4 min read

Why companies need chief planning officers to maximize the value of their data

Will Thompson

Will Thompson is Managing Director and VP of Thought Leadership at Forbes. He is also the Publisher of Forbes AI, a new magazine dedicated to the business and technology of artificial intelligence and machine learning. As an expert in the ways technology is transforming business strategy, Mr. Thompson came to Forbes from the Economist Intelligence Unit, where he helped advise Global 2000 corporations and venture-backed start-ups on using research to position themselves as thought leaders. Prior to joining the Economist, he served as CEO of a boutique hedge fund communications consulting firm and launched two niche publications.

For many enterprises, collecting data is easy, but maximizing its value is the hard part. Having voluminous amounts of data at your fingertips isn’t enough to accelerate value without the actionable insights needed to go along with it. This is why, as data increasingly characterizes the enterprise and 74 percent of companies conduct business planning with greater frequency, platform technology sits at the epicenter of decision-making.

Members of the C-Suite acknowledge the integral role of data, and the opportunities to better leverage data remain a critical strategic focus. Consider the adoption of the chief data officer (CDO) role—an executive function that fills a void in data management and enterprise-wide technology adoption, as a primary example. This executive role didn’t exist a few years ago; yet, today there are hundreds of CDOs at the helm of Global 2000 companies.

The opportunity to maximize data doesn’t end with the CDO. It crosses even deeper into the C-Suite to redefine executive-level roles that can accomplish more collaborative, real-time decision-making. In part, this transformation of C-level leadership is not only fueled by data but by the transformation of traditional enterprise planning as well.

Through the adoption of Connected Planning, an approach to planning that increases interconnectivity across the enterprise, leaders have more access and transparency into actionable data that can increase operational efficiencies and insights, among other capabilities. It is this interconnectedness across the enterprise—influencing and maneuvering around the ebb and flow of the business through data, technology, and people—that commands a greater presence in the C-Suite’s pursuit of data exploration.

Simon Tucker, one of the first chief planning officers (CPOs), is one such executive embarking on a new kind of C-level role dedicated to doing just that. I interviewed Simon to learn more about the innovation of Connected Planning and how the role of a CPO helps enterprises execute and sustain more collaborative and impactful decision-making.

  • Describe the role and responsibilities of the CPO.

    More and more, we’re seeing companies adopt Connected Planning processes for a host of reasons: to glean actionable insight from data, reduce risks and costs, provide faster time-to-value, and hasten time-to-market for new product releases. Successful and sustainable planning goes above and beyond implementing the right technology. It’s also about putting the right processes in place, growing a company-wide culture, and hiring and empowering the right people to collaborate with one another.

    This is precisely where the role as a CPO comes in.

    The CPO is a C-Suite leader who understands the value of Connected Planning in the enterprise and can help leaders adjust to the external forces along any transformational journey. This is a leader who possesses the ability to connect all the dots across an enterprise. This new role can further revolutionize how businesses think about their plans—increasing profits faster, identifying when to enter markets globally, and providing better service to their customers.

  • How is the CPO role different from the chief data officer?

    Digital transformation has been become an urgent reality for many businesses, and it has resulted in a greater reliance on technology for optimal business outcomes. As enterprises look for a competitive edge for better decision-making, their success rests on the ability to connect people, data, and plans enterprise-wide.

    Similar to the chief data officer, the CPO focuses on data; the CPO views data as one piece of an even larger puzzle. S/he is responsible for overseeing multiple focuses, such as people, plans, data, governance, and technology, that can work together to strengthen decision-making.

  • How does the CPO interact with other members of the C-Suite, and the rest of the organization?

    Although the C-Suite sees tremendous value in connecting people, processes, and plans across the company, this notion has historically lacked an overall sponsor and champion. The team needs someone who can elevate business planning out of the silos for each line of business and further extend that insight back into the C-Suite.

    Members of the executive team can look to the CPO to establish an enterprise-wide planning platform that connects interdepartmental and cross-functional people, plans, and data, while facilitating the ebb and flow of decision-making across the organization. As someone who ensures that there is comprehensive yet flexible governance in place, such as a Center of Excellence, the C-Suite can rely on the CPO to be a catalyst for greater collaboration, transparency, and insight.

  • How can businesses find internal talent to promote someone into the role of the CPO?

    Internal team members are often ideal candidates for the CPO role—they have existing insight into current gaps in processes and technology, in addition to invaluable business knowledge. Prior to my role as the CPO of Anaplan, I had been in the planning, forecasting, and analytics software industry for over 25 years and integrated business planning has been a topic of conversation for nearly as long.

    One of the things that made me an ideal candidate for this position is the passion I have for helping customers think about enterprise planning differently. When looking internally, businesses should seek out talent that not only has rich experience in the mechanics of business planning, but exhibits enthusiasm for improving collaboration, efficiency, and processes.

Join members of the Forbes team at Connected Planning Xperience (CPX) 2019, where you’ll discover the future of business planning.

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