GUIDE

Is Your Organization Ready for Continuous Planning?

Who it’s for
  • Finance leaders or change agents charged with transforming finance
  • Executives seeking to gauge the maturity of their finance processes
  • Business Leaders evaluating Continuous Planning platforms
What you’ll learn
  • Your readiness for a Continuous Planning platform
  • Ways to get ready for a Continuous Planning platform project
  • How to improve finance processes and strategic capabilities

Leading the charge to Continuous Planning? Get your game plan ready.

Prepare your finance organization for an evolution to modern Continuous Planning with the CFO Playbook for Technology.

Introduction

Understanding your organization’s financial IQ is a critical first step as you undertake your evaluation and selection of a Continuous Planning platform. At this stage it’s crucial to view Continuous Planning as a vision that finance leaders want to achieve, an elite club they want to join. To reach Continuous Planning finance must lead the organization in adopting a Continuous Planning platform and the organization must support finance.

All finance leaders are aware of the pain they’re experiencing in planning, close, and reporting. They understand that they’re drowning in spreadsheets or developing budgets with educated guesses because they cannot get actuals fast enough. Identifying your pain points is essential, but it’s also important to understand the full evolution of finance that results in being in a state of Continuous Planning.

Assess Your Readiness

Level 1: Unaware Information Anarchy

Finance teams at this level are faced with siloed systems and data, and they’re just trying to get to the right numbers to use in reports, plans, and analysis. They spend valuable time trying to figure out which numbers are accurate or where they came from rather than making data-driven business decisions.

Common Characteristics

  • Little collaboration between finance and business units.
  • Slow and manual processes.
  • Lack of accuracy and controls.
  • Heavy use of Excel or standalone point solutions.
  • Excel is used for tasks that need a more sophisticated solution.


If you’re in this stage, here’s what you need to do:

Appoint a leader. Tap a single individual to head your up your journey towards Continuous Planning. This person is responsible for coordinating the effort and driving results.

Outline pains and business impact. Identify, describe, and organize your pain points. Be sure to quantify the real and soft costs to the business in time, personnel, frustration, accuracy, process steps, and other metrics.

Identify quick wins and goals. Focus first on a “quick win” to demonstrate benefits. Then, use that success as the foundation for goal-setting in the near term and beyond.

Level 2: Opportunistic
But Still Drowning in Spreadsheets

Some automation has been achieved with a financial planning and close platform, but in limited pockets and generally within finance. Data accuracy remains questionable and spreadsheet usage remains high.


Common Characteristics

  • Some automation in place, but many process and visibility issues remain unaddressed.
  • Planning, close, and reporting still primarily a finance-driven exercise.
  • Incremental improvements made in business collaboration and efficiency.
  • Manual data management and minimal quality control.
  • Excel fills the gaps not covered by automation, but is used for tasks that require a more sophisticated solution.

If you’re in this stage, here’s what you need to do:

Document benefits. Quantify the impact of the benefits gained and lessons learned from your initial automation and collaboration.

Identify priority focus areas. Map out your next, larger initiatives to address opportunities and pressing challenges. Make these more transformational than just incremental.

Engage an executive sponsor. Up-level your initiative with the backing of an executive sponsor and look to expand the benefits of Continuous Planning beyond finance.

Level 3: The Enterprise Sees the Light, Wants More

Continuous Planning strategies have expanded beyond finance in this level to include operational areas like sales, marketing, or manufacturing, but more remains to be done for Continuous Planning to be truly transformative.

Common Characteristics

  • Most financial processes are automated to accelerate planning and close cycles.
  • Operational areas are engaged, but finance continues to invest the most effort.
  • Financial planning processes and standards start to emerge and more end-users are getting involved.
  • More (but not all) data sources are integrated, and some data management and quality controls are in place.
  • Excel is used in conjunction with the Continuous Planning platform to meet business requirements.


If you’re in this stage, here’s what you need to do:

Quantify business gains and ROI. Begin to track overall business gains vs. initial baselines and quantify the ROI you’re seeing from Continuous Planning.

Refine and optimize. Target stubborn bottlenecks that remain and continue optimizing processes to heighten visibility and efficiency.

Broaden business engagement. Scale Continuous Planning to operational processes like sales and inventory, linking them to finance in a collaborative manner, where data and information is easily shared.

Level 4: Transformative and Driving the Business

Finance is the strategic heartbeat of the company and is deeply involved in driving the business forward with accurate and informed recommendations, while process automation is pervasive across the enterprise.

Common Characteristics

  • Finance and operational collaboration is providing speed and agility.
  • Complete cross-enterprise engagement drives alignment, and finance is instrumental in developing business strategy and setting goals, and they act as a hub and a partner to the business.
  • Financial planning processes and standards are well defined, and business partners are fully engaged.
  • Virtually all data sources are integrated into a single source of truth, with robust data management and quality controls in place.
  • Excel is used sparingly in the Continuous Planning process.

If you’re in this stage, here’s what you need to do:

Sharpen analytic insights. Finance now has more time and resources for real-time reporting and analytics, elevating its role in strategic growth.

Continually optimize. With all relevant processes automated, it’s a matter of ongoing optimization through continuous review and feedback with operational areas.

Adapt quickly to change. Whether entering a new global market or acquiring a competitor, you have the agility to make informed, data-driven forecasts and decisions.

Investing In Your Continuous Planning Journey

Now that you’ve determined your organization’s maturity, you’re ready to keep pushing into more areas of value. Finance has an opportunity to play a more expansive and impactful role within the organization, but it requires an investment in the structure of the finance team itself. Every area of people, process, and technology can be enhanced with the goal of increasing your organization’s financial IQ.

A Continuous Planning platform puts finance in a collaborative role working with the business instead of just requesting data and returning static plans. Increasing the financial IQ becomes a two-way street where insights are found, opportunities are modeled, and plans are formulated together, as a team.

Budget owners benefit because they have the ability to run their business better, have access to more accurate and timely data in a context that means something to them, and save time and get tasks done faster. Finance benefits because there is more participation and accountability in the planning process, which results in more accurate forecasts and fewer surprises.

Finance is also positioned to better participate in high-impact, strategic conversations with business owners about how to drive the business forward. 

In Summary

1

Continuous Planning makes finance the epicenter of innovation, growth, and value creation in the business through collaboration, agility, and a higher financial IQ across the organization.

2

Identifying pain points is essential, but it’s also helps plot the course of your continuous planning journey.

3

Proactive finance teams become true business partners and innovation drivers within an organization.

Questions? We are only an e-mail away.