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REVIEW: Budgeting Software 2015

Of all of the tools available to accountants, one of the least appreciated is budgeting software. As planning and budgeting solutions have evolved, the focus has been largely on enhancements that streamline and simplify the processes of analyzing current performance, forecasting future performance and reconciling the two in some manner that will enable managers to discern how best to meet the goals of the organization.

Perhaps the most recent of these has been the move to driver-based planning, in which the company identifies the key elements that drive success and then focus the business plan on these drivers. This approach is useful in two ways – it builds consensus within the planning team as to what the drivers are, and it requires some level of mathematical or statistical modeling to support the selection of each driver.

Yet critics are frequently dissatisfied with plans and budgets they produce. They cite the fact that budgets are too often based on an arbitrary target handed down by management (e.g., "take last year's budget and reduce it by 5 percent"), or that the budget is static – worth little in terms of managing the business within a day or two of completion. Finally, critics point to the volatility of the business markets and the lack of a regular process to update the plan and the budget.

In order to circumvent the worst of these problems, an organization needs three things:

*A planning/budgeting solution that allows for feedback and updating in a timely manner.
*A senior management committed to making the process more useful by allocating the appropriate time and resources.
*The use of external accounting counsel to help drive and direct the planning process.

Among the many planning and budgeting solutions capable of assisting accountants and financial officers in this process are the six that are summarized below.


AccuFund Budget Development Module
Needham, Mass.
(877) 872-2228
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Price: AccuFund Accounting Suite starts at $2,995 (single user). AccuFund Budget Development module, $1,295 (Standard edition); $1,695 (Professional edition).


AccuFund Budget Development Module
AccuFund is an accounting suite designed for non-profits, municipalities and government agencies, with a built-in approval process and reporting module for creation of departmental or project budgets.

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, with the ability to "roll-up" departmental budgets into the organization's master budget; subtotaling for account groups; the ability to view historical data and prior plan versions; the ability to distribute the budget to periods using previous history, user-defined tables or manually; a note field on every account for detailed explanations; and the ability to develop multiple budgets simultaneously, including annual, grant and capital budget cycles.

Version 5 offers a number of features that will benefit users of the Budget Development module, such as significantly faster performance, import/export features that support many open source spreadsheet products, and an enhanced task scheduler that will help move processes off the desktop with greater speed.

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.


Adaptive Insights 2014.2
Adaptive Insights
Mountain View, Calif.
(650) 528-7500
Price: Subscriptions range from about $10,000 to $500,000 per year on top of a startup fee.


Adaptive Insights 2014.2
Adaptive Insights (formerly Adaptive Planning), a cloud-based revenue planning, budgeting and forecasting system for cash flow projection, sales planning and balance sheet forecasting, offers cash flow forecasting and sales forecasting that combines a powerful financial modeling engine with an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface.

Key features include the ability to reduce budgeting and forecasting cycle times by up to 90 percent; reduce errors, improve accuracy with cash flow forecasting software; produce timely reporting and analysis, including what-if scenarios; deliver frequent rolling forecasts with sales forecasting software;
better, faster, more-informed business decisions; revenue planning and sales forecasting software; drag and drop, self-service reporting via the Web and Office.

Adaptive Insights enables budgeters to plan for revenues, personnel, expenses, capital spending, sales, assets, liabilities and equity – all 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.

Released in September Version 2014.2 offers a unified integration platform for data analysts and IT; read data integration; cloud-connected reporting; intuitive spreadsheets that are more "Excel-like;" integration with corporate Single Sign On (SSO) standards, and integration with more than 75 GL and enterprise systems, including Intacct, Sage 100, Microsoft Dynamics, Oracle Financials, NetSuite, PeopleSoft, Workday and SAP.


Alight Planning Version 7
Placerville, Calif.
(800) 960-7717
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Price: Alight Desktop – SaaS system begins at $10,000 for a permanent license, plus a 20 percent annual support fee. On-premise pricing starts at $25,000, plus 20-percent support.


Alight Planning Version 7
Alight Planning, robust toolkit designed for sophisticated enterprises that can cut the budgeting cycle by up to half, 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.

Alight 7 can be delivered via SaaS, giving customers the power of Alight anytime, anywhere and on any device. It has powerful filtering capabilities that let users slice-and-dice information by customer-defined dimensions such as departments, cost centers, products and more. It also offers enhanced scenario analysis that enables users to instantly compare multiple options, side-by-side, leading to better-informed, rapid decision making. And a next-generation architecture delivers major performance improvements.

The system includes real-time visual analytics, power filters, enhanced scenario analysis and significant enhancements to performance. Visual analytics, driven by key metrics, enable business users to see the information they need, in a focused manner, and make rapid decisions.


Budget Maestro Version 7
Natick, Mass.
(800) 366-5111
(508) 948-0088
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Price: Standard Edition, $5,000 (one user); Advanced Planning Edition, $10,000 (one user). Additional users about $2,500 each (or less depending on volume).


Budget Maestro Version 7
Budget Maestro is an automated tool that streamlines the budgeting, forecasting, consolidation and reporting process to deliver accurate calculations, automated consolidation, updates in real time and GAAP-compliant reports. Built on industry-standard, Microsoft SQL technology, Budget Maestro solutions are easily scalable, install in minutes and requires little to no IT support for installation and maintenance.

Key features of the 2014 version include: modern new look and feel and a new customizable welcome page that has Windows 8 style tiles Users can pin and unpin tiles that are frequently accessed features, customize Major Group labels (revenue for instance can become Fund Raising for nonprofit clients). There are also easy Access Mega Menus, Clear Groupings by feature/function; and Streamlined navigation. The system also provide Windows docking, which allows for floating windows where you could look at a group of operating expenses on one screen and the drivers that we were used to calculate them in another

The application is offered in two versions: a standard edition, for organizations with basic budgeting, forecasting and reporting needs; the more robust Advanced Planning edition, for organizations with more advanced budget planning and performance management requirements. Both editions are avaialbe in client server and hosted (web-based) platforms.


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


NetSuite Planning
NetSuite is an SaaS application that delivers web-based business management services from accounting/enterprise resource planning (ERP) to customer relationship management (CRM) and financial planning in a single, integrated package.

The key benefits are the system's real-time analytics and role-based dashboards; complete cloud delivery, enabling rapid delivery, automated upgrades, and secure application access from anywhere; its full drill-down capabilities from financial statement to transaction; 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 for financial management, revenue management, and order management; improved accountability for billing and inventory management; and a reduction in IT costs.


PlanGuru 2014
New Horizon Technologies
Santa Fe, N.M.
(888) 822-6300
Price: Single machine pricing, PlanGuru Starter, $99.95; Basic, $399.95; Enhanced, $799.95.


PlanGuru 2014
PlanGuru 2014, a planning, forecasting and projection system able to create budgets for up to 10 years, produces customizable financial statements and reports, automatically calculates financial ratios and breakeven analyses, and imports from and export to Microsoft Excel and imports directly from QuickBooks. 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.

Key features include integrated income statement, balance sheet and statement of cash flow; robust planning framework with custom forecasting tools; save as PDF or Excel files; automatically view financial breakdowns and ratios; create an unlimited number of projection workbooks; and create and maintain a comprehensive financial model

Expanding on the core program, 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.

PlanGuru 2014 is also available as a hosted system in the cloud through a Citrix-enabled environment.

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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