Why is this process flawed in so many organizations?
CFO Magazine recently featured an article titled “No Time for Budgets” authored by Edward Teach. This article points out that traditional budgeting (e.g., the corporate annual budget) is flawed and often irrelevant to the changing economic reality. It quotes Steve Player who is the North America program director for the Beyond Budgeting Round Table saying, among other things, that using traditional budgeting tools is often based on assumptions that turn out to be wrong, or inaccurate at best, and not being able to continuously monitor and update the data (assumptions, drivers, etc.) can quickly render the budget outdated and often useless.
Another important observation given by John Macrae, a principal at accounting and consulting firm CohnReznick is that the budget process is often too complex, and requires companies to devote too many resources in order to complete it, but in the end, the result is simply used as a “report card” and not as a planning and analysis process tool.
There are additional observations made by other contributors to this article, and the conclusion is not surprising: Many organizations either are not capable of or are not aware of the fact that their budget and planning process is not really used for its original intended purpose, which is simply plan the organization’s activities based on goals, monitor periodic results and make appropriate adjustments driven by decisions directly influenced by the original goals, planning data and actual results.
I’ve made several entries in this blog pointing out these same principal flaws in traditional budgeting and planning and trying to identify the underlying reasons behind these flaws and deficiencies.
I’ve also written more than several times that having the right tools and the method behind this process are critical to success. My opinion has not changed and my advice continues to be: Find the right solution to address your particular situation but most importantly make sure it is practical to implement and will be consistently used and in a manner beneficial to the organization.
The last thing you want is for this process to become an unbearable chore that will always be reluctantly completed and never properly used. My blog entry titled: “10 Must Have Features of a Budgeting & Business Intelligence Solution” is a good example of what features and capabilities a planning, budgeting and business intelligence software solution should have in order to make it not only practical to implement and use, but also create a whole new approach to this process, deliver the benefits that really matter and reduce or even completely eliminate the traditional flaws in the process.