I’ve spent my entire career working directly with customers – large, small, big and tall. Customers come to Tidemark so we can help them disrupt the marketplace in which they operate – using innovation and our unique approach to performance management.
Time and again, we find customers are looking for a way to move towards continuous planning – a flexible process that delivers real-time information that’s always up to date. A continuous planning environment enables companies to produce forecasts that are relevant no matter where they happen to be in the month, quarter or fiscal year. The plan is flexible because what happened yesterday isn’t a guarantee of what will happen tomorrow. And it’s created and updated with input from the entire organization.
Though many customers are similar in their challenge, virtually no customer has actually come to me and said, “Help! We need a continuous planning platform.” Most come and describe what they want to do, then quickly shift focus to the reasons why they can’t do it today. The reasons they can’t do it are varied and generally are a combination of people, processes, and data. The technology platform can certainly hinder the effort, but rarely is it solely to blame. Getting to real continuous planning means changes in technology, processes and culture.
What are the challenges we typically see as obstacles in the way of continuous planning? Though they vary, a handful are common to most customers:
- Plans live in spreadsheets. Volatile business conditions already make it hard enough to accurately forecast revenues, costs and headcount needs. Manually updating and linking spreadsheets is time-consuming and fraught with error. Spreadsheet-based planning complicates forecasting even further because static spreadsheets are current for only a short time – in some cases, just a day.
- What-if scenarios tend to be best-guess exercises. Even some legacy EPM solutions make it difficult to quickly and easily adjust variables so you can understand the implications of decisions or changes to your plan. And spreadsheets? Harder still.
- Forecasting is stuck in FP&A. Many organizations have a top-down planning process that fails to capture crucial data from the entire organization more than once a quarter. Without transparency across departments, it’s all but impossible to get complete and accurate visibility.
- Legacy platforms are too hard to use. If you need to have deep knowledge of the entire model to access data needed to make informed decisions, then the planning process will be restricted to a small group of modelers – or worse, people will come up with their own ill-advised workarounds. So a broken process becomes even more broken.
- Data is compartmentalized. Legacy EPM systems and spreadsheet-based planning systems often make it difficult to collaborate across the company, and these limitations can cause managers to compartmentalize knowledge in various repositories, from personal spreadsheets to email and even mental notes. This makes it even harder to capture the strategies and actions – and the context around them – of key decision makers so the organization can make the right decisions at the time they need to be made.
Read the white paper
A continuous planning environment – one that’s automated, collaborative, easy to use, data-driven and always current – addresses these problems. For CFOs and other executives facing these challenges, Tidemark has released a free new white paper, “Six Best Practices for Continuous Planning”, which can be downloaded here.
The paper outlines priorities for organizations ready to transform their planning and forecasting processes but wondering where to start. Built from insights acquired from working with Tidemark customers, these best practices distill lessons we’ve learned “on the ground” while helping our customers fix the problems I’ve listed above, and many more. Tidemark customers may recognize many of them – and they may recall some seminal thoughts on the topic shared in an earlier blog by Tidemark CEO Christian Gheorghe – but for folks new to continuous planning as a topic, I highly recommend it.
It’s a brief read, and it features real-world customer case studies that nicely illuminate the problems these companies faced and how they solved them. You’ll walk away knowing more than you did about a topic that has never been more important.