Top 5 Business Budgeting Software Solutions for Agencies
According to a U.S. Bank study, 82% of businesses fail because of poor cash flow management.
How can you ensure you don’t become part of the statistic? Managing your agency’s finances is no small feat: With complex, ever-changing data, it’s almost impossible to ensure that there are no errors in your calculations.
Luckily, business budgeting software can significantly streamline the process of managing your company’s finances and eliminate the chance of miscalculations. This is especially valuable for companies with complex workflows and finances, but it’s equally essential to all agency management.
In this article, we’ll also list the top business budgeting software available on the market, along with features, benefits, and downsides.
What is Business Budgeting Software?
Business budgeting software helps businesses process large amounts of complex data by automating financial management and delivering visualizations that help agencies gauge their financial performance quickly.
Business budgeting software is usually used by the financial department within a company, including the accounting team and CFO, but it’s also a useful tool for business analysts, project managers, and heads of various departments.
The best business budgeting software tool provides comprehensive support for all levels of project management by being simple enough to understand on a broader company level, while also being robust enough to complement the day-to-day work of financial professionals.
Why Budgeting Software Is a Game-Changer for Agencies
Aside from helping agencies automate and streamline their expense management, financial tools also contribute to the elimination of human error.
A study by Raymond R. Panko provides details into the types of errors that commonly appear during Excel sheet management: these range from quantitative errors attributed to the program itself to qualitative errors such as typos, logical errors, and perhaps most dangerous of all due to the difficulty of detecting them, errors of omission (What We Know About Spreadsheet Errors).
To give a practical example, there are some famous cases of mistakes in financial reports driven by faulty use of Excel, such as the undervaluation of Tesla’s purchase of Solar City due to double counting debt in a spreadsheet (Wired).
This is not to say that you need to shelve Excel entirely, only that using it in combination with a financial planning tool is recommended in order to ensure data accuracy.
Because of the information that’s available now, we’re doing more because Management is looking at the information and dissecting it even further. “Why did those 10 projects make a 42% profit, and that one made 20%?” Before using Productive, we could never understand where differences in profit were coming from.
Another challenge of manual budgeting is continuous planning – often, project progress is impeded by unforeseen roadblocks or new client requests. Adjusting for these changes in your calculations is a timely process, especially prone to errors due to its time sensitivity.
Financial planning tools can account for these changes and provide real-time updates, boosting your project planning, collaborations, and project accountability.
To summarize, some of the key benefits of business budget software are the following:
- Reduces potential for error
- Processes complex data in real-time
- Supports project planning and crisis management
- Improves communication among all project stakeholders
Main Types of Budget Management Software
There are two main types of software that provide budgeting functions, depending on how information is stored:
- On-premise software is hosted on an agency’s servers, meaning that data is highly secure and protected from external breaches. The downsides of these types of software are the initial cost of investment and implementation times, as on-premise solutions are usually sold on a licensing basis and are less flexible than their cloud-based counterparts.
- Cloud-based software is hosted on the servers of a third-party vendor, meaning that all data is accessible on the internet to users with the right credentials. These types of software are frequently more flexible, both when it comes to pricing and their implementation. The downside is less data security, making it harder for businesses to meet strict data compliance and regulatory requirements.
Although the type of software you choose will depend on your industry and agency type, research is skewed more towards cloud-based software, as data shows that cloud-based solutions result in bigger profitability increases, more efficient consolidation of finances, and quicker data updates due to better connectivity (Aberdeen Group 2018).
Furthermore, research shows a trend in the acceleration of cloud-based solutions, with 53% of participants saying that their organization increased investments in net-new cloud applications, an increase of more than 15% from 2021 (Harvard Business Review Pulse Survey 2022).
An additional type of software would be a hybrid solution, denoting businesses that use on-premise solutions for certain areas of their business, and cloud-based software for others.
Key Features of Top Business Budgeting Software for Agencies
Though we’ve covered some of the generalized benefits of replacing a manual process with a software solution, there are many other specialized perks of using a business software tool with comprehensive features for budget planning. These are:
- Budget planning and continuous planning support: The right financial performance tool provides comprehensive budgeting features for your agency, so you can keep track of your project progress and make data-driven decisions. Tools for budgeting can also support resource planning and allocation processes, which in turn helps you achieve optimal agency utilization rates.
See also: Top 10 Resource Scheduling Software Solutions
- Forecasting methods for advanced revenue management: Beyond planning for the present, software with advanced features can look into the future by forecasting your business budget spending and issuing warnings for overruns, as well as projecting essential agency operations metrics such as agency burn rate and gross profit margins.
