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hmm … the budget

It was May 2007 and Rod came into the room and said he wanted a budget in Xero – now. Michelle (the product manager) said, “we don’t have time to build it for the next release”. Craig (the pragmatist) said, “no one uses a budget anyway”. Phil (the design-guru) said, “that’s way too many fields on one page – it’ll never fly”. Andrew (the developer) said, “it’ll take me three days”.

Well, that was all Rod needed to hear and the challenge was on the table, so I built it. Three days, of course, didn’t include the time to design and test it and pull Adam in to write some javascript to evaluate excel formulas. But we did release it. To this day it remains Xero’s largest, slowest page with the most fields, that does the least – and the only page to need a “loading, please wait message”.

budget

Since then, we’ve made a number of small improvements to the budget, but we know its time for an overhaul. With all the great things we’ve got planned for this year – its likely we’ll only be able to make small enhancements in the short term. But I’m keen to hear from those who use it (and those who don’t) about what you would like.

Don’t think 1999 budgets in a spreadsheet. Think 2010 budgets on the web….

 

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39 comments

Ben Kepes
20 August 2009 #

Andrew – automagic….. think tricky algorithms, fancy schmancy auto-analysis of historical values and stuff like that. Don’t make people think or have to spend time on this stuff. Look to what Pocketsmith and others are doing in this area…..

Dave
20 August 2009 #

Tracking would be cool to add into the budget

David
20 August 2009 #

Andrew, my budget wishlist, hopefully none of these features already exist.

The ability to enter budget figures for all codes not just P & L. We often budget for assets purchases, tax payments, loan principal payments, owners drawings etc.

The ability to load budgets by category not just account code

The ability to import a budget from Excel.
Budget out up to 36 months, not just the current 24.

Cheers
David

Terry
20 August 2009 #

Hi Andrew

Noticed this – “To this day it remains Xero’s largest, slowest page with the most fields, that does the least – and the only page to need a “loading, please wait message”.

You should talk to Ed Robinson in SiliconWelly about speeding up your site- http://www.aptimize.com, they work with rackspace too.

You can test you site on http://www.webpagetest.org

alex
20 August 2009 #

how about a simple version for us small businesses, with a yearly budget not monthly, and track what pct of the budget is used. that would remove heaps of fields from the screen, and should be easy to do, whether or not others would use it, is a different story

Richard
20 August 2009 #

We use the budget regularly and rely in it as a critical guide especially when the market is moving around like it is at the moment.
One aspect of the budget that would be great is actually a report that includes a forecast based on budget for the rest of the year.

Dennis Howlett
21 August 2009 #

The best one I ever saw was WinForecast back in the early 90′s – subsequently acquired by Sage…and well…still around but languished. It had an easy import to provide past years’ figures and could then flex very easily. More a forecasting tool than a strict budgeting thingy but plenty good enough for most purposes.

Strictly for the accountants in the crowd but maybe that’s what’s needed? Would an SMB really understand what a budget is meant to do

On performance, I’m guessing there’s a DB issue. I’ve come across a number of vendors experiencing that problem and moving DB to in-mem in order to solve.

Peeps often think about Mint as a proxy but that’s really a personal tool – not so sure you can really get budgeting down to ‘consumer’ use but always worth a go.

Adam
21 August 2009 #

The performance issue Andrew’s mentioned is purely down to the web-browser javascript performance.

The DB and web-server are moooore than fast enough. They would probably equate to about 2-5% of the total request time.

Like a lot of modern websites with lots of functionallity there’s a lot of Javascript going on within the page and hence the loading message – much the same as Google’s Gmail, for instance.

Andrew Butel
21 August 2009 #

Thanks everyone for your feedback – its good to hear. I like the idea of it being more focused on business planning and forecasting with plenty of magic. It actually ties in quite nicely with some of the thinking and early designs we have around cashflow forecasting.

@Richard – try the ‘Current Financial Year’ common format in the P&L.

Adrian Pearson
21 August 2009 #

“Not just P&L” is the key comment here, I think. Clients get excited about setting the budget then go very cold when they realise they cant put a monthly amount in for Loan Repayment or Tax payments.

Michael
22 August 2009 #

I have a question. Why invoices are not connected with budget manager? I thought since you have invoice data, time when I supposed to be paid and amount of all of them, why not automatically sum up all invoices due to pay in particular time and show it in Sales income in Budget manager (predicted)?
Of course, numbers will not reach in year forward, but at least few next months can be simply predicted based on invoices waiting to be paid.
Everything should be amended manually if necessary but at least some starting numbers could be great.

Same goes to expenses.

I just write what I need and what would be simply desired in your budget manager.

ACCOUNTS

* Delete/hide chosen accounts
* Do not show archived accounts
* Show money already spend in this month for particular account (you call it general ledger – that numbers) – now I have to jump between two pages to get it right.

