Not every finance transformation begins with disruption.
There are finance teams all over the world that have transformed their people, processes and technology to create a more complete approach to business planning. They’ve put in the work of integrating operational data and moving from static, finance-led planning and reporting to something more dynamic and comprehensive, evolving their ability to analyze and derive insights as a result. It didn’t take a tumultuous year like 2020 to move them in that direction—they saw the value early and focused on the best ways to achieve the results they were seeking.
But sometimes it can take disruption to escalate change. Which is why, as we enter into 2021, we’re seeing more organizations embracing transformation throughout their finance-led planning processes. Even though they’ve long seen the value in moving to a fully integrated, cross-functional planning model, and may have even taken some initial steps towards it, the market shifts and uncertainties of 2020 accelerated their plans and made transformation even more of a priority for 2021.
The question is: how do they best approach that transformation to achieve lasting change and accelerated growth?
Three Best Practices of a Successful Planning Transformation
Organizations making the shift towards a more complete business planning model understand what it takes to grow their business and stay prepared for change. They know that the most successful endeavors use ongoing forecasting to keep an eye on the latest conditions within their companies and the market at large. They employ a deeper level of analysis to assist their daily planning—enabling them to not just look at what is happening, but to understand why. And by linking their strategic, operational and financial plans, they achieve more from their performance management efforts and optimize their profitability to focus on the initiatives that work best.
But to get to that place, those organizations first need to put in the work. And while transformation doesn’t need to begin with disruption, the most successful planning transformation initiatives do tend to have three things in common:
1. They Start With the Right Support
Transformation can’t happen in a vacuum—it needs momentum to build and that requires buy-in, especially at the top levels. That’s why the most successful integrated planning processes start with an executive championing the need for change, then driving it forward and keeping everyone focused on a common vision. But once you have someone filling that role, you also need the organization to embrace it at the department level, so that your whole team is behind the change—and working together towards strategic growth.
2. They Take a Focused Approach
True transformation can take time, which is why implementing a cross-functional planning model works best with a phased approach. Ongoing dynamic planning may be your ideal, for instance, but if you’re still planning annually, the next step to getting there may be a quarterly plan or rolling forecast first. Similarly, your ideal complete planning scenario may involve revenue planning, finance planning and operational planning and incorporate more data from more users and departments. But you won’t get anywhere without a staged plan to accomplish those goals. Consider where you want to go and the steps you need to put in place to get there, then build a focused approach to achieving those goals.
3. They Embrace Technology
Advances in technology mean that the effort required today to transform your planning processes is lower than it’s ever been. Data is more accessible and business intelligence and reporting tools have matured—meaning you’re better able to analyze and report on it. But none of that is possible with archaic legacy systems or spreadsheets—you need technology that’s scalable, supports collaboration and is familiar for everyone and easy to use, with the functionality available to support the key areas of your plan. Predictive analytics, AI and machine learning can also add to your insights and forecasting efforts—but only when you already have that foundation of technology and data in place first.
What Can You Expect?
By moving from finance-led planning to an integrated approach that ties in operational planning and reporting, you’ll be putting the pieces in place to develop the agility and resilience your organization needs to stay on track towards your company objectives and remain prepared for any disruptions ahead. After all, change is always on the horizon—you just need a clear view to be ready for it.
About Rishi Grover:
As Co-founder and Chief Solutions Architect of Vena, Rishi is passionate about applying technology to help companies achieve their strategic, financial and operational goals. Rishi is focused on continuing to enhance Vena’s unique and innovative product offering and vision by working closely with clients and industry experts. Rishi has helped many Fortune 500 companies re-engineer and optimize financial processes. His expertise in financial planning and regulatory reporting helped him to the position of Director of Enterprise Solutions at Clarity Systems before he co-founded Vena Solutions with Don Mal and George Papayiannis. Rishi holds a Bachelor of Applied Sciences from the University of Toronto, specializing in Computer Engineering and Communication Systems.
Vena Solutions connects business to finance and finance to strategy to help companies drive success with integrated finance-led business planning. Customers choose Vena for its renowned ease of use, powerful reporting and analytics and connected platform of applications covering the full spectrum of FP&A and more—from account reconciliation and budgeting to scenario modeling, analytics and consolidation. More than 800 of the world's smartest companies rely on Vena to measure and learn from their past performance and to plan confidently for a successful future. For more information, visit: www.venasolutions.com.