The Budgeting and Forecasting Experts Blog

Onboarding a new Budgeting, Forecasting and Business Intelligence System

What to do to ease-in the new process

I just finished reading an article by Rob Livingstone titled “BP&F (Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting) software budget manager training tips”.  This is available to registered users (free registration) at: http://searchfinancialapplications.com.

After registering, the article can be found at: http://searchfinancialapplications.techtarget.com/answer/Ask-the-expert-BPF-software-budget-manager-training-tips

The focus of this article are the four steps needed to be taken in order to successfully onboard a new budgeting, planning and forecasting system and the importance of getting the budget managers and other employees participating in this process acclimated and feeling comfortable with managing the process.

When it comes to implementing a practical budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence solution, especially in a small to medium size organization, having the right persons on board, with sufficient experience and willingness to succeed in the initial implementation is extremely important.  However, having the right system in place is just as important and will often encourage a less experienced team to quickly learn and adapt the software to the particular organization’s needs.

I’ve had the opportunity of working with various software applications, some of which where not intuitive to implement and maintain, where training of employees and budget administrators was lengthy and costly, always dependent on outside consulting, and with constant programming and reprogramming of even the most mundane changes.

On the other hand, my experience with an application such as Budget Maestro proved the opposite to be true.  Because of the way this software application was designed, implementation is short and generally inexpensive.  The modular approach lends itself to different persons contributing budget elements in specific modules (e.g., revenue and cost, operating expenses, personnel, assets, debt, etc.).

Consolidations of the various budget pieces within the business entities, regardless of model complexity, is completely automated and with no user programming.

The driver based system with built-in business rules where persons choose from menus and drop-down lists without entering a single formula or link makes the whole process very intuitive with a much shorter learning curve than all other systems I’ve worked with.

To that add the integrated, built-in financial statements, again without any programming, and there is little wonder why so many small and medium size organizations have been successful in implementing this software with such modest cost and minimal training.

My advice to any organization looking to implement a planning, forecasting and business intelligence solution is to look for a system that can quickly go live with minimal training and that can be internally maintained without programming and complex change management processes.

When budget managers experience an easy and intuitive onboarding process, the effort of obtaining results and the regular maintenance will seem less of a chore and will ensure greater accuracy and willingness to use the process for its intended process, which is gaining insight into the future financial health of the organization and providing management with the tools to make informed decisions along the way in order to align current operations with original or modified goals

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning

2014 top accounting software buyer trends

I just read an interesting report published by accounting software research firm, Software Advice titled:  Small Business Accounting Software Buyer View 2014.  It was compiled and written by Noel Radley, Managing Editor, Software Advice and can be found at the following link: Accounting Software Buyer View 2014.

The report was compiled from data acquired from surveying several hundred buyers primarily representing small companies, with the majority of them under 500 employees and under $50 MM in annual revenue.

Buyers were questioned on their search for the right accounting software for their companies, the reasons for their search and what features and functionality they were most interested in.

It was not surprising to learn that many of the survey participants were looking to upgrade from more basic (and older) accounting software applications to packages with more advanced features, allowing greater efficiency and increased automation and accuracy.
Another interesting observation was that the surveyed buyers expressed less interest in web-based accounting software applications than what is experienced these days with general software purchases.  This is an indication that the priority here is functionality first and delivery method second.

What I have personally experienced in consulting to smaller companies (the majority of my work is with larger organizations) is that company managements are seriously looking to leverage technology and advancements in information processing, as well as automated budgeting, accounting and finance functions, quicker period close cycles and enhanced reporting.

