If you’ve decided you need to move away from spreadsheets, and have determined which type of solution fits your school district and budget, the next step is to evaluate specific aspects of budget planning software. The ideal solution for your web-based budgeting and financial planning should fulfill certain criteria such as:
- Easy to Implement, use and own. At the core, you need a solution that has the infrastructure in place to support a collaborative budget planning process. End users can enter data they know from everyday operations without having to develop or maintain complex formulas or macros.
- Integration. The budgeting, planning and review cycle requires an organization to integrate information from its accounting system (and potentially other enterprise systems) into the process. The web-based software should have demonstrated experience in this area.
- Close the data gap. You need a solution that ties every user’s data into the same centralized relational database. This allows everyone to see the same financial data, or whatever portion of the data they need to see. Any changes you make are applied in real-time, so you can make critical decisions faster and more confidently, knowing that your data is always relevant, accurate, and up-to-the-minute.
- Easy migration. Data should be seamlessly transferred between the budget software and older databases, resulting in a smooth transition and fewer compatibility errors.
- Reporting takes center stage. You must get a financial planning solution that provides easy and comprehensive reporting options, without costly and time consuming programming. You want your users to produce insightful reports at any level of detail with just a few clicks of a mouse.
- Makes collaboration easy. Look for a solution that is designed with the non-financial user in mind, using dashboards and data entry screens that are intuitive to use, easy to enter data and to run reports without relying on IT or finance professionals.
- Flexible. Organizations can easily modify their model to adjust to changes, such as the addition of a new budget line item, a new department or a new school. Look for a budgeting application that has matching adaptability. It should also give you flexibility, to update your forecast to reflect current realities as the conditions surrounding your district’s budget change.
- Summarized financial data is available anytime. The right financial planning software will automatically tie in historical or YTD comparison information into the budgeting software to ensure 100% accuracy and synchronization.
- Minimize IT resources. The right solution should be implemented easily by your finance team, with virtually no IT support. They should be able to import data from other sources, create financial models and make changes as needed, generate financial statements and run management reports without using precious IT resources.
- Minimize changes to your existing account structure. The software should work with existing system of accounts with no need for you to modify it. It should not require you to truncate account names, condense accounts into fewer levels or make you perform other ‘tricks’ to make you data fit the system.
- Evolves with you. You need a solution that keeps pace with your organization in both size and cost. Spreadsheets are hard to scale to large numbers of users, and you risk mistakes proliferating with more and more people working in those spreadsheets. Larger solutions won’t shrink when you need to scale back in a smooth transition and fewer compatibility errors.
To conclude, the ability to use a secure web connection to work with budget data allows everyone to access the budget information at anytime from wherever Internet connectivity is available. A web-hosted application will usually include the budgeting, planning, and reporting capabilities that any organization needs, without additional IT requirements or lengthy implementation cycles. The system needs to combine a flexible, easy-to-use, spreadsheet style interface with a hosted, easy-to-deploy application framework that is affordable, quick to implement and offers a low total cost of ownership.
To learn more please visit www.mybudgetfile.com.