What Are Finance Transformation Best Practices?

What Are Finance Transformation Best Practices?

Finance transformation – the industry has been talking about this for a number of years.  But what does it take to evolve Finance with agile Finance Transformation?  Where should you start in your Finance process transformation?  And lastly, what are the benefits of Finance Transformation?

These and other questions were the focus of a recent blog by Planful. Based on our work with over 800 customers on Finance process transformation, we shared Finance best practices and even held a discussion with two of those customers.

Here are seven traits common in organizations that have successfully executed Finance function transformation and moved from back-office scorekeeping to becoming strategic business partners, driving and supporting decision-making across the enterprise.

What Is Finance Transformation?

Before we dive into the definition, let’s think about what’s driving Finance transformation.  Here are some of the drivers we hear about from customers:

  • The need to do more with the same or fewer resources
  • The need to respond better to fast-changing economic and business conditions
  • Pressure from management and external stakeholders – for faster and more detailed information to support decision-making
  • Exploding volumes of data – from internal systems, websites, and external sources such as social media
  • The need for better Finance and operations alignment – getting operational plans and models aligned to financial plans

The general Finance Transformation meaning in the market is the notion of Finance moving from backward-looking scorekeeper to forward-looking business partner. Achieving Finance business transformation requires changes in people, processes, and the technology.

This includes getting the right people involved in the project – Finance, IT, and line of business (LOB) stakeholders. It includes driving efficiency in Finance and operational processes, and ensuring they’re aligned. And then it involves using flexible Finance Transformation technology platforms to support improved business processes.

This is good general guidance, but where are organizations really focusing their Finance Transformation efforts?

The 7 Tenets In Transformational Finance Organization Best Practices

Based on our work with hundreds of customers over the past several years, helping them achieve Finance process transformation, here are 7 common tenets of Finance Organization Transformation:

  1. Standardize ERP systems and ensure efficiency in transaction processing
  2. Eliminate reliance on spreadsheets and email for financial planning and reporting processes
  3. Streamline the annual budgeting process
  4. Implement rolling forecasts to periodically update budget assumptions
  5. Empower managers with self-service management reporting
  6. Automate and accelerate financial close and reporting
  7. Shift time from data collection to more analysis and supporting LOB executives

We elaborated on each of the 7 tenets of Finance Transformation, highlighting finance department best practices in each area and the business benefits they provide. These benefits include reduced costs, improved data quality, increased business agility, and improved overall business performance. Another key benefit is allowing Finance to become a better business partner– providing better support to LOB executives.

Real-World Finance Transformation Examples

I had the pleasure to interview two of our customers on their Finance transformation initiatives.  My guests included Stephanie Buyck, Director of FP&A at Latham Pool Products, and Jean Dane, FP&A Manager at Room and Board.  During the interview, we spoke about what drove their need for Finance process transformation, where they began the projects, change management issues they encountered, the role technology played in the projects, and the impacts of the projects on their businesses.

One of the key points we discussed is that there’s no strict recipe regarding where an organization should start on its Finance transformation program.  It really depends on the goals and objectives of the organization, and where the initial pains may be.

For example, Latham Pool Products focused its initial transformation efforts on the financial consolidation and reporting process, then expanded into budgeting and management reporting in a later phase.  Room and Board focused its initial efforts on budgeting and planning, then expanded into financial reporting.

In both cases, the customers saw great benefits in Finance Transformation, including improved data quality, faster reporting, shorter budgeting and forecasting cycles, and the ability to do more work in less time.

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Want more insight into Finance best practices and to discuss your organization’s Finance Transformation? We’d love to hear from you here at Planful.

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What Is Financial Reporting?

What Is Financial Reporting?

Does it feel like your business isn’t growing? It could be because your team lacks crucial financial reporting and analysis capabilities that help track key business metrics and trends. Without the right tools to stay up-to-date on what’s happening across the business, it can be difficult to make informed decisions on how to best manage it and help it grow.

Ensuring timely and accurate financial reporting and analysis not only helps you to better understand the performance of your business, but also helps you to identify business opportunities to make the right decisions for future growth.

So, what exactly is financial reporting and why is it vital?

For listed companies, at a minimum, quarterly financial reporting and an annual financial report are required, while internal measurement is typically performed monthly. 

