How Continuous Planning Helps FP&A Break Through Organizational Silos

How Continuous Planning Helps FP&A Break Through Organizational Silos

Imagine if every conversation between Finance and the rest of the company started at a strategic, high level… because the non-Finance teams are already literate with the financial data and thinking relevant to their function.

Instead of the non-FP&A units getting frustrated that their asks are getting shut down because the financial numbers aren’t supportive, they can start working backwards from the numbers, figuring out how to make the numbers themselves better. Instead of serving as gatekeepers, the FP&A team can serve as a guidepost, offering strategic counsel to help the company make better decisions, more frequently. Instead of only touching base when it’s time to put together the annual operating plan, the FP&A team has the bandwidth to sustain a consistent cadence with their colleagues, course-correcting when necessary, adapting and adjusting as the business environment dynamically evolves. 

That’s reality when a company is Continuously Planning — with the right tools, capabilities, and processes, the entire company operates at a higher financial IQ, as both FP&A and the non-finance units help each other reach their full potential. 

Business Operates Continuously — So Should Financial Planning

This modern planning framework recognizes a business operates continuously, so financial planning and decision-making should be continuous, too. The most immediate benefit of Continuous Planning is the elimination of the periodic, static planning cycles that disrupt your organization yet result in a plan that’s outdated as soon as it’s published.

The rest of the business likely feels disdain for periodic FP&A requests as well. Marketing doesn’t want to explain why expensive events are worth it. Sales can’t take time away from deals while they gather data and manipulate spreadsheets. HR is confident that a higher-cost medical plan will lead to a happier culture and longer tenured workers, yet they can’t quantify it. Supply Chain can’t afford to take their eyes off of contract negotiations in order to explain a GL account variance.

Continuous Planning replaces that dreaded periodic planning cycle with a continuously updated, ‘always on’ view of your business. The underlying data foundation of Continuous Planning then helps throughout the year by enabling instant access to the data you and the business need to build or update your plans, react to the changing conditions around you, and make smarter decisions in the moment. And it lets you do it without the burden of manual data collection, the complexity of spreadsheets, and the fear that a simple error throws off an entire business (or career!).

Elevating The Company’s Financial IQ 

Proving your value to the organization helps you grow in your career, either up through Finance or out into the business. That requires understanding every aspect of the business, not just finance.

Continuous Planning helps you appreciate each team’s goals and constraints, both through the lens of finance and from their points of view, so you can make more intelligent and informed decisions, and help them be more effective at their jobs while you’re at it.

Continuous Planning gives everyone the confidence to act decisively as business events unfold. The business will know that the data, models, forecasts, and reports coming from FP&A will be accurate, current, and complete. They’ll learn the financial impact of their decisions and use that knowledge to make better ones more frequently.They’ll look to you for actionable answers, which leads to even more impactful collaboration. 

In turn, you become more knowledgeable about the business and how all of the components come together to create a company-wide financial picture.

Eliminating Silos and Fostering Partnership Through Continuous Planning

Over the next few weeks, we’ll drill down into how FP&A can break through those barriers between key business functions like HR, Sales, Marketing, and Supply Chain, and become a true partner to the rest of the organization.

Stay tuned!

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Winter20 Brings More Beauty and More Brains to Continuous Planning

Winter20 Brings More Beauty and More Brains to Continuous Planning

You are the reason we work so hard to improve and advance our products. Everything we do at Planful is focused on you, to enhance your ability to deliver on the important work you do to drive your company’s success. What you need, how you work, where you’re challenged, and what you need to succeed — that is what drives what we do.

When we update our products, nearly all of the improvements and additions originate from our customers. Not just to modernize how you work and increase your strategic value, but to also give you more job satisfaction. In that aspect, we want our products to give you more of what you need, whether that’s time to collaborate, financial IQ, accuracy, stress relief, or simply the ability to get home at a reasonable hour. 

Coincidently, we just released another product update. Yes, Winter20 is here, and it’s simple, fast, and beautiful. But more specifically, it’s focused on a few key themes intended to better serve you:

  1. An enhanced, elegant user interface provides a more beautiful and intuitive experience so it’s easier to get your work done.
  2. Dynamic Collaboration enables you and participants in your FP&A process to collaborate in real time, easily communicate key insights and decisions, and understand the story behind the numbers.
  3. Automatic Data Refresh updates data in near real-time, substantially improving speed and performance and ensuring data and reports are always up-to-date.

There’s more to each of these Winter20 updates, plus many other enhancements, so let’s dive in.

Elegant User Interface

We gave you a sneak peek at our UI modernization a few months ago, but now it’s arrived in Winter20. We were driven by what you’ve told us and what we see all around us: modern is better. Things change quickly in technology, and how we interact with our phones and websites and devices changes frequently as well. We all demand an easy, fast, and elegant “view” of the technology we’re using, so we’ve brought it.

