Budgeting & Planning using Vena
Author: Peter Tegenbosch
Challenges for finance professional
Finance professionals, in virtually all organizations, are more than ever under greater pressure to deliver more accurate plans, budgets and forecasts. They need to respond quick and confident as business and market conditions change. The future is unpredictable, the current business environment is harsh, competition is fierce. In these times of change, modern FP&A is both exciting and challenging.
Vena Solutions, and how they caught my interest
Vena Solutions, a medium sized cloud vendor that assists in budgeting and planning implementations, has a solution that is comparable to those offered by larger vendors.
Having a background in Corporate Performance Management (CPM) and implemented several CPM solutions I was curious how Vena would work. Soon, I found their solution meets all my expectations in setting up and managing budgeting, planning and forecasting process, offering a standard but flexible solution. When I reviewed the reports from research and advisory companies I also noticed that Vena matches the products of its competitors for Corporate Performance Management, including: reliability, accountability, informed business decisions, automated collaborative process, version control and consistency, to name a few.
How it works
The Vena Solution uses Excel as front-end and this lowers the threshold in a financial / business environment. As you probably know, finance departments really like Excel, in many companies Excel is the product of choice for multiple financial and operational functions. Although Excel can lead to numerous problems such as a lack of standards, version control, limited or manual process management and ineffective security. Vena offers a solution to these problems with a central repository and database to keep budgets consistent across the entire business while ensuring data integrity. Businesses can create and use Excel based templates and reports from a centralized database.
Cloud based advantages
One of the greatest advantages of using Vena is that it is cloud based. With tight project timescales for delivery this means that the application should be accessible at anytime from anywhere. It truly allows one to focus on the project and leave the environment to the vendor. Cloud based environments provide businesses with many benefits including reduction in IT costs and overheads by not having to manage and maintain IT infrastructure.
Simplified user collaboration with workflow management
The budgeting process can include several tasks – sales budget, capex budget, expense budget, HR budget, balance sheet and reporting tasks – and each task can hold several activities and reviews. Vena simplifies collaboration by tracking information as it flows through your process, making it easy to monitor and report on the status of the plan and enabling users across the organization to participate. Workflow management within Vena helps easily communicate data outliers and identify process bottlenecks and reducing the overall planning cycle time and providing more accountability, ownership and control.
Data integrity provides consistency in business decisions
The single cloud based, and unified platform ensures consistency and data integrity for all business processes including planning, budgeting and forecasting. The sharing and reusing data, definitions and calculations eliminates redundancy, errors and duplication of effort. This enables dynamic and instant planning and forecasting without losing data consistency.
One of the most important elements of an effective planning process is the ability to model financial and non-financial outcomes, plus the business parameters and activities that ultimately drive those outcomes. This is the basis for how the budget is viewed across different dimensions and how it will be aggregated. Vena provides an easy modeling capabilities functionality to define and maintain the hierarchies.
Vena modeling can be bottom-up or top-down. Vena supports the creation of enterprise-wide models based on both financial and non-financial business drivers. The modeling engine allows complex calculations and ‘what-if’ scenarios to be an integral part of your planning process
Users can securely access information from any location, inputting and viewing data quickly and easily in real-time. Results are available dynamically via the web, Microsoft Excel, or on mobile devices. Enhanced Power BI Integration leverages your Vena data even further with Power BI dashboards, turn data into insights in minutes by using business analytics tools. Power BI lets you develop and share dashboards easily through the cloud.
Audit trails of user access and snapshots of data inputs
Capturing who did what and when, is done via Vena’s audit trail. Going back back and view prior points in time or roll back data and templates to compare them easily and answer questions about what changed like “Who did what and when?”. This enforces full accountability for the numbers, allowing budget owners to keep track of the budget process.
List view of advantages
User friendly, high adoption
Excel-based user interface, giving you all the flexibility and functionality of Excel
All data, business rules and key drivers are centralized in a single repository of accurate information that can be accessed by all employees involved in the process
Flexible, adopts to growth
No need for IT
Grows with your business
Modeling capabilities allow you to create, analyze and assess business rules and what-if scenarios within your planning process to help achieve your strategic goals
Innovative, highly scalable and secure technology architecture supports an unlimited number of users within an organization without comprising performance
Data integration, security and accuracy
A single repository gives all users a unified, consistent view of plans, budgets and forecasts, allowing them to focus on decision-making rather than on data accuracy
Secure OLAP database
User permission levels
Drill down technology
Transition from manual to automated processes
Workflows controlling and guiding the process
Users shift their focus from data collection and validation to meaningful data analysis
Gain better understanding of financial and non-financial business performance drivers
Make better decisions based on more consistent and accurate plans, budgets and forecasts
Pre-built reports and dashboards
Information delivered in real-time
To sum it up
Knowing all this, the question is not “Should we stop using spreadsheets?” but instead “Why aren’t we using a solution for budgeting, planning, forecasting, reporting, analytics, and other Corporate Performance Management applications with Microsoft Excel as the primary user interface?”
Cloud based performance management offers the transparency and visibility executives need to make better business decisions, providing data integrity and consistency and therefore reducing risk and increasing data quality. It frees controllers to focus on strategy and analysis, tapping into the skillset that drew them to this profession in the first place.
Think about this for a moment: what would your days look like without an Excel spreadsheets to update forecast, create plans, setup a budget, analyzing the differences or creating a dashboard? Just think about it, because you now know what’s possible. Learn more about how Vena Solutions can make this a reality by visiting Venasolution.com or contact Peter Tegenbosch.