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Ask the expert: BP&F software budget manager training tips

Rob Livingstone shares budget manager training tips to make sure new BP&F software is successfully onboarded.

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What are some training tips to get a budget manager quickly acclimated to new budgeting, planning and forecasting (BP&F) software to ensure healthy adoption?

Rob LivingstoneRob Livingstone

If your BP&F software lies at the heart of your organization's strategic and operational decision-making processes, familiarizing budget managers with a new system entails much more than merely training them to use it -- especially if it is tightly integrated with other enterprise technologies.

Assuming that the software is fit for its intended purpose and that the functionality meets the requirements of the organization, a successful onboarding of the system depends on your taking four steps:

  1. Build proficiency in the operation of the software. The ability to run budget and forecasting simulations confidently and to know when to use the qualitative and quantitative analysis tools available in the new system should be second nature to a budget manager. These competencies should be tested or observed.
  2. Validate your business modeling and budgeting processes and assumptions. Depending on the outgoing and new systems' relative degrees of sophistication, this could be an excellent opportunity to validate the integrity of your overall BP&F process. How effective and efficient are the underlying business processes that support your BP&F process? Are your current assumptions and modeling parameters still applicable in the new system? If not, in what ways are they different? What are the key controls in the overall BP&F processes, and how are these auditable? Performing this validation is doing much more than reconciling the before-and-after reports, and should prove invaluable in reinforcing users' understanding of the overall processes in detail -- a fantastic training tool.
  3. Engender confidence in the upgraded BP&F process through stakeholder engagement. During the formal onboarding of the new system, give the key stakeholders in the process every opportunity to stress test the results. A change to any critical software system presents a risk to the organization if it's poorly implemented. If changes in the business environment have occurred around the time of the upgrade, they could call the integrity of the entire project into question.
  4. Understand your data taxonomies. A budget manager who does not have a clear and detailed understanding of the architecture and taxonomy of the data sets on which the BP&F processes depend will be at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to identifying and explaining the factors of causation driving unusual variances.

Companies that invest in effective onboarding practices will maximize the probability of the system meeting or exceeding its expectations.

Rob Livingstone is a former CIO with over three decades of experience in the corporate world. In addition to running his IT advisory practice, he is an author and commentator, providing authoritative, independent insights on a range of IT topics including emerging technologies, governance and IT security. Rob is the author of the book Navigating through the Cloud, and is a fellow at Australia's University of Technology at Sydney, where he teaches leadership, strategy and innovation in the school's flagship Master of Business in IT Management program. Visit Rob at www.rob-livingstone.com or e-mail him at rob@rob-livingstone.com.

This was first published in March 2014

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