Winter20 brings a fresh look and a more usable interface, which makes it more intuitive and more delightful to use. You’ll use it more often and for more tasks, and new users will ramp up even faster than before. It’s not just a facelift, it’s a faster way to realize more value from your Planful investment. It’s also our latest evolution to bring the platform into our new brand identity.

It’s important to mention that this enhanced UI won’t cause any disruption in how you use Planful. It doesn’t require any reconfigurations or any changes to your implementation. Like any great software, the Planful UI seamlessly evolves without any interruption to your day to day use of the platform.

Dynamic Collaboration

You can comment on nearly everything you see these days, so why not within financial planning and decision-making solutions, too? We all know that numbers only tell part of a story. Now, you can tell the whole story in Planful, we’re pioneering dynamic collaboration for FP&A.

Winter20 lets you add comments to planning templates, dynamic and structured plans, reports, dashboards, and more — platform-wide, including when you’re using Planful in Excel. You can add notes, questions, or explanations to roll-ups and individual cells. You can tag colleagues in the comments, collaborate on specific items, and communicate decisions or explain assumptions to keep everyone in alignment. Comments can even be assigned to individuals, with those assignments automatically carried over to the task list in Planful.

This new dynamic collaboration lets you create a clear view into how business decisions are being made. What’s more, they create an official record of those decisions. When you later need to explain why a decision was made, you’ll be able to track back to the thought process through these comments. No one else offers this capability.

Automatic Data Refresh

Business data is always moving. When you run a report, you want to be confident the data is current. And you don’t want to slow down your process with manual clicks and wait-points. Winter20 makes sure you’re never working from old report data by eliminating the manual effort of updating the data. Whenever new data arrives or is saved in a template, reports will automatically refresh. No clicks required.

Automatic data refresh saves you time and the disruption of realizing your report data is in need of a refresh, all without you having to do a thing. Your reports will always be up to date. That’s simple and fast, and we think that’s beautiful.

And There’s More

Winter20 brings plenty of other innovations to your Continuous Planning journey. There’s been some tweaking to make naming conventions easier to understand and more consistent across the platform. We’ve added scheduling to dynamic journal entries to enable you to close the books even faster. We’ve uncluttered the scenarios workspace, and automated roll forwards from actual to plan scenarios. We’ve also increased the speed of data loading, data mapping, and calculations across the platform. 

Winter20 is just the latest in our continuing commitment to you, our customers, to empower FP&A to elevate the financial IQ of your organization, and to make your Continuous Planning journey that much easier. We’re eliminating those parts of your job that slow you down and increasing your opportunities to think more strategically, work with more accuracy, and become more valuable to your entire organization.

Simple, fast, and beautiful has been our mantra for product innovation, and Winter20 hits on all of those points. Each of the innovation areas we’ve highlighted above were designed to help in one or all of those areas, because you deserve a simple, fast, and beautiful solution to your FP&A challenges.

Winter20 is available now to all Planful customers.

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Nucleus Research Publishes 2020 CPM Value Matrix: Planful Is A Leader for 7th Year Running

Nucleus Research Publishes 2020 CPM Value Matrix: Planful Is A Leader for 7th Year Running

“Planning is not optional for any company, regardless of size and financial status, and the ability to adhere to a plan in the face of external forces is critical for long-term success,” begins Nucleus Research’s 2020 CPM Value Matrix report.

Read the full report here.

Nucleus Research analysts evaluate the vendors in the space “based on their usability and functionality, as well as the value that customers realized from each product’s capabilities”, then divide those vendors into four categories: Leaders, Experts, Facilitators, and Core Providers.

In our seventh consecutive year of being named a Leader, we are proud to announce that Planful has received our highest grade yet.

“Planful remains in the leader category for the seventh year in a row and has an improved placement in the latest quadrant because the company is making smart investments in usability, functionality and market positioning,” said Andrew MacMillen, Research Analyst at Nucleus Research. “Planful is delivering long-term value to midmarket and enterprise sector users, enabling customers to transcend the limitations of spreadsheets and legacy software to engage in Continuous Planning and achieve greater agility.”

This recognition motivates our team as we continue on our mission to serve and empower finance professionals everywhere. Our products are geared toward helping you and your finance team deliver timely, accurate, strategic insights to the rest of your company.

Usability and Adaptability Core To Continuous Planning

Planful’s “customers observe that ease-of-use and flexibility for numerous use cases are two of the solution’s strongest aspects”, according to the Matrix. One of our core philosophies is that the Planful platform elevates your company’s financial IQ by helping finance bridge the gap with other departments, serving as strategic advisors for major decisions. Our dynamic planning capabilities help business users easily and readily access the finance team’s reports and data, and we see this increased collaboration lead to better decision-making across the entire company.

The Matrix also took note of our Continuous Planning vision, explaining that “by increasing company-wide participation in financial processes, thus including new and unconventional perspectives, Planful believes that companies will discover new insights about operations and performance.”

