For finance, relying less on Excel is just the beginning

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A provocative article published by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) explored reasons why top finance executives are looking beyond Excel® for planning, analysis, and reporting. (And if you’re interested in just why this article on Excel became so hotly debated, read more about that here.)

After reading the article, I reflected on the experience of our customers, who typically view the over-reliance on Excel simply as the first hurdle that organizations need to clear along the finance transformation journey—a journey that ultimately connects corporate objectives with financial plans that are linked to market events and operational drivers, which we call connected planning.

As my colleague Jason Ambrose writes, the big value in connecting financial and operational plans is the ability to anticipate and shape business outcomes more effectively.

The journey is different for everyone—but its destination remains equally rewarding

Anaplan customers often begin their connected planning journey with the automation of manual spreadsheet processes. This action alone liberates the capacity of financial analysts, who were trapped in collecting and validating data, and speeds up planning, analysis, and reporting. But, as mentioned above, automating processes and reducing Excel dependency through cloud planning technology is just the first phase of finance metamorphosis.

This is because, in addition to automation, the use of an advanced planning platform provides enterprises with opportunities to customize, adopt, and implement industry best practices. We see our customers consistently carve out innovative paths forward though the implementation of high-value practices such as zero-based budgeting (ZBB), driver-based rolling forecasts, product and customer profitability, “what-if” scenarios, and the application of statistical modeling to create more reliable baseline forecasts. The adoption of these practices results in more dynamic, reliable plans and deeper insights into the levers of business performance.

Moving beyond finance

One prospect that I find extremely exciting (and something that initially attracted me to the Anaplan team) is the immense opportunity that today’s finance teams have to help their business partners steer business performance in the face of rising market volatility and uncertainty. By connecting financial plans with operational plans across an enterprise, FP&A teams can help the entire organization focus on the business drivers that lead to a more reliable, forward-looking view of the business.

Anaplan customers are able to achieve this in a single platform that both solves their immediate pain and creates a more dynamic, reliable, and holistic planning and performance management system. Here are key characteristics of this system:

  • Integrated, multidimensional modeling, analysis, and reporting
  • Scalable and fast
  • Adjusts quickly to changing business conditions
  • Business user–friendly
  • Integrates quickly into any data sources

With these capabilities, Anaplan users are enabled to step outside of the finance silo and collaborate with the entire business. By connecting finance to other business unit plans, organizations can improve forecast accuracy, reduce cycle times, and gain deeper business insights.

For more information on the possibilities that the Anaplan platform can bring to your organization, watch this on-demand webinar with Ron Dimon, Managing Director of Planning and Analytics at Deloitte Consulting LLP, as he shares the benefits of a connected planning framework.

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