This article will describe the value of using workflows for budgeting processes.
Automating manual processes inherently sounds like a sensible idea, but what exactly would be the most beneficial to automate? What part of the process would make the most sense? When it comes to budgeting, particularly consolidation budgeting, automation and assignments stand out as essential features of any tool you use. Automating assignments essentially translates into a feature known as “workflows.” When implemented in the right way, workflows unite the work of separate users or departments into one overarching process. In this blog post, we will explore the ins and outs of how workflows can save time in the budgeting process, specifically when it comes to common ones such as month-end close reports.
Assignments & Approvals
Assignment workflows form the basis of an organized planning process. Assignments associate an input template with specific dimensionality to users in the organization. For example, an assignment could associate a revenue budget template to one or more users based on a department. Importantly, the status of the assignment should be trackable based on templates and users. This way, an admin user can dispatch individual assignments to various users and see the progress on an “as-need” basis. A feature that allows admin users to assign deadlines would provide additional organization. “Approvals,” another feature, extends the assignment concept into a linear approval path. For example, once a user completes his or her assignment, in this case submitting the assigned budget form, the department manager receives a notification to review and approve the submission. Given the complexities of organizations, automated workflows should still allow for further clarification. In this case, the ability to add comments, which can foster discussion. Discussion also drives participation, as well as an understanding of corporate goals and objectives. This feature puts your organization in the best position to collaborate while ensuring transparency and accuracy in creating the budget.
We can see the obvious benefits of organizing multiple users’ assignments in one place for processes like consolidation budgeting. Workflows can make other processes easier as well. Any budgeting process, from annual budgets and forecasts based on departments to payroll, can benefit from the automated assignment and approval features described above. Even getting more specific, there is no rule that says workflows can only be used in big, annual processes. With the ability to assign multiple templates to users, one can create a workflow for personnel forms, travel budgets and other specific expenses. Likewise, any high-level processes can use workflows to enable organization. For example, one can build a workflow specifically for corporate strategy and goals. A budgeting and planning tool with workflow features should also allow for template selections that determine the parameters of the workflow, with options for preset templates and templates that users decide. While applied mostly to budgeting and forecasting, workflows entail different operational members adding pieces of information into a centralized template. The ability to view all approved, pending and rejected workflows at a glance can enable high-level decisions.
Cloud Software and the Future
While much of the discussion so far has been dedicated to the actual features workflows encompass, it is also helpful to zoom out and envision the type of robust tool that can handle all this flexibility. Elaborated on in a previous blog post, cloud-based software provides many opportunities to streamline various management processes. That cloud-based software alone can be updated from any location in real-time automatically making it the superior choice when it comes to assembling and organizing individual assignments into a centralized location. A modern, dynamic budgeting tool will also provide a better, easier experience than older legacy reporters and consolidation tools that are complex, expensive to maintain and do not perform all expected tasks. When considering budgeting and planning tools, the advantages cloud software pose are instrumental in maximizing the use of automation tools.
Even though a simple consolidation process does not necessarily require automation, for larger organizations and/or multi-location organizations, automated workflows will eliminate the manual process of putting together a budget. The upside ranges from clear expression of universal company goals to the logistical benefits of deadlines and alerts. Additionally, using automation tools should be easy by design. Consolidation tools acquired separately from your data and reporting systems allow for a gap in communication. On the other hand, tools with built-in workflows can pull numbers directly from the same, centralized source, like a data warehouse. Overall, the benefits of workflows and investing in the tools that come with them mean namely include time saved, increased accuracy and an explicitly shared vision of the organization’s goals.
If you are struggling to find a tool that checks all of these boxes, or aren’t sure how to work with the tools you already have, Solver has a team of experienced professionals that can get your organization started in upgrading your budgeting and planning process.
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