These companies are also realizing that software tools that were only available to very large organizations in the past are becoming more accessible to smaller enterprises and with lower cost of ownership and less maintenance and employee training.
I believe the results of this survey fairly represent goals and desires of smaller company managements, as represented by buyers of technology products and in this particular case, accounting software.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting software

CEO – CFO Dysfunctional Relationship

An often-overlooked reason

Recently there was a question posted on www.Proformative.com (an online resource and professional network for senior finance, accounting and related professionals) on the often-dysfunctional relationship between CEOs and their CFOs, and trying to explore the underlying reasons for that and what can be done to prevent it. There were a lot of answers posted by Proformative.com contributors participating in the “Ask the Experts” feature of this website, including my own little input in an area I thought was important.

In my work I interact with company upper managements in a variety of industries.  I interview members of the executive team in each organization as part of my various professional engagements (e.g., corporate budget, internal audit process design, external financial reporting, SEC reporting and compliance, etc.).  From these interviews and other opinions expressed by managers and employees I noticed a pattern, which at first appeared to be coincidental and was actually unexpected.   The more experience I gained in working with corporate executives the more I was convinced that there was a fundamental reason contributing to the level of disconnect between a company CEO and his/her CFO.  This is certainly in addition to other, more obvious, reasons usually due to personality conflicts, incompatibility with the company or a specific industry and perhaps other reasons.  Of course, this is only true in companies where this phenomenon occurs; there are many organizations fortunate to have CEO / CFO teams who not only get along but also work as a team and are able to create a great work environment where teamwork is encouraged.

The little insight I gained has to do with the inability of a company to properly plan and then execute their financial plan, including making corrections to the plan and its execution, without taxing the business too much though bad decisions (or indecisions), uncertainties or other actions that aren’t directly derived from a solid decision making process.

A good example that demonstrates this is a company’s CEO expecting certain financial results, based on an incomplete plan or budget and only seeing actual data, which are usually short of the general expectations.  When a CFO is asked to defend the actual results, it appears that due to the lack of proper planning there are no reasonable explanations and suggestions that can initiate a decision making process, in response to the actual results. The CFO and his/her finance team will have certain opinions, usually not backed up by solid data and analysis, and the CEO will often make decisions that are based on intuition, past experience, or based on what other similar companies are doing.  This results with the CEO and CFO not working as a team, and with the company suffering the consequences.

Of course, there are several other reasons for a dysfunctional relationship here, which I have noticed but will not comment on in this blog.
In contrast, having a solid financial plan and discipline to monitor the actual results and compare them to the plan (budget and periodic updated forecasts) can remove this point of tension between the CEO and the CFO.  Expectations become clear and action can be taken immediately following a periodic analysis. In reality, achieving such processes requires, in addition to discipline and willingness to adhere to process execution, a solid and practical information technology that can be realistically implemented and continually used.  The output given by this system must be available to view and understand by all team members, with the CEO and CFO informed on the process and its results at all times.

One of the challenges in the corporate world is to implement such a practical system.  From what I’ve seen, most software solutions designed to help with budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence are not simple to implement, require a significant investment throughout the useful life of the system and are not always capable of providing the data that is really needed to maintain the organization on its planned course.  On the other hand, Budget Maestro was designed precisely to give upper management the information they need, when they need it and in a format that they can quickly understand.  CEOs of small and medium sized companies using this solution can intuitively understand the real financial health of their organization and along with their CFO and other management team members can work together to explore solutions that will correct the course the organization is headed on.

As for personality conflicts between CEOs and CFOs – this is an area I will not attempt to comment on or speculate.  I think I’ll leave it to the experts in that field.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, forecasting

Automated Budgeting and Business Intelligence for Manufacturers

Are you ready to automate the budgeting process?

In my consulting practice I frequently work with small and medium size manufacturing companies.  While many of them have been able to fully automate their accounting systems, there is still a lot to be desired in the area of automated budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence.

Over the years I saw companies transition from partial or even complete manual accounting (yes, the system where you keep track of your inventory and other accounting data by using inventory cards, account ledger cards, etc.) to fully automated accounting and ERP software.

