Essential Budgeting & Planning System Components – Part 5: Tactical Planning Dashboards with Visualizationsby Dwight deVera
For 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.”
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.
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…
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 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…