December 13, 2011 – Two-thirds of U.S. college and university budget directors give their Excel-driven budget process a ‘C’ grade or lower. A survey released today by XLerant, Inc., was conducted exclusively for higher education and had equal participation from small, medium and large colleges and universities and community colleges.
The grade comes while mounting economic pressures make effective university budgeting and planning more critical than ever, all year long, at all levels of leadership.
Results show 71% of respondents report increasing administrative scrutiny of the budget process. Eighty-one percent cite complaints such as poor mechanics that leave little time for analysis, and spreadsheets that are complex, inflexible, and prone to human error.
“University budgeting is so perplexing that only a few people on campus can truly ‘own’ their numbers and manage accordingly,” XLerant Founder Lawrence Serven said. “We were all so enamored with Excel when it came out, that we stopped there. Yet, a spreadsheet today is like a slide rule. With today’s economic demands, a college can’t afford to manage essential financial processes with a slide rule.”
Survey participants included community colleges, and small, medium and large colleges and universities. The Survey participants’ budget directors said criticism of the budget process comes from all levels: department heads are frustrated by rigid, unrealistic templates, while administrators say the process takes too long and results do not tie to institutional strategy.
“XLerant energizes a culture of budget accountability. We understand the link between participation in the process and ownership of the numbers. We make it simple for leaders to prepare meaningful budgets,” said Joanne Brunn, Vice President of Client Services.
Tough Times Make Budgeting Mission Critical
“Decreases in higher ed funding and skyrocketing benefit costs make budgeting and planning mission-critical,” Serven said. Yet, because Excel is not a database, numbers must be managed manually, and budget intelligence functions are nearly impossible to create. Plus, all but the basic functions are difficult for many users.
Howard Buxbaum, vice president for finance and business affairs at New Jersey’s Drew University, said Excel’s limitations thwarted efforts to gain spending control during the worst recession since the Great Depression. Drew’s budget lived in 3-inch binders. Finance staff keyed in most departmental numbers, at times in response to sticky notes left on their doors. Supporting documentation lacked, salary planning was cumbersome, budget templates were daunting, and seasonal spending variances were ignored.
“I wondered why no one did for budgeting what TurboTax did for tax preparation — make it an easy-to use, self-service process with plain-English selections and prompts,” Buxbaum said.
“Then, I found XLerant. When our president asked if we really needed this, I said, ‘We damn well need it. We do a poor job of budgeting.’
“Now, our budget holders take responsibility for their budget input and their results.”
XLerant is a software solutions company that builds and implements innovative, practical, and incredibly powerful corporate budget preparation software for mid-sized and large organizations, energizing a “Culture of Budget Accountability” among users. The company has a dedicated focus on higher education.
XLerant’s premiere budgeting and planning application, BudgetPak, replaces spreadsheet-based budgeting and provides maximum user flexibility and financial controls. Improved communication, greater ownership of the numbers and increased transparency enables companies to better manage financial performance throughout the fiscal year.