- Improved collaboration and transparency: Budgeting tools can deliver all insights in real-time, updating every time you enter a new piece of information. This streamlines not only internal communications but also external contact with clients and various project stakeholders, keeping everyone fully in sync.
- Flexibility and adaptability to various agencies: An all-in-one solution tailored to agencies will provide great support to smaller and less experienced teams by being structured enough to serve as a project management template, while also offering enough flexibility to finance teams handling complex project workflows. Additionally, it should be designed to target the business needs of agencies no matter what industry they belong to, from professional services to the creative industry.
See also: The Ultimate Guide to Creative Project Management
- Seamless integration with other agency-focused tools: No matter how comprehensive a solution is, it’s unlikely to cover 100% of your business processes. This type of tool would either be overly complex or too specific for most agencies. This is why good business budgeting tools will offer integrations with more specialized products so you can fully tailor your software to your corporate operations.
Benefits of Implementing Business Budgeting Software
In short, implementing the right end-to-end project management software with financial reporting and forecasting tools can:
- Improve accuracy and reduce errors that occur during manual accounting
- Enhance decision-making before, during, and after a project with real-time data
- Provide better collaboration and transparency, both within the project team and with external project stakeholders
- Save your time and increase efficiency by automating repetitive tasks
- Make your agency future-oriented with forecasting software and better adaptable to business and industry changes
Check out some firsthand insight from Born Social’s Head of Operations, Kate Higham:
If I had to describe the one thing that Productive does for us it’s decision-making. Not just in my role, but across our finance and operations team. We are in and out of the platform on a daily basis, using the data and the reporting to help us make key commercial decisions about how we’re running the business, running our accounts, how we’re hiring and managing resources. It really is the tool for helping us make decisions.
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Top 5 Business Budgeting Software Solutions for Agencies
Without further ado, here’s our list of the top 5 software with financial management capabilities and complete budgeting solutions. In the following section, check out their key features, benefits, and downsides.
Customer reviews from reputable sites such as Capterra and G2 are referenced so you can get direct insights into how other finance professionals and project managers rate their experience with the following tools.
1. Productive – The All-in-one Business Budgeting Software for Agencies
Productive is an all-in-one agency management software solution tailored to agencies of all shapes and sizes. It offers a variety of features to support your day-to-day business operations, such as task management, advanced budgeting and invoice management, resource management, real-time financial reports, and more. Productive has a 4.6 rating on both Capterra and G2.
Key Features Include:
At the heart of Productive is the Budgeting feature. Build your budgets depending on your project type, whether fixed-price, hourly, or mixed. For retainers, set up a recurring budget by inputting your intervals and the date of the next occurrence. On complex projects, you can also separate your budgets into multiple phases and get streamlined management.
Budgets are easy to manage: you can edit and delete them, move them to different projects, add team members who should get notified in case of activity on the budgets, and create a template you can duplicate for upcoming projects.
Once you’re ready to deliver a budget, you can create an invoice automatically by pulling information from your budget – whether uninvoiced time entries on hourly projects or the remaining amount of the budget on fixed-price projects.
In the case of hourly projects, you can also attach your timesheet while sending the invoice via email directly from Productive so your client can get all the relevant information at once. Productive’s Billing feature supports agencies of all types with a flexible process that simplifies administrative work.
Productive’s project management support includes Task Management and Time Tracking features. With Productive, you can create an open project space for collaboration, simplifying the process of managing tasks and dependencies. With native time tracking, team members can keep track of their hours; however, they prefer to do so either by running the timer while they’re working on tasks, by duplicating previous entries, or by inputting their tracked time manually.
Accurate time tracking powers up both your budgeting capabilities and your resource planning, by letting you track costs per service, as well as billable and nonbillable hours to get agency utilization rates.
Productive’s Resource Planning feature lets managers create comprehensive project plans while considering the full picture of their resources. Thanks to time entries and integrated leave management that considers employee leave and sick days, managers can accurately gauge which employees are being over- or under-utilized and balance their resources accordingly.
Any changes you make in your scheduling will update your forecasted data by reconfiguring your budget. You will receive a warning in case of overruns, supporting reactive and informed decision-making.
See also: 7 Best Workforce Planning Software Solutions
Another one of Productive’s powerful features that supports advanced insights is Reporting. Productive can become the single source of truth for all your agency operations. All your activities on the platform power up the robust analytics feature, which you can use to view how you’re utilizing your resources, how your projects are progressing, and to forecast your agency profitability.
Get access to 50+ agency report templates that you can populate with additional information thanks to custom fields, and attach them to designated dashboards you can share with the rest of your team.
Additional features include: Docs, Sales, Integrations.
Integrations include: QuickBooks, Xero, Slack, Jira, Hubspot, Google Calendar integration, and more.
