Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Companies are looking towards 2021 as the traditional planning season gets underway. Of course, “traditional” looks different these days, so now is a good time to rethink your approach to planning in a reality where we still don’t know what next month will bring, let alone next year. However, this puts CFOs in a unique position to add flexibility and agility to the planning process now, so plans can be continuously updated as new information becomes available. And, if you haven’t already, it’s also a good time to improve FP&A productivity by ensuring teams are in sync and de-stressed.

Here are a few expert opinions we’ve found helpful in the past week, and we hope you do, too.

What the Experts are Saying on FP&A


Deloitte / WSJ: Annual Planning Methods to Navigate the Year Ahead

Companies are beginning their annual planning process, but this year will likely force many changes due to pandemic-level uncertainty. FP&A will face the likely need for frequent revisions, changing assumptions, and unexpected events. But this “constant scenario development and modeling” can only be accomplished with better collaboration with the business, a flexible scenario planning process, and a more intelligent connection between organizational drivers and the resulting financial outcomes. “The events of the first half of 2020—including the COVID-19 pandemic, which few, if any, corporate financial plans foresaw—have clarified the need for infusing the conventional planning process with greater agility.”

CFO Dive: Bessemer finance leader: You need 2 years of cash to survive

Cash preservation should be your first priority, according to the CFO of Bessemer Venture Partners. The benchmark they recommend is two years of available cash, and if you don’t have it, then it’s time to find ways to lower vendor prices, eliminate discretionary spending, and more. But the CFO should be leading those efforts to reduce business risk because, well, that’s the CFO’s job. “No matter the type of organization you’re in, Epstein said, the CFO’s number one job is to be the c-suite’s arbiter of risk.”

Deloitte / WSJ: COVID-19 May Bring Lasting Change to CFO Recruiting

The pandemic is pushing more companies to reorganize or make drastic shifts in strategy, which is sometimes followed with a c-suite refresh. But with many businesses struggling, successful companies are well-positioned to easily poach CFOs with in-demand restructuring, strategy, and business transformation skills, according to a group of CFO recruiters. Equally important, however, is a CFO’s digital fluency. “‘One of the first filters to determine who even gets a call is whether candidates are adept at leveraging digital tools to turn data into actionable intelligence.’”

Forbes: Planning For Normal 2.0

Planful CEO, Grant Halloran, digs into Finance’s role in reevaluating how they approach planning and decision-making as the world looks towards a new, post-pandemic reality. Uncertainty has pushed Finance to not only model constantly changing scenarios, but as new information becomes available, executives are demanding ever faster turnaround times. Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and tighter collaboration with every corner of the business is the only way Finance can keep up with this new cadence. “Transformative events often serve as catalysts for change, and Finance needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of today and be ready to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”

DestinationCRM: The Top Sales Trends: COVID-19 Drives Changes to Sales Solution Road Maps

As everyone focuses on cash flow, revenue visibility has become more important. Finance and Sales have been forced into closer relationships so incoming cash flow can be maintained, new revenue sources can be identified, and supply chains can keep up with demand. Sales technologies, particularly CRM, are a staple of every sales team, but now FP&A is seeking easier ways to integrate with and capture that data to better inform their own planning and forecasting capabilities. “In the current environment, companies also wanted to see how well their sales reps responded to the changes and the opportunities presented. Sales performance management solutions, particularly ones that work with financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools, became more important.”

Accounting Today: 3 strategies for rethinking team productivity

Working from home has challenged work/life boundaries and impacted team productivity, even as more technologies are available to keep teams in sync. It’s important to promote emotional wellbeing to minimize stress, but it’s also critical for leaders to improve how teams collaborate and to ensure that they’re maximizing the benefits of available technologies. “We often see two big issues: First, firms aren’t unlocking the full potential of these tools to see true gains in productivity, and second, teams have not developed agreements and do not experiment with practices and processes to make sure everyone is using the tools in the right ways at the right times.”

