Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Planning Visualizations: Using Charts & Graphs to Focus Planners’ Attention


Planning_visualizations_arcplan_chartIn a perfect world, all of your organization’s planners would have superior analytics acumen and the financial know-know to create the best plans for their department. But unlike the photo that comes with every picture frame, there’s no such thing as the perfect planning family. Planners don’t necessarily fall into traditional groups like Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) or Management. Think about your marketing and sales directors – their primary function within the organization doesn’t require a finance degree but they are still expected to take on planning roles for their departments.

Non-traditional planning managers have their own special needs and thankfully, software development has come a long way in accommodating them – particularly planning software with built-in reporting and dashboard capabilities. If your planning solution supports data visualization, take advantage! By presenting your plan data in charts and graphs, you can focus planners’ energy on areas where they can make the biggest impact.

The underlying problem of many budgeting and planning processes is that data is organized and optimized for machines, not people. Unless you’ve had some formal education in this area, reading a chart of accounts/cost centers can be overwhelming. Understanding an anatomically correct financial statement can take years. Take for instance a physician or head nurse who is tasked to create a budgetary plan for his or her department – these individuals are trained to save lives, but probably cannot create a budget to save their own lives. The way to make budgets work for these types of planners is through smart data visualizations.

An ideal way to start visualizing content is to…

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On-Demand Webinar: Visualizations to Make You a Better Budgeter


View-WebinarView this arcplan webinar at your convenience – it’s 30 minutes on the next big trend in budgeting and planning.

Visualizations to Make You a Better Budgeter
Recorded Date: Thursday, June 13, 2013
Duration: 30 minutes
Speaker: Dwight deVera, SVP of Professional Services at arcplan

About this webinar:

Wouldn’t you love it if your budgets told you where you can make the biggest impact? If you no longer had to sift through pages and pages of numbers looking for ways to cut spending and hoping those changes will make a difference?

arcplan_planning_dashboard_smThe next big trend in planning is tactical planning dashboards that plot your plan data on charts that point out exactly where budget vs. actual will start to go south, what cost centers are having the most negative impact on the budget, and at what point products start to become unprofitable. These visualizations are a much more effective way to see where you can impact your budget than learning how to read an anatomically correct financial statement and guessing where adjustments should be made.

We present:

  • A visualization model that tells you where to focus your energy to make the biggest impact on your budgets and plans
  • The chart types that are most effective for your plan data
  • Examples of planning dashboards you can emulate

This webinar is for:

  • Non-finance professionals who need help becoming better budgeters and planners
  • Finance professionals who want their plan users to be more effective

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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.”

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Essential Budgeting & Planning System Components – Part 4: Supporting Details & Commentary


If you weren’t already familiar with what to look for when buying budgeting and planning software, tuning into this series has shown you that it’s a long list! There are many capabilities that should be considered essential to your system. So far I’ve covered the importance of workflow, spreading, and offline planning. Today I’ll explain why supporting detail and commentary should to be added to the mix.

Supporting Detail
SupportingDetails_arcplan_smSupporting detail is the content that supports the plan data existing below the system grain. The system grain may be the department, account or cost center level. Supporting details tell an additive story that literally supports the higher level numbers in the plan.

A couple of use cases for supporting detail: (1) Depending on how large your organization is, sometimes the submitted budget values are fairly large numbers. For instance, the finance director may question why you, the VP of Sales, have asked for $250,000 in travel and entertainment expenses for the 2013 budget. Supporting detail capability gives you the opportunity to tell that story below the account level and explain what makes up that number.

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Essential Budgeting & Planning System Components – Part 3: Offline Planning


arcplan Excel Analytics_smSo far in this series – a planning software buyer’s guide – I’ve written about the benefits of workflow and the interesting ways our customers are using spreading to automate plan creation. Today I’ll address another key component of modern planning systems: offline planning, which is particularly helpful for a geographically distributed workforce.

Whether planners are in remote locations or simply travel frequently, there is value in being able to access a planning system offline. One of our non-profit customers has staff responsible for project-based budgeting located in Africa – in areas with limited bandwidth and a sporadic internet connection at best. Spotty internet isn’t an excuse for a late budget. In this situation, it’s easy to see why their arcplan planning system needs to be functional for offline staff. Once they reach an access point, they can sync their plans to the centralized repository and their supervisors can proceed with suggesting edits or approving the plans.

Perhaps this is more relevant to your company…

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