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Webinar recap: Retail planning: How to gain a competitive edge

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OpenSymmetry and Anaplan recently hosted a webinar, which discussed planning for retail success in 2016. A retail sales forecast plan needs to have different levels of detail, from the individual store level to regional level, in order to properly plan and proactively meet ever-changing consumer demands and changing business environment.

In this webinar, Strahan Wilson, CFO of EAT, and James Mulligan from OpenSymmetry discussed the difficulties of planning in an era of constantly changing information from multiple lines of business—and how to address them.

Agree to and gain access to the right information—at the start of the year

How often are you in a planning meeting where everyone seems to be looking at different numbers and yet all are still trying to achieve the same goal? And when something is finally agreed upon, it goes through never-ending cycles of approvals. By the time the plan is approved, it is most likely already out of date. This is an all-too-common problem.

At the start of the year, it is imperative to quickly capture the most accurate and timely view of the “right” information to plan and make decisions against. Ensuring a visible, real-time process to planning also means collaboration must happen. Leveraging outdated systems and/or technology makes it nearly impossible to create a single space for accurate data and information sharing—easily allowing for numbers to be out-of-date and throwing plans off-kilter.

Still, roughly 73 percent of companies use spreadsheets to support planning processes, which hinders how different departments view information and creates silos with multiple (and sometimes duplicate) work streams. Each line of business has its own set of spreadsheets—and more than likely, each department is referencing a different version or set of data, limiting the ability to properly forecast at the start of the year and adjust on-the-fly to reflect mid-year changes.

During the year, make it a living plan

As mentioned during the webinar, the only constant these days seems to be change—and nowhere is it more apparent than in retail, where you need to re-plan quickly and (ideally) proactively.

Mid-year is an important time for organizations to have an agile planning process. Leading retailers no longer have planning cycles; instead, they are in a constant state of evaluation and planning. The problem is that, during mid-year changes, retailers from all functional areas are finding planning is not agile enough. At this point, planning cycles are cumbersome—and managing those cycles mid-year is often time-consuming. As a result, the planning cycle has evolved into a day-to-day activity to ensure the ever-changing business environment is taken into account and driven through the living plan.

Two ways to get an edge over your competition

According to Forrester Research’s, “Planning, Analysis, and Reporting Solutions Drive Financial Performance Management” report, only 47 percent of enterprise companies have adopted performance management software—a number that is expected to increase as companies start to see the true value of investing in enterprise financial planning solutions.

The advantages of investing in a business performance management software solution are too many to name, but the below are two worth highlighting:

    1. Be agile
    As mentioned above, in both the start of the year and mid-year processes, being agile and reacting to change are necessary to remain competitive. Utilizing technology to repurpose the planning process into part of day-to-day management means organizations are able to adapt and build a planning environment that becomes a competitive advantage.

    Take, for example, the leading UK foodie haven, EAT. EAT achieved significant growth over the past few years and was looking to double in size over the next three years. All the planning was done in spreadsheets and once spreadsheets no longer suited its needs, the company added in additional products such as Access and Siebel to help expand the entire planning process.

    The issues EAT experienced became apparent when the company realized it was spending 40 percent of its time on maintaining broken processes because there was no ownership of the process or tools. With the help of Anaplan, EAT has moved to a single planning solution, gaining visibility, flexibility, and agility. Through a single, collaborative, and accurate plan, the company is now able to make the changes it needs to react to customers, the market, and a multitude of other factors—all in real time.

    2. Enable integrated planning with the right technology
    An additional advantage to investing in a business performance management software solution is the ability to integrate planning—which translates into the ability to integrate the larger strategic plan from top to bottom. Directly relating this plan to the individuals on the front line provides you with the ability to directly influence how your staff interacts with your customers. With metrics beyond simple revenue generation, such as CSAT, Net Promoter, Surveys, etc., being integrated into the planning process, leading organizations are able to provide plans that directly impact their businesses through their interaction with customers.

So what’s next?

Without an integrated planning approach—which includes gaining visibility down to the product line, individual, and store—the ability to be dynamic and responsive to the business is severely limited.

Achieving collaboration across the enterprise is key to integrated planning. Collaboration can have a significant impact on two key areas: 1) How you incentivize your sales reps, and 2) how you establish territories. Having a single, shared, and collaborative environment provides businesses with the ability to plan effectively at the start of the year, manage those plans throughout the year, and come out stronger than ever at the end of the year. Additionally, having the ability to integrate forecasting and predictive planning gives retailers and consumer packaged goods customers a truly disruptive advantage in their marketplace.

Gone are the days of spreadsheets. Companies that fail to adopt new technologies risk being left behind or becoming obsolete. Learn more about the transformational journey two retail organizations underwent to move away from spreadsheets and home-grown legacy systems to reach a future state by reading OpenSymmetry’s “Planning for Retail Success 2016.”

For more information, connect with one of OpenSymmetry’s team of experts.

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