Budget season is a critical time for finance teams. The pressure is on to deliver accurate forecasts while meeting tight deadlines.
The combination of endless revisions, increased workloads and high-stakes decision-making often leads to stress and burnout among team members. To thrive during this challenging period, finance leaders must employ strategies that promote resilience and empower their teams to perform at their best.
Let's dive into five essential strategies that will elevate your finance team's performance during budget season.
1. Designate a Project Manager
Assigning a project manager to manage the budget process can ensure efficient coordination and effective communication, enhancing overall team resilience. Depending on the size of the organization, it could be a skilled project manager, a chief of staff or a junior team member on the team. This individual will ensure all budget tasks are assigned, track progress, and escalate any issues or delays, allowing finance leaders to better focus on critical issues.
Having a designated project manager is particularly useful in making meetings more productive. They can assist with setting clear agendas, sticking to designated timeframes and ensuring that necessary stakeholders are present.
- Identify a suitable candidate or consider hiring a project manager.
- Clearly define the project manager's role and responsibilities.
- Provide the necessary authority and resources to the project manager to effectively coordinate and communicate with team members.
- Leverage the project manager's support in organizing meetings, preparing presentation materials and following up on decisions made.
2. Standardize the Basics
Simplifying templates, establishing consistent workflows and leveraging automation tools are essential for streamlining budgeting processes and ensuring accuracy. Standardizing processes, templates and workflows reduces confusion, minimizes errors and increases efficiency, enabling finance teams to operate with resilience and consistency.
- Review existing templates and workflows to identify areas for simplification and standardization.
- Establish a centralized repository or document management system to store budget-related files, templates and reports, ensuring easy access and collaboration.
- Develop clear naming and color conventions for cells, sheets and scenarios within the templates to maintain consistency and facilitate navigation.
- Make it standard to have the first tab of any document or template be the Instructions Sheet, explaining data input, assumptions, formulas, etc.
3. Incorporate Scenario Planning
Make it easy for your team and stakeholders to evaluate best-case, worst-case and most-likely scenarios and assess their financial impact. Incorporating scenario planning allows finance teams to anticipate and prepare for different outcomes, fostering adaptability, strategic thinking and resilience in the face of changing circumstances.
- Set up consistent planning templates with pre-built scenario planning capabilities and a layout that is easy for non-finance people to understand.
- Identify key components and sections that should be included in the scenario templates, such as variables, assumptions, formulas, outputs and analysis sections.
- Collaborate with other departments, such as sales, marketing and operations, to gather insights on key drivers and validate assumptions.
- Provide adequate training ahead of time to all stakeholders.
4. Plan your Backup and Buffers
When we think of buffers, we tend to think of sandbagging or building extra time when setting deadlines. However, buffers can also be extra lines in budget templates, just in case new items need to be planned for. Proactively planning for contingencies provides teams with flexibility, enabling them to handle unexpected challenges and maintain resilience during budget season.
- Rotate budget-related responsibilities within the team to provide professional development opportunities and build cross-functional expertise.
- Assess individual staff workload and reassign responsibilities if needed to prevent burnout and maintain a balanced workload within the team.
- Evaluate the feasibility of involving accounting team members to support the FP&A team during peak periods.
- Consider adding extra lines or contingency budgets in planning templates to accommodate unforeseen expenses or new items that may arise.
5. Celebrate Milestones: Fostering Morale and Team Cohesion
Recognizing and celebrating milestones achieved during budget season can have a positive impact on team morale and foster resilience. By acknowledging individual and team accomplishments, finance leaders can create a supportive work environment that motivates their team to excel.
- Implement creative ways to celebrate milestones, such as sending e-gift cards during team huddles or recognizing MVPs through personalized thank-you cards.
- Promote work-life balance by encouraging employees to take a break when they reach significant milestones, allowing them to recharge and maintain their well-being.
- Create opportunities for team bonding and celebration through team-building activities to foster a sense of camaraderie and shared success.
Budget season presents real challenges for finance teams, and building resilience is crucial for success. By designating a project manager, standardizing processes, incorporating scenario planning, planning backup and buffers, and celebrating milestones, finance leaders can address common pain points and foster a culture of adaptability and success. By prioritizing resilience and empowering their teams, finance leaders can create a foundation for success, ensuring that their finance teams not only survive but thrive during budget season and achieve exceptional results.
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About the Author
Wassia Kamon, CPA, CMA, MBA, is the Vice President of Finance and Corporate Controller at the Low Income Investment Fund. Recognized as a 2022 40 Under 40 Honoree by CPA Practice Advisor, she is also a Speaker and one the top corporate finance & accounting Content Creators on LinkedIn. Her insights on resilience and professional development have been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Accounting Today and Strategic Finance Magazine. She is reachable at [email protected].