anatomy of a budget specialist.

  • career advice
  • October 11, 2017

In today’s fast-moving economy, digital disruption has increased competition between firms and placed ever-greater scrutiny on the bottom line, making the role of budget specialists more important than ever. But what are the most essential skills for budget specialists to master? We’ve compiled five you’ll need if you want to thrive today — and stay ahead of the curve in the future.

1. budget preparation.

Unsurprisingly the spine of the budget specialist role, budget preparation encompasses all those steps — from analyzing historical trends to evaluating performance indicators and compiling benchmark data — that ultimately go into successfully delivering an approved budget. In reality, that means a lot of information gathering. And while the analytic side ought to be straightforwardly objective, all the intake is going to require you to interface and work with diverse stakeholders — in which case, your people skills will be no less critical.

2. advising.

Even as technology continues to change the day-to-day experience and expectations of most work functions, the ability to clearly communicate while working collaboratively to solve problems has perhaps never been so highly prized. As a budget specialist, you’ll not only review various department managers’ budget submissions, you’ll also serve as an important advisor to them. And the more effective you are at helping them formulate their budget submissions, the easier your job becomes down the line.

3. forecasting and financial modeling.

If budget preparation is the spine of the budget specialist role, forecasting and financial modeling make up the legs and feet — equipment for moving forward. It goes without saying that different projection methodologies will yield different results, and applying the right model in each case is going to be the difference between success and failure. And having a wide range of forecasting and financial modeling methodologies under your belt will make you a more versatile candidate in the job marketplace.

4. reporting.

No bones about it, reporting is going to be a central requirement of the budget specialist’s role in any organization. But as enterprises strive for transparency and work to dismantle silos, this will not only mean delivering regularly scheduled reporting based on spreadsheets, but also managing data on enterprise resource planning (ERP) platforms that provide a view on financial performance to stakeholders across the enterprise in near real time.

5. research and trend analysis.

Research and trend analysis bring the budget specialist out of the body and into the realm of spirit — here, like Janus, the two-faced Roman god of doorways who looks simultaneously forward and backward, the budget specialist must take into account historical data as well as emerging trends, past and future. As this requires a blend of technical acumen (e.g., working with analytics dashboards) and human judgement, and often culminates in old-fashioned reporting to senior leadership, this is one area where budget specialists have an opportunity to shine.

Of course, budget specialists often have a range of other responsibilities, from supporting audits, to submitting bids or proposals and tracking expenditures. But with these five skills under your belt, you’ll be better equipped for success, whatever the role throws your way.

Finally, if you’re already a budget specialist but want to take your career to the next level, consider pursuing one of these three accounting and finance certifications, which can dramatically improve your earning potential — and take your career to new heights.