Business Intelligence has become key to optimizing budget cycles. The trick is to choose the right BI platform for the company's needs and the way employees work. Collaborative business intelligence, with a platform that combines business intelligence (BI) and tools for collaboration, is the perfect approach for setting up a dynamic budget. So let’s take a look at what a corporate budget cycle looks like and how we can optimize it with more data collaboration.
Understanding the corporate budget cycle to optimize it
The steps in the traditional budget cycle are planning, budgeting, forecasting and reporting. Without the right tools, planning is often siloed, with each department working from its own data. But all of a company’s departments are connected and share a single goal: making sure the company’s strategic plan succeeds. Decision makers from finance, human resources, production and marketing all need to coordinate with their budget schedules.
This coordination results in cycles of approval between departments, with different versions of the budget being passed around based on different scenarios (market movement, potential economies of scale, etc.). These documents are based on data sets pulled from each department’s tools, whether finance ERP, HR software or sales and marketing analytics tools. This endless back-and-forth between departments is time-consuming (exporting, harmonizing and analyzing data) and produces errors. This is because the data shared is static, frozen at the time it was exported. In addition, a miscalculation or obsolete data point can have repercussions on other calculations.
All too often, budgets and action plans can only be adjusted based on annual or quarterly reports. This delay leaves the company unable to revise its strategy quickly in response to market developments, which exposes it to risk. That’s why it’s so important to optimize and shorten this budget planning process, with a shared data repository and tools for interdepartmental collaboration.
Working for a dynamic budget with a collaborative business intelligence
Companies need centralized, reliable, real-time data so that they can react quickly to, and even get ahead of, market developments. A business intelligence tool helps set up this data repository, along with the right indicators to meet each department's needs. This way, companies can develop their budget dynamically, based on this shared data.
But this dynamic, ever-changing budget cycle involves more collaboration between the various departments at a company. It’s not enough to connect every department’s applications to a BI tool and give users access. The idea is to enable teams to prepare and share budget dashboards and reports directly in the BI tool. With features to track edits and add comments and discussion threads.
A number of BI software programs have these collaborative features built in: Microsoft Power BI (a Solution BI partner since 2014), MicroStrategy (a Solution BI partner since 2009), Databox, Dundas BI, QlikView, Sisense and Tableau. Each tool offers its own unique features that can meet the budget planning needs of different companies.
With Microsoft Power BI, for example, users can create Workspaces for collaboration. Employees can utilize these spaces to create collections of dashboards, reports, data sets and “paginated” reports (pre-formatted to fit well on a page, making them easier to view). With MicroStrategy, multiple users can collaborate in a shared dossier from different data sets, and add comments, bookmarks and filters. QlikView is a guided analytics tool that makes it easier to bring users who are less familiar with BI tools into the discussion. Lastly, Tableau also offers many collaborative features, with tools for managing access rights and editing reports. Its “Viz snapshot” feature helps teams discuss data analyses by giving them context, pairing screenshots with comments.
Get support to transform your budget cycle
Companies can seek support from outside consultants to select and implement the best business intelligence solution for their needs. Solution BI consultants do exactly that for many budget planning transformation projects.
Support involves providing guidance and structure at every stage of the project, from the very first step of understanding the company’s needs. Consultants guide the company in developing project specifications, selecting the collaborative BI solution that is the best fit, configuring it, training teams, and monitoring the solution by tracking KPIs and how things change over time. This support can also help companies quickly make the most of their BI platform. Over the long term, it can help the solution adapt to a company’s changing needs. For example, it can connect new databases and algorithm models to better hone budget forecasts.
Lastly, companies that adopt collaborative business intelligence can also discover unused data and ask new questions. By involving all business departments in the budget planning discussion, companies can take advantage of a variety of experiences and points of view to find new, innovative solutions. Year-round support from an outside consultant will support this innovative corporate data approach.