INCOME

* Allow to put percentage of possible payment (10%, 50%, 100%)
* Allow to choose income options (accounts – as above)

EXPENSES

* Allow to show wanted expenses (as above) and not all of them

I hope my ideas will help.

Thanks

PS> I suggest to check http://pulseapp.com/

as your reference.

Elton Bartel
22 August 2009 #

It would be good if you could compare the cashflow statement to budget. This is along the lines of including all accounts as suggested above. Also it would be good if the cashflow statement was more closely aligned to the profit & loss statement. E.g Net proft add depreciation etc less owner drawings, tax payments etc = cash movement. The No.1 question I am asked is where has all the money gone? I made a profit? Keep up the great work!

James Riddell
23 August 2009 #

I’d like to see more graphs.

Jack Pivac
24 August 2009 #

Could linking it into your repeating invoices work at all?
Be nice to see expected income (annually/monthly) based on your repeating invoices in the future, either on the budget or somewhere with repeating invoices.

Darryl Collins
25 August 2009 #

Why not create it as a separate app that integrates with Xero?

One of my favourite software applications of all time is Winforecast, now sadly owned by Sage in the UK (grrrr!) It helped me raise over £12m in VC/angel investment at blackstar.co.uk – I sold it in 2002 and it had a name change and then obscurity, so don’t go looking for it!

This is an uber-budgeter. I have never found its like online (sad but true, I search for that sort of stuff!). Set up your chart of accounts, or import it from Xero(?), tweak, flex, model to your hearts desire. Then, when it is right, import/integrate with your Xero account… simple really!

Actually, just realised the original Winforecast was an Oz product http://www.winforecast.com.au/ Might have a go at creating it ourselves – will check out the Xero API to see what’s possible.

Darryl
http://banjax.com

Michael
8 September 2009 #

I am playing now with http://www.pocketsmith.com and if they could integrate with Xero that would be perfect fit for me. Developing such app in Xero would be too long to achieve. I would rather suggest integration with Pocketsmith or something similar.

Andrew Smith
19 September 2009 #

In most other reports in Xero you can insert a “comment” or “note” under a figure. It would be handy when setting a budget to be able to annotate why something will be higher or lower.
The same would apply in the variance report – we must learn from our budgeting mistakes!

I would also like to be able to budget for “Income” as a total, rather than having to set each of the income accounts individually. Sometimes the finer detail is hard to guess and not really relevant.

Amanda Ellis
22 September 2009 #

I am with Adrian Pearson and James Riddell on this one.

Like James, I would like to see the budget linked to invoices, especially recurring, current or future invoices (purchase orders).

Adrian’s suggestion that you be able to use old invoices to predict future spending is also useful.

Bill Hardie
21 October 2009 #

The most urgent requirement for me is the ability to budget (and report, of course) by division (tracking code).

Ed Abraham
25 November 2009 #

* Much of our work involves being paid when milestones are achieved. If they showed in the budget, I would queue up draft invoices, dated for when I expected the work to be achieved.

* On the expenses side, regular expenses such as monthly rent and fortnightly salary should be easy to include. I don’t want to fiddle with my calendar to work out which months have three salary payments in them.

Michael
2 February 2010 #

Any movement with budget upgrade? Any plans?

Andrew Tokeley
3 February 2010 #

@Michael – enhancing the Budget functionality (including the popular request to track budgets by category) was specifically identified in our recent strategic planning session. Our designers are brainstorming this now and Rod has some great (and I have to say ambitious!) plans for taking this even further. We’ve got lots going on at the moment but expect to see something later in the year.

Simon Lampen
18 May 2010 #

Any idea if the budget work is going to make it in to a work programme any time soon?
Also I agree with most of the comments above:
*Have budgets be tracking category aware
*Allow budget templates to be imported back against a tracking/budget category so multiple copies can be filled in by budget category owners
*Have budget items be annotable, include this annotation column in the spreadsheet for import as well.
*Give the template spreadsheet lockable headers and accounts so the template is forced to remain compatible.
*Budgets should allow all ledgers/accounts to be tracked eg asset purchases, loan payments etc

Rod Drury
19 May 2010 #

@Simon yes those are the sort of things we need to do. You’ll see a few big bits of work out over the next couple of releases that provide the foundations for these changes. It’s a high priority.

Mark Lawton
16 June 2010 #

I think the other feature that is even more crucial than budgets is the ability to generate a short term cashflow from the data that is in Xero and then the ability to modify it. This should not be too hard for debtors and creditors as you have all the historical data per creditor so you know the average days to pay and you could easily create a base cashflow from this. You would then need to add other cashbook items like wages etc. These could probably be caclulated from historical data. What most people want is the basic data that they can then tweak to get a quick feel for where the business sits. This kind of information would be really beneficial for small business and I dont know of any small business software that does this – Let Xero be the first!.

