In Part 1 of this post, I outlined 2 pitfalls to avoid when deploying budgeting, planning and forecasting (BP&F) systems. Let's follow up with 3 more rocks in the road to avoid on your way to project success:
3. The wrong team
Don't be fooled into thinking that developers are the only ones needed to make your new planning system a reality. Your "dream team" should include project managers, functional experts, platform architects, data architects and of course, the project sponsor.
The project sponsor is instrumental in driving the approval of the project to begin with and stays involved during implementation (supporting the project manager, making decisions, ensuring the project continues to support the business' priorities, managing relationships with stakeholders and the vendor). He or she is also pivotal once the project is complete. Overseeing adoption of the system may ultimately fall on this person. You could have the most perfect budgeting and planning solution ever developed, but if no one uses it, the project is a failure. It's this person's job to ensure that stakeholders understand and use the system as he/she is the one who identified the need for change and should be committed to seeing it through.
There are sometimes 2 project managers – one provided by the vendor and one from the client organization. The vendor's project manager will steer the ship, be mindful of the scope of the project, communicate progress with stakeholders and ensure that the project is on time and on budget. The other can be less hands-on but still heavily involved, overseeing things from a higher level and signing off on milestones. Functional experts (or subject matter experts) from the client's organization will explain what the existing process is and what changes need to be implemented to address the department's specific needs. A platform architect provided by the vendor will build and deploy the interfaces that people are going to interact with to build the plans and reports. This person is needed when deploying a custom solution like arcplan Edge, which adapts to your planning process (not the other way around). And since creating a planning system is a data management exercise, your team will also need one or more data architects. In an ideal world, you already have a planning repository and have a clean database to work with. However, sometimes the planning system is a bunch of spreadsheets from Excel Hell that have to be reconstructed to build the data repository.
4. Immediate roll-out
Internal testing of your new budgeting and planning system is important before launching it to all planners. During the testing phase, developers and planners who are part of the team can determine if the system operates as expected or if significant changes need to be made. Incremental roll-out allows the core team to provide feedback on effectiveness and performance, and provides time for making changes if necessary. Keep in mind that once you release the system to all planners, it will be very hard to reel it back in.
5. Neglecting training
Whenever a new system is introduced into an organization, users need to be trained on how to use it in order to yield the best results. Though your new BP&F system might produce similar-looking results (in much less time than before), it probably looks and feels different, even if only subtly. Training is important for both the planning team and the management team so that they can spend less time trying to figure out how to use the system and more time performing the work that needs to be done. Users should feel confident in their new system and that confidence will breed greater adoption.
Many vendors also offer post-implementation support to ensure that your system continues to run smoothly after the project is complete. This may come in the form of a help desk, online knowledgebase, or access to an online community where users can ask questions, post to forums, and solve problems in a self-sufficient way.
Deploying a budgeting, planning and forecasting system can potentially be a huge project that requires preparation and commitment from the entire team, but it can also provide great returns. When deployed correctly, the right technology will improve your financial planning and analysis process – shortening it by 60% or more.