Business Intelligence without Budgeting and Forecasting is only second prize

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Most BI tools only report historical information - which is like only getting last week's race results when what you really want to know is tomorrow's winner.

Many companies use making historical information accessible as the justification for ‘doing' BI – often a good return on investment but only second prize. First prize is to use historical data to help build and then ‘polish' budgets and, when you are really on top of it, rolling forecasting. In BI terms, planning and forecasting is all about adding your estimates to the historical – writing back” [additional information to the database].

Organizations making BI investments need to ensure their BI choice is capable (in a user-friendly way) of handling budgeting and forecasting data and reporting it to users just as effectively as historical numbers. However, many organizations are forced back to Excel for
budgeting and planning because their BI tool doesn't seamlessly handle both historical and forward-looking information.

I was talking to Peter Homan recently and he put it this way:

Write back is misunderstood … good BI should be able to look at both the past and the future, with the future being what a lot of write back is about!”

Peter runs all his businesses informed by the past but focusing on the future.  According
to Peter, you need one Business Intelligence system that can report data from your transactional systems AND capture your budgets and forecasts without the need for other tools. I use the term write back all the time, as many in the industry do. Write back means the ability for BI and planning systems to allow users to directly input information (e.g. sales forecasts, expense forecasts, commentary, etc.).

Peter uses the one tool, CALUMO, for reporting, budgeting, forecasting and what-if analysis for these reasons:

  1. There is no collation required. No more days or weeks spent compiling multiple spreadsheets into one massive report.
  2. Multiple scenarios are simple to build and manage AND compilation/integration errors all but disappear (you know – the errors resulting from a broken link, or a range valued” variable).
  3. Get immediate answers by entering a number and seeing the impact instantly, i.e. change the exchange rate to see how profit margins are affected or increase the yearly profit margin and see how monthly targets change.
  4. Review results at any stage to get a sense of how you're tracking – there's no need to wait for the lengthy budgeting or forecasting process to finish to see the results.
  5. It's centralized – all the information is in one place. You can use one tool and any device to collect and report.
  6. Rolling forecasts are easier to produce giving constant visibility of the future.

For Peter, it makes sense to have one tool rather than many, removing the need for staff to be trained in multiple systems, reducing maintenance, and eliminating manual collation, just to name a few benefits.

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