Every company faces the challenge of trying to become more efficient. To be more efficient means doing things right, in a faster and more clinical fashion.
What’s not to like about that idea? Just about every finance director on the planet would embrace the idea of their organisation becoming more efficient, but the challenge is how you ensure you have the right tools to achieve that aim.
The continuous financial planning process would be the way many organisations, driven by the FD, would attempt to deliver collaboration and efficiencies- but very often the end result sees little in improved performance.
But now the means are available to drive real change that can impact positively across an organisation. A number of different technologies, such as centralised software and planning technology provide the opportunity to rethink the planning process- and make organisations far more efficient.
Central software offers a way of gaining powerful forward visibility and flexibility in all areas of planning, analysis and review cycles. By applying the strengths that centralised software offers, organisations can model all business elements – especially in creating driver-based models which can deliver the insights that are needed to define planning phases.
Flexible technology, such as the Anaplan platform, can run analyses, which enable forecasting, planning and analysis (FP&A) teams to view the results of various assumptions and their effects on business outcomes. The result is that businesses are then able to prepare, adjust and accommodate consumer demand shifts- making them much more efficient.
Planning technology that allows users to view data analysis from every angle—such as costs by geographic region or product line or sales channel can also form part of a drive to be more efficient. Organisations are able to retrieve valuable time back in the day to evaluate data and focus on strategic initiatives if they are not relying on time-consuming and complex pivot tables.
In addition, technology that supports continuous planning—a process built on rapid-planning cycles—connecting all business planning activities within a single environment, will also enable an organisation to be more streamlined in the long run. The interdepartmental collaboration that facilitates conversations, sharpens plans, and improves execution will in turn create the impetus toward greater efficiency.
Across the piece
But the critical aspect of these technologies is that they enable the wider organisation outside of finance to adopt some of the characteristics that were at one time specific to FP&A analysts. That’s because a considerable amount of a company’s efforts are involved in the planning process in order to achieve performance goals, especially around efficiency.
It’s also important to recognise that much of the planning process in organisations to make them more effective, is not just around financial measures. The wide set of variables that might be included in any planning process could also include the resources and tactics involved in achieving goals. Therefore the technology that is used, needs to support that process.
One of the strongest features of how the FP&A approach can be appropriated across an organisation is the use of collaborative discussions across the silos so that sales and planning and cost and service offerings, budgets and overhead costs can sit with non-financial elements.
Through business partnering, FP&A analysts can engage with lines of business management to create ongoing dialogues through methods that involve short planning sprints. This approach doesn’t just offer the scope for greater efficiency, it also provides the means for greater agility in a VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.
The new technologies available ultimately offer the chance for companies of all sizes to become more efficient by capitalising on opportunities to allocate resources more quickly to productive and profitable areas. By embracing the technologies available, the various parts of an organisation no longer have to rely on FP&A analysts to provide them with information on how and where to do this.
By moving beyond spreadsheets and the legacy systems that encourage a silo-based approach, the different elements of an organisation can talk to finance and one another about how to address any pinch points.
Through adopting a continuous planning approach and transforming previously disjointed processes into connected and integrated planning, these teams can set their organisations on the road to significant improvements.
For the finance director, the idea that the whole organisation is working in a joined up way to deliver maximum efficiency is a highly attractive concept.