Planful CEO, Grant Halloran, cited an example of this in a recent interview with CFO Thought Leader, using workforce planning as an example:

“If you’re a division leader or department head… and often for our customers, workforce is their biggest expense – you need to be able to replan and, on a very tactical planning basis, adjust your workforce hiring plans. Whether that’s the number of people, the level of people, the salary, locations or whatnot, it’s all these different dimensions of workforce planning. So you can imagine that across a larger organization that is a very high frequency planning use case happening every day.”

New Vision, New Name, Same Great Platform

Along with our product, Nucleus took stock of new developments in the business front over the past year. They mentioned our solution integration with Blackline in May 2019 and our partnership with OneCloud in June 2019, while also taking note of CEO Grant Halloran coming on board in July. Most recently (and noticeably), Nucleus wrote about our rebrand and recognized that we’re “directly emphasizing [our] vision of continuous financial planning” with our new identity.

“Nucleus sees Planful’s shift in marketing and further investments in usability as positive developments improving this year’s placement,” and, in the spirit of our commitment to product usability, we’re excited to tease our upcoming improvements to our platform’s user interface.

Thank you to Nucleus Research for the recognition — we strive to keep raising our own bar, and we take pride in relentlessly improving our product in service of our customers.

Read the full report here.

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How Continuous Planning Won The Pro Football Championship

How Continuous Planning Won The Pro Football Championship

Andy Reid would fit right in as a finance leader. 

As the head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs, he’s guided his team through unexpected injuries and huge deficits to the promised land of pro football’s highest honor: the championship trophy. In the final match, his Chiefs were down 20-10 with seven minutes remaining — his star quarterback playing the worst game of his career, his defense getting shredded — but Coach Reid and his staff were ready. 

They planned for it. 

Andy Reid is a continuous planner, and a good one. His victorious performance this past season was a master class in continuous planning principles. By using dynamic planning and accelerated planning cycles, he gained a competitive advantage against the better-resourced and more talented opposition

Dynamically Planning the Fourth Quarter Comeback 

Early in the game, the Chiefs ran a play that didn’t seem to work. They had one receiver on one side and three on the other — a 3-1 formation — and the 49ers covered it aggressively, resulting in no gain. 

The Chiefs quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, noticed the aggression and the specific coverage pattern. He told his coach on the sideline everything he was seeing, in a cross-functional display of collaboration. 

With seven minutes left in the game, down ten points, on a 3rd and 15, coach Reid dynamically planned by taking his quarterback’s data point from a seemingly failed execution cycle to inform his next decision. He called the complement play, where the receivers lined up in the same formation but ran different routes halfway through, completely deceiving the over-aggressive defense. 

44 yards later, Tyreek Hill brought in the deep pass, and the Chiefs were off on their comeback rally. Organizational IQ won the day. 

Accelerated Planning Cycles Keep The Defense A Step Ahead: 

Reid’s defensive lieutenant, Steve Spagnuolo, realized that something wasn’t working for his unit. The opposing offense had scored 20 points by the fourth quarter, and if they wanted to capitalize on their late-game offensive success, they needed to stop the 49ers from responding. 

Spagnuolo noticed that the 49ers’ best pass catcher, league-leading George Kittle, was playing significantly better than his peers while his initial plan of zone coverage was giving up around six yards a carry. Instead of sticking with the plan, he quickly planned a new approach: devote extra resources to stopping Kittle while switching to man coverage in order to prevent the run. 

The 49ers wouldn’t score for the rest of the game. The extra resources rendered Kittle ineffective as a passcatcher, so the 49ers coach had to keep him inside as a blocker. They couldn’t respond fast enough to Spagnuolo’s adjustment, and when it came down to the wire, they had nowhere to run, forced to run high-risk deep-pass plays that ended up failing. 

Spagnuolo’s planning cycles were faster than his competition, giving his team an advantage. 

Continuously Planning For More Championships

The Kansas City Chiefs made agile and confident decisions — much like a continuously planning organization, they were able to get the right data at the right level to the right people, and they quickly adjusted their plans before their opposition could. They operated like a team that was using a cloud-based FP&A platform, while the 49ers seemed to be still using spreadsheets

The night of their victory, Andy Reid certainly celebrated his incredible accomplishment. But he knows as well as anyone that the planning process for next season’s championship begins now.

A few years ago, 49ers champion quarterback Steve Young came to Planful’s user conference, where he told a story that employees repeat to this day. 

The morning after the San Francisco 49ers won the championship back in 1995, the story goes, Young drove back to the team’s practice facility to get something from his locker. When he pulled into the parking lot, he saw star wide receiver and the team’s highest-scoring player, Jerry Rice, running sprints on the field, at 8 AM, in preparation for the next season. 

Champions, in pro football and in business, know that planning never stops. 

It’s continuous.

Schedule your live demo today.

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