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Finance Modernization Helps CPA Firm Accommodate Growth and Eliminate 100 Hours from Budget Creation Process

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In a recent blog, we shared how HoganTaylor LLP increased overall accounting efficiency 90% and eliminated $200,000 in administrative overhead with Sage Intacct, along with other benefits to their internal financial management.

Since going live in early 2018, Sage Intacct has helped HoganTaylor streamline acquisitions and expand its advisory offerings. But as the company  grew into one of the largest business advisory and public accounting firms in Oklahoma and Arkansas, annual budgeting in Excel grew more and more time-consuming and painful.

The exercise involved over 15 budget owners updating numbers in spreadsheets, and the finance team rolling those into a master Excel file with roughly 40 tabs, each with 40 rows and 12 columns. The team struggled to ensure accurate linkages as draft budgets were revised, with each iteration increasing the risk of broken formulas and version control miscues.

“We knew we had outgrown our budgeting process — it just wasn’t efficient,” as Controller Mandy Brown recalls in our HoganTaylor customer success story. “We needed a solution that was more efficient and sophisticated than Excel.”

Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning proved to be an ideal solution for HoganTaylor, a 350-person firm with four offices named in 2019 to Accounting Today’s Top 100 Firms list for the first time.

HoganTaylor deployed Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning after first upgrading its accounting platform from Sage MAS 90 to Sage Intacct. The two-phase finance modernization has given the firm the efficiency and scale it needed after a 2018 merger with JPMS Cox added 75 employees, and another acquisition that launched a new IT services division.

“Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning has definitely improved our whole budgeting process,” Brown said. ‘It saved us so much time in 2020 and gave everyone real-time visibility as the budget was created.” 

Eliminating a Week of Manual Excel Work 

Building the 2021 budget in Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning proved faster and simpler than Excel. Budgeting efficiency for the finance team rose 50%, Brown estimated, while a week’s worth of back-end manual work has been eliminated.

Across both the finance team and budget owners who head service lines, locations, and departments, time saved is in the range of 100 hours. “It will save even more time next year now that we’ve got experience with the system,” Brown said.

HoganTaylor’s finance team budgeteers are happy to be done with the painstaking manual manipulations needed with Excel-based budgeting, opening new time for more valuable tasks such as analysis and reporting.

“There’s no more tabbing back and forth between different Excel files,” Brown said. “As soon as a budget owner enters their numbers in Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning, we can see it in real time with no combining files. And when you go to the top of the budget tree, your totals are right there.”

Visibility and process controls give the finance team new assurance that budgeting is done correctly and accurately, without the headaches of tracking status by emails and spreadsheets.

“Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning has helped facilitate the flow of information and give us more visibility into what budget owners are doing, and there’s no more chance of using a wrong budget version,” Brown said. 

Budget Owners Quickly Embrace the New System 

HoganTaylor opted to have budget owners enter data into Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning when the solution was first used for budget creation, in fall 2020, rather than continue using Excel. Brown’s team was gratified to see that budget owners embraced the new system with barely a hiccup.

“It actually went better than I expected,” Brown said. “We didn’t get any real pushback on it, or even that many questions — everyone was for the most part able to use the system without any issues.”

When it came time to present draft budgets to the CEO, COO, and other executives, the finance team easily created a budget dashboard through Sage Intacct. That proved faster and easier than sharing a spreadsheet, with drill-down into detail to address any questions.

Meanwhile, native integration between Sage Intacct budgeting and accounting components — a key differentiator when the firm evaluated several budgeting packages — is proving especially useful.

“Getting the budget into Sage Intacct is super simple. All you do is click a button, and that’s really helpful,” Brown said. “The ability to set up budgets to exactly match our financials in Sage Intacct, and synching back and forth, was a big plus.”

Next Up: Forecasting and Budget vs. Actual Reporting 

With one yearly budget built, HoganTaylor’s next step with Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning is to utilize capabilities for forecasting and scenario modeling, and more frequent and timely budget vs. actuals reporting.

Previously, HoganTaylor had some budget vs. actuals tracking available through dashboards, but it was used on an ad hoc basis and not regularly updated. Going forward, the finance team expects to make detailed budget vs. actuals available by synching Sage Intacct’s dual budgeting and accounting components.

With that, the firm will be able to reforecast financials throughout the year as conditions change, with insights to guide decisions on cost reduction, new hiring, resource allocations, and more.

“Forecasting and budget vs. actuals reporting through Sage Intacct will help everyone know where we are at a given point in time, and if we could spend more in one area or cut in another,” Brown said. “We’re excited about the system’s capabilities and know that we can use it to do so much more.”

Closing the Books in Half the Time — for 4x More Entities 

Improvements on the budgeting side extend the value that HoganTaylor is realizing with Sage Intacct, with accounting processes 90% more efficient since the firm upgraded from MAS 90. For example, the central finance team has taken on accounting for four subsidiaries, which was previously done by subsidiary-level personnel in QuickBooks, without adding headcount.

That eliminates roughly $200,000 a year in administrative overhead while subsidiary staff can focus on more valuable client-facing initiatives. Despite the increased workload, the finance team has cut monthly close time from five to seven business days down to just two or three.

“Consolidation across multiple entities would have been a nightmare in our previous environment," said Wes Gilliam, chief accounting officer. “As the firm has grown with acquisitions and new entities, Sage Intacct has enabled the finance team to handle exponential growth in volume and deliver more timely reporting while maintaining our headcount to a minimum.” 

See our HoganTaylor customer success story to learn more about how the firm has eliminated its Excel budgeting pains with Sage Intacct Budgeting and Planning.

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