CNBC: Jamie Dimon’s warning for the U.S. economy — nobody knows what comes next

While the headline is more gloomy than the content, the JPMorgan Chase CEO says the firm is planning for “no fewer than five different paths the economy can take.” That’s a very wide range of potential outcomes, which makes planning and budgeting especially difficult. But the point is that FP&A has to model, forecast, and plan for many scenarios, and then take proactive steps to prepare for all of them. “‘The word unprecedented is rarely used properly,” Dimon said. ‘This time, it’s being used properly.’”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

We’ll be continuing this weekly update with links related to how FP&A and CFO’s are leading their organizations through the continuing recovery. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

We’re more than half-way through 2020, and 2021 is starting to come into focus for FP&A. Of course, much uncertainty remains, but that doesn’t mean we can put off planning. As a result,  teams are beginning to manage that uncertainty by building more flexible plans and incorporating more agile business processes, and even treating the impact of remote teams as a fact of life to leverage, not work around. FP&A conversations are also beginning to focus less on the impact of the pandemic and more on dealing with it as we look towards the future.  

Here are a few expert opinions we’ve found helpful in the past week, and we hope you do, too.

What the Experts are Saying on FP&A

Yahoo Finance: Coronavirus ‘will be a jumping-off point for change’: Temple University CFO

The CFO at Temple University, a Planful customer, talks about the impact COVID-19 is having on institutions across the country, especially as students look for refunds or take “gap years” to avoid undue risks. But it could be pushing schools to find more flexible ways to deliver their services. “I do think you will see universities becoming more efficient, hopefully, more affordable. And I do think there will be more of a shift to an online medium.”

WSJ /  Deloitte: Annual Planning Methods to Navigate the Year Ahead

As FP&A teams struggled with static 2020 plans earlier this year, many found their once-a-year planning process to be woefully inadequate for a pandemic response. So as 2021 planning gets underway, teams are evolving their entire approach. “Organizations face a steadily rising number of additional challenges, including the demand for constant scenario development and modeling; lack of confidence in future projections; the urgent need for decisions about courses of action; an unclear decision-making framework, particularly around capital allocation; and time-and-resource-consuming manual iteration.”

Forbes: How AI Can Help In A Recession

The pandemic stressed Finance teams as they worked to quickly revise forecasts, models, plans, and more, all in real-time. Those with FP&A automation tools were able to remove much of the manual effort and spend more time on strategy, but advanced Artificial Intelligence technologies can further help companies reduce costs, optimize decisions, and even find new revenue opportunities. “AI is more important and more transformative than any other type of technology because it can improve every day, all by itself.”

CFO: CFOs Are Relying on Banks to Keep Short-Term Cash Safe

Economic pessimism in early 2020 pushed many CFOs to increase their short-term investments to create a “liquidity buffer. Popular “safe and liquid investment vehicles” included bank deposits, money market funds, and Treasury securities. But the positive result was that, at least as of March, “many of the companies in the survey seemed well-positioned to ride out an economic downturn.”

CFO Dive: Your financial controls probably don’t work under today’s conditions

The crisis and ensuing chaos means mistakes are more than likely for every organization. Add in the risks of remote work, focus on survival, and bypassed safeguards, and FP&A should be extra careful to ensure compliance and oversight. “‘Many folks who are integral to the control structure are no longer working together or on an established, informal communication system in which groups of people who work together are sitting together.’”

Campaign US: CMO & CFO: How to be intentional friends

As CFOs take on more strategic responsibility, CMOs become a partner in setting corporate direction. These tips are aimed at CMOs, but the article  provides a window into the important insights Marketing brings to the CFO’s perspective. “The expansion of the CFO position has created new alignments in the roles of marketing and finance with significant opportunities for collaboration and alliance. Marketers are uniquely positioned to help finance better contextualize the market as a whole and the customer in particular.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

We’ll be continuing this weekly update with links related to how FP&A and CFO’s are leading their organizations through the continuing recovery. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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From Ambush to Recovery: How Businesses Can Respond to Today’s Crisis

From Ambush to Recovery: How Businesses Can Respond to Today’s Crisis

“The new normal,” “unprecedented uncertainty,” “the great unknown”: there is no shortage of terms to describe today’s business conditions — none of them particularly positive. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that nobody (except the Simpsons) can predict what will happen next. 

The foggy future ahead begs the question: How quickly can businesses recover from a pandemic with no expiration date? As spikes in outbreaks temper easing restrictions across the states, companies have to now cautiously feel their way through a complicated recovery process.

At Planful, we see businesses moving through three different phases before they can fully recover from the current pandemic. Let’s explore what those phases look like, ways that companies can begin to regroup and recover, and how we found a silver lining in this dark COVID cloud.

