by Rakesh Sharma
Published on 16 May 2013
By itself, budgeting can be overwhelming task for small businesses. After all, this is where the rubber hits the road. Expensive on-premise software further complicates the task. Fortunately, a solution is on hand. In this PlanGuru review we will see how this budgeting and forecasting software simplifies and automates any forward looking financial analysis. We will look at its interface, features, and see how it can be of use to you.
A thirteen-year-old product, PlanGuru was initially built to help CPAs model financial projections for their clients. "The time and inaccuracy of creating formulas in spreadsheets led PlanGuru's founders to develop an accurate and flexible solution," says Tripp Graham, Director of Marketing at the company. Subsequently, the company has improved it's usability for other customers, including entrepreneurs, small businesses, nonprofits, and large corporations.
The design starting point for the solution was Excel's complicated setup. "Developing and maintaining multiple spreadsheets in Excel is painfully time-consuming and can be error prone," says Graham. So, the solution's developers aimed for simplicity, integration, and automation. With PlanGuru, you can import your chart of accounts then choose from 20 inbuilt forecasting methods to project your budgets over a ten-year period.
This also frees up time for financial professionals to focus on the more important parts of their business. "Because PlanGuru alleviates the painful aspects of budgeting (such as correcting faulty Excel sheets), these professionals can now spend more time drawing insights from their projections," says Graham.
According to him, future plans for the solution include more robust analytics and reporting features. "While the core PlanGuru application is a solving tool, PlanGuru analytics will allow users to draw deeper insight into the forecasted financial statements they have created in the application," he says.
In its simplest form, PlanGuru is an integrated set of financial statements and associated analyses. The statements (and analyses) are enclosed in a format that is similar to an Excel Workbook. The statements help you budget and forecast analysis. You can budget for up to ten years in advance. However, granular planning is only available at the quarterly and monthly level.
As I mentioned earlier, the solution automates several associated components of budgeting and forecasting. For example, the statement of cash flows is updated automatically, once you update budget and income statements. Similarly, the solution offers you a choice of 20 different forecasting methods (with multiple sub-options).
The PlanGuru setup is fairly easy and involves constructing (or, uploading) tables to create a chart of accounts. PlanGuru already has several account groupings under which you can enter line items. However, if you are unsure about groupings, you can simply add expenses by line items. Automation is, again, an overriding theme in maintaining and forecasting your line items: the system automatically calculates budget ratios and makes rolling forecasts for you.
The interface is fairly similar to Microsoft Excel. Although it is not Excel based, it adopts a similar cell- and grid-based approach. The design was a conscious choice, according to Graham. "Our users were more comfortable viewing their budgeted/forecasted numbers in a spreadsheet-like format," he says.
Perhaps, the tool's greatest benefit lies in its ability to automate and simplify complex budgeting and forecasting practices. That it does this without the help of messy and unwieldy excel sheets is fantastic. PlanGuru also provides comprehensive analysis for your line items. For example, modeling techniques enable you to accrue expenses or declare dividends in multiple formats.
Finally, there is an added side benefit to the tool. For someone who does not understand financial statements, I thought the solution did a neat job of simplifying accounting for me. This can be an especially important benefit for entrepreneurs. For example, they can create custom accounting line items to track their expenses and balance books. "The one role nobody wants to play is auditor of their own spreadsheet models," says Graham. He says PlanGuru helps businesses starting out by automating this task and preparing them for a number of contingencies.
One area where PlanGuru could improve is in its interface. The solution's interface, which is similar to Excel, helps business transition quickly and easily to PlanGuru. However, it does not mark a significant improvement over the Excel interface. I think a SaaS paradigm offers great scope for users to interact with software in new and innovating formats. Improving the interface (by reducing the number of cells, adding color, or automating more financial transactions) will help simplify PlanGuru further.
PlanGuru has interesting pricing models that encompass multiple formats. Thus, the PlanGuru Cloud Hosting plan enables you to purchase a license and host it in a private cloud. The Lease PlanGuru in the "cloud plan" enables you to lease a PlanGuru license in the cloud on a per-month basis. Both plans enable you to access the application from anywhere. Finally, you can also purchase a traditional PlanGuru on-premise desktop or network license, if security is your biggest concern.
Yes. With a diverse array of features and its ability to simplify complex budgets and forecasts, which can be customized to fit a wide variety of businesses, PlanGuru is a winner all the way.
Ratings: ease of use 4/5, features 5/5, value 5/5 and ease of deployment 4/5