September 13, 2023

Strategic budgeting: Tips for effective financial planning

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The most successful companies take a strategic approach to all aspects of their business, from business planning and marketing to accounting and budgeting. Surprisingly, "strategic budgeting" is a relatively new concept, but it's been rising in popularity over the past few years. Strategic budgeting is crucial in today's business landscape, facing economic uncertainty.

Strategic budgeting is often looked upon during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the looming potential recession. However, businesses increasingly recognize its importance for efficient financial planning and decision-making regardless of global events, economic climate, or other factors. Learn more about budgeting strategies for businesses that you can start implementing today. 

What is strategic budgeting? 

Strategic budgeting is the process of creating a forward-thinking budget that considers a company’s long-term objectives and costs that span more than a period of one year. Essentially, this is a plan for how a business will allocate its resources and capital to guide decisions on investments and expenses, ensuring the best use of all financial resources. 

Taking a strategic approach to budgeting allows for better long-term forecasting and financial planning. It helps identify future expenditures and revenue sources while avoiding short-term solutions that may not be sustainable over time. 

This high-level strategic approach differs from traditional budgeting methods in that it focuses on the future outcomes a company wants to achieve within its budget. Traditional budgeting is a static, one-size-fits-all method that makes budgeting decisions based on incremental, category-specific line items, which doesn’t leave room for forward thinking.

Why does strategic budgeting matter?  

Strategic budgeting is the way to go when helping businesses achieve their goals. Planning for the future right down to the budget offers many key benefits. 

  • Clearly defined priorities 
  • Precise forecasts 
  • Resource allocation 
  • Waste minimization 
  • Cross-Department collaboration 
  • Better and faster decision-making 
  • Flexibility and scalability 
  • Long term milestones for the organization to align on

A strategic planning budget offers foresight into the coming year. In turn, this helps to improve risk management, boost productivity, and drive overall business growth.

Key steps and tips to a successful strategic budgeting framework 

Creating an effective strategic budget can be daunting, but knowing the fundamental principles and a few simple steps can go a long way. As you go through the steps, remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to setting a strategic budget.  

Various strategic budgeting methods exist, such as top-down, bottom-up, and zero-based budgeting. However, what may work for one business may not work for another. It’s essential to consider your company’s goals and culture when deciding between budgeting strategies. 

To get started, follow the steps involved in implementing a successful strategic budgeting framework:

Step 1: Install budgeting software 

Implement the reporting and tracking software to automate many aspects of the budgeting process. 

Step 2: Establish priorities 

Define budgeting priorities and choose the best strategic approach for the business (e.g., performance-based, program-based, etc.). 

Step 3: Assign roles and responsibilities 

Coordinate the efforts of key personnel responsible for budgeting so everyone is on the same page. 

Step 4: Set goals and milestones 

Identify the goals and objectives of the strategic plan and set milestones to track progress. 

Step 5: Review, rinse, and repeat 

Periodically review the results. No process is perfect, so it may take some trial and error to get it right.  

Data-driven insights in strategic budgeting 

The Internet, cloud-based software, mobile apps, and a myriad of other technologies have allowed businesses to collect a large volume of a wide range of data. This large volume of data is challenging to manage and analyze using manual, outdated processes like Microsoft Excel spreadsheets. Data-driven insights play an important role in improving the precision of strategic budgeting.

In particular, financial and operational data can be used to make informed business decisions and boost the accuracy of budgeting strategies. Real-time data-driven insights empower businesses to adjust their plan as needed.

Technology's role in strategic budgeting 

Technology is transforming strategic budgeting processes. Many are designed to leverage financial data and optimize your efforts. Take time to research the best budgeting software for your business. 

Consider budgeting tools, software, and platforms equipped with the following features: 

  • Automated processes 
  • Ability to handle complex calculations 
  • Interface that’s easy to use 
  • Multi-user access to secured information 
  • Scalable with company growth
  • Excellent customer service 

In addition to these basic features, finance automation will set you apart from the competition, still relying on time-consuming manual processes. Look for technology with automated expense management reporting and approvals, and automated bookkeeping for accounting. This saves time so you and your staff can focus on more crucial tasks.

Elevating strategic budgeting with Ramp

Ramp is a technology solution designed to help businesses enhance their strategic budgeting efforts. Our platform allows companies of all sizes—startups and small businesses to mid-market firms and enterprises—to run their businesses while optimizing their spending. 

Ramp offers a comprehensive array of Price Intelligence and accounting automation tools, allowing finance teams to save time and money. Within the platform, companies can easily keep track of their spending to ensure they stay within budget.  

Platform features include: 

  • Real-time tracking 
  • Insightful reporting 
  • Integration capabilities

Creating lasting financial stability through smart budgeting

Smart strategic budgeting offers every business transformative potential in driving business success. It's important to balance long-term planning with attention to the future's vital details, such as strategic budgeting.

Sign up for Ramp today if you're ready to transform your budgeting or to learn more about how it works.

Senior FP&A Manager, Ramp

Peter Mark is a Senior FP&A Manager at Ramp. Peter has over fifteen years of experience in financial services. Prior to Ramp, he held various operational, and financial roles at Fidelity Investments, TIAA, and DailyPay with focuses on automation, financial reporting, planning, and expense optimization.

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