Nowadays, in a typical manufacturing company, it is common to see full automation in the area of inventory control, production control (e.g., shop floor control, scheduling, capacity planning) and of course the common functions of Sales Orders, Purchasing (with or without MRP), Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and General Ledger.
More and more manufacturers have implemented automated employee time collection at work centers or even at specific machines locations or production activities.  Cost accounting has become more automated and shop rates are periodically analyzed and corrected as required to arrive at a more precise product costing, more accurate cost absorption in inventory and more accurate and appropriate inventory valuation.
While all this is encouraging, there is one very important area in manufacturing finance that many companies still struggle with.  Not surprisingly, this is the much-dreaded process of budgeting, forecasting and analysis.

Some of the manufacturing companies I run into still use spreadsheets for their annual budgets.  They may consolidate several or many spreadsheets prepared by their various administrative and operations departments and some of them may have some logic built-in to aid the forecasting process.  Invariably, the end result is only a projected income statement (P&L) with one column for each budget period (e.g., month).  There is usually no further insight into the future financial health of the organization.
Another common behavior I see is the lack of ability or discipline to regularly analyze these forecasts against actual accounting data. The result of this behavior is the inability to make informed decisions and align the company operations with its goals.  In many situations this leads to financial deterioration and having to make drastic corrections, often as a result of overreacting to symptoms. Fortunately, this can be prevented, and relatively easily, by employing a robust approach to budgeting and by using the right software tools.

Today there are many budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence solutions available to manufacturing companies.  What I’ve learned through experience is that no matter what solution is implemented it must be practical to set up and use and most importantly, it must encourage users to embrace the process and welcome it; in other words, encourage people to use it because they “want to” and not because they “have to”.  In many cases, this will make the difference between a successful and failed implementation.
Other than the approach and attitude towards the solution there are, of course, certain technical requirements the system must meet in order to provide the expected benefits to these organizations.

Through using and evaluating various systems I’ve compiled a list of high level features and benefits that a budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence application should have.  This list can be seen at my “10 Must Have Features of a Budgeting & Business Intelligence System” blog.  When the selected system is able to deliver on all the 10 points listed, the organization will be afforded a much better insight into the future financial health of the company and without adding unnecessary burden to its finance and operations functions.

Experience gained by many organizations, manufacturers included, shows that a proper budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence solution that is practical to implement and use throughout the budget year can become the organization’s most trusted tool and will provide the insight and intelligence needed to drive the decision making process, quicker and with greater confidence.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning, budgeting software

10 Must Have Features of a Budgeting & BI Solution

Can your budgeting solution do all that?

I work with companies of various sizes and in diverse industries who have all implemented computerized accounting or ERP software.  Some have integrated CRM, supply chain management, MRP or other software to address requirements peculiar to their industry or even their unique operation. One thing they all share in common is the need to maintain  periodic budgeting and able to monitor their actual results from operations so they can compare it with the pre-defined budget, make adjustments to that budget (re-forecast) or make adjustments to operations based on the actual results and the intelligence gained from monitoring the budget process throughout the fiscal year.

Do all companies adhere to these budgeting and performance monitoring principals?
My experience shows that all companies have at least a rudimentary system where income and expense items are budgeted and fundamental results, such as profit and loss are forecasted and then compared with actual financial results from the accounting system.
Some companies have committed additional resources and effort to implement a more “purpose built” system with greater security and other enterprise level characteristics, such as multi-user, multi-entity capability and additional features that cannot easily be accomplished with a basic, usually spreadsheet based, solution.

There are many solutions available today including several in the small to medium size market (SMB).  These systems fulfill some of the basic requirements but the majority of them fall short of providing their users with the most important tools and capabilities.  Others require extensive user programming or relying on outside consultants to build and maintain these systems. Through experience gained from implementing budgeting systems and from actually using and evaluating various software solutions I’ve compiled a list of high level features and benefits that a budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence application should have.

