Is your annual budgeting and planning process becoming a case of “same old, same old?” While it’s good to have systems in place that help streamline the budgeting and planning process, there’s a lot to be gained from looking at ways in which the process can be improved. After all, proper budgeting and forecasting is the key to financial health for your organization. So as we enter another season of balancing numbers and planning the year ahead, here are a few methods you can use to improve the process.

Gather Better Data

This year as you pull your numbers together, consider ways in which you could gather more data, and gather data more accurately. Ask yourself if there’s any missing or unclear information that could be hurting your budgeting process. Today’s software and cloud-based financial management tools are goldmines for all sorts of information, so make sure you’re getting the most out of whatever type of application you’re using.

Use Data More Effectively

With all of the buzz over data lately, many organizations have really stepped up their data gathering skills, but unfortunately, not everyone knows what to do with all of their data once they’ve gathered it. The key with data is not simply to collect it and put it on a shelf like a trophy, but to use it to build better and more effective plans for the years to come.

Take Advantage of Driver-based Metrics

5 Habits of Highly Effective Budgeters

What metrics do you use to calculate your expense lines? Many financial managers focus on budgeting costs individually, when they could save time and get more consistent results by using driver-based metrics, especially where your headcount is a key driver of cost. Letting the drivers do the work will help you to focus your attention on the enterprise level, and keep you attuned to what really drives profitability & business performance.

Focus on Communication

With budgets, as with life, communication is key. In order to come up with the most accurate numbers (and keep everyone happy in the process), several stages of communication are required: firstly broad-based goals should be created for the year to come. Then, through a series of meetings and discussions, these broad-based goals can be turned into specific, actionable business plans. And keep communicating while going through the process of turning these plans into a final overall budget.

Don’t Rush It

Proper communication & decision-making takes time, so when it comes to budgets, the key is not to rush anything. And so you don’t want to be scrambling after information, but instead at the controls evaluating the financial nature of the possibilities your business has ahead of it.

If you dread the approach of budget season, take this year as an opportunity to improve your methods and create better results. Like taking off a too tight shoe, making the simple processes just that will allow you to take the pain out of budgeting and to focus being a strategic leader.