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REVIEW: Budgeting Software 2011

Budgeting software, once a distinct category of software in its own right, is quickly being subsumed by a Business Process Management orientation that takes a more holistic approach to management of budgeting, forecasting, cash flow and planning. Having moved away from simple spreadsheets over the past decade, budgeting has taken root online as a web-based application, operating either as an independent module or as an integrated package.

Budgeting, done well, is not inexpensive. The most robust packages are clearly aimed at the higher end of the market where resources are more often available to implement the plans and budgets efficiently. They tend to run in the thousands of dollars when the purchase and implementation cycle is complete, but offer savings to the organization and a lower total cost of ownership to offset the up-front sticker shock.

While virtually every accounting software package includes some level of planning and budgeting capabilities, the focus of this round-up is on stand-alone packages. The field for 2011 encompasses seven major packages in the marketplace, all of which have earned their stripes for support of accountants as well as their internal flexibility and scalability.

 

AccuFund
AccuFund
Needham, Mass.
(877) 872-2228
www.accufund.com
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Budget Development module $1,295 Standard Edition; $1,695 Professional Edition.

AccuFund
AccuFund provides a full range of accounting applications for non-profits, municipalities and government agencies, available as either a Windows-based desktop or hosted online application. Its Budget Development Module offers a managed environment into which users can develop their departmental or project budgets at the detail levels they require and then move the worksheet through an approval process.

Budget Development gives the budget manager the ability to view budget history and historical data, including changes made from year to year and projections for the current year budget revisions using a prior time period or actuals. It provides a managed environment for departmental users to create budgets with control and support from the Budget Director/Financial manager, and allows multiple revisions during the approval levels with a history of changes in each version. It also provides integrated historical information for comparison to previous history and direct posting to the General Ledger for financial reporting.

Key features of the Accufund Budget Development module are that it allows entry at either annual level with spreading across periods based on prior history, or direct entry of period budgets; formulas in rows for rate based accounts such as taxes and benefits; and the ability to store unit based info to use as a basis for budgets such as clients served each month. Recent enhancements include the ability to insert new organizational worksheets after the process has been started and to insert accounts to worksheets not yet in the general ledger.


Adaptive Planning Version 7

Adaptive Planning
Mountain View, Calif.
(650) 528-7500
www.adaptiveplanning.com
Price: Corporate Edition, starts at $3,500 for one year (one admin user, two full users).  Enterprise Edition starts at $5,000 for one year (one admin user and two full users).

Adaptive Planning
Adaptive Planning is a scalable web-based planning and business intelligence application optimized for mid-sized companies and divisions of larger enterprises.

The Corporate Edition is a solution for midsize companies and departments of corporations that includes full budgeting features plus enhancements for end-users in reporting, analysis, dashboards, budgeting and forecasting, and administration. The Enterprise Edition is Adaptive Planning's most comprehensive solution, designed for companies that have more complex requirements or greater operational scale. This version includes all of the Corporate Edition features plus additional capabilities to support workflow, multiple currencies, and advanced administration.

Version 7.0 brings enhanced reporting features; better modeling and administration; a new web services interface that allows direct access to full import and export of all types of data, as well as greater control over filtering, currency, and permissions.

Well-designed, scalable and flexible, Adaptive Planning is an on-demand application that positions itself well against spreadsheet-style budgeting tools with a substantial set of enhancements that will serve companies of virtually any size.

 

Alight Planning
Alight
Placerville, Calif.
(800) 960-7717
www.alightplanning.com
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Price: Alight Desktop, single user with a desktop installation. $5,995 for a permanent license, 20 percent annual support; Alight Enterprise, up to 100 users. Price  based on a sliding scale of number of users. For example, a permanent license for 15 users is $30,000 plus 20 percent annual supporte.

Alight Planning
Alight Planning, a robust toolset, manages complex planning and budgeting issues while cutting the budget cycle by up to half.

Alight features include flexible and customized time periods, easy to use modeling interfaces, and automated balance sheet. Its scenario analysis features include the ability to create and compare up to 100 scenarios and switch between them in real time for comparison. Values and underlying assumptions can also be changed across all scenarios in a single operation. The reporting system includes both standard and ad hoc reports, with the ability to compare and present data in as many as 11 custom dimensions. Reports can also be formatted for export to PDF or Excel files.

In use by more than 200 companies, Alight is offered in two versions - a desktop version for a single user with a desktop installation; and an enterprise version with process controls and security for up to 100 users. Version 6.0, released in May of 2010, features expanded customization and end user tools; and improved formula building interfaces and automated model replication methodologies.


Budget Maestro Version 5.9
Centage
Natick, Mass.
(800)366-5111
www.centage.com
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: Desktop Edition, $3,995 (Single User); Small Business Edition, $9,995 (one to five Users); Enterprise Edition, $15,995 (multi-user, multi-location). Dashboard, $1,995.