Any company looking to implement a complete solution should be concerned with these top 10:

1. Must be delivered as a database application for better control and management.
2. Should have a system-generated integrated set of forecasted financial statements.
3. Must have a modular approach with a complete array of functions such as: revenue forecasting module with cost; operating expense module; personnel module; fixed assets module; loans and other debt module.
4. Must have driver-based forecasting, which is the ability to work with unlimited and varied types of drivers.
5. Must have the ability to allocate forecasted amounts to pre-defined accounts.
6. Its business intelligence and rules must be built-in and available to users to choose from and with no user programming required (formulas, links, etc.).
7. The application chosen must allow users to set up a chart of accounts representing the actual accounting system’s chart of accounts (or mirroring it).
8. There should be either a direct link or simple interface to the accounting or ERP software’s general ledger, where actual data can easily be populated in the budgeting software and immediately used in the analysis process, following the accounting period close.
9. Reports—both visual and alpha numeric—must be readily available and with minimal effort.  All budgeted financial statements (with a minimum of Income Statement, Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows) should mimic their actual financial statements produced by the actual accounting software.
10. The budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence software application needs to act as an extension of the accounting software or ERP system’s actual financial data.

These 10 “Must Have” features are especially important in smaller or medium sized organizations where resources are limited, yet business intelligence is critical and the decision making process must rely on solid and reliable tools.
When looking to implement a budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence solution make sure you carefully evaluate each software application and verify it includes these 10 critical features.

The benefits from having these features cannot be overemphasized.  While some of these features are fundamental and expected, others are less common and will make the difference between properly performing the budgeting and analysis process or just getting through the process without really using the system for its true intended purpose.
Those who implement the right system know that their organization’s future financial health can greatly benefit from having these 10 features.

Tags: budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning, budgeting software

Do you Budget for Technology Spending?

An intelligent way to budget your information technology needs

I recently noticed an article in CPA Trendlines  (cpatrendlines.com) by Randolph Johnston, Leslie Garrett PhD, and Brian F. Tankersley, CPA.CITP, CGMA titled: “Tech Survey: 90% of Accounting Firms Fail to Budget Properly”.  This specifically makes reference to technology spending and how these firms do not budget their technology spending by employee.  The body of this article is made available to subscribers of this publication and it is based on The Accounting Firm Operations and Technology Survey, also available from CPA Trendlines.

I couldn’t help but ask a few questions:  What else do these accounting firms fail to budget?  Why are they not budgeting these expenses (capital expenditure) properly?  Is it an oversight? Is it too difficult and time consuming to do?  Do they not have the proper budgeting tools?  Are there any other reasons?

We all know that information technology spending has become a significant, hard to ignore expenditure, attributing to large depreciation expenses recognized by virtually all types of organizations.  This spending category is also a major contributor to increased cash and borrowing needs.  It would make perfect sense to properly budget for this expense and forecast its impact to the company’s balance sheet, yet surveys like the one mentioned above indicate that this is simply not done as it should be.  Why?

Experience in various industries shows that many organizations fail to properly budget because they either don’t have the proper budgeting tools and software applications or their existing systems are too complex to maintain in response to changes in the organization.  I guess accounting firms are no different, although I would expect them to set a good example for all the client companies they so diligently audit.

It is well known that many companies still use homegrown spreadsheets to administer and maintain the budgeting, forecasting and analysis processes, where every little change involves significant modifications to formulas, links and other programing and debugging tasks.  Many organizations simply do not care or are not able to make these changes.
Companies that decide to move away from spreadsheets into purpose designed budgeting software solutions quickly discover that they have not entirely gotten away from these formulas and links, another reason why changes to budget models are often not implemented.

In contrast, an application like Budget Maestro  does not rely on user-supplied formulas, functions, links or any other programming.  Since a budget prepared with this application (or parts of this budget) can easily be based on user-defined drivers (e.g., headcount), the example of budgeting technology spending by employee becomes relatively trivial.  The software also has a dedicated Assets module (optional to use but included in the base system), where technology spending (capital expenditures) can be set up and properly budgeted and tracked.