The Three Phases of Crisis Recovery

Independent research-based consulting firm Mint Jutras recently released a paper that states that “every successful business started the year with a plan and budget in hand — plans and budgets that were rendered useless amid a global pandemic.” 

We couldn’t agree more. Regardless of whether a business has been impacted positively or negatively by COVID-19, the gravity of the situation has blindsided everyone. The road to economic recovery is long, and we believe companies will have to transition through three core phases before they can recover completely.

  • The Ambush Phase. The first phase is what we refer to as the “Ambush Phase.” It represents the first few months (or more) after the onset of COVID-19, where the primary focus for businesses is purely crisis management. 
  • The pandemic surprised everyone, its impact was significant, and we didn’t quite know where the impact was even coming from. Businesses had to assess their individual situations, triage issues quickly, and make fast decisions to protect themselves.  
  • The Regroup Phase. The “Regroup Phase” is the second stage of the path toward recovery. Some businesses have made it here already, but most have not. This is the point where business leaders are able to make more short- and mid-term decisions based on what they’ve learned about their business throughout the Ambush Phase. 
  • The Recovery Phase. The Recovery Phase is the third and final stage when business conditions begin to normalize. Outside of select industries, such as technology or eCommerce who’ve experienced uncharacteristically high demand, there aren’t many businesses in the recovery phase. In other words, most businesses today are neither recovering nor thriving. 
How Businesses Can Prepare for Recovery

The good news is that even though recovery is a ways off for most companies, we can all prepare for it today. Mint Jutras explains: “As we see early signs of recovery, it will be important to regroup and reset quickly. You must be able to put a new plan and budget together — and the quicker the better, particularly if you’re strapped for cash.”

So, how can companies pull together new plans quickly? Not only that, but how can they do so knowing that these new plans will continue to change over and over again? According to Mint Jutras, the answer lies in implementing a Continuous Planning process:

…the plan and the budget will simply be a stake in the ground. Because as we emerge from this crisis, we face an unprecedented level of uncertainty. Nobody can accurately predict what our new normal will be. So not only must you formulate a plan quickly, you will also have to course-correct on an ongoing basis more often. For this, you need a continuous planning process.”

The report also sheds light on what many of us know firsthand: that traditional planning is a slow, iterative process that relies heavily on historical data. When nobody knows what the future will bring, businesses simply can’t afford to wait for months-long planning cycles.

As the world slowly recovers and reopens, businesses need to be able to regroup and recover quickly. This requires frequent course-corrections and fluid planning. Leaders need real-time access to data and the ability to evaluate the impact of disruption and how to move forward. 

The right technology is a key component to recovery. Mint Jutras research found that just 14% of survey respondents are able to react to change or incorporate new data into their plans consistently. When those teams move their planning process to the cloud, the percentage nearly doubles. What’s more, it found that only a third of all respondents could continuously modify plans headed into 2020. A Continuous Planning process must be built upon a cloud platform where all organizational data, tasks, deliverables, and collaboration exist within one user experience — accessible to finance and business users anytime and from anywhere. As businesses build out their post-COVID recovery plans, these intuitive planning tools and processes become even more critical for long-term success.

The Silver Lining in the COVID Cloud: Our Customers

It’s easy to become consumed by the negative aspects surrounding a global crisis — it’s a crisis, after all. Yet we’d be remiss not to recognize the achievements of our Planful customers during this difficult time period. 

Many of our customers have been the first responders inside their businesses throughout the pandemic. When the market took a turn for the worse in late March, every single CEO and CFO turned to their FP&A team for insight on how to adjust and respond.

Time and time again, we watched our customers rise to new, unforeseen challenges. During our recently concluded Planful Tour, Louis Martinez Luna, Senior Financial and Business Analyst at Bose, shared that his team uses what-if analysis and scenario planning capabilities to help the company adjust to their new normal and plan for reopening.

At Carta, the Strategic Finance team implemented the Planful platform in just six weeks — while working 100% remote — and is now rolling out Workforce Planning and Sales Planning solutions to help them recover from the crisis.

After the Major League Baseball season ended abruptly this year, Boston Red Sox CFO Tim Zue shared: “Now more than ever, we rely on Planful to help us think through multiple scenarios to make the best decisions. We’re using the platform to game our ‘what-if’ scenarios to manage the impact of COVID-19.”

