When Anaplan CFO Marc Stoll says he knows a thing or two about hyper-growth companies, he means it. His experience spans nearly 20 years in Finance at some of the fastest growing technology companies today, including CA Technologies and, most recently, Apple. He has led finance teams through times of rapid change and rapid growth, and in a recent webinar shared some of the lessons he has learned with Folia Grace, Anaplan’s vice president of product marketing.
Stoll set the stage by providing an overview of technology in hyper-growth companies today. Information technology and the systems that are used are becoming completely core to the way today’s businesses operate. Having efficient infrastructure in place is not only a top priority for companies, but it can provide a real competitive advantage. Stoll highlighted the fact that without this infrastructure, companies lack the ability to make real-time, strategic decisions, and can find themselves falling behind their peers. In the webinar, he further explored the reasons why companies fall behind, such as inefficient systems and siloed planning, and outlined the steps that companies can take to stay ahead of hyper-change.
Problem with the status quo
In companies today, decisions are typically made by a team of people. Stoll explained that these teams are usually comprised of an ultimate decision maker, a manager, and a spreadsheet jockey with expertise in a specific domain. While these teams can make effective decisions pertaining to their area of expertise, the data used to create plans and make decisions is often siloed and not connected to the greater business strategy. Using this structure, the decision making process is very manual and replicating the process quarter after quarter is incredibly time-intensive. Planning and making strategic decisions in a vacuum makes creating a quarterly business review or an annual report a laborious process as data needs to be pulled from various sources across the company. These pains are far too common in businesses today. Case in point: in a poll of the webinar’s participants, the top two challenges associated with hyper-growth were siloed information and slow, time-intensive processes.
Keeping the pace
The challenges of siloed information and slow processes stem from the legacy systems that companies have in place. These systems tend to be point-based and force companies into a structure that fits the tool, rather than the tool fitting the needs of the company. Stoll reflected on the fact that even forward-thinking technology companies like Apple were stuck using costly, archaic enterprise planning tools. Even though companies today are moving at lightening speed, frequently finance can’t move fast enough because the tools aren’t capable of getting them there. A poll of the webinar audience confirmed this, with a majority of respondents noting that spreadsheets are being used for the majority of their planning and budgeting.
Planning as it has been, as it should be
Stoll wasn’t surprised that spreadsheets, despite being labor-intensive and slowing down the planning process, are so widely used at companies today. In fact, he shared that even at Apple spreadsheets were a common tool used by the finance team. These spreadsheets force plans to be cobbled together as individual teams— finance, marketing, sales, operations— build plans on their own, manually pulling data from their own proprietary sources. The lack of a cohesive business strategy combined with siloed data makes reliable planning in this way incredibly difficult. But strategic business planning doesn’t have to happen this way. Stoll recommended that companies implement the right tools and create systems that enable connectivity of core data to break free from spreadsheet planning. Want to learn the rest of his tips on how Finance can navigate hyper-growth? Watch the webinar on demand to view the full planning survey, learn the audience’s responses, and discover the rest of Stoll’s insights.