- Plans start with the Essential plan at $9 per user per month, which includes essential features such as budgeting, project & task management, docs, time tracking, expense management, reporting, and time off management.
- The Professional plan includes custom fields, recurring budgets, advanced reports, billable time approvals, and many more for $24 per user per month.
- The Ultimate plan has everything that the Essential plan and Professional plan offer, along with the HubSpot integration, advanced forecasting, advanced custom fields, overhead calculations, and more for a custom price.
- You can also check out the Enterprise Plan with custom pricing for companies that would include more than 50 active users per month.
Try out Productive with a 14-day free trial today.
2. Workday – A Good Budgeting Tool for Businesses of All Sizes
Workday is a cloud-based accounting software that offers strategic planning and money management support to a wide range of industries, from healthcare, consumer, professional and business services, to technology and media. Workday provides a suite of solutions with Workday Adaptive Planning, Workday Financial Management, Workday HCM, and more.
- Control cash flow with automated bank account management
- Continuous payroll processing for a global workforce
- Real-time and ad hoc financial performance reports
- Interactive data visualizations with tailored reports and dashboards
As Workday does not offer transparent pricing on its website, this means that engagement with the vendor is necessary prior to getting all essential information. Additionally, the choice between multiple software can complicate your decision-making. When it comes to customer reviews, Workday Adaptive Planning is the best-rated out of Workday’s offerings, with a 4.3 score on G2 and a 4.5 score on Capterra. Overall, Workday is a good choice for businesses that are able to invest some time and money into making the best decision. For a simpler process, you might want to consider an all-in-one tool instead.
3. Sage Intacct – A Complex Financial Planning Tool
Sage Intacct is a cloud accounting and financial management solution from the leading provider of ERP solutions, Sage Group. Sage Intacct supports a wide range of industries and businesses of all sizes with their financial processes and accounting tasks.
- Automated bill entry and payment processing
- Predictive insights with customizable dashboards
- Streamlined communications with Sage Intacct Collaborate
- Integrations with accounting and productivity tools
The most frequently underlined downside of Sage Intacct is the complexity: users report that it takes some time getting used to the platform, and even more time to master it. Others have noted that the pricing makes the tool geared more towards larger companies. For businesses on a limited budget or dynamic schedule, considering a streamlined, comprehensive solution that combines project management with finances might be a good idea.
4. Xero – A Good Accounting Solution for Medium to Small-Sized Businesses
Xero is a budgeting software solution tailored to small businesses. As for the pros of Xero, reviewers on Capterra describe the budgeting software as “very intuitive” and “easy to use”, and praise it for improving their efficiency and financial analysis capabilities.
- Schedule payments and access your bills
- Track expenses with real-time reporting
- Stay on top of business with automatic bank feeds
- Monitor project finances and customize invoices
As for the cons, some users note that the reports could be more detailed and that they are somewhat restrictive when it comes to pulling the information you need. Overall, Xero is a fine specialized solution to consider for cash management if you’re running a small business, especially as an integration to a more comprehensive agency management tool with robust budgeting and financial planning features.
5. QuickBooks – A Fine Business Budgeting Tool for Smaller Companies
QuickBooks is an online accounting software solution for small-sized businesses. Reviewers on G2 state that QuickBooks Online is “easy to learn” and requires no previous accounting experience, with other users underlining that it helps them keep track of their financial performance in one place.
- Save time and reduce errors with bank feeds
- Create custom reports that align with your branding
- Track project details on smart dashboards
- Simplified labor costs with a dedicated rate calculator
Although QuickBooks Online has plenty of good reviews praising its simplicity and user-friendly interface, there’s a notable amount of negative reviews that mostly comment on issues with customer service. Even some positive or neutral reviews comment that it takes some time for requests or problems to be resolved. Overall, like Xero, QuickBooks Online can complement your more robust project management tools with its accounting capabilities.
Takeaway: How to Choose the Right Business Budgeting Software for Your Agency
Nowadays, using budgeting software to support your financial management is the most important step to support your agency’s growth. Choosing the best option will depend on your agency size, your clientele, and your business’s specific needs.
However, there are some general tips and tricks you can use in order to gauge the quality of a vendor. The first thing you can do is check for user reviews from reputable sites. Although reviews are often subjective, you can get a general feeling of what users enjoy and dislike. Also, aggregated ratings are usually a good indicator of customer experience. Next, evaluate how frequently a tool is being updated, and how communicative the vendor is in general.
You want to invest in a tool that can grow alongside your business and provide long-term support. Finally, keep an eye out for free trials, as they’re an easy way to get a first impression of a product.
For an all-in-one agency software solution that can support your agency’s finances, business performance, and all day-to-day processes, book a demo with Productive.
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