It’s going to be a long time before our lives return to “normal” — and some things may never return to what they once were. During times of great uncertainty, I believe that the strength, resilience, and goodness of who we are as a community will always preside over periods of uncertainty and doubt.

We see that with our Planful customers today and we’re excited to watch them do even more extraordinary things tomorrow.

How can your FP&A platform empower confident and agile financial decision-making? Join us for our weekly interactive Continuous Planning demo and check out what analyst Cindy Jutras is predicting for the future of business.

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Uncertainty continues to be the biggest concern for FP&A. Unemployment has been steadily falling, but analysts worry the recent surge in COVID-19 outbreaks has yet to be reflected in jobs numbers or economic activity. Bankruptcies are also getting more attention as restaurants and retailers feel the brunt of stay-at-home orders. However, every industry is being hit with Chapter 11 filings, with Hertz, Frontier Communications, 24 Hour Fitness, and Chesapeake Energy among the many recent announcements. Others, like Briggs & Stratton and Harley Davidson are at risk of being added to this list. On the bright side, many CFOs are finding revenue opportunities by being more flexible with customers and suppliers, and a silver lining to this “black swan” event could be better CFO preparedness for future business crises. 

Here are a few expert opinions we’ve found helpful in the past week, and we hope you do, too.

What the Experts are Saying on FP&A

Forbes: Bankruptcy Is Not The End

Pandemic-induced bankruptcies are increasing, but it can be a valuable “financial tool” companies can use to survive the ongoing economic crisis. However, it’s important to keep customers informed and to leverage employees as reassuring resources to both customers and lenders. But the latter also requires a CFO who actively communicates with employees and leads by example. “Leadership requires remembering the military adage that generals eat what the troops are eating. Sacrifices need to start at the top.”

CNBC: The Dow will fall back to coronavirus crash level below 19,000 before new high: CFO survey

Slightly more than half of CFOs surveyed say they expect the Dow Jones Industrial Average to drop below 19,000 (it’s currently around 26,000) before reaching pre-pandemic levels of just under 30,000. Two-thirds also say they support another round of federal stimulus funds and 80% say they’re experiencing a decrease in consumer demand, with 53% calling it a “major” decrease. “The overall economic outlook from CFOs has worsened in recent months as they have gained a clearer picture of the damage their businesses will sustain as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Financial Management: Global CFO survey highlights strategies to rebuild revenue streams

A recent survey by PwC found the top three concerns of CFOs are the impacts of a global economic fallout, a new wave of COVID-19 infections, and financial impact on liquidity and capital resources. But CFOs are taking proactive measures to conserve and rebuild revenue streams, including flexible pricing strategies, moving sales online, targeting new segments, and shifting supply chain strategies. “Although slashing costs remains a priority to sustain a healthy cash flow, only 14% and 11% of CFOs say they will consider cancelling or deferring investments on research and development (R&D) and on digital transformation, respectively.”

CFO: CFOs Are Relying on Banks to Keep Short-Term Cash Safe

Economic pessimism in early 2020 pushed many CFOs to increase their short-term investments to create a “liquidity buffer. Popular “safe and liquid investment vehicles” included bank deposits, money market funds, and Treasury securities. But the positive result was that, at least as of March, “many of the companies in the survey seemed well-positioned to ride out an economic downturn.”

GreenBiz: A CFO’s take on climate and risk management

While the pandemic is consuming the bulk of Finance mindshare, other ongoing business risks have not disappeared. Climate change is just one such concern that may bring supply chain and infrastructure disruptions. It’s important for FP&A to find the time to focus on the multitude of strategic risks the business faces. “The current COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized the importance of prioritizing resilience by exposing the fragility of global supply chains and dysfunctional systems across businesses and forcing them to change the way they plan and operate to factor in large-scale crises.”

CFO Dive: Survey: 77% of CFOs say company is underprepared for climate change

Preparing for climate change might be a secondary concern these days, but over 75% of CFOs feel exposed to climate risk, and “80% feel executive management should be held accountable for the adverse financial impact.” But the response to the COVID-19 pandemic could be having positive unintended consequences, since many CFOs focused their efforts on strengthening supply chains. “Addressing climate risk gives businesses a competitive advantage