Forecasting, Planning and Budgeting - Steps, Best Practices, and More

There is extensive work required to adequately plan out each fiscal year. Companies must outline their budgets, financial targets, and potential risks in order to sufficiently prepare internal operations.

By standardizing the forecasting, planning, and budgeting process, organizations can continuously improve their business strategies to drive profits and reach goals.

What are Forecasting, Planning, and Budgeting?

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Forecasting, planning, and budgeting (FPB) is a three-step strategy used to outline an organization's short- and long-term financial objectives. This can be used to start a business or improve an established company's plans.

The financial department typically runs FPB under the chief financial officer (CFO).
When done correctly, FPB enables businesses to evaluate their financial targets to improve budgeting, spend management, and revenue estimates.

As the name explains, FPB has three stages.

1. Planning

In the planning stage, companies outline their financial direction to develop a business model for the next five years. For startups, this is always the first step of the FPB process as it allows owners to build an agenda before placing long-term goals.

As businesses continue and collect more information, they are able to improve their planning techniques to increase their visibility.

2. Budgeting

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Once the planning phase is complete, businesses can begin developing their budgets based on their available resources. Typically, companies use financial data from previous years to further improve their budgets. Finance reports should outline-

  • Payroll
  • Operational expenses
  • Estimated income
  • Resources
  • Assets

With this data, managers can determine how to allocate their available resources to optimize profitability. Most businesses create their budgets at the beginning of the fiscal year and make continual adjustments with real-time data.

Startups, who do not yet have this information, should gather all stakeholders to determine what funds they have from investors.

3. Forecasting

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After deciding how much money the company can spend within the accounting period, businesses can forecast their long-term budgeting needs.

Forecasting software uses historical and real-time spending data to predict future outcomes. Budget forecasts are flexible and can adapt to market trends, customer demand, and fluctuating income.

However, the accuracy of forecasts relies on how well the budgets were planned. Therefore, using erroneous financial information will result in flawed predictive analyses.

With an accurate forecast, organizations can improve their adaptability to preserve the bottom line during ideal and poor economic environments.

Best Practices For Forecasting, Planning, and Budgeting

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Before beginning the FPB process, companies should consider the best practices.

  • The FBP process should take all financial information into account, from balance sheets to key performance indicators (KPIs).
  • Companies can reduce the manual labor needed for the FBP process by using automated tools, such as forecasting software. These solutions collect and evaluate data using machine learning to generate accurate forecasts.
  • By making FBP a top priority, businesses can develop a financial model that drives expansion.
  • Designate FBP tasks to employees to promote accountability and ownership.
  • All stakeholders should agree on strategies, expectations, financial objectives, and the company's mission.
  • Implement a forecasting solution that is flexible enough to adapt to various business cycles.

What to Include in an Annual Plan

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While there is no limit to how long a business plan can be, methods that are too extensive can be difficult to follow and maintain. A plan should be detailed yet concise to ensure it is easy to repeat.

A thorough annual plan should include a(n)-

  • Executive summary
  • List of goods and services provided
  • Detailed summary of the target market
  • Financial plan
  • Marketing Plan
  • Sales Plan
  • Targets
  • KPIs
  • Description of the management team
  • List of potential changes in the market
  • Financial forecasts
  • Detailed investments
  • Operational changes
  • Potential issues
  • End of the year goals

First, managers need to evaluate the company's current status and their end of the year objectives to determine what they must do to reach the targets.

Businesses may need to launch new products or penetrate new markets in order to attain these goals. Anything that is required in order to achieve targets should be detailed as well.

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Using visual aids makes it easier to comprehend complex concepts, such as trends. For example, businesses can generate line graphs to show spending behaviors over an extended period of time. On the other hand, creating charts is an excellent way to show the relationship between dependent variables.

Visual aids are especially important for stakeholders who do not have on-hand experience with the FBP process and need concepts to be broken down.

When setting goals, companies should focus on their primary objectives first. Goals should be specific and accompanied by an outline of potential risks, such as competition, market risks, and fluctuating demand.

Businesses must keep in mind that while their plan should be specific and geared toward their goals, it must also remain flexible enough to adapt to potential obstacles.