Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Essential Budgeting & Planning System Components – Part 5: Tactical Planning Dashboards with Visualizations


planning_varianceFor my final post in this series, I'll cover tactical planning dashboards as a component that shows planners where they can make the changes that have the biggest impact on the plan.

Data visualization has struck a chord with many executive decision-makers as a way to condense large amounts of information, format it in a way that's easy to digest and understand, and most importantly, reveal vital business insights that can help them make better decisions. Thankfully, visualizations are not reserved for executive decision-makers; similar types of visualizations can be beneficial for planning managers too.

Planning dashboards allow planners to see the whole picture at a glance, determine whether their plans are favorable or not, and provide guidance for where to direct their attention. When budgets are out of alignment or plans are going astray as the year progresses, the visualizations on a planning dashboard say, "look exactly here – this is your problem – this is where you can make an adjustment that will have a real impact – the other changes you're going to make are a waste of time."

Full disclosure – these planning visualizations are pretty unique to arcplan. I'd be lying if I said it was going to be easy for you to implement these with another tool. We operate at the intersection of world-class business intelligence and corporate performance management. With other solutions, you get standard budget reports – summaries of the budgets you just submitted – and your analysts and planners need to sift through page after page of numbers, organized in a way that only makes sense to accountants, to try to find ways to positively impact the budget. It's an almost impossible task.

But planning dashboards can tell you exactly where to make adjustments so you'll get the largest possible impact.


Click to enlarge

Let's take a look at this example arcplan planning dashboard – it's in progress so forgive that it's missing a few elements. It uses the previous year's data as well as 2 months of actuals and 10 months of forecasting (that's why the filter says "Fcst02+10"). Each element on the dashboard tells a story about the plan. We'll go around it clockwise.

The first chart in the top left is a bridge chart or waterfall chart. This chart type shows how an initial value is affected by a series of intermediate positive or negative values. While the intermediate values are denoted by floating columns, the initial and the final values are represented by whole columns. The purpose of this particular chart is to take last year's profit & loss data combined with the 2 months of actuals and 10 months of forecasted data mentioned before and predict the P&L for the current fiscal year.

The horizontal bar chart (top right corner), though simple, reveals a wealth of information. It extracts favorable and unfavorable variances in the planning report, and in doing so highlights the biggest opportunity to fix problems in the planning schedule. In this case, the sum of all favorable variances does not even come close the biggest unfavorable variance (salaries). A display such as this shows planners that the opportunity to make the biggest positive impact on the plan is to address the most unfavorable variance. It takes data that may have been on page 5 of a budget summary to the forefront.

The bar chart (bottom right) will show if there are major discrepancies between last year's actuals by period and this year's forecasted plan.

The combined line and bar graph (bottom left) is a cumulative predictive model. In this case, the actual (represented by the lime green line) starts off below the budget (represented by the blue line), which is positive. But by month 5 we see that the lines converge and actuals start to exceed the budget plan – this is made very clear by looking at the red bars below – those are negative values. The intersection of the lines allows planners to pinpoint in what month things will start moving in the wrong direction so they can take action.

Planners need to be equipped with the rights tools to be successful. With our budgeting, planning and forecasting system, arcplan has helped companies around the world shorten their budgeting cycle from several weeks to just a few days, with plenty of time to fulfill additional plan requests on demand. Hopefully this series has helped you identify the components of a good planning system. When it comes to planning technology, you actually can have it all.

Missed out on my previous posts in this series? Catch up here:

Dwight deVera

About Dwight deVera

I'm Senior VP responsible for Solutions Delivery at arcplan in North America. I also present on a lot of arcplan webinars, so you can sign up to hear me - the events listing on our website is located here: You can also follow me on Twitter: @dwightdevera.
Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.

Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.