When is the right time to refresh the Budget Process?
I have worked with a lot of organisations who want to change the way they create their Budgets. Time and time again they say they want to wait for the right time to do it. Time and time again, that “right time” slips further and further away, there is always a reason to wait. The longer you wait, the further your process diverges from your requirement. Reviewing and updating your Budget process should be a regular task. The time to do it is NOW.
During the Budget Process
The second that the Budget is finished, all those annoying problems you encountered start fading from your memory. Keep it simple – take bullet point notes of the pain points you experience. Don’t try and take on too much extra during the Budget process or you will end up doing nothing. Try and get everyone involved in the process to do the same thing, at this stage the points don’t have to make much sense to anyone else – just enough to prompt you to elaborate at a later stage.
After the Budget Process
Now is the time for everyone to take those bullet point notes and elaborate, still keep it simple – just make it words that others will be able to follow. Centrally these points can be categorised – is it an issue to do with; time, data quality, functionality…? And most importantly prioritise – does the issue impact important Budget accounts? Did multiple people have the same issue? Did the issue make you miss Budget Deadlines?!
If you didn’t take notes during the Budget process, don’t wait until next year – just try from memory to do the best you can. Making just one improvement will be better than not doing anything!
Put together a plan of action as soon as possible to make the changes that you deem to be most important, because you want as much time as possible for testing.
Test your changes as thoroughly as you can, maybe there are impacts that you didn’t foresee. The last thing you want is for new issues to appear in the middle of your actual Budgeting cycle. Even if nothing has changed, always do a trial run before starting your Budget. Just because your Budget process hasn’t changed it doesn’t mean the business hasn’t.
The next Budget Cycle
You have spent time improving your budget process, you don’t have to think about it again for a while – WRONG. Always think about the things you can improve, always take notes when something could be better. Always make changes. All processes become out of date, but if you make small improvements every year – you can stay in control. If you wait until you absolutely have to make changes, then its too late – you can guarantee that you will have produced Budgets that could have been done better.
Review your budget process today, make your changes tomorrow.
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