As published by the American Society of Administrative Professionals at http://www.asaporg.com (member only site)
Departmental budgeting can be an incredibly stressful and laborious process, especially in weak and unpredictable economic times such as now. The pressure of inconsistent or decreasing revenues coupled with rising costs can create a “perfect storm,” and it is challenging just to think about where to begin.
Below are 4 simple steps for you to increase your value to the departmental budgeting process in a meaningful and valuable way:
1. Understand Your Role – Are you directly responsible for driving the budgeting process or are you assisting in the process? Are you providing input to others who are responsible for the process? In the end, knowing your role and level of responsibility can impact where it is appropriate for you to be involved and it will help you to best understand how you can help. If your role is unclear, be sure to ask your manager as this will allow you to add further value as you relieve some of his/her stress.
2. Historical Results Can Be Your Friend – Begin by reviewing the current year’s actual results on a year-to-date basis (through the most recent date available), and then project those results for the remainder of the year. Also, then compare how this year’s projected and actual results compare to the original estimates that were made for the year. Are there any areas where actual results differ substantially from original estimates that are unexplainable and/or should be revisited in further detail? This can help you highlight areas to watch out for and collect additional data to provide better estimates for next year.
3. Use What and Who You Know to Challenge the “Status Quo” – Challenging a budget can be difficult, but with these 3 easy steps it doesn’t have to be:
- Review actual results with an objective perspective – Use what you know about where the business is now to challenge results, and be optimistic yet not too aggressive. Are there new product or service lines that will impact revenue? Have there been any headcount changes that impact expenses? Have the priorities of the company shifted that would impact revenue or expenses?
- Collaborate with your manager – After reviewing the actual results on your own to develop a baseline of knowledge, visit with your manager to share your thoughts and ask insightful questions about the direction of the business that will aid you in more effectively developing a budget.
- The “devil is in the details” – Be sure to dig deeper than the high-level budget and total lines. Sometimes the devil is truly in the details and areas for potential budget adjustments may be clarified by reviewing detailed line items.
4. Propose Budget Changes – When considering making changes to the budget, consider the following 3 steps:
- Seek feedback from others in your department who may know of areas of improvement or necessary change not visible to you;
- Track proposed changes specifically by adding a column to the budget to show changes to last year’s actual results or budget;
- Focus on reducing costs – Step back and think about items that may be “wants” versus “needs.” Also, are there any “leaks” where the company is overspending in areas that could be better controlled? Lastly, what value or return on investment is the company getting for the money being spent, if any?
By using the 4 key steps noted above, you’ll be able to best determine how your knowledge of both your company and your department can add tremendous value to the budgeting process. Departmental budgeting doesn’t have to be stressful – it can be simple!
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