An efficient budgeting, planning and forecasting process is a cornerstone of successful organizations. Software goes a long way in driving that efficiency – and I'm not talking about Excel. If you're outgrowing spreadsheet-based planning and will be evaluating dedicated planning solutions to facilitate more accurate, timely and agile planning, over the next few articles, I'll be laying out the system components, or specific features, you'll want to look for. You can see these components demonstrated in my recent webinar on Budgeting and Planning in 2013, but here I'll write about them in more detail and explain why they're important to the success of your planning initiative.
Enterprise workflow is what separates your financial planning or corporate performance management system from simple data collection and reporting systems. Planning systems with workflow allow planners to follow a series of steps to bring the plan from initiation to completion. Workflow logically orders tasks and enables managers to keep an eye on where their team is in the planning cycle.
For instance, a system like arcplan Edge, which has integrated workflow, enables plan creation, submission and approvals to occur sequentially, with notifications sent out to the right users and approvals occurring within the system itself. So once users finish their plans and submit them for review, arcplan alerts their supervisors that action is needed. As the plan goes up the chain of command for approvals, alerts are sent and plans are locked to changes, except where they are rejected and sent back for modification.
Workflow can go even deeper in terms of holding planners accountable for their work. The fact is that people who procrastinate in life will procrastinate in planning. These people can seriously hinder the success of your planning process, but there's something you can do to hold them accountable in a public manner – utilize a transparent workflow calendar. Many arcplan deployments use these public calendars as a means to improve process transparency by exposing everyone's status in the current planning cycle. They introduce a healthy dose of planning peer pressure. Though the system will send prompts when tasks are due, department managers can use the calendar to send additional reminders to planners about their workflow status and prompt them to complete their tasks as soon as possible.
Why is workflow so beneficial to modern planning systems? Workflow makes collaboration easier by defining responsibilities and due dates, and it improves transparency and accountability. Alerts allow planners to know exactly when a plan is approved or rejected – especially helpful in large, distributed organizations. And hand-in-hand with workflow is permissions – which users can modify plans and when. This is a level of control not present in Excel-based planning.
Stay tuned for my next posts – I'll share more essential components for your planning system: