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Kristin Walker - Finance Digest │ Financial Literacy │ Financial Planning

By Kristin Walker, Senior Program Manager at Infinite Technologies, Inc.

Government and commercial entities handle billions of budget dollars every year, but the tools available to manage those budgets often have limitations that can put companies at risk. Human error and multiple sources of truth can leave agencies with outdated software systems and stale or erroneous data. Spreadsheets are still frequently used for budgeting activities by both commercial and government entities alike. Unfortunately, spreadsheets can hinder business production with something as simple as good old fashioned fat fingering errors—which can have dire budget implications. I have personally seen miscalculations in a single spreadsheet cell contributing to an error of $60M!

Tech companies, like Infinite Technologies, Inc. have a unique vantage point when it comes to identifying vulnerabilities and building infrastructure to help other business and government entities shed their weakest tech links. A single undetected formula data input error, can cost businesses big money in their carefully-allocated budget. When data-heavy online operations, human input errors and outdated platforms merge, new vulnerabilities are born. Now, fighting to stay future-proof requires both the right tools and the right vendor partners that are both comprehensive and proactive. In 2023, trends are pointing towards more businesses giving light and heat to feeble processes. And thankfully, it’s easier to do than ever.

No More Room for Human Error

Spreadsheets are still widely used in the business place, as they are effective for analysis and portable data management. But these tools leave too much room for error. Manual data entry is tedious, prone to human error and expensive. So, why do so many organizations still use manual data processes when Gartner estimates that it costs companies an average of $15 million annually? 

As technology continues to shape the way business is conducted, updated management systems that effectively pull together credible and relevant data for decision making are becoming the one business solution companies cannot afford to go without. In fact, according to Fortune Business Insights, the global business intelligence market is expected to reach $43.03 billion by 2028, with a CAGR of 8.7%, due to the increased “demand for real-time operational insights.”

Businesses cannot afford to rely solely on spreadsheets as spreadsheets can lead to costly mistakes or poor decision making. Furthermore, solutions offered through SaaS (Software as a Service) can be highly affordable – in essence paying for themselves. These systems have analytical engines that conduct data analysis faster and more efficiently than spreadsheets can, assisting companies by augmenting decision making and providing a single source of truth. SaaS products can also assist practitioners in controlling budget allocation and deciding where money should go within the company. When budgets are not finalized or are split up throughout the year, it can be difficult to get the most out of funding. Many companies are not making the most of their yearly budgets, either overspending or failing to optimize funds because their systems don’t provide visibility to how each change in budget component alters all other components. With software that takes the work out of data entry, businesses can see their spending in real-time and take advantage of hidden funds before the end of the year. Automated software also limits the amount of human interaction with data, taking the work off of practitioners and allowing them to use the time they otherwise would have spent on data entry to strategize and bring bigger ideas to fruition. 

Complex Data and Procedures Require the Right Tools 

Data management is a core practice of modern businesses. Tools like spreadsheets have become the executives’ simultaneous necessity and foe, especially when complex budgets, programs, additional business needs and even users are added to the equation. Additionally, the lack of real-time flex given these tools’ static nature, regardless of business leaders’ pivot-table-proficiency, can result in dire business fallouts. These issues are proven time and again in anecdotal, and very real spreadsheet errors, which can leave millions in residual funds unused or, even worse, overspent. These miscalculations can equate to enormous losses for companies and taxpayers alike. 

Using programs designed specifically for data-organization, instead of relying on spreadsheet management, can mitigate, if not completely avoid, business data management issues. To fully meet business needs, companies need to invest in software that is perfectly tailored. This software should have a knowledgeable and responsive customer service team and technicians who can make real-time changes to the software as needed

The Future of Error-Free Business Data 

As we continue to adapt systems that automate our business and production activity, understanding how to use the massive data outputs that come from automation is where opportunity lies. Too many systems merely collect data after budget activity is complete. Those platforms that enable continuous, real-time visibility in data relationships allow for constant optimization. Economic conditions are becoming fraught with less predictable variables – from significant weather events and changes to public health outbreaks—budgeting for any project, any length of time requires more flexibility and ongoing adjustment with a heightened reliance on technology

Where more variables create more opportunities for mistakes in large operational plans, mistakes aren’t the only reason to adopt new platforms. Efficiency and optimization are standard requirements for complex budgets as new automated processes are possible. Companies adopting AI and other digital support across their operations are finding the synergies that come from new systems. The ability to custom-build digital platforms to suit your needs and to integrate with your existing systems means that upgrading legacy systems is no longer about a one-for-one solution swap but, instead, is about streamlining. As 2023 unfolds, more technology leaders will move away from their legacy systems and implement modern cloud-based software. Forty-one percent of government IT leaders rely on SaaS to assist in this evolution. Specialized software designed to help companies manage and organize their operations more effectively is often the missing piece to help businesses avoid mistakes and improve their overall performance, and, with it, their bottom line. 

Outdated legacy systems, human error, lack of budget optimization and a host of other issues plague today’s businesses, making it difficult to get the most out of their budget dollars. Businesses need to prioritize investment in software that will reduce workloads and increase employee productivity by using automated software to work smarter, not harder. Software that tailors to existing systems rather than changing processes to merge into software is essential to the success of a business and can be the difference between dynamic budgets and a $60 million Excel mistake.

 

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