In a webinar entitled “Ask the Expert: Building a Better Way to Budget,” Steve Player, the Program Director at Beyond Budgeting Round Table, reflected on this question.
Understanding the Budget Process
The key to operating an efficient budget process is by ensuring every team member is well-versed in their role and has strong comprehension of the budgeting process. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. A poll conducted in the webinar revealed that just over 50 percent of businesses don’t feel that their budgeting process is well understood throughout the company. This can lead to a host of problems while greatly prolonging the process of budgeting.
The Formula for Transforming a Budget
Steve Player lays out the right formula for changing a budget. The process starts with dissatisfaction, which is the initial factor that motivates the desire for change. The business also has to have a vision for change, know the first steps to implement change, and have a resistance to change.
Beyond Budgeting Principles
There are 12 key principles that can guide a budget change, which include:
Principles to Change Governance:
Principles to Change Processes:
For those unsure about how to proceed with a budget change, these core principles can guide you through an effective change, altering both the governance and the processes of the budget.
Figuring Out Where to Start
Budget changes can feel overwhelming. To know where to start, you need to thoroughly assess where you’re currently at. There are two primary methods of implementation. There is the revolutionary approach, which is an approach that’s led by visionary leadership, the goal being to achieve the budget change very quickly. Then there is the evolutionary approach, which relies on incrementally implementing the principles to gradually improve upon the budget over time. This method focuses heavily on leveraging rolling forecasts, while still partially relying on the traditional budget. Eventually, over time, the rolling forecast can completely replace the traditional budget.
Problems with the Traditional Budget
The main problem with the traditional budget, according to Steve Player, is that it “tries to do too much.” It relies on the same set of numbers for setting targets, forecasting, and allocating resources, which creates complications within forecasting and resource distribution. Instead, the numbers for each should be unique.
Targets need to be set relative to others in the industry, while forecasts need to be realistic. Resource allocation also has to remain separate so businesses can dynamically shift resources depending on the needs of each department at varying times. By separating targets, forecasts, and resource allocation, businesses can improve the accuracy of budgeting and avoid the limitations of traditional budgets.
Adapting Your Budget for a Constantly Changing World
When considering new budget options, many businesses contemplate implementing a zero-based budget. However, this still isn’t ideal, as it’s hard to adjust the budget over time. Rather, rolling forecasts provide the most elasticity, offering businesses the ability to continually update the forecast as circumstances in the industry or economy shift.
The forecast needs to constantly look toward the future, and businesses can do this by regularly reviewing their processes. For the rolling forecast to be successful, the business needs to continually check their current business processes, plan for the future, and act upon changes as they arise. Scenario planning is key for rolling forecasts. With frequent scenario planning, businesses can predict the impact of a range of potential outcomes, enabling them to better plan for the future.
Many businesses are dissatisfied with their budgeting process, but they don’t know where to begin in implementing a new one. An evolutionary approach to budget change can provide businesses with a way to gradually improve upon their budget process, without completely overhauling their strategy and disrupting the flow of business. Cloud-based enterprise performance management(EPM) software can help you get started. It provides the tools you need to support annual budgeting and implement rolling forecasts effectively, while accessing tools to aid in analysis and scenario planning.
To learn more, download our white paper, Best Practices in Rolling Forecasts.