Key Types of Financial Reports

1. Balance Sheet:

This is a financial statement that reports on the financial position of a company including the company’s assets, liabilities, and owner’s equity at a point in time.

2. Profit and Loss Report: 

Also known as a P&L Report or Income Statement, this financial statement reports on a company’s expenses, revenue, and net loss or income over a specified period of time.

3. Cash Flow Statement:

This is a statement of a company’s cash flow activities comprising operating, investing, and financing activities. The statement typically reports on the cash generated and spent over a certain period of time.

4. Statement of Changes in Equity:

This financial statement reports on your company’s changes in retained earnings after dividends are released to stockholders and is an important aspect of financial reporting that contributes to stock price.

Importance of Financial Reporting

Financial reporting provides insight into company performance.  This information is beneficial in 2 ways; 1) compliance with regulatory requirements, and 2) internally assess performance to plan and adjust the forecast. 

Regulatory compliance is a necessity when it comes to managing your organization.  Not only do you have the financial reporting requirements mentioned above but have tight deadlines to provide reporting to regulatory agencies, debt holders, investors, and other key stakeholders. Timely financial reports provide insight for investors, creditors and other stakeholders to get an idea of your company’s creditworthiness and financial integrity. This helps them make rational decisions on lending or investing in your company.

In addition to the regulatory requirements, an organization must internally be able to assess their performance and adapt to any variances that arise quickly.  Finance and accounting organizations are held under immense pressure to provide complex financial statements quickly and accurately to their stakeholders to facilitate Management Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) and guide these decisions.   

Revamp Your Financial Reporting Through Automation

Automated financial reporting offers internal and external stakeholders of the business a clear insight to overall health and performance of your company however there is an immense amount of risk associated with it. The ability to mitigate the risk associated with the creation of financial reports from the automation of data consolidation through to financial reporting will give you peace of mind that your external stakeholders have reports that are accurate, and enable you to assist should questions arise.  Mitigated risk coupled with internal stakeholders abilities to perform ad hoc analysis on key financial analysis reports will enable your team to be proactive in the organization helping them identify opportunities and improve operations and performance of your company. Save time and costs by eliminating manual processes through FP&A automation

Ready to find out more about automating your reporting needs? Contact our experts today for help with adopting financial reporting software on the Planful platform.

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How CFOs Can Lose Less Sleep Over Financial Reporting

How CFOs Can Lose Less Sleep Over Financial Reporting

It’s that time of year.  Another quarter has ended, and it’s time for Finance to close the books, analyze the results, and do quarterly financial reporting for management and external stakeholders.

Given the timing, this headline caught my eye recently: “CFOs Losing Sleep Over Financial Reporting.”  Upon further investigation, I learned that this conclusion was based on a survey done by FSN and our partner Workiva, polling 977 international CFOs and senior Finance professionals across more than 23 industries, globally.  Here’s what’s behind the headline.

What Are CFOs Worried About?

The results of the survey indicated that 97% of CFOs were losing sleep over financial reporting and that only 3% of the survey respondents slept soundly.  Their main worries included a variety of reporting obligations – looming deadlines, lack of adequate internal controls, the prospect of unanswered questions in the boardroom, and the fear of an unexpected error being discovered in a critical spreadsheet.  

Here are some key findings about the survey, according to an Accounting Today article:

  • 66% of companies are filling reporting gaps with spreadsheets, and 43% don’t know how many spreadsheets are in use
  • 64% of companies can’t make reporting changes without relying on IT
  • 60% of companies spend too much time on data cleaning and manipulation
  • 54% of companies are battling fragmented systems
  • 54% of companies can’t accommodate changes in information

Accounting Today also reported that 55% of the survey respondents said they’re concerned about whether their internal controls were working during the reporting period.  This raises questions about the integrity of the data they’re using.

What’s the Solution?

While the numbers seem high, the 97% of CFOs losing sleep over financial reporting is not surprising.  I think every CFO’s worst nightmare is having to issue a restatement of financial results.  Signing off on the financials each quarter is a huge responsibility.  In a publicly held company, misrepresentation of the financial results can result in penalties for the company and personal liability for the CFO. 

