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Megan Miller
Megan Miller
Megan Miller is a senior product marketing specialist for Herndon-based Deltek, the leading global provider of enterprise software and information solutions for professional services firms and government contractors, and can be found at

Turbocharge Your Annual Planning and Budgeting

October 30th, 2015 by Megan Miller

As annual budgeting and planning season is in full swing, it’s time to take a look at where your A&E firm stands this year and what you want to achieve in 2016.

Is your firm’s profitability low? Has revenue growth stalled? What do you need to accomplish in the next year and what will it take? You may not know the best way to tackle your 2016 goals, or you may have tried and failed to reach them in the past. So, how can you break the cycle and make progress in the coming year?

In a recent webinar, Doug Reed of and I discussed “Five Tips to Turbo-Charge Your Annual Planning and Budgeting.” To be successful, you must start with realistic goals. By benchmarking your firm with reports like the 36th Annual Deltek Clarity A&E Industry Study, you can identify strengths and areas for improvement, allowing you to focus on what matters most.

But first, what is an annual plan? Many A&E firms have a strategic plan, which addresses longer goals over multiple years. In contrast, an annual plan outlines what items need to be achieved in the next year, with detailed action plans to make things happen.

So, how can your firm take your annual planning and budgeting up a notch?

Use Long-Term Strategic Plans to Identify Steps to Success  

First, A&E firms need to review their long-term strategic goals and identify what needs to happen to keep the firm on track. Once you identify key goals for the upcoming year, develop detailed tactical steps that clearly build toward each goal and can be accomplished in the given year.

Plan With Top-Down and Bottom-Up Budgeting 

Firms often complete top-down budgeting, where management outlines tasks and budgets with little to no input from the full team. But, to make true progress, create top-down and bottom-up forecasting. Why? Bottom-up forecasting includes input from staff members on what they can deliver – plus, as an added bonus, it can uncover unknown opportunities and interests. Once both top-down and bottom-up forecasts are drafted, compare plans and work to resolve gaps.

What to Stop, Start and Continue – and How 

To succeed, tasks must be matched with true champions – employees who are passionate about your goals and will deliver results. But, with everyone busy, how can employees at your A&E firm take on even more? Your champions must examine their activities and, if those activities are not producing the desired results, stop or delegate them to more appropriate staff. Ensure that your champions are given the time and resources needed to properly tackle their action items. And remember – while there should be consequences if champions fall short of expectations, you also must take time to recognize their successes.

Set Transparent Goals and Establish Accountability 

Even the best of plans can fall apart when it comes to monitoring and reporting. It’s important to carefully map out how your A&E firm plan to monitor each goal and track activity progress. These reports should be shared at least monthly to review progress, identify shortcomings and create corrective action plans as needed. Identify who owns each goal, where details will be tracked and a consistent method to monitor and report progress. This step alone will significantly increase the likelihood that your plan becomes reality.

Share the Importance of Your Plan at All Levels

Very few goals are independent. Often, they rely on the success of other team members. Help everyone understand how their role contributes to your firm’s success. Internal collaboration and cooperation will not only help get you closer to your goals, but also will build stronger trust and relationships among team members.

As you complete your 2016 planning, now is the time to make sure your annual plan is achievable, tactical, inclusive and transparent with clear champions and accountability. Make 2016 your best year yet by turning your ideas into a profitable reality.

To learn more about how to take your annual planning to the next level, check out Deltek’s free webinar.

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