Budget Maestro

Budget Maestro, a SQL Server database application, streamlines the budgeting, forecasting, consolidation and reporting process and delivers accurate calculations, automated consolidation, updates in realtime and GAAP-compliant report.

Budget Maestro is a substantial step up from spreadsheet-based planners in its ability to draw data from the General Ledger and automatically apply its own internal calculations for business insight and analysis. This also allows for sophisticated scenario-building on the fly. Its built in business and financial logic automatically calculates any transactions needed to build P&L, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow statements as the budget is built, and to automatically compare and update actual versus budget versus forecast performance.

The application is offered in three versions - a single user desktop edition; and the more robust Small Business and Enterprise editions that add multi-level security, multi-user support, unlimited scenarios, and user definable revenue recognition and asset depreciation scheduling (for enterprise budgeting and planning). All editions are web-enabled, permitting collaboration with clients over the Internet.

 

NetSuite Planning
NetSuite
San Mateo, Calif.
(650) 627-1000
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
www.netsuite.com
Price: Subscription based pricing starts at $99 per user per month

NetSuite
NetSuite, a Software-as-a-Service application, delivers web-based business management services from accounting/enterprise resource planning  to customer relationship management and Web capabilities-in a single, integrated package.

While it is not a financial planning and budgeting application per se, it does offer strong capabilities for organizational planning, budgeting, and budget tracking that and be used as an independent module.

The key benefits of NetSuite are its real-time analytics and role based dashboards; complete cloud delivery, enabling rapid delivery, automated upgrades, and secure application access from anywhere; its comprehensive financial management, including accounting, budgeting, and financial reporting; and built in CRM and Ecommerce features that enable integrated business processes from order to cash and procure to payment. Added to that are its real-time financial and operational performance across the entire company; streamlined back-office processes across financial management, revenue management, order management; improved accountability for billing and inventory management; and a reduction in IT costs.

NetSuite has strong appeal among corporate managers and accountants -- where its robust capabilities, on-demand access and relatively low price are attractive.

 

PlanGuru Version 12
New Horizon Technologies
Santa Fe, N.M.
(888) 822-6300
www.planguru.com
Price: Single machine pricing, PlanGuru Professional $299.95; Consultant Edition $499.95.


PlanGuru

PlanGuru has two significant strengths that make it attractive to accountants. First, it was designed specifically to assist accountants build their business advisory practice with a strong emphasis on budgeting and forecasting. Second, it offers the look and feel of a spreadsheet without the need to build and maintain formulas or macros.

The Professional version offers the ability to create budgets and forecasts for up to 5 years, produce customizable financial statements and reports, automatically calculate financial ratios and breakeven analyses, import from and export to Microsoft Excel and import directly from QuickBooks. Expanding on this, the Consultant Edition adds Performance Measurement Tools to benchmark the client's performance; creates business valuations using four income-approach methods and offers the ability to consolidate up to 40 analyses. The program can store an unlimited number of companies with an unlimited number of projections for each.

Version 12 provides a number of improvements including the ability to import from QuickBooks by class, enhanced supporting schedules, optional user name and password security by analysis and optional use of account numbers.


Up Your Cash Flow

Tarzana Calif.
(800) 873-7789
www.cashplan.com
Price: Up Your Cash Flow XT2-2011,$995 (One-time charge); Annual support and weekly online training, $249.

Up Your Cash Flow
Up Your Cash Flow is a budgeting and forecasting tool used by accountants and consultants to provide management cash flow planning, assist troubled businesses and offer other value-added services. CFOs, Controllers and Financial Managers use Up Your Cash Flow to make fast company budgets and cash flow forecasts.

Consultants and corporate managers will want to focus on the professional level product, XT2-2011. It offers over 65+ financial and management reports. The main feature of the program is to let management know the impact of their business activities on their future cash flow and profitability requirements.

The 2011 version offers a bevy of new features, including a spreadsheet-style system called the "Driver Calculator;" easier consolidation methods; business valuation tools; and a new dashboard for "what-if" analyses. In addition there is the ability to import a company budget, trial balance, monthly income statement for comparative analysis.

 

Dave McClure

David P. McClure is a technologist and business consultant whose career has included eight years with the NASA Space Shuttle Program and assignments in marketing, environmental services, software publishing and broadband.  He founded the US Internet Industry Association, the nation's primary trade association for Internet and broadband companies.  In 2004 he was awarded a Cornerstone Award for leadership in the broadband industry.  In the same year, he was named to the Board of Directors of the Universal Service Administrative Corporation, the non-profit corporation that oversees the nation's $8 billion universal service telecommunications fund.  His areas of expertise include software management, strategic and market planning, global technology policy and technology audits.  He is the author of more than 100 white papers on business management, technology, customer service and strategic planning.

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