A recent CFO.com webinar panel moderated by Joe Fleischer, Editorial Director of the Finance Channel Argyle Executive Forum, explored topical questions from top organizations around the adoption and implementation of integrated business planning (IBP) in today’s evolving operating environments.
The webinar—which is available on demand and titled “The CFO playbook on integrated business planning: Why finance must take the lead”—featured Miles Buntin, Director of EPM Transformation at The Hackett Group; Bryan Lapidus, Associate Director of CFO Advisory at Allegiance Advisory Group; and Tony Levy, Global Head of Finance Solutions at Anaplan.
Together they provided industry insights into some of the topics that remain top of mind for finance leaders around operational alignment, and collectively addressed key challenges, examples, and immediate actions that organizations can take to implement effective IBP across the entire enterprise.
Why finance leaders steer their organizations with IBP
Commencing the panel discussion, Joe asked the group to what extent they have observed finance leaders seeking to align financial and operational planning, and why this alignment has emerged as such a top priority today. According to Bryan, the modern-day CFO has increasingly become a strategic player in the operational performance of the business—often with a focus overlapping that of a COO. By blending financial data with operational outcomes, he explained, CFOs are able to drive efficiency throughout their organization. He also added that rationalizing data across an enterprise is becoming a top priority because dynamic corporate activities such as mergers, acquisitions, and roll-ups cause data volumes to grow.
Tony also cited three imperatives that CFOs are often focused on: driving efficiency through data and process standards, delivering insight through analytics, and driving profitable growth through business model innovation and the discipline of performance. For organizations that implement and execute IBP successfully and sustainably, the approach can support all three of these imperatives.
Similar sentiments were also echoed by Miles, who explained that top performing companies have moved beyond traditional operational and tactical sales and operations planning (S&OP) to IBP for a better, more holistic understanding of the financial implications that are incurred through various types of business challenges. IBP gives organizations the ability to strategically accommodate growing portfolios of products and markets, increasing customer service requirements, and rising pressures to manage cost to serve.
A sign of the times
When asked about the clearest signals that an organization needs to evolve its planning process, Tony outlined some of the typical indications, including long cycle times and poor staff leverage due to outdated processes and technology. A typical journey toward IBP, he shared, begins with automation and then transitions into transformation. He noted that a leading indicator of transformation readiness is adoption of best practices like driver-based budgeting and forecasting approaches or the implementation of rolling forecasts. Further, to gauge whether an organization is ready for IBP transformation, Miles suggested examining the following considerations:
- How much time are you spending collecting and organizing your data versus analyzing it?
- How much time does it take to generate reporting?
- Do you have jobs that center around managerial reporting?
- Can you produce all of your monthly reports in a single day?
- When volatility strikes your organization, are you able to describe and assess scenarios and sensitivities quickly?
Miles also shared some of the most frequent challenges that finance leaders encounter when establishing a highly collaborative process within the organization. Among others, he noted challenges including a lack of shared technology and data, difficulty looking past the current financial period, unclear roles and responsibilities, and a lack of a cross-functional management operating model.
So, what were the most important takeaways the panelists asked attendees to glean from their discussion? As a start, organizations need to take a proactive, long-term approach to balancing people, processes, and technology to drive a successful approach to IBP. And while IBP is a journey, it’s important that organizations start now, rather than continuing to wait for the future. They advise tackling the highest pain points first before moving on to the next steps—and always connecting the business back to finance.