Top-tier Performers in Finance benefit from Budget Process Automation

By Clinton Jones on April 24, 2014

In late 2013, Winshuttle posted a questionnaire to the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA), one of the largest and fastest-growing global accountancy bodies in the world. By engaging the ACCA members, we sought to understand how businesses are globally managing budgeting and planning activities, including the use of rolling budgets.

From the survey responses, we analyzed the methods and technologies used for the launch, collation, agreement and maintenance of budgets and business plans in the context of automation and business process optimization. View our Slideshare to see the survey results.Among the 1,800+ respondents, around 58% used SAP, Oracle or Sage as their core accounting system, but the vast majority relied on manual processes to move budgets along.

In 2012, the Financial Executives Research Foundation (FERF), in collaboration with Robert Half US, conducted their third annual benchmarking survey of staffing practices, as well as compliance of internal controls and other areas, within the finance function. The survey contained 50 questions, and results were based on responses from 262 financial executives from the public and private sectors.

More than half of the companies surveyed in the US (64%) and Canada (58%) said they reconciled their accounts manually. While there are several competing tools available for budgeting and planning, Excel remained the tool of choice for most respondents. For example, 61% of respondents in the US said that Excel was their primary budgeting and planning tool.

In 2013, PwC conducted another study, titled Unlocking Potential: Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Study 2013, which involved more than 200 companies in the UK. Their survey determined that businesses strive toward efficient and timely reporting: Median budget reporting times dropped about 14% in 2013, and small improvements were also seen in the forecasting cycle, where gains largely arise out of incremental improvements in technology and automation.

The gap between median and top-quartile organizations, which typically have more advanced technology and ERP systems, is significant. Across the years, companies with top-quartile performance have exhibited similar reporting times. Thus, these are stable thresholds or goals for companies striving for top-tier performance.

In Winshuttle’s ACCA study creating budgets required 3 or more cycles of approval for 76% of respondents, and involved 4 or more cycles of revision for 40% of respondents. As a result, the mode duration for the first budgeting round was a minimum of 4 weeks. Prolonged decision-making also means that budgets took 3 months or longer to conclude for nearly 63% of respondents.

budget finalisation

While the duration of these processes was not necessarily perceived as problematic, the longer budgets take to be determined, the less agile businesses are—and the less responsive they can be to changing economic and environmental circumstances. Adding automation to finance-related workflows can strengthen business agility and help companies retain a competitive edge in today’s marketplace.

Winshuttle software brings some distinctive advantages for organizations with and without core ERP systems in this realm of Budgeting and Planning. For those with core ERP systems like SAP, our  solutions provide the opportunity to formalize the data gathering process through the use of structured but flexible workflow, along with seamless integration with the back-end ERP system. The advantage of this approach is that you get to retain all of the flexibility of Microsoft Excel, but can still control the process with workflow and template-based data capture.

For organizations with or without ERP, Winshuttle tools offer the opportunity to use a forms-based approach to start budget-related processes like reallocation. This approach enables guided procedures to be implemented in a very regimented and structured way, while allowing data and approvals to be audited at any stage of the budget allocation and decision-making process.

Read how the City of Orlando uses Winshuttle for budgeting and planning reallocation.


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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.

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