In Part 1 of this series – a planning software buyer’s guide – I covered the first essential component of a modern planning system: workflow. Let’s keep the ball rolling with another component that is vital to your next planning solution.
Spread methods are an efficient way to automate plans for a period without starting from scratch every time. Simply defined, spreading is the system’s ability to take a budget value and spread it over a range of periods based on a divisible operator (like percent per month, for example). Your planning system should include built-in spreading functionality, especially the more popular methods – even (the most used method in practice), spread like last year, and spread like last year +/- a dollar value or percent.
Essentially, spreading is a fast data entry method. It will save time to have your system manage and centrally control your corporate spread methods. Users should also be able to create their own. A nice-to-have feature is color changes where data has been entered. Click to expand the image above and you’ll see an arcplan Edge system, where blue cells indicate areas where data can be entered and yellow cells indicate that data has been entered during this session.
Note: The terms “spread” and “allocation” are often used interchangeably, but at arcplan we make a distinction between the two. To make it easy for our customers, we say that spreading is bottom-up only and occurs horizontally across financial periods, while allocation is vertically rolled-down spreading. For example…
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.
Today, arcplan put out a press release about the 4 elements of a perfect planning process – and no, it’s not fire, earth, air, and water. You may have just emerged from your budgeting and planning season wondering if there’s a better way to go about it next time, if you can make it easier and more repeatable, or if you can help add value to the process. If so, read on. This press release covers how and why automation, linkage to corporate goals, rolling forecasts, and analytics are the keys to perfect planning.
The 4 Elements of a Perfect Planning Process
Planning can be the most dreaded activity or the most lauded, depending on how effectively the finance team manages it. But it is undoubtedly one of the most important exercises a company undergoes, as it lays out the future finance situation, which in turn should drive efficiency, improve performance, and unite everyone behind a common vision of success. As more companies around the globe deploy arcplan for budgeting, planning and forecasting, this international solution provider has compiled a list of best practices its customers follow to ensure planning perfection.
For many companies large and small, the planning process begins in Excel and involves a lot of manual data consolidation and time spent reconciling multiple versions of spreadsheets. This error-prone process is an incredible waste of time; planning in this way is inefficient and detracts from time that should be spent analyzing plans and working towards company goals. Automation is a better approach to aggregating plan data and has positive effects like improved consistency and time savings. A solution like arcplan Edge streamlines the consolidation process by simultaneously connecting to multiple data sources. This enables the system to act as a central repository with data entry and write-back functions, eliminating the reliance on spreadsheets by allowing planners to interact with live data in an Excel-like web interface. It also provides automated alerts based on user interaction, such as alerting managers when direct reports have completed a task in the budgeting workflow. Automation is hugely beneficial to the planning process because it enables timely completion of plans and diverts focus from the mechanics of the budgeting process to actual analysis.
It’s that time of year again – when quarter- and year-end obligations have finance departments frantically crunching numbers to wrap-up their annual reports and create plans for the upcoming year. Some endure the same budgeting, planning and forecasting frustrations year after year, including too many spreadsheets and lack of strategic insight, with little or no plans to make things better for the next cycle. Why fall victim to Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) when there’s so much more to gain from taking charge of your planning?
Here’s what you can look forward to with a software-enabled budgeting and planning process:
1) Timely, accurate plans and reports
Planners are often plagued by disjointed information from various sources and multiple spreadsheets, where no “single version of the truth” exists and for all the numbers piling up, there’s no supporting text. As a result, they spend a great deal of time consolidating and reconciling data, which is half the job but takes up 100% of the time. Many planners experience the misfortune of completing a plan weeks or even months too late, negating its validity and rendering the idea of replanning as conditions change totally impossible. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t yield a lot of value to the organization.
In case you missed arcplan’s webinar on August 7th, Best Practices in Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting/CPM, here’s the recording to view at your convenience:
Note that the recording will stream as a WMV file.
This webinar is chock full of lessons learned from arcplan Edge deployments. Our Senior Vice President of Solutions Delivery, Dwight deVera, presents information you can use to guide your future CPM software implementations. As you’ll see, budgeting and planning project success comes down to a few factors: keeping expectations and scope in check, putting the right team in place, and selecting the ideal technology platform that gives all stakeholders what they need.
Leave us a comment if you have any questions!