An added bonus in the Assets module allows one to automatically post to the depreciation expense account, with data derived from the budgeted technology capital spending.
As with every piece of budget data in Budget Maestro, everything flows to the various financial statements, including a Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows, all this without ever having to enter a single formula or link, or perform any programming.
Things just don’t get much better than this.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning, budgeting software

The Affordable Care Act and Your Budget

Is your annual budget process ready for these changes?

I just read an article by Michael Cohn, Editor in Chief, AccountingToday.com stating, according to a survey, that many small businesses are still not prepared for the changes imposed by the Affordable Care Act (click here for a link to the article).  A free registration is required to gain access to this article and other current and useful information on many topics.

According to the findings of this survey, only a little over half of small businesses understand and are prepared for the changes required by the Affordable Care Act.  The rest of these companies either do not understand it at all or only partially understand it and are not prepared to comply with its complex rules and regulations.  It is likely that many larger companies as well are confused or unsure about compliance issues associated with this Act.

This implies that budget activities (particularly additional potential costs and tax credits) that are supposed to reflect these major changes to our health care system are probably not performed.  Actual financial impact resulting from the changes will not have corresponding budget components and certain variances are likely to occur.

The Affordable Care Act example is a good reminder of the real challenge in incorporating changes to any budget or forecast, which is, being able to quickly and with little effort manage modifications to the process and its details.  Unless the budgeting system is open to modifications without having to perform programming or enter an array of new formulas and links to other worksheets or system modules, these modifications, assuming the company understands the changes to its required compliance, are unlikely to be made.
This reminds me of the Personnel module that every installation of Budget Maestro.

With Budget Maestro, modifications in the personnel module are fairly simple and straightforward.  The power of driver based budgeting, one of the main features of this application, can be put to work almost immediately and all changes are reflected in the resulting budget in real time.

Here’s a simple example:  Since Budget Maestro allows for unlimited user assigned drivers, you can set up specific drivers to address employee health insurance costs such as: cost per hour worked, cost per $ of salary expense, etc.  These drivers will automatically affect personnel payroll related expenses, which are budget lines set up within the personnel module.  Expenses defined as payroll related expenses (e.g., health insurance costs) automatically change as the drivers and the actual budget lines for these expenses change.

The ultimate benefit here is that everything that occurs in the personnel module (and all other modules in Budget Maestro), for every budget expense line (including all above mentioned health insurance costs) automatically flows into the projected income statements with no user programming required, no formulas, links or functions, just like the actual financial statements coming out of the ERP or accounting system.
I have been using this application for over 10 years now but here again I was reminded how seemingly complex changes can be implemented with little effort and with the highest efficiency and accuracy.

A good example of implementing Budget Maestro with the Personnel Module as an important and integral function can be learned from Hames Corporation of Sitka, Alaska (a small regional retail chain).   I read the full case study here  and was able to completely relate to a statement made by the company CFO, Maxell Rule, saying:
“The ability to analyze and budget labor and related benefit costs has been invaluable, particularly in light of the unknowns and challenges related to
the Affordable Care Act. We can now accurately budget and monitor our healthcare costs, even down to the specifics of an individual employee’s health plan options,” This is not surprising, knowing the great practical use that many small and medium size organizations have found in Budget Maestro.

