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The CFO Playbook on Budgeting: Taking Fear and Loathing out of the Budgeting Process

The words “budget time” can strike fear into even the most stalwart managers and employees. When organizations think of budgets, they often think of them as events instead of an ongoing process in which finance and the business interact continuously, share data and communicate to deliver results.

But with fresh approaches and candid communication between finance and business leaders—and a framework that positions the budget as a set of guiding principles—finance has the power to transform more than just the budget-setting process. Realistic and goal-oriented budgets can change company culture and help monitor and support the realization of the organization’s most important strategic objectives.

While many leaders want to bring innovation to the budgeting process, they can get bogged down with common problems: cumbersome timelines and reporting requirements, the mismatch between resources and performance expectations, forecasting challenges, unanticipated market shifts and numbers that aren’t developed by those who are ultimately accountable for them. And the list goes on.

Today’s CFO needs to set the tone for budgeting activities. That means creating a culture of transparency and communication that sets the stage for developing realistic goals and maintaining a constant feedback loop between the CFO suite and the business. The CFO must empower operational teams to deliver on data analysis, risk assessment and other key indicators from which budget inputs are derived; he or she must make sure these processes are repeatable and sustainable. Above all, the CFO needs to identify the value in the budget and facilitate its development with the details that strike the right balance between corporate imperatives for efficiency and growth and good stewardship at all levels in the organization.

Though change is a constant in today’s marketplace, the budget need not contemplate every possible scenario—especially if you know what to expect and if the budget process is continuously managed. That may mean blending traditional budgeting approaches with strategies that consider the realities of the current business climate. If change is the external constant, the need for buy-in and collaboration across the organization remains the internal one.

I recently had the privilege of participating on a panel for CFO Magazine’s webcast The CFO Playbook on Budgeting: How CFOs Can Make Their Budgets More Effective. Listen to the replay or contact me directly to discuss how ISG can help you transform your budgeting process and your business.

About the author

Ms. Schultz brings over 20 years of demonstrated experience to ISG clients. She advises global clients on strategy, contracting transactions, operating models, sourcing, customer service, marketing, leadership, change management, governance, and technology services while providing expertise in evaluating, negotiating and implementing IT and BPO agreements across various industries.