• Strategy
  • CFO Magazine

The Last Mile

Why is it still so hard to engage line managers in budgeting?

The results weren’t exactly inspiring. For example, only 26 percent of respondents said most of their managers could successfully create a formula that references a relative column but an absolute row. Barely 17 percent believed that most could link a formula in one spreadsheet to a number in another.

Granted, most B&P programs guard against such goof-ups by locking down the cells so that users can change numbers but not the template. That’s fine as long as managers have all of the necessary numbers at their fingertips. This is not usually the case. “The budget entry form is just that: a place to enter your budget after you have created it,” says Lawrence Serven, a principal at The Buttonwood Group. And that budgeting is usually done in — you guessed it — Excel, either as an add-in for the B&P system or as a separate file.

A possible solution, says John Hagerty, vice president and research fellow at AMR Research, would be to create a more intuitive, text-based interface for budgeting software. “Instead of forcing people into a form that’s easier for you, you could pull from them the data you need and then decipher what it means,” he says. “It could be like TurboTax, which asks you a series of questions and pops out an answer. Even my kids can do my taxes using that software.” — D.D.

Not Excel-ing

Percent of respondents who say that “most” or “almost all” nonfinance managers could execute these common spreadsheet tasks without error:

26: Create formula that references a relative column but an absolute row

25: Copy and paste values without pasting formulas

18: Insert rows and add a new subtotal and then adjust the formula for the grand total

17: Link a formula in one spreadsheet to a number in another spreadsheet in the same workbook

Source: CFO/Buttonwood survey


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