Like the Affordable Care Act, any major changes or new requirements and assumptions in a company’s budget should be straightforward to implement and immediately put to use without having to embark on a lengthy design, programming, testing and debugging project.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning

Those Debits and Credits

A budgeting system that actually does the thinking for you

I just finished working with a client on the year-end close, right in time for their external auditor to come in and do their work.  Either my memory was failing me or this year’s close was different than past years, I couldn’t help but notice the large number of journal entries that were required in order to bring the various accounts to their proper balances at year-end.  There were adjusting entries, reversing entries, allocation entries and other miscellaneous entries.
As I was reviewing the various entries for accuracy and completeness I reminded myself that fine art of accounting is nothing more than posting the correct amounts in the correct accounting periods and of course, using the right GL accounts.  As usual in situations like this, you have to carefully prepare the entries, making sure you use your debits and credits correctly, applying them to the right GL accounts and so on.  An edit list, additional reviews, approvals and finally the actual posting usually follow this.
Those who are closely involved in this process realize how several manual controls must be set up in order to make them as effective (in reality, they can never be as effective) as automated controls (e.g., posting subsidiary ledgers to the GL, usually under full automated controls).
This reminded me how in Budget Maestro  the results of the projected financial statements and all other reports are accurately determined by an array of system generated journal entries. Users of Budget Maestro don’t ever need to make any entries (with the exception of optional, user made adjusting manual entries).  They don’t need to remember account numbers, they don’t need to know whether to use a debit or a credit for a particular transaction; what they experience is complete automation as the system performs all these entries in the correct budget periods, in the right amounts and using the appropriate GL accounts, period after period.

I still remember the day I first fully understood the profound impact that this software architecture and design had on the final results and why it was possible to obtain these results, especially without any user programming or formula work.
This approach to designing and implementing a budgeting, forecasting and business intelligence solution completely eliminates many of the manual internal controls that must be in place in other similar applications.
In Budget Maestro there are no formulas to deal with, no user defined functions and links; every piece of data that participates in the budget model, either entered by users or automatically calculated by the many business rules and drivers available in the system, causes the right set of journal entries to be performed in the background.
It is these automated journal entries that make all the forecasted financial statements and all other user defined reports accurate and complete, and without worrying about transactions orientation (credits vs. debits).  This is in addition to not worrying about the budget period to post to and the account numbers.
With that in mind, I think I’ll take the activities involved in running Budget Maestro over traditional journal entries any time.

Tags: budget maestro, budget software, budgeting, budgeting and forecasting software, budgeting and planning, budgeting software, business budgeting software

Will You Hit Your Budget Goals?

How to increase the odds of achieving your budget goals

I just read an interesting article in CFO magazine by David McCann, titled: “Will You Meet Your Financial Commitment?  Be Sure by Midyear.

The insight gained here, which is based on an actual study, as described in detail in a report, is that early planning, including disagreements on expected results can usually result in a more accurate assessment of the probability of meeting financial commitments.

Conversely, leaving this to later in the process (e.g., mid-year or later), results are more likely to fall short of expectations, as the author states: “Divergence later in the process, on the other hand, can weaken the team environment and lead to an inability to deliver on commitments.”

The author further states that:  “The message for managers is to watch shifts in probability (of making accurate assessments), as declines by midyear can signal trouble for the entire year.”

As this also pertains to the planning and budgeting process, it teaches us that we must plan ahead and reach consensus early in the process (ideally prior to the beginning of the budget year).  We must also employ the best possible tools in this process and continually monitor the actual results against what we planned and budgeted.

When asked what software application to use in a particular industry, to employ in the planning, budgeting & monitoring process, I usually suggest acquiring an application that is functional almost out of the box, practical, and not too overwhelming.

In other words, something that you and your team will “want to use” and not “have to use”, an application that will produce real results that the organization can immediately benefit from and will be used year-round and not only during the months leading to a new budget year.

In the small to medium size business (SMB) I am very impressed with the results obtained with Budget Maestro and Analytics Maestro. I have written many articles and blog posts on budgeting and forecasting and many of them include elements that are addressed with great results by this application suite, in many industries and consistently, year after year.

After over 10 years of using this application, I still find new uses and renewed benefits each time I work with it.

One that is closely related to the topic of the article mentioned above is that with Budget Maestro a company can complete its budget early enough for it to be carefully assessed and thoroughly reviewed, before running into unrealistic deadlines.

