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Courtesy: Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

Web-Based Budget & Planning System
September 20, 2002

In today’s hi-tech environment financial information has become easily accessible. Many businesses have implemented financial reporting systems through either an intranet or Internet. Web-based financial reporting and the ability to “drill down” to more detailed financial information has been one of the more useful tools created for financial management. Included in this new wave of technology has been the development of planning and budgeting software, either web-based or stand-alone. With all of this capability available, the result is sometimes a system that is either too complex or do not meet the needs of all its users. The data must not only be made available, it must be presented in a way that is usable. Often a simple solution to the process is overlooked. Developing a web-based business budget and planning system utilizing the "web input window" can be an easy solution.

Some businesses may still utilize the process of e-mailing business plans with an attached word processing file and budget requests on a spreadsheet, which then have to be filed on

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changes. The F&O Directorate is a laboratory support directorate responsible for a $70M facility and security budget within a laboratory doing $500M in business annually. in addition to other decentralized financial support functions. then resubmits to the central coordinator. eliminating the need for central business planning and budgeting staff to upload the numerous budget requests and subsequent changes. F&O’s Business Office has provided the following noteworthy improvements: • Developed a home page with “one-stop-shop” financial information. The web-based approach allows budget managers and their support staff to directly input their business plan and budget requests. The F&O Business Office provides business planning and financial coordination support to the Facilities & Operations (F&O) Directorate. 470 are in the F&O Directorate. This allows the budget manager to “do it right the first time”. at Battelle. Of the 3500 PNNL staff. The Facilities and Operations (F&O) Business Office. A web-based budget and planning system provides a one-stop-shopping approach with real time data and up to-the-minute reports. Additionally. the budget manager reviews. and so on.a server and/or uploaded into a database. standard analysis reports are accessible the moment a budget is input. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Over the course of several years. avoiding several iterations of sending their input to a central coordinator for uploading. The F&O Business Office is comprised of five staff members. saw web-based budgeting as the answer to streamlining their budget and planning process. 2 .

The only support available was 20% of an IT Specialist (ie. Reprogrammed authorized funds monthly through a formal change control process. These reports were accessible through the web reporting system on the F&O Business Office’s home page.• Teamed with project management to provide more detailed work plans. Business plans were available on a server. or they could drill into them through a web reporting system. Excel files were uploaded into an Access database from which management reports were run. activity-based costing). Business Office staff convinced the Business Office manager to develop a web system. pushing the work breakdown structure (WBS) to significantly lower levels allowing for detailed analysis of cost. However. they were still collecting Word files of business plans and Excel files of overhead and service center budget requests. so management could drill down to a desired plan. With a month before the fiscal year (FY) 2001 business budget and planning process was to begin. however. The first step was to attempt to get Information Technology (IT) support immediately. but the 3 . which would allow direct input of budgets. Developing a web-based system did. • Held quarterly overhead review meetings with F&O Directorate line management. come with several challenges. Engineering Associate). • Implemented cost allocation changes based upon a better understanding of the “drivers” of cost (ie. • • Established time-phased budgets for all overhead and service center functions.

450 extra hours in all. and Facilities and Operations. The best part of developing a web-based system such as this one is that it can be tailored to meet the needs of all the users. Information Technology. It took the F&O Business Office 60 hours extra to upload the plans into the database. The F&O Directorate completed their FY 2001 business plan and budget request well ahead of other lab support organizations. A major part of the credit goes to our IT Specialist who was very intuitive about the needs of the users. thanks mainly to their new and improved F&O Web Budget and Planning System. This yields an estimate annual savings in avoided 4 . This improved system/process had planning and budgeting managers submit their information directly into the web site. The development of this system soon became a collaborative effort involving support from four directorates. Identifying the basic needs of each user was the most difficult aspect of system design. F&O has over 130 budget activities. In addition to eliminating the manual effort. each of which require an annual work plan and budget. With so little time to develop Phase I. The new system proved to be a significant improvement over the prior process of completing templates and uploading those templates into a database. The prior year's process required budget activity managers to know Excel and took an average of nearly 4 extra hours per activity to complete. Project Management. it was remarkable how these groups pulled together to produce a product that met the needs of all users. The new web-based budget and planning system has resulted in a significant time and cost-savings. Finance. management reports were produced in a timelier manner (saving an additional 30 hours at a critical time).decision was made to go ahead. with user-friendly instructions and prompts helping them complete the input.