So how does an organization go about mitigating some of the issues highlighted?  Here are some of the recommendations from the same report: 

  • Reduce reliance on spreadsheet and manual processes – relying on Excel spreadsheets and email to manage a corporate process such as financial reporting is very risky. The chance of errors occurring is high.  There’s also a lack of security and audit trails. 
  • Standardize ERP or CPM systems – standardizing on a single ERP system can help address data manipulation and cleaning issues. And implementing a standard corporate performance management (CPM – a.k.a. EPM) solution like Planful provides a unified environment to integrate and consolidate financial and operational data for financial reporting, planning, forecasting, and scenario modeling.
  • Leverage cloud-based solutions to reduce reliance on IT and improve agilitycloud-based CPM solutions are the preferred deployment method in today’s market. They provide Finance with complete control over processes, reduced reliance on IT, and faster ability to respond to changes.
  • Implement self-service reporting for management – with a unified environment in place for financial and management reporting, Finance can empower managers with self-service reporting capabilities and focus resources on performing value-added analysis.
  • Implement a collaborative work management platform to streamline disclosure management Workiva Wdesk is particularly powerful in performance reporting and generating disclosures for external stakeholders, such as the board and regulators, that require the coordinated integration of multiple documents and data types, from multiple contributors.

Learn More

The steps highlighted in the report will surely move CFOs down the path to improved confidence in their financial reporting and fewer sleepless nights.  And if you’re a CFO looking for cloud-based platforms to replace spreadsheets and email, or legacy applications currently in use, be aware that Planful and Workiva are partners who are working together to help organizations streamline the last mile of Finance. 

Even better, Planful and Workiva are both recognized as leaders in the 2017 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial CPM solutions.  Together, we provide complementary solutions for the last mile of Finance, including financial consolidation, close management, financial and performance reporting, and disclosure management.  Download the Gartner report to learn more.

Download the Research Reports

You can also learn more about the survey and the recommendations above by downloading the Future of Financial Reporting study from Workiva. 

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The Modern CFO – Mission Possible or Impossible?

The Modern CFO – Mission Possible or Impossible?

Over the past 10 years, the role of the CFO has clearly evolved from that of a back-office scorekeeper to that of strategic business partner and beyond.

That includes representing the organization with customers, partners, and other external stakeholders.  What’s driving these changes?  What new skill sets does this require?  Are we asking too much of CFOs?  This was the topic of a recent article published by Insight Magazine, including comments by Planful own CFO Ian Charles, and others. 

Are We Asking Too Much of CFOs?

The article ponders the question – “Is pushing and pulling CFOs away from focusing only on mission-critical finance functions in the best interest of the business world?  Or, perhaps it doesn’t matter—right or wrong, this is the new norm.”

One of the factors cited as accelerating this endless evolution of the CFO is the increasing reliance on technology and data in driving decision-making.

Ian_Charles.jpgIan Charles commented, “Today’s CFOs have access to information about the details of resource consumption and the efficiency of invested capital that empowers them to be more proactive, and also more concerned about the entire spectrum of company performance and not just financial results.  It’s expected that today’s CFO will deliver strategic, data-driven guidance and apply critical thinking to decisions across the organization.”

“This oversight of all aspects of the organization has turned today’s CFO into a strategic partner for the CEO and not just a bean counter,” Charles continues.  “Now the CEO is empowered with a valuable partner who is armed with data that allows for accurate, quick, and insightful business decisions.”

The truly successful CFOs, however, will be those who embrace these expectations and continue to evolve, both personally and professionally, to meet them.

Are Today’s CFOs Mission Ready?

The article also explores the question of how one can truly prepare to be a CFO, given these expanded responsibilities.  One of the key steps recommended is actively building relationships across functions, such as with customer service, engineering, and marketing.  Building these relationships will help the CFO have a better understanding of the business across many dimensions.  Of course, a successful CFO must also have a solid foundation in accounting and finance.

“Those who aspire to the position definitely need to pay their dues in accounting and finance first,” Charles suggests.  “Work for an accounting firm; work in investment banking; work for large companies, small companies, and even go the route of an entrepreneur if you can.”

The key point?  Managing your career to get as much experience as possible is what’s needed first.  Because today’s CFOs have oversight and influence over the entire organization, they must have a broad background that spans functions as well as industries.

