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As a retired Big Four audit partner, I know that budgeting is one of the most challenging processes for any enterprise. Perhaps less mentioned, though, is the vital importance of adding a good story to explain your budget, generate buy-in and foster collaboration among your stakeholders. From my time as an audit partner to my present-day work with Throughline, I have found that the most impactful storytelling mechanism for your budget strategy is also the easiest and most enjoyable: Visualization.
When you think of visualization as a budgeting tool, you may instinctively imagine data visualization with charts, graphs and other quantitative visuals. While these tools are critical to the budgeting process, visualization goes beyond just the numbers. Visualizing your budget can also add context and allow you to tell the overarching story that drives those charts.
As we enter the 2023 fiscal year, let’s look at how visualizing the narrative can more clearly communicate your budget strategy, align stakeholders across the enterprise and ultimately help you secure the funding you need for new initiatives.
Connecting Budget to Strategy
According to the Dual Coding Theory, we are more likely to understand and remember material presented with both images and words. Given budgeting’s complexity, visualization can help outline complicated processes and connect hard numbers to strategic pillars.
Visualizing your budget strategy can take many forms, such as strategic roadmaps or graphic recordings. Recently, Throughline worked with the U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command (NAVAF) to develop a strategic roadmap that connected their budget and strategy by weaving a narrative around the enterprise’s challenges, global threats, existing processes and requirements. The Ashore Cyber Framework Map empowered NAVFAC’s CIO to communicate risks related to shore infrastructure, build support for resources and earn trust within NAVFAC/Shore Management, all while keeping Navy Leadership aligned with the NAVFAC mission. This map led to the proper funding and deployment of 100 full-time employees worldwide.
People respond to a story. When visualization is used to defend, negotiate and secure a budget, you tap into the human element of budget planning. Through the story, you are connecting directly to your stakeholders to address why your budget is needed, whether that is to protect your enterprise, launch new initiatives or achieve long-term goals.
Planning Your Approach
Visualizing your budget is particularly impactful in the planning stages, and it serves as an artifact for reference as the year unfolds. For remote teams, consider virtually collaborating through a digital whiteboard to obtain budget requests. For in-person planning, your team may gather for a guided workshop led by a trained graphic facilitator, who draws out the budget planning discussion and presents your team with a wall-sized graphic recording. Essentially, the resulting graphic allows you to tell your budget strategy story in one visual product.
If you are interested in more visualization techniques that can help you achieve budgeting goals, send me a message! And visit Throughline to read about past clients we have helped in the private and public sector.