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Babies, bathwater, and best practices – Rethinking planning, budgeting, and forecasting

If everyone is thinking alike, then somebody isn’t thinking – George S. Patton

If planning, budgeting, and forecasting isn’t delivering the value your business expects, it may be time for a good scrubbing. But don’t throw it out.

How we got here

The basic tools of accounting—double-entry bookkeeping, income statement, and balance sheet—can be traced to Venetian investors who funded trade expeditions to Asia during the 1400s. These were valuable tools for high-risk ventures, even by today’s standards.

The concept of planning and budgeting came centuries later. The word “budget” derives from the old French bougette, meaning a small purse. In the mid-1700s, Great Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer was said “to open the budget” when presenting his annual statement. The term was extended to private and commercial finances in the late 1800s.

At the beginning of the 20th century, business leaders made a defining choice that sowed the seeds of today’s frustration. With outside investors demanding audited financial statements, managers began to rely on external financial reports as measures of internal performance. They believed it was too time consuming and expensive to produce two sets of manual reports.

The voice of reason?

Most organizations don’t have to dig very deep to find people who don’t like planning, budgeting, and forecasting. You might even be one of them. The stress associated with these activities can be enough to wear down anyone’s resolve. With business units protesting in one ear and executive management grumbling in the other, it’s no wonder finance leaders may be tempted to listen to some pundits’ advice and abandon these activities altogether.

But while the complaining may be frustrating, it can also provide clues to what may not be working. Time-consuming manual processes. Endless budget iterations. Wasted technology. Conflicting goals. Poor decision-making. These are the things you could easily do without.

But don’t get carried away. Companies count on finance leaders to be their voices of reason—cool in the heat of battle, skeptical in the face of exuberance, and above all, focused on creating value. In the final analysis, planning, budgeting, and forecasting is a powerful tool – perhaps the most powerful tool—for informing and executing your business strategy.

Download the full article . . . . Babies, bathwater, and best practices – Rethinking planning, budgeting, and forecasting

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