Budgeting, planning and forecasting is a critical process for organizations of all sizes who want to ensure profitable operations and well, plan for the future of their business. For finance teams who haven't mastered the art of effective planning, month-end financial reporting and year-end planning is a chore. Those who have their financial processes down to a science enjoy timely completion of plans, plans that align with corporate goals, rolling forecasts, and the ability to analyze and dissect data as needed to make better decisions.
Aberdeen's research study on Improving S&OP with Planning and Forecasting Technology provides insight on how best-in-class companies address key financial and business planning objectives. IMAX Corporation – the immersive motion picture technology company – was featured in the report. They're an arcplan customer and a great example of a company that has fine-tuned sales and operations planning in order to improve business outcomes. IMAX is reaping the benefits of planning done right. Here's how they made it happen:
1) They use technology to consolidate and analyze data.
Finance teams can waste many hours, days and even weeks consolidating data from various sources to create monthly and quarterly reports, leaving no time to analyze that data and make forecasts. IMAX overcame this problem by implementing an arcplan financial planning solution that:
- Enables them to eliminate error-prone spreadsheets,
- Addresses the issue of dispersed data by consolidating ledgers and other financial information,
- Provides drill down and analysis so they can look at the data sideways or top to bottom, and
- Has the ability to perform what-if analyses to plan appropriate business strategies.
The right planning technology streamlines reporting and shortens budgeting cycles, giving your team time to perform valuable analysis. In IMAX's case, it used to take weeks to close out a quarter, but now they're able to do monthly reports and quarterly forecasts. They spend less time on the manual process of gathering data and more time on making the right decisions.
2) They got everyone trained on the system.
It's something that isn't discussed much in the BI world, but training is so important. Companies that invest in a budgeting and planning system need to make sure every potential user is trained or they set themselves up for failure. You'll yield maximum returns on the purchase of a new planning solution when users are educated on the system and when business processes encourage and enforce its use.
At IMAX, department-wide training for managers and business users alike ensures that everyone understands the arcplan system and its best practices. The team also enrolls in training at regular intervals to be updated on latest software developments that can make FP&A processes easier.
The good news is that a system like arcplan is easy to use, but since each company has unique elements (like cost centers, billing codes, etc), we've helped customers put together quick training videos linked within their arcplan applications so users can educate themselves on common tasks. For users who only input planning data once or twice a year, videos are a great way to refresh their memories.
3) They made it as easy as possible.
Implementing and learning a new financial planning and forecasting system should not cause major anxiety for your team. Planning tools should be intuitive, adapting to your process rather than forcing you into one specific way of working. The finance team at IMAX experienced a seamless transition to their arcplan system and now has good problems like "high demand for actionable business information" which they can quickly provide to employees throughout the company. A planning tool that is easy to use allows your team to create and alter plans on demand and provides a competitive edge for your organization.
Best-in-class organizations like IMAX no longer dread "budgeting and planning season" – in fact, they keep it going year-round. If your planning process can benefit from reduced use of spreadsheets, one central data repository and "one version of the truth," the ability to re-forecast and perform what-if analysis as markets change, and more time for the analysis part of your job, then it's time to look into budgeting, planning, and forecasting technology.
More about planning:
I invite you to check out arcplan Edge, our budgeting, planning and forecasting solution. It solves the challenges that many companies experience when it comes to planning, so whether your process takes too long, or it's too cumbersome and involves too many spreadsheets, or it works but you're looking for a more automated way of doing it, arcplan Edge might be the solution for you.
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