Another is the ability to periodically (preferably monthly) analyze actual results against budget data and using the Analytics Maestro module, gain the ability to slice and dice through any amount of data across multiple business dimensions and with unlimited display and reporting options.  What can be seen, starting in the first budget period (month) can quickly lead to corrections that will move the company closer to its original financial goals.

Of course, there are many other benefits and unique capabilities that Budget Maestro offers its users, many which have already been mentioned in this blog.

As the article above points out, discovering deterioration in financial results mid-year can mean trouble for the entire year.

Don’t let that happen in your company.

Tags: budgeting, forecasting

I made a profit, where’s my cash?

How to get a better handle on projected cash balances and other valuable accounts

I recently read an article in Inc. Magazine, titled “Don’t Run Out of Cash: 3 Growth-Company Case Studies” BY Jill Hamburg-Coplan

While this publication typically does not focus on mainstream enterprise finance, it has a tremendous amount of good material and insight that can be applied to all businesses and on all levels.

The essence of this article is that you must be able to forecast your cash flow since simply looking at your income statement (P&L) is no indication of cash shortages or needs. You may be “making” money on paper and running into a serious cash crunch at the same time.

I like Mr. Alan Knitowski’s quote in this article: “To survive, business owners have to view cash as their lifeline.”

The lesson to be learned here is that actual P&L statements and P&L forecasts can never reveal what the cash balance or cash needs of the company are going to be. These Income Statements, compiled from actual revenue and expenses, or forecasted Income Statements, derived from projected revenue and expenses are generally done using the accrual method of accounting.

Looking at these statements you see actual or forecasted revenues and expenses, gross margins, operating profits and net profits (or losses), but there will be no indication of what cash balances currently are or going to be in future periods.

What is usually missing from the process is projecting a reliable Balance Sheet and then compiling a Statement of Cash Flows from the other two projected statements. When you have that, you’ll have a projected cash balance in each forecasted period. You will also get other key accounts’ projected balances such as Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and essentially every account that appears on a typical Balance Sheet.

Without a properly prepared forecasted Balance Sheet, you simply don’t have any visibility to the financial health of the organization. This is one of the main reasons why so many companies run into temporary (or worse) financial trouble.

I find it odd that most budgeting and forecasting software vendors, especially those in the small and medium size (SMB) business space do not intuitively allow their users to obtain an accurate and complete forecasted Balance Sheet and its associated Statement of Cash Flows.

The few users who try to forecast their Balance Sheet using one of several available budgeting & forecasting commercial software packages quickly discover that it is very similar to using spreadsheets, the same spreadsheets they got away from when implementing a purpose designed budgeting and forecasting solution.

Those who succeed in putting together a Balance Sheet and a Statement of Cash Flows surely realize that it is a just a rough approximation of the forecasted balances (e.g., Cash, Accounts Receivable, Inventory, Accounts Payable, etc.). Generally, these statements should not be relied on.

If you are looking for a simpler and more accurate way to accomplish this, Budget Maestro you can automatically obtain projected financial statements, including an Income Statement, a Balance Sheet and also a Statement of Cash Flows.

The most remarkable part is that you don’t need to program formulas and set up links. The software automatically generates all the financial statements with great accuracy and completeness since it intelligently relies on your forecasted values, drivers and business rules, available in the various budget activity sections in the application (revenue, expenses, personnel, fixed assets and other areas).

Analyzing the forecasted Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows produced by Budget Maestro (and its companion product Analytics Maestro) shows the projected cash balance at the end of each budget period (month, quarter, year) for the duration of your budget. This was the main reason I started using this application shortly after it became available.

Here’s the way I see it: Your accounting department prepares an accurate and complete Balance Sheet using actual accounting data, and also a Statement of Cash Flows. Shouldn’t you also be able to produce an accurate and complete forecasted Balance Sheet and Statement of Cash Flows?

Imagine the added bonus of having an accurate forecasted cash balance for each of the periods participating in your budget plan.

Tags: budgeting, cash flow