7 Things Your Cloud-based Budgeting Software Must Do
April 12, 2018 – OpenGov
Choosing cloud-based budgeting software can be daunting. How do you what you should expect of it? What questions should you ask vendors? We’ve put together a handy guide to help you sort through the process, understand the pros and cons of cloud vs on-premises software, ask the right questions, and ensure the cloud-based software you choose is right for you.
To start you off, here are seven things your cloud-based budgeting software must do to help you realize the true benefits of greater effectiveness, efficiency, and better decision making. Warning: not all cloud-based budgeting software do these things.
- Offer strong integration and fast implementation
Cloud-based budgeting software should have integration options with your existing accounting systems, allowing you to import your COA structure and balances in order to seed your budget, and for reporting purposes, to maximize your previous investments, and to fully leverage all of the data within those systems. It should also be able to be implemented quickly, with minimal disruption to your team.
- Be intuitive and easy to use
You want cloud-based budgeting software that is powerful enough for finance, but easy for both finance AND end users. For finance, ensure the solution has the features needed to complete the most critical parts of the planning process, such as workforce planning, budget proposals, what-if analysis, and strategic initiative or priority- based budgeting. It should also have data and user controls to ensure both are managed and tracked properly. For all users, it should require a minimal learning curve. For budget owners, look for a solution that won’t overwhelm them. It should be easy for them to identify where they need to go and what they need to update. Finally, it must be easy for staff to input and track their updates.
- Provide collaboration capabilities
Cloud-based budgeting solutions should create a single place for budget proposal creation, updates, and submission. This enables collaboration. Any stakeholder can login, access the latest data, and make updates while collaborating within a department or across the organization in real-time. Activity tracking or audit trails are equally important, showing who and when updates and edits were made. This spurs conversation, collaboration, or simply to know whether a proposal was accepted or rejected. This avoids confusion frequently experienced when spreadsheets and email are used as the primary or supplementary part of the budget. Notification capabilities let you simply click and the software notifies users of the latest changes.
- Include strong workforce planning functionality
Workforce is typically the largest part of the budget. Your solution should provide you the ability to manage and plan for it appropriately. Integration with your current system is critical, whether it is a Human Capital Management system or Excel. Once your current roster is uploaded, it’s easy to track updates and changes-- critical for finance, especially for government-specific areas like step increases, pensions, and hazard pay. Finally, user level control and ease of use make it easy for department heads to only see and access their areas of control and to easily add new proposals or adjust approved headcount.
- Automate budget book creation
The software should automate budget book publication to avoid the headache of managing updates and conflicting versions of the budget book. It will eliminate the need for duplicated work and manual data updates as the budget book is prepared. When budget amounts and totals are updated or revised, those figures should flow automatically to the book – in whatever pages they appear.
- Feature great reporting, dashboards, KPIs
Budgets don’t exist in a vacuum. Decision-makers rely on historical performance and previous budgets to inform their decisions. During and after the budget process, reports need to be shared with management, staff, and citizens. A cloud-based solution should offer multiple reporting options (all easy to use), dashboards that allow a high level of view with options to drill down for specific departments, topics, or stakeholders, and help you track key performance indicators (KPIs) with visuals that let you readily see how KPIs are being met in real-time.
- Be complete
Some cloud-based software only does budgeting. To leverage the full power of a cloud-based platform and the associated solutions, look for a vendor that can provide budgeting, measure performance against those financial and non-financial metrics, and enable public engagement. By default, it will be able to bring data in from financial and nonfinancial systems. A complete platform will keep data and functionality in one place for more powerful reporting, unlock powerful insights, and facilitate better decision making.
Choosing a cloud-based budgeting software solution is key to modernizing budgeting and driving greater efficiency, effectiveness, and impact in your government. It alleviates time spent on manual data entry and reconciliation, and empowers all stakeholders to focus on strategic priorities and the conversations that matter -- ultimately, driving better outcomes.
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