Getting everyone on the same page saves time, money, and headaches

You kick off every planning and budget season the same way. You export your data from your accounting system, update all the formulas, add in one-time-only line items, change the dates, cross your fingers … and hope nothing breaks. Then you press SEND — and that’s the easy part. It’s all downhill from there.

That’s because you send out one spreadsheet, but you get back a dozen (maybe more) — one from each department head (if you’re lucky). Then you have to make sense of each one, merge them into one master file, and — inevitably — find and fix whatever formulas broke along the way.

It’s not you. Nearly nine out of ten spreadsheets have errors. So, the odds were never really in your favor. The fact that you’re juggling multiple spreadsheets from multiple sources only compounds the problem and magnifies the margin of error.

Fire up a fresh pot of coffee and break the seal on a new tub of Advil. It’s officially the budgeting season. And, like a New England winter, this season can drag on for a good six to nine months. (Okay, maybe seven with global warming.)

It doesn’t have to be this way. Budgeting software has come a long way since spreadsheets — courtesy of cloud technology. And, one of the biggest advantages is easy real-time collaboration. Imagine everyone in your organization working in the same master file, one that contains read-only formulas that they couldn’t break if they tried.

Software already exists that does just that and much, much more. It’s easy to use, built specifically for local government, and it’s affordable — even for smaller agencies with limited resources. It’s called ClearGov Budgets and it’s a game changer for local governments still trying to make do with unwieldy spreadsheets and legacy accounting systems.

Work better, faster, and more efficiently — as a team

Spreadsheets weren’t made for real-time collaboration and they certainly weren’t built with municipalities in mind. They were made for organizing and calculating static data. And, that’s perfectly fine — if your line items never change and you create, review, and approve the budget all by yourself. Otherwise, the process of emailing spreadsheets back and forth is inefficient, time-consuming, and appallingly error-prone.

With ClearGov, there’s just one master worksheet. You can invite as many team members as you want to collaborate on your annual budget and you can control their access and edit privileges too. You can even lock line items that you know won’t change and that you don’t want people to edit.

Contributors can comment, make adjustments, and append relevant support materials — in real time —all to that same shared worksheet. You can even set up automated email reminders to nudge department heads and reviewers when it’s time to weigh in. No more chasing folks down for requests or approvals. You can easily track who’s submitted their numbers and completed their review via a progress bar at the top of  your budget dashboard.

ClearGov automatically tracks every change, request, comment, and version so you always have a record of how the budget progressed and who modified what when — line by line. All documents you append to your budget automatically get stored in the same secure place, so you never waste time searching for support materials.

Cloud curious? You can see ClearGov Budgets in action by registering for our popular monthly live webinar, The Cure for the Common Spreadsheet. Even if you can’t attend, register anyway and we’ll send you a recording of the session that you can view at your convenience and share with team members.

Face the budgeting season with the right tools

Switching from spreadsheets to cloud-based software is like clearing city streets with a shovel versus a plow. You can do it with a shovel, but why would you when the plow is faster, easier, and presumably has GPS, heated seats, and a cup holder? When you finish plowing there’s still plenty of time for other projects. When you finish shoveling, there’s barely time to rest up before the next snowfall. Two things are true: There’s always another budgeting cycle and there’s always more snow. It’s best to be prepared.

Getting started is easier than you think, but don’t take our word for it. Even in a small town like Barre, Massachusetts, building the annual budget requires close collaboration between dozens of department heads, committee members, and selectmen. Find out how the town administrator there got everyone “singing off the same sheet of music” in record time.

Excited to Build Your Next Budget?

You could be. Use ClearGov Budgets and your next budgeting cycle will be faster, smoother, and more collaborative than ever before. That’s plenty to get excited about!