Darren McDonald
22 September 2010 #

We would like to see budgets include:
– a cashflow budget which includes not just P&L area but all capital/equity/GST items as well so that it reconciles down to net cash movement.
- a full budget that includes cashflow, P&L and balance sheet all tied in together would be nice at some stage but is a bit more difficult

Current P&L budget is nice but cashflow budget is for many clients more relevant to their situation as they control and plan their cash ins and outs. No cashflow reporting against budget is for us a no 1 hindrance in using Xero fully for management reporting.

Rod Drury
22 September 2010 #

Hi Darren. Agree. We have a lot of stuff we want to do next year on budgets and forecasts. As we complete the base accounting features there is a lot of innovation and smarts we can do to use that information to drive better business decisions.

Rod

Ben
1 November 2010 #

Hi Andrew.

I’m with the others, I’d like to be able to budget for all codes not just the P & L ones. These days we want to be able to budget for capital items as well as P & L items.

Sonja
14 February 2011 #

In the budget manager, there is the ability to load a budget up to 24 months in advance, which is what we have done for a client – good so far. However we now want to review the 12 months from April 2011 to March 2012 (the financial year), but the report manager will only let us see 12 months from March 2011 so the report goes from March 2011 to February 2012 (eleven months of the financial year). It would also be helpful to report the Full year budget on the budget summary report as well.
If the “from date” on the budget summary reporting was extended so we can view and print the budget summary for the next financial year that would be a good start. Seeing the full year budget on the report without taking it out to excel would be great.

Also support others who have requested tax payments, loan repayments and capital purchases in particular being added to the list of profit and loss codes.

luke
10 July 2011 #

i see, all it takes is for someone to walk into a room and say they want something, then 3 days later… there it is. Can you tell me when someone might want to consider some basics, like HTML emails with wildcards, and auto reminder emails?

PS. Very cool that Xero does budgets :-)

Michael
4 January 2012 #

Hi guys!

I was checking update and guess what? I found this thread. I decided to point out how hopeless you are and slow with any update. from 2009 to 2012 NOTHING was done to improve budgeting. Simply I give up with you guys. You create a car just without wheels. I am not mentioning other BASIC stuff like Payments Automatic Reminders (doh!) and many, many more… It is not funny anymore. It’s really, truly sad.

Robert
15 March 2012 #

I read this blog eagerly until I saw the dates on the posts. Two promises of updates to budgets and yet it seems to be unchanged. I am seriously considering this package, but this blog tells me a) that the budgeting facility is long overdue an upgrade, and b) that Xero seems unable to deliver on its good intentions.

Will budgets get upgraded in the near future? Has Xero generally overstretched itself? Should I look elsewhere for something that already has what I want?

Andrew Tokeley
16 March 2012 #

@Robert – sorry we haven’t been able to move on this stuff as soon as you, and we, would have liked.

We have made some smaller updates to the budget screen (fixed headings, row totals) and will be releasing a budget import/export feature in the next release (good to manage large budgets or quickly copy last years actuals and do some fancy manipulations in Excel…).

The ability to include tracking and budget against balance sheet accounts (which I’m guessing are the things you’re really interested in) are larger bits of work and have had to wait while we knock off other features.

Hope you like the other parts of Xero enough to wait a bit longer… thanks for your patience.

Nathan
28 March 2012 #

Add tracking fields to the budget so you can make broken down income and COGS forecasts rather than having it all lumped in. e.g. different product lines, services, etc

Ryan Watson
29 March 2012 #

Tracking fields! Tracking fields! Please add tracking fields!! ;)

Richard
30 March 2012 #

@Andrew

When is this next release expected? Can I confirm if the update to the budget you mention would allow us to budget / track cashflows as well, not just current expenses?

This would be super useful as my team and I have been banging our heads together trying to figure out work-arounds, but if you release this soon then we will start breaking out the champs instead.

George
10 May 2012 #

This is a very useful feature for our clients

Gavin Rose
4 August 2012 #

Reporting of Actual vs Budget on a consolidated basis is a typical organisational need. Another is Actual vs Budget for projects. For many businesses (e.g construction) its the latter that is where the real management takes place.

Xero allows us to allocate income and cost to projects, so the foundation is there. The missing piece is the ability to compare projects to project budgets. Such budgets need to be able to be established with a start date and end date, allowing flexibility to have projects that go across financial years and may run for several years.

This would be a powerful enhancement and avoid the need to run parallel systems and duplicate data to track projects against budget.

All the best

Nathan
17 June 2013 #

I agree with previous comment.

It is good to have budgets against tracking codes, but I don’t want it to be based on monthly expenditure. I want to have a project budget – irrespective of time frames – just a total figure budgeted and reported against the tracking category. I don’t know when exactly I will expense my total budgeted amount, I just want to know what percentage of it I have spent and whether I am over/under budget.

This should be very easy for Xero to implement – so how about it?

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