Our recommendations are for improving the budget process are grounded on two basic principles. The first is that to improve communications we need more participation from managers, not less. I know some of you are dealing with a very frustrated user community and you’ve been thinking about ways to involve them LESS in the process. But that only leads to a less effective budget process, and greater cynicism that budgeting is just a numbers exercise.
The budget process itself will improve if managers are actively engaged, I’ve seen it time and time again — right from my days at Pepsi and the hundreds of clients I’ve worked with.
But if we want more willing participation in the process we need to do a lot better job of understanding and meeting their needs.
One of our clients is EMCOR Group. You might not know them but you know their work. They built the Bellagio out in Los Vegas, and the English Chunnel, and have the service agreement to manage Regan National Airport and the Pentagon. When Bill Feher at EMCOR led the effort to improve planning and budgeting in his company he didn’t lock himself away in a conference room, or just circle the wagons with the other accountants there. He brought together a cross functional team and involved his user community in the solution development process. They became our first customer and gave us some great ideas for our application.
Another one of our clients, Drew University, actually brought in a dozen department heads to view budgeting applications before they made their choice. And not just from the Academic area, but the head librarian, and the head of athletics as well. About three quarters of our clients come from industry, but a full quarter of our clients are colleges and universities, and nearly all of them have taken this inclusive approach to involve their users in the evaluation process.
The point we want to make here is whether you’re trying to build your own solution internally, or you’re looking to buy a system, it’s crucial that you engage your non-finance users in the process.