business tasks today.  It might be related to the flimsier tools budget managers are relying on to perform the task.  Companies of any healthy size are realizing that manual Excel spreadsheets just are not robust enough for their business needs and are starting to seek an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) budgeting solution to streamline their planning processes.  Today’s modern offerings accelerate budgeting and forecasting by inviting secure collaboration into the process.  Managing financials is so important to living within your company’s means, so that you can remain competitive.

Usually, budgeting and forecasting entails more than one person to contribute research and figures to put together a plan.  Excel might be trusted around the globe, but it can be a logistics nightmare when multiple players are involved, in terms of security, collaboration and consolidating many spreadsheets.  Most financial professionals utilize Excel, so an investment in a third party software could seem excessive.  This article will discuss why ISV budgeting tools are gaining momentum in the marketplace, in the framework of how to improve your SAP B1 processes.

Flexibility, intuitive and business user friendly interfaces, and collaboration have made budgeting software increasingly more popular.  One of the most exciting perks for modern ISV budgeting offerings involves Excel-powered formatting and functionality.  This allows you to utilize Excel with a ribbon add-in that eliminates the traditional linking together of manually built, separate spreadsheets.  The best software incorporate dynamic accounting logic, automation, and template reuse for ultimate user friendliness.

One CFO I spoke to expressed concern over the hassle of investing in and implementing third party software just to run into security and logistical issues.  However, built-in, password-protected security features allows you to invite department supervisors to contribute to the budget they will have to manage – all without back-and-forth e-mail threads.  The budget manager can then easily manage a truly collaborative and comprehensive organization-wide financial plan.  Don’t believe me?  It’s true!  The potential return on your investment is relatively bright.

If you think about the time, staffing, energy, and financial aspects of planning, a modern solution can prove to be very valuable to your team.  What are the most important features and functions you should consider when shopping for a budgeting solution to take financial planning to the next level?  Key considerations include proprietary versus Excel platforms, budgeting capabilities, SAP B1 integrations, Business Intelligence (BI) data store integrations, positioning with a fully integrated BI suite, and web budgeting on the horizon.

I have already acknowledged the popularity of Excel and the related familiarity of the spreadsheet program, but the important thing to note in this article is that Excel add-ins simply take the product to new levels, so you can collaboratively and securely build reusable budgets within the familiar interface.  However, proprietary programs are also on the market.

Believe it or not, there are some parties that assert that Excel is a pain.  However, this statement is usually a part of a marketing message associated with proprietary budgeting solution platforms, both on-premises and on the web.  Since they are not the familiar Excel, the formatting and functionalities are distinctly the product’s own, so the learning curve will potentially be longer before you are producing budgets like a pro.  In the bigger picture, maybe the cost of training won’t be a major concern, but it doesn’t hurt to consider all kinds of cost as well as budgeting capabilities and integrations.

No solution is going to be a catch-all for your business needs, but there are certain must-have features you should be seeking in a product.  When shopping modern tools, you should be capable of lining up actuals and projected financials right next to each other, easy ways of adding multiple line items for accounts, spreading of totals across a year, reusable templates, authorship visibility, roll-ups, and parameters like Entity, Department, and Division.  You also might want to be able to perform what-if scenarios related to likely fluctuations in the cost of goods.  One example might be the functionality to budget for new personnel beyond the General Ledger, including salary, materials, training, and onboarding supplies, with statistical reporting and headcount number calculations.  Today’s budgeting and forecasting software zooms in on ease of use and intuitive features.

This blog has previously covered the difference between online analytical processing (OLAP) cubes versus data warehouses integration types – and knowing what’s best for your team, regarding live integration versus querying a BI data store – but I always think that ease of use is the most important element.  You should ask yourself: do you have someone on the payroll with OLAP experience to manage the cube?  And how many types of data you need to store?  If you are looking to add other products to build a BI toolbox, how does a particular budgeting tool respond to that need?

Some budgeting solutions are part of a fully integrated suite of BI tools.  If you are also looking to improve or overhaul your financial reports, dashboards, consolidations, and/or data management in a BI data store, even in the next five years, you should not ignore the importance of a comprehensive BI suite.  This way, you’re only dealing with one team of vendor, partner, consultant and support professionals.  Additionally, the interface is similar and therefore familiar when it comes to introducing new modules into your workflow.  It also doesn’t hurt to get your team involved in analyzing the processes that need the most attention, so that implementation and ownership of sometimes perceived-to-be-scary new analytics software.  Finally, the future of budgeting is web-based.  No surprise, right?

Web-based BI processes are here, and budgeting has followed.  When shopping, consider the potential of web budgeting for flexible access to budget input forms, reports and budget dashboards, but also don’t settle for products that don’t have essential aspects just because web budgeting is new and shiny.  Web budgeting and forecasting will continue to evolve and pick up speed, so expect blog articles on that in the future, but keep your eyes peeled for solutions that offer you the flexibility of Cloud computing.  Solver offers an Excel-powered budgeting module stand-alone, with a web budgeting front-end options (release in Q4, 2014), as part of the comprehensive suite of BI modules and would be happy to answer questions and generally review BI360’s easy-to-use Planning solution for collaborative, streamlined decision-making capabilities with SAP Business One.

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