“Experience in a career can sometimes be referred to as scar tissue. Sometimes scars can be seen, and sometimes they can’t.  The important takeaway is that scar tissue often teaches you what not to do as much as it teaches you what to do,” Charles says.  “But remember, it takes a passion to build, grow, and preserve the value of a business.”

To learn more, read the full text of the article here

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4 Steps to Reducing the Pain of Planning and Forecasting [Webinar Recap]

4 Steps to Reducing the Pain of Planning and Forecasting [Webinar Recap]

While summertime is here in the Northern Hemisphere, budgeting season is just around the corner.  That’s right, in a few months you’ll be starting the planning process for 2018.

With a few months to prepare, this is a good time to assess how well your budgeting process went last year.  Was it a relatively fast and smooth process?  Or did you struggle through the process with spreadsheets and email, or legacy applications that your organization has outgrown?  Maybe it’s time for a change!

This was the topic of a recent webinar sponsored by Planful.  During the event, we spoke about how organizations can reduce reliance on spreadsheets and manual processes, automate and accelerate budgeting and forecasting, and spend more time analyzing business results.  Here are the highlights.

Planning Challenges in 2017/2018

A number of factors are at play as organizations enter the second half of 2017 and begin planning for 2018.  For example, there are new regulations, such as the upcoming changes in Revenue Recognition guidelines from the FASB and IASB.  There’s the potential impact of the Trump administration on corporate tax rates, healthcare, and other regulations.  There’s increasing volatility in the market – think about oil and other commodity prices, and exchange rates.  There’s more data than ever coming from internal systems, websites, and external sources such as social media that can be leveraged.

This is putting new pressures on Finance to reduce reliance on spreadsheets and manual processes. Many organizations are adopting dynamic planning techniques, such as driver-based planning and rolling forecasts, to update planning assumptions.  There’s increasing use of analytics and scenario modeling to leverage big data.  And there’s increasing use of new technologies like cloud and mobile to support anytime, anywhere access to information

The Problems with Spreadsheets

Spreadsheets.jpgSo what’s the problem with using spreadsheets for budgeting and planning?  While spreadsheets are great personal productivity tools, they weren’t designed to support corporate processes such as budgeting, planning, forecasting, and reporting.  While spreadsheets and email might seem to do the job for a small organization with 10 managers, as organizations grow in size and complexity, the spreadsheet approach starts to break down.

This about it.  There’s no workflow, no process management, no security, and no audit trails.  And a University of Hawaii research study found that 88% of spreadsheets contain errors.  Think about all the time you’re wasting creating Excel templates, emailing them out, collecting them back, correcting errors, consolidating and reconciling data, building reports – and doing this in multiple iterations over the course of the budgeting cycle.  If you’re spending 80% of your time collecting data and only 20% analyzing it – believe me, there’s a better way.

Leaders Moving to the Cloud

Packaged planning applications found in today’s cloud-based enterprise performance management (EPM) platforms provide purpose-built functionality designed to address the complexities of budgeting, planning, and forecasting in small, medium, and large enterprises.  Cloud (a.k.a. SaaS) has become the preferred deployment model for new planning solutions.  At Planful, we’ve been witnessing this shift for a number of years, and now Gartner has validated the market shift to the cloud with its 2017 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Strategic CPM Solutions report.

Cloud-door-access-900x506.jpgWhy the cloud?  According to the Gartner report, “Finance leaders are seizing the opportunity to shorten time to value (TTV) for new applications, reduce application support costs, and increase flexibility.  Companies are also finding that cloud solutions are typically easier to use and maintain than legacy, on-premises offerings.”

4 Steps to Reducing the Pain

During the webinar, we described the warning signs that it may be time to rethink your current approach to budgeting and planning.  We also highlighted 4 steps you can take to reduce the pain of budgeting and planning for 2018:

  1. Make more intelligent use of Excel
  2. Implement cloud-based budgeting & planning software
  3. Simplify annual budgeting
  4. Implement periodic rolling forecasts

To learn more, watch the webinar replay, which includes an overview and live demonstration of Planful cloud EPM platform.

Watch the Webinar Replay

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Planful Named a Leader in Two Gartner CPM Magic Quadrants

Planful Named a Leader in Two Gartner CPM Magic Quadrants

The shift from on-premises software to cloud-based solutions has been under way for more than 10 years. Now Gartner has validated cloud as the preferred deployment model for corporate performance management (CPM) solutions.