Client-Side scripting is a standard capability that is found in virtually all modern web browsers.000. “Thanks for a good system. The clients that would be using the system came from many different levels of computing and web experience with varied computer systems. They all should be this easy.work of $30. there were many challenges in developing a web-based system to meet all the needs of the F&O Business office and its internal clients. The overall goal was to present a user interface that was consistent and familiar and to give the user as much flexibility as possible without making the system overly complex and difficult to navigate. and the project managers who relied on the system for up-to-date budget information. plus producing a higher quality and more timely product which can result in hundreds of thousands in increased budget authorizations. operating systems and processor speed. The system achieves a good compromise between the needs of both groups and has the ability to grow and develop to meet their future needs. As the Human Resources budget activity manager to the F&O Directorate said. 5 .” Technical Perspective: From a technical perspective. The system had to be designed with two specific needs in mind for two different types of users. the financial staff who would manage the database. It was decided to develop a system that was primarily a server-based application with the addition of JavaScript client-side scripts to ease the use of the system.

During the design process you must weigh the needs of the users against the maturity of the technologies used to develop your solution. these new technologies can bring along 6 .. While technologies available on the market might provide for a richer user interface. This allowed the product to be delivered to the widest possible audience while minimizing the bumps on the road to deployment and support. and dynamic selection list boxes. This allows dynamic creation and processing of data in the web page and makes the entire reporting and data entry site possible. For those unfamiliar with ASP. it is an HTML preprocessor that processes either VBScript or JavaScript code embedded in the HTML pages before they are sent to the client’s browser. System features such as auto-calculating fields. It is often tempting to jump on the technology bandwagon and use the latest cutting edge technologies to give the richest interface possible. and provided a crossplatform-compatible browser-based interface. were implemented on the client’s browser giving a friendlier feel to the software. This adds flexibility to web based applications by improving the user interface and automating calculations. The system was developed primarily using Microsoft’s Active Server Pages (ASP) technology interfacing to a custom Microsoft SQL 2000 Database. They are well-established technologies that showed strong cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility. Client-side JavaScript routines were then used to get around the limitations imposed on the browser-based user interface.Developers can embed code in the web pages HTML that will be executed on the users web browser as they interact with the web page. This allowed easy implementation of the required business logic on the server. The technologies used are not cutting edge.

The latest. and incurring the costs associated with the delays they cause to your project development. With mature technologies. With cutting edge technologies you can end up being the ones making those mistakes. The following is a picture of the F&O Business Office home page. with links to the input window. The following is the Budget and Planning web page. “drill down” to) where staff are budgeted by name and FTE amount. Note the example of “Budget Reports”. A manager can easily see which of his staff are over-committed and which are under-committed. note the link to the budget and planning system (circled with an arrow pointing to it). 7 . isn’t always the greatest when it comes to technology. a user can identify (ie. analysis reports and instructions.their own liabilities. you have the benefit of be able to learn from others mistakes. By selecting the “FTE (Full-time equivalent) Report”.

8 . It will continue to save time and money while providing real time reporting for analysis and project management. Items such as change control management. It is very easy to use and to navigate between the different input pages. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL). timely and simple. graphs. It has proven to meet the needs of all users in PNNL’s Facilities and Operations Directorate as well as being easily customized to be used by other directorates throughout the laboratory. It is user friendly.The 3rd and final picture is a view of the beginning input screen for work plans and budgets. The Web-Based Budget and Planning System is continuing to evolve at Battelle. accurate. and out year budget estimation are just a few features in the latest evolution of the tool.