There are many companies that offer budgeting software; they will vary greatly in price and in what they can deliver, so how do you know which one is going to be the best fit for your business? There are a few things you can keep an eye out for that will help you filter out the noise.
1. The software needs to be user friendly. Not everyone is a financial whiz; I dare say very few people are. But to get the most benefit from a company budget, financial and non-financial managers within a business need to input on, have access to and understand it.
2. Ideally, the system should automate as much of the data capture as possible. With users not having to manually input information, the budget cycle can be reduced from months to weeks and there is much less room for error.
3. The software should be designed in modules. This shows an understanding that each client has unique requirements and does not expect you to invest in things you do not need and allows for the product to grow in line with your business.
4. It should accommodate a variety of budget types: Itemised Budgeting, Depreciation Budgeting, Grade and Employee Budgeting, Percentage Reallocations and Departmental Transfer Budgets.
5. Users should be able to work offline; it should be a simple exercise to export standard budget accounts into MS-Excel and reload the data into the system via an import at a later stage.
6. Budgets and forecasts should be able to be captured against non-financial accounts (for example headcount and square meters) and the financial budget driven as a result.
7. The system administrator should be able to create multiple user-specific screen layouts, deciding what data is displayed and what calculations can be performed to create different experiences for different groups of users, specific to their requirements.
8. You should be able to review budgets and forecasts in real time at any level within the company during the cycle, allowing users to drill down to the detail without needing data aggregation from outside the system.
9. The system should allow for the flexibility of creating multiple versions of a budget and workflow should enable the tracking and approval of budgets throughout the cycle.
10. Security and access control should be easily set up by the system administrator at an individual user level, defining which cost centres they can see, what areas of the budget they can update, which reports they can run and how their screens will be displayed. The administrator should also have the ability to define password policies and clone similar users.
Variety and choice should be empowering for businesses, not provide further complications and confusion. By knowing the right things to look for and the right questions to ask, you can ensure that you are getting exactly what you need within your price range.