But there is a new wind blowing, as the economy forces companies to rebuild budgets from the ground up, based on actual costs rather than estimated-cost-plus-inflation. This new emphasis on planning and budgeting is giving rise to a new generation of budgeting tools that no longer depend on a simple spreadsheet. These budgeting tools are, instead, an integral part of systems for Corporate Performance Measurement (CPM), and offer a robust set of tools to better determine what an organization and its operating units will require in assets in order to accomplish their assigned missions.
As the list of seven leading tools for 2012 demonstrates, robust need not be complicated. Rather, these are tools that streamline the budgeting process while giving department heads, budget managers and
executives control over the process and its major elements.
AccuFund Budget Development Module
Pricier: Budget Development module $1,295 (standard edition and $1,695 (professional edition).
AccuFund is a fund accounting suite designed specifically for non-profits, municipalities and government agencies. Available as either a Windows-based desktop or hosted online application, is includes a Budget Development Module for development of departmental or project budgets at the detail levels required, with a built-in approval process.
Key features of the AccuFund Budget Development module are an unlimited number of budget cycles during the budget process, budgeting at any level of the organization; the ability to view historical data and prior plan versions; subtotaling for account groups; the ability to distribute the budget to periods using previous history, user-defined tables or manually; note field on every account for detailed explanations; and the ability to develop multiple budget simultaneously, including annual, grant and capital budget cycles.
The Budget Development module provides a managed environment for departmental users to create budgets with control and support from the Budget Director or Financial manager, and allows multiple revisions during the approval process 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.
Mountain View, Calif.
(650) 528-7501 Fax
Price: Subscriptions about $1,500 to $2,500 plus a startup fee.
Adaptive Planning, a scalable, web-based platform for Corporate Performance Management, offers a planning and business intelligence application optimized for small and mid-sized companies, as well as divisions of larger enterprises.
By eliminating many of the low-level processes associated with budgeting via a spreadsheet, Adaptive Planning enables the staff to focus on strategic analysis and higher-level decisions, while reducing the budgeting and forecasting cycle by up to 90 percent. Budgeters can plan for personnel, expenses, capital spending, sales, assets, liabilities and equity - linked to create a complete set of dynamic financial statements that can be compared to historical data or future forecasts. The budget can address an unlimited number of customizable data dimensions - departments, business units, locations, projects, products, customers, channels, regions, sales reps or employee classes, all consolidated across entities into a total company plan.
Updates have been announced for the fall of 2011 (available now) and for Spring of 2012 (available in Q1 of this year. These include Transaction Reporting and Analysis, that provides tight integration of transaction-level detail from other enterprise applications, located both on-premise and in the cloud. The ability to drill down into transaction detail assists budget managers in understanding actual data and budget variances. Other current and planned enhancements include reporting notes, dashboard enhancements, a document repository, expanded formula writing capabilities and improved security.
Alight Planning Version 6
Price: Alight Desktop (single user with a desktop installation), $5,995 for a permanent license plus 20- percent annual support fee. Alight Enterprise (up to 100 users). Sliding scale based on number of users. For example, a permanent license for 15 users, $30,000 plus 20-percent annual support fee.
Alight Planning is a robust toolset designed to cut the budgeting cycle by up to half. It is a driver-based financial planning and reporting software package that automates complex business modeling for more accurate strategic plans, revenue projections, budgets and rolling forecasts.
Key features include flexible and customized time periods, easy to use modeling interfaces, and an 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.
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
(508) 948-0099 Fax
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 Kit, $1,995.
Budget Maestro, an automated tool that streamlines the budgeting, forecasting, consolidation and reporting process, delivers accurate calculations, automated consolidation, updates in real time and GAAP-compliant reports. Built on industry-standard, Microsoft SQL technology, Budget Maestro systems scale easily, install in minutes and require little to no IT support for installation and maintenance.
The application is offered in three versions - a single user desktop edition; the more robust Small Business edition; and an Enterprise edition that adds 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.
Budget Maestro, a substantial step up from spreadsheet-based planners, has the 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.
San Mateo, Calif.
(650) 627-1001 Fax
Price: Subscription-based pricing starts at $99 per user per month
NetSuite is a Software-as-a-Service application that delivers web-based business management services from accounting/enterprise resource planning (ERP) to customer relationship management (CRM) 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 can be used as an independent module as well as integrated with its cloud ERP.
The key benefits 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 with whom its robust capabilities, on-demand access and relatively low price are attractive.
New Horizon Technologies
Santa Fe, N.M.
Price: Single machine pricing, PlanGuru 2011 $399.95; Enhancement package $349.95.
PlanGuru 2011 is a complete re-write of the software, designed specifically to assist accountants building their business advisory practice through services built on budgeting and forecasting. It retains the look and feel of a spreadsheet, but enhances that with special functions for easier navigation and use without the need to build and maintain formulas or macros.
The core program offers the ability to create budgets and forecasts for up to 10 years, produce customizable financial statements and reports, automatically calculate financial ratios and break-even analyses, import from and export to Excel and import directly from QuickBooks. Expanding on this, an Enhancement Package adds the ability to consolidate an unlimited number of projections in any hierarchical order; a business valuation tool; an engagement tool to automatically create an accountant report, procedure checklist and other documents; the ability to subtotal line items within a Class directly or on the worksheet; and additional export capabilities to Excel for non-financials and supporting schedules.
In addition to the new features, the 2011 version consolidates previous versions into a basic product capable of stronger performance in rolling forecasts, ratios, consolidations and business analyses. The Business Analyzer modules will be replaced in 2012 with an analytics toolkit, and site licensing has been streamlined to a single $400 networking application with an additional per-user charge of $250.
Up Your Cash Flow
(818) 996-4043 fax
Price: Up Your Cash Flow XT2-Professional $1,095 (0ne-time charge); SmartStart $399 (one-time charge). Annual Support and Weekly Online Training XT2 Professional $249; SmartStart $149.
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. A new import feature enables the user to have it up and running in less than an hour.
SmartStart, an economical version of the software, is aimed at startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses.
Consultants and corporate managers will want to focus on the professional level product, XT2-Professional. It offers more than 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 2012 version offers a bevy of features, including a spreadsheet-style system called the "Driver Calculator;" easier consolidation methods; business valuation tools; and a dashboard for "what-if" analyses. In addition, there is the ability to import a company budget, trial balance, and monthly income statement for comparative analysis.
Within the program is a special feature called The One Hour Forecast designed specifically to assist accountants and consultants in securing new cash flow planning business.