How do we know this?  On June 29th, Gartner published its 2017 Magic Quadrant reports for Strategic and Financial CPM, and included only cloud solutions.

And there’s good news here for Planful and our customers.  As a result of our hard work over the past 10 years in developing our platform and making customers successful, Planful was recognized as a leader in both Gartner Cloud CPM Magic Quadrant reports.

The Shift to the Cloud

In its commentary about the market, Gartner highlighted that this first set of Magic Quadrant reports for Cloud Financial and Strategic CPM reflects the shift from traditional on-premises deployments to cloud solutions.  They also commented that, while many vendors have moved their CPM solutions to the cloud, legacy on-premises solutions are receiving less investment and will achieve end-of-life status within 5 to 8 years.

And check out these Strategic Planning Assumptions from the Cloud FCPM report:

  • Through 2020, 80% of large organizations and 25% of midsize organizations in North America and Europe will use cloud financial corporate performance management capabilities for financial consolidation and reporting, to replace legacy on-premises systems and manual processes.
  • By 2020, 60% of the world’s top 1,000 companies will be using cloud financial corporate performance management capabilities for financial consolidation and reporting.

In addition, Gartner said, “Cloud-based solution and vendor topics such as the timing of cloud conversions, cloud vendor product roadmaps and cloud product selection now comprise nearly all of Gartner’s client advisory conversations.”

What does this mean?  What Gartner is saying is that the Financial and Strategic CPM markets are shifting from legacy on-premises offerings to cloud solutions.  Why?  Because Finance leaders are seizing the opportunity to shorten time to value (TTV) for new applications, reduce application support costs, and increase flexibility.

Companies are finding that cloud solutions are typically easier to use and maintain than legacy, on-premises offerings.  As a result of this market shift to the cloud, a “new world order” of leading vendors is emerging in the CPM market.

The Making of a Leader

cloud-computing-1.jpgThe founders of Planful saw the shift to the cloud and SaaS solutions over 10 years ago and decided to focus the company on delivering EPM solutions in this manner.  We’ve been steadily adding functionality, building our presence in the market, and adding customers since 2008.  As a result, we now have over 600 customers and 40,000+ users in 90 countries around the world.  And our obsession with customer success has led to a retention rate of over 95%.

Based on Gartner’s comments in the reports, we believe Planful was recognized as a leader in both Financial and Strategic CPM based on the following:

  • Our maturity in the cloud CPM market

  • Our high customer satisfaction ratings

  • The ability of our products and services teams to support more complex use cases

Being recognized as a leader in both Gartner Cloud CPM MQs means Planful has market-leading capabilities across a broader range of requirements like no other pure-play cloud vendor in the market:

  • Strategic CPM – budgeting, planning, forecasting, modeling, management reporting
  • Financial CPM – financial close, consolidation, reporting, disclosure management

Even if your immediate needs may not initially span both areas, selecting a vendor with market-leading capabilities across Strategic and Financial CPM means you won’t quickly outgrow the solution – you can evolve and expand your usage of the platform as your business needs become broader or more complex.

Being recognized as a leader also means that Planful is rated highly by Gartner on our ability to execute successfully in the market.  Gartner’s criteria for evaluating “ability to execute” include financial viability, sales execution, marketing execution and responsiveness, and customer experience.

For additional perspectives on the Gartner Magic Quadrants for Cloud CPM and what it means to Planful and our customers check out Planful CEO Dave Kellogg’s recent blog post.

Other Recent Recognition

Being recognized as a leader in the market by Gartner is only the most recent accolade.  In recent weeks, Planful also earned leadership recognition and high marks in the Dresner Advisory Services 2017 “Wisdom of Crowds® Enterprise Planning Market Study.”  And prior to that we were recognized as a leader in the Nucleus Research CPM Value Matrix, along with being named one of the “8 Hot Vendors of 2017” by Nucleus.

If you’re interested in learning more, Planful is pleased to offer our readers complementary copies of both the Gartner Cloud FCPM and SCPM Magic Quadrant reports.  Please follow this link to download a copy.

Download the Research Reports

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