How to Hit Your Goals and Be Ready for What’s Next
Over the last few turbulent years, virtually all businesses had to constantly assess operating conditions and adjust plans in response to the changing market. As a result, many business leaders gained a new appreciation for using data and analysis to optimize their business practices such as managing cash flow and satisfying customer demand.
Instead of just collecting the financial and operational data needed to survive, businesses have institutionalized the use of data collection and analysis in order to thrive.
In this white paper, “The CFO’s Guide to Planning and Analysis,” written by Oracle NetSuite and Paapri, we will present the best practices on continuous planning and analysis for finance and beyond.
Everything Flows From the Strategic Plan
Planning throughout a business should flow from a strategic plan that sets out goals for the next two to five years. Each major goal should have a plan of action that dictates how the organization will achieve the objective and how it will measure progress along the way. Milestones should come with KPIs to assess performance and help drive and define success.
Automation Buys You Time to Plan
It is a large endeavor to move from a month-end close process to a continuous close process and be on point to support continuous analysis. There are two paths to get there: add staff or automate time-consuming processes. Automation, for functions such as AR, AP and general ledger, can serve as both a cost-saving measure and more importantly, deliver timeliness and accuracy.
“And because automation reduces the burden on finance staff, the team can turn its focus to data analysis—uncovering opportunities and helping to remove obstacles to success along the way. “
How External Data Widens the Planning Lens
Initial design of your planning model should involve identifying a wide range of data sources–beyond your own historical cash flow, order, supply chain and fulfillment stats, to outside information such as seasonality, local unemployment, web analytics, consumer or producer prices or supplier fill dates–and evaluating how closely changes in each predict changes in your business. NetSuite’s recent survey identified improved data collection, better use of data, and improved forecasts as the top priorities for the finance team.
Customer Feedback Must Inform the Planning Process
Knowing what’s going on with your most profitable accounts will always improve financial and operational models. Use business reviews, surveys (like the Net Promoter Score), or hold customer conversations regularly to learn what opportunities customers see in their businesses and how you can help.
Use Analytic Tools–Particularly for Scenario Planning
When the goal is regular assessments of plans and models, ERP systems can cut out the use of spreadsheets. Instead, they will provide modules to support planning and budgeting, including the ability to establish and monitor various scenarios. These integrated planning and budgeting tools will allow you to accurately track progress on all your plans, especially those that depend on common data and KPIs.
“Combine those insights with assumptions about the future sales and you’ll generate forecasts that are updated as continuously as your books are. Add in scenarios that explore best-case, worst-case and expected outcomes and it becomes easy to predict effects on cash flow, revenue, profits and more.”
Synchronize Operational Plans
As you integrate analytics tools, various other parts of the business–demand planning, workforce planning, project financial planning, and sales planning–can both benefit from visibility into strategic and financial plans and make those plans more accurate.
Adopt the Right Technology
When deciding the platform that is right for your company, keep the following tips in mind. You need one that:
- Provides prebuilt data synchronization with systems across the business.
- Supports machine-learning-based predictive processes, such as what-if scenario planning.
- Offers the flexibility to meet both operations and finance requirements.
- Supports a modular approach that grows with business requirements.
- Is intuitive for users across the business, encouraging broad uptake and collaboration.