Thanks to the power of cloud-based software, organizations are increasingly choosing collaborative budgeting for its accuracy, transparency, and time-saving advantages. In fact, many businesses, nonprofits, churches, associations, or schools that switch to cloud-based budgeting software reduce their budgeting time by up to 50% over traditional budgeting methods.
While there are many benefits, transitioning from traditional top-down budgeting to a more collaborative process can pose challenges. For example, fiscal managers may encounter issues with existing complex in-house systems and outdated data. Finance managers might also have some reservations around version control, as many of their peers might have backgrounds outside of finance.
Switching to a collaborative budgeting approach can help solve these issues, but it requires proper planning! The sooner you begin, the more time you’ll have to ensure proper evaluation, implementation, and training for the budgeting tool.
Martus knows a thing or two about collaborative budgeting; we’ve helped more than 600 organizations make the budgeting transition. Here are our 6 tips to help your organization prepare for collaborative budgeting success and ensure a seamless transition.
1. Know Your Why
Before making the switch, align your budgeting decisions with your organization’s mission. Ask questions to understand why and how collaborative budgeting will help your organization move its mission forward. It can also help to identify which benefits of this new process will be most helpful to your team members. To encourage top-level buy-in, share the benefits of collaborative budgeting, establish a clear timeline, and provide a procedural outline for the transition.
In addition to getting buy-in from leadership, it is important to identify team members who can be evangelists for this new process! Include team members in decision-making early and accept their help in planning the transition. Read more about collaborative budgeting from our Martus team and why your organization can really benefit.
2. Choose the Right Tool
Most organizations are already familiar with spreadsheet software such as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets, or other cloud-based databases like Airtable. While those are excellent tools, they can quickly become a source of frustration when organizations try to use them for collaborative budgeting.
In addition to the dozens of hours spent formatting and setting up a spreadsheet, one wrong entry can cause a formula error that throws off the entire database; this leaves a frustrated finance manager searching thousands of cells across multiple spreadsheets to find the problem. There is also the issue of security – the more people who have access to the spreadsheet, the more likely it is that someone will change a column heading, remove a row, or make a formula adjustment that impacts the entire workflow by mistake.
Budgeting tools like Martus are robust, cloud-based solutions that leverage the power of spreadsheets with automation. Martus’ budgeting tools offer greater flexibility and better control over the entire budgeting process while giving access to those who are actually managing the budget on a day-to-day basis! Permission sets ensure department heads can see and adjust only their budget, while features like bulk editing can help with fiscal budget adjustments.
3. Clearly Communicate Guidelines and Objectives
After selecting your new collaborative budgeting tool, create guidelines and an internal playbook to ensure everyone understands expectations.
Some questions to consider:
- Who will oversee / manage this software system?
- Who will have access to it?
- When will it be implemented?
- What new workflows need to be created?
- How will the organization encourage participation?
- What deadlines need to be put in place to ensure optimal budgeting and reporting?
4. Offer Ongoing Support
While your finance team likely understands the ins and outs of organizational budgeting, department heads or new team members may not be familiar with your processes. This lack of knowledge will likely be compounded when switching to a new software or workflow.
Early training and support can encourage employee buy-in and ease the transition! Your team may consider whether in-house training or third-party experts are the best fit for educating your team on the new budgeting software or process. Additionally, ensure that everyone involved in the budgeting process has access to a knowledge base and training videos so that they are comfortable with the new software.
Make sure to regularly check in with your team during the budgeting process to ensure everyone is on track. Our Martus team recommends scheduling weekly stand-ups with your budgeting team, and creating a “#BudgetHelp” channel if you use Slack, Google Chat, or Microsoft Teams.
5. Measure Performance
Create and implement Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to track the impact and success of your new collaborative budgeting approach. Your team might want to track KPIs such as:
- Time spent on budgeting
- Team member participation
- Meeting submission deadlines and approvals
- Budget-to-actual comparisons
By identifying goals early, you can regularly monitor metrics to ensure the process is on track and make real-time adjustments if needed.
6. Celebrate Success
Recognizing and celebrating wins will help everyone on your team stay motivated! Consider hosting a launch day event or get-together, and make sure to highlight employee accomplishments and share positive outcomes of your new process. Another option is to set a deadline for budget submissions or approvals and offer an incentive if your team meets the deadline! By highlighting wins, whether they be big or small, you’ll build momentum and create a collaborative environment that extends beyond budgeting and into every aspect of your nonprofit, business, church, association, or school.
Just to make it a little easier on you, we also created a Collaborative Budgeting Checklist download so you can show your team and stay on track as you start the transition together!