Top 7 Project Budget Management Tools: Optimize Your Project Budgeting

Support efficient budgeting, scheduling, and team management with the right project budget management software.

A survey by Blackline from 2019 shows that almost 70% of global business leaders and financial professionals make significant decisions based on outdated or incorrect financial data. Project budget management tools can help you avoid this fate by automating data gathering and analysis and delivering more accurate reports.

In this article, we’ll go through some basics of budget management and provide you with a list of management tools you can use to optimize your financial operations.

What is Project Budget Management?

Project budget management is the process of determining, managing, and executing a project budget. It starts during the project initiation phase when the project manager will create a rough estimate of the necessary budget in collaboration with the client.

The definitive budget is set in place during the project planning phase, by taking into account the totality of the agency’s resources, including project teams and their time. Of course, even at this stage, the budget isn’t set in stone, as it will be affected by internal and external changes at every step of the project execution.

Learn more about the End to End Project Management Lifecycle.

Budgeting plans should always take into account potential roadblocks, based both on historical project data and the specifics of the current project. Managers can account for this variance either by incorporating a risk response budget to be used in case of emergencies or, for example, by setting alternative budgets:

A budget, at the end of the day, is really a game plan. But games often don’t go according to plan. What will you do if things change? How will you handle that? I recommend that you have an A, B, and C budget. This gives you options so you can pivot, if necessary.

Source: Budgeting And Forecasting For The Upcoming Year (Forbes)

To summarize, project budgeting is the process of determining and maintaining a project budget by constantly reassessing resources and accounting for changes in the project process. In the following section, we’ll go through the key features, benefits, and downsides of tools that support managers in their project management budget control.

Top 7 Project Budget Management Tools for Agencies

Effective budget management can be significantly easier to achieve with the right business budgeting software. Such tools can support the gathering and analysis of key insights from past projects, help managers determine employee skills and achieve optimal utilization, make informed decisions on the fly, and efficiently implement changes to the budget.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top 7 management budgeting software solutions available on the market:

1. Productive – The Best All-in-one Agency Project Budgeting Software

Productive is an all-in-one agency project management software solution with advanced budgeting and financial forecasting features.

With Productive, you can handle all of your business operations, from project and task management, to budgeting, financial insights, sales forecasting, project documentation, and much more. Streamline your collaboration and gain key agency insights that can help you scale your agency’s growth with accurate, timely data.

Without Productive we’d be feeling overwhelmed since so much time would be spent on data consolidation. A lot of our processes were manual so you could never be sure if the data that you got was 100% true. We never knew if the results we were getting actually mirrored the real situation in our company.

Ivana Honomihl Crnogorac,
Business Process Manager AT DEGORDIAN

Key Features Include:

Time Tracking

Time tracking is one of the most essential processes you can introduce into your day-to-day agency operations and Productive makes it stress-free. Time tracking powers up essential analytics such as agency utilization, and allows you to get full control over your employee’s workloads.

Furthermore, Productive offers your teams multiple ways of tracking their time to account for varying workflows, from tracking time directly from tasks, to inputting total time worked or time ranges after the fact. Additionally, project managers can schedule work for their teammates with exact hour ranges, and pull them automatically for time entries.

Learn more about the top time tracking software for small businesses.


GET ACCURATE TIME ENTRIES, AT NO HASSLE TO EMPLOYEES

Budgeting

Productive’s time tracking powers up your agency’s budget management. Track billable and nonbillable hours across services to generate accurate cost reports. With Productive’s Budgeting, you can build and manage any type of budget, whether hourly, fixed-price, or mixed. If you’re on a retainer, you can also set recurring budgets, or for complex projects, split them up into separate phases.

Once you’ve set up your budget, you can keep a close track of your progress – any changes you make to your scheduling, whether by shifting your team members or extending deadlines, will automatically be applied to your budgeting. Forecast your budget overruns and get profitability reports for your budget spend and future profit margins.


KEEP ALL PROJECT STAKEHOLDERS IN SYNC WITH YOUR PROGRESS

Once it’s time to process your payments, Productive supports your invoicing with the Billing feature. Track invoiced amounts automatically by pulling uninvoiced time entries, or the remaining budget amounts on fixed-price projects.

The best project accounting software streamlines your administrative work and lets you stay on top of your payments. Productive offers automated reminders, flexibility with currencies and invoicing for multiple projects and services, and reports for all billing activities.

Additionally, Productive’s Purchase Orders let you get in touch with your suppliers directly from the platform – track all your bills and get detailed expense reports with a single click.

Resource Planning

Productive’s Resource Planning feature pulls in all information from platform activities to support managers in creating a high-level project resource management template.

Along with time entries, Productive tracks employee leave management to create a full picture of project team availability – Productive’s Integrations allow you to link Productive with a range of HR tools, so you can get the most out of all your software.

Use heatmaps to see who is overbooked and who is available. This helps you achieve the perfect utilization across your teams and learn more about the resource planning process.


CREATE COMPREHENSIVE PROJECT SCHEDULES

Reporting

Forget about manually creating your financial reports. Get consolidated data from multiple sources with templates for over 50 agency-focused reports, including Actual Utilization by People, Invoiced Revenue by Client, Profitability by Client, Time Off Usage by People, Forecasted Unprofitable Budgets, and many more. Productive also lets you input custom fields with additional information into your reports, so you can enrich your data further.


MANAGE YOUR KEY reports ACROSS YOUR CLIENTS

Additional features include: Project Management, Sales, Docs.

Integrations include: Xero, QuickBooks, HubSpot, Breathe, Zapier, Slack, Jira, and more.

Pricing

  • 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.

Productive offers a 14-day free trial, so you can check out whether it’s the right project budget management software for your agency.

Get Full Control Over Your Project Budgets

Track your project financials and get invaluable insights into your profitability with all-in-one agency management software.

Book a demo

2. Smartsheet – A Fine Management Software Solution for Team Collaboration

Smartsheet is a work management platform that offers simple project budget management functionalities, along with other project execution features. Reviewers praise the management tool for its user-friendly interface and collaborative features.

Key features:

  • Native time tracking feature
  • Dynamic resource planning and team scheduling
  • Expense management with project budget template
  • Data visualizations and chart generation


SOurce: SMARTSHEET

Users on G2 comment that Smartsheet is a great project management tool for small businesses, but tricky to scale. Additionally, though Smartsheet is a suitable budgeting tool for agencies that need essential budgeting insights, the tool lacks some advanced features such as financial forecasting of key agency metrics, such as agency profit and revenue. Companies that are looking to invest in a tool that scales with their operations might want to consider a more robust option.

3. QuickBooks – A Specialized Solution for Streamlined Project Budgets

QuickBooks is a project budgeting software solution that focuses on providing accounting support to small businesses. QuickBooks provides a suite of features designed to help financial teams save time on repetitive tasks.

Key features:

  • Automatic transactions with linked bank feeds
  • Custom professional invoice creation
  • Smart dashboards for expense and income tracking
  • Access real-time financial data on the cloud


Source: QUICKBOOKS

QuickBooks is a good app for smaller businesses looking to streamline the accounting side of their project budgeting process. However, for a tool that takes a more in-depth approach to project plans and productivity reports, considering an option with robust features is recommended.

We also have a Netsuite vs Quickbooks comparison you can check out. QuickBooks is also a Time Doctor alternative, so head over there for additional options.

4. SAP – A Comprehensive Platform With Budgeting Methods

SAP business solutions provide a suite of platforms for business resource planning, CRM, human capital, management, logistics, business networks, and more. SAP focuses on helping businesses control their costs and achieve future growth with three financial management solutions: SAP Analytics Cloud, SAP S/4HANA Cloud, and SAP Profitability and Performance Management.

Key features:

  • Automated accounting workflows
  • Financial planning and granular data analysis
  • Real-time cash management insights
  • Predictive analytics with scenario planning


source: SAP

Though SAP is undoubtedly a powerful platform for all sorts of business operations management, users frequently note that the cost of implementation can get steep, alongside the expenses for upgrading and maintaining functionalities. Additionally, decision-making can be more difficult and lengthier due to a variety of potential solutions that can be integrated or used separately.

5. Anaplan – A Complex Platform for Project Scenario Planning

Anaplan is a platform that supports strategic, financial, and operational planning for a wide range of industries, including consumer goods, financial and business services, manufacturing, retail, and technology and media.

Key features:

  • Interactive dashboards with KPIs
  • Advanced business scenario modeling
  • Unified data collection and analysis
  • Streamlined collaboration with automatic notifications


source: ANAPLAN

Reviewers on G2 praise Anaplan for its powerful scenario planning and budgeting functionalities but highlight the higher price point, difficulty of implementation, and steep learning curve as some of the main cons. Other users also report performance issues when the platform is handling large amounts of data, such as sluggish loading.

6. Wrike – An All-around Management Tool for Streamlined Projects

Wrike is a platform for managing collaborative projects with task management, resource management, and basic features for expense management and reporting. Users on Capterra praise Wrike for helping cross-functional teams accomplish their goals on one platform.

Key features:

  • Visualized project progress with Kanban boards
  • Team workload optimization and resource planning
  • Key project insights and real-time reports
  • Integrations with productivity and workflow tools


source: WRIKE

Although Wrike is a good option for team collaboration and project management, managers might find that some advanced financial management features could be better developed, such as agency utilization insights, profit forecasting, and revenue and profitability insights by each business unit.

Learn more about the importance of managing business revenue in our RevOps Guide.

7. Toggl Track – A Great Time Tracking Tool with Essential Budget Functionality

Toggl Track is an online project management software solution that is focused on time tracking as its central feature. Users who review Toggl Track positively mainly focus on how easy it is to track hours and get time-related reports.

Key features:

  • Native time tracking and streamlined billing
  • Project performance and profitability tracking
  • Client-ready reports and data visualizations


source: TOGGL TRACK

Overall, Toggl Track is a simple project management budget software solution, well-suited for smaller teams with a time-tracking pain point. However, for forward-looking agencies and larger companies, investing in a solution with more robust financial forecasting and reporting features might be a better choice.

Benefits of Using Specialized Budget Management Tools in Agencies

The benefits of automating your financial management are numerous. For one, budget management tools can deliver reports in real time with insights that adapt to every minor project activity. This reduces the time and effort spent updating countless reports and eliminates the potential for human error to near zero.

Managing your reports through budgeting software can also benefit your team collaboration, making sharing relevant data and keeping everyone up to date on changes effortless. This extends to your clients, as you can easily invite them to check project budgets and progress themselves or export and forward project reports with a single click.

In short, project budget management tools can cut costs by providing essential information when needed, improving communication, and optimizing your agency project management, thus boosting overall business growth.

Takeaway

Though the choice of the best budget management tool will depend on your agency, your industry, and your project type, there are some basics that all software should aim to cover, including customization and scalability for various agency types, robust budgeting and reporting features, streamlined user interface and onboarding process, and security and data protection.

How can you ensure that your chosen tool has all of the above? One good option is to check reviews from reputable sites such as G2 or Capterra. Another is to keep an eye on how active the vendor is, through newsletters, product updates, or social media posts. This will give you an insight into their customer service and show you whether the software will be capable of growing step by step with your organization.

If you’re looking for an all-in-one agency management software solution with robust financial management features, book a demo with Productive.

FAQ

What are the tools used for project budgeting?

Project budgeting is a complex process that requires engagement with multiple parts of the management process, including resource management and allocation, overall project progress and task management, and finally financial planning and budgeting itself. Therefore, depending on your agency’s structure, industry, your project team’s knowledge of financial tools, and the specificities of your project, there’s a wide array of choices you might consider for efficient budgeting. Some of them are the following:

  • All-in-one project management software: These types of solutions combine multiple useful features for effective project management in one platform, such as task management, budget control, time tracking, resource allocation, etc. An example of this type of tool would be Productive, the all-in-one agency management software.
  • Specialized accounting software: Accounting software is a type of financial tool designed mostly for financial teams or accountants and provide support with administrative facets of cost management, payroll processing, payment scheduling and invoicing, and financial reporting. Some popular examples are QuickBooks and Xero.
  • Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software: ERP software focuses on supporting business processes, mostly by enabling easier management of human and non-human resources. These tools may support features such as inventory or supply chain management. Some examples are SAP and Netsuite.
  • Resource management software: These types of tools support the budgeting process by focusing on supporting the allocation and management of resources on the project, including mostly employee workloads, time, and associated costs. Some examples of tools with resource planning features are Productive and Wrike.

What are the three project budgeting tools and techniques?

There are several techniques that can be applied to the project budgeting process, but we can separate them into three main categories:

  • Method-based budgeting: The techniques in this category differ depending on the method a project manager uses when creating their budget plan. The first method, top-down budgeting, is frequently applied during the initiation phase. The project manager creates a budget estimate while taking into account the larger project picture. The second technique, bottom-up budgeting, is applied during project planning and consists of breaking down the project into its smallest constituents, usually tasks, and then determining the cost for each of them.
  • Historical-based budgeting: Analogous estimating and parametric estimating are both techniques that consider historical data and practices from previous projects. Analogous estimating focuses on similarities and differences, while parametric estimating studies the statistical relationships between common data elements.
  • Scenario-based budgeting: The final two budgeting techniques, three-point estimating, and earned value analysis, consider the forecasted or real budget scenarios during project execution. Three-point estimating considers the worst, best, and most likely budget scenarios in order to determine a weighted average. Earned value analysis considers the planned project costs compared to actual costs; this technique helps managers keep project progress on track and intervene if necessary.

How do you manage a budget in a project?

There are a couple of phases connected with project budget management. At the start, a project manager needs to define the budget by considering project deliverables and schedules, usually in collaboration with the client. This is when a budget plan is created, first by considering the entire project scope with top-down estimating, then by breaking it up and determining the project expenses of the smallest constituents with bottom-up estimating.

After, the process of managing the budget begins, by tracking expenses and accounting for any internal and external changes – this might require additional communication with the client and the rebalancing of budgets, whether to secure additional funding or to ensure that the project stays on budget.

Handling project billing and generating invoices is another budget management facet that project managers might be part of a manager’s workload – a budget management software solution might significantly help streamline this administrative task by pulling data automatically from your project. Finally, by project close, budget management includes the analysis of data, aimed towards determining how the project impacted the overall agency strategy and financials.

What is a budget management tool?

A budgeting tool is a type of management solution that supports successful project completion with various budgeting features. A budget management tool can help managers create a project budget plan, forecast potential scenarios to prevent or mitigate budget overruns and gather key performance indicators to optimize future project progress.

Some features of a good project budget software solution are: Flexible budget creation that takes into account your project type (one-time or recurring; fixed-price, hourly, or mixed; single-phase or multiple phases), streamlined billing that allows you to save time, simplified continuous management with real-time updates that take into account all project activities, and key data metrics that provide insights into agency revenue, utilization rate, and profit margins with financial forecasting.

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Lucija Bakić

Content Specialist

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