We’ve all been there. Trapped in a meeting with so little collaboration, it could have—no, strike that—should have been an email. The notion of a continuous financial planning process might initially give off a similar vibe: that of a tedious planning process that does very little to move the needle of productivity or performance. However, when it comes to experiencing continuous planning in action, that description couldn’t be any further from the truth.
In a recent Anaplan webinar, Robert Kugel, SVP and Research Director of CFO and Business Research at Ventana Research, explored his organization’s current research on financial planning. He also discussed how continuous planning and technology can help you respond quickly to evolving customer and market demands, regulations, and digital disruptions.
Why are we even planning anyway?
Companies do a lot of planning. From sales planning and product and service offerings, to budgets, headcounts, and overhead costs, businesses use the planning process as a way to meet their performance goals. However, the process of planning is much more than a one-dimensional description around how to achieve an objective.
Planning involves collaborative discussions around not only financial or budgetary objectives, but the necessary resources and tactics involved in achieving them. When it’s done right, as Robert highlighted, the planning process gets everyone in an organization on the same page to execute a well-organized plan that’s aligned with its strategy.
Ventana Research uses the term “continuous planning” to describe a highly collaborative, action-oriented methodology centered around frequent, short planning sprints. The benefits to an organization are twofold: 1) plan refinements are made at shorter intervals and improve agility in volatile or competitive markets; and 2) this approach connects finance with line of business management to create ongoing dialogues.
Planning derailed by legacy processes
According to Robert, companies today are reacting too slowly to changing market conditions—and missing opportunities to sell more, and allocating resources to less productive or profitable activities. What exactly is keeping organizations from developing a more effective planning process? Ventana’s research shows that spreadsheets continue to dominate planning across various functional groups, which, in turn, leads to limited, silo-based planning and budgeting practices.
Robert also shared that two-thirds of survey participants are spending the biggest portion of their time doing data preparation, and only 28 percent are spending the bulk of their time doing what they’re most qualified to do: analyze.
He explained, however, that companies can fundamentally improve their planning process with increasingly capable and easier-to-use technology. In fact, the right type of technology makes it possible for companies to adopt a continuous planning approach and transform previously disjointed processes into connected and integrated planning. By applying the right technology, the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) group can spend less time on the mechanics of planning and more time on thoughtful analysis and guidance.
Here are some key takeaways and benefits on technology from the webinar that can help FP&A teams improve upon their planning, budgeting and forecasting processes:
- Use strategic insights to define planning phases. Employing centralized software provides a high degree of forward visibility and flexibility in defining all phases of planning, analysis, and review cycles. Its application allows business analysts to easily model all business elements—especially in creating driver-based models. Learn more about how driver-based modeling fits into the planning process by watching the on-demand webinar.
- Adjust nimbly to market and consumer demand shifts. Flexible technology, such as the Anaplan platform with its ability to run “what-if” scenario analyses, enables FP&A teams to quickly see the impacts of assumptions and their effects on business outcomes. This allows businesses to prepare, adjust, and accommodate shifts in market or consumer demands.
- Analyze data at every angle. Planning technology allows users to view data analysis from multiple perspectives—such as costs by geographic region or product line or sales channel—without relying on time-consuming and complex pivot tables. This gives valuable time back in the day to evaluate data and focus on strategic initiatives.
- Increase organizational collaboration. Technology that supports continuous planning—a process built on rapid-planning cycles—connects all business planning activities within a single environment, and allows for interdepartmental collaboration that facilitates conversations, sharpens plans, and improves execution.
For more insight into continuous planning and how today’s technologies allow FP&A teams to nimbly allocate physical, digital, and human resources, tune into the full webinar.
Transforming financial planning and forecasting: Connecting finance to the business