Automating the Budgeting and Planning Process

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Top of Mind: Automating the Budgeting and Planning Process
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Co-Columnist: Mary Beth Cahill – Tambellini Analyst

As higher education institutions experience increasing internal and external pressures to reduce expenses and remain profitable, they are being pushed to have a keener understanding of expenses, tighter control on operating costs, and increasing optimization of revenues. As a result, The Tambellini Group has seen an increase in institutions looking for budget and planning solutions that can drive analysis and generate deep insights on expense and revenue for decision-making. Institutional funding and performance management have become more challenging, as institutions are required to track expenses by funds, accounts, and programs and to deal with grants, loans, and endowments.

Many institutions report that one of the biggest challenges around the budgeting and planning process is that it is manual and involves the coordination of spreadsheets across multiple departments, which, in turn, creates data integrity challenges. Also, because finance must spend so much time gathering, consolidating, and validating data across multiple general ledgers, they do not have the time and resources to drive the analysis that can generate deep insights on expense and revenue for decision-making. Institutions seek the ability to drill down to metrics so they can understand key drivers and have faster, high-quality insights that can drive decision-making across the institution.

Until somewhat recently, institutional annual budgets have been static. For managing expenses more tightly, there is a need for dynamic budget planning that looks forward six to nine months and analyzes various scenarios to identify the effects of changes. With regard to large capital projects, finance needs to understand cash flow implications against the long-range plan.

While vendors such as Campus Management and Ellucian with Banner provide some level of planning and budgeting functionality within their core finance system, other vendors, such as Oracle (Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud), Unit4 (Prevero), and Workday (Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud), offer budget and planning as add-on solutions. One of the solutions that has garnered quite a bit of attention over the past few years is Adaptive Insights. A key feature that has excited higher education finance is Adaptive Insight’s ability to support multiple versions of a budget plan. For example, if the projected enrollment is exceeded, the institution needs more dining and housing; if graduate enrollment is not reached, budget cuts in student activities must be made. Adaptive Insights allows users to slice budget data by enrollment, net revenue, drop ratio, withdrawals, and other KPIs.

In June 2018, Workday and Adaptive Insights announced Workday’s acquisition of Adaptive Insights, which has since been rebranded Workday Adaptive Insights Business Planning Cloud. Adaptive Insights supports budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and analytics for any size institution, and it was “founded on the belief that people are at the center of business planning and that planning and decision-making solutions should be intuitive enough for the direct involvement of businesspeople.” Unlike legacy financial planning tools, Adaptive Insights distributes the planning process beyond core finance superusers and IT to the relevant business users in a collaborative process. Adaptive Insights streamlines the integration process by replacing the time-consuming processes of exporting data, manipulating it, distributing it to those same business users for review and feedback, and then receiving the data back for input into the budgeting module. 

Adaptive Insight’s real-time access to relevant data and its built-in, complex financial modeling facilitate agile, continuous planning. It also has a modern, intuitive, mobile-enabled interface with drag-and-drop functionality, reports and dashboards, the ability to adjust assumptions and formulas in real-time, and unlimited what-if analysis. The solution’s planning sheets mimic the appearance and functionality of Excel, while offering the convenience and advantages of a web-based interface. Institutions report that Adaptive Insights also supports advanced functionality, such as workforce, capital, and revenue modeling for any type of calendar structure; continuous planning and rolling forecasts; a visual data model; flexible time modeling; optional use of Excel-add-in to interact with planning sheets; self-service dashboards; role-based security; and audit trails.

Adaptive Insights can be deployed stand-alone or integrated with Workday applications. Through support of open APIs, Adaptive Insights can integrate with institutions’ source systems, such as Workday, Oracle Cloud, Oracle PeopleSoft, and Salesforce. IPaaS solutions, such as Informatica and Dell Boomi, can also be used for data transfer. Adaptive Insight’s Elastic Hypercube Technology is the core computing engine that, along with in-memory architecture, enables flexibility, high performance, scalability, and ease of use without the need for coding or scripting. It enables real-time access to data for up-to-date analysis and planning and the ability to build models with unlimited dimensions and scenarios. With the Adaptive Insights acquisition, Workday is in the process of integrating Adaptive Insights’ financial planning functionality into the Workday platform, thus accelerating its own financial planning roadmap by more than two years. In addition, Adaptive Insights will be unified with Workday’s HCM system for workforce planning. 

Do you need assistance with the budget and planning solutions or other technology decisions on your institution’s radar? Contact Tambellini by email or call 1-800-414-3405.

Sources for article information include public websites for Workday and Adaptive Insights.

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Tambellini Author
As a Senior Advisor at Tambellini Group, Sue Spies authors and publishes research, assists in client engagements, and supports client services. Most recently from Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Ms. Spies was the Director of Enterprise Information Systems, where she was responsible for the development, implementation, and support of academic and administrative systems. Ms. Spies is an experienced panel facilitator and presenter covering topics such as custom solutions, code, and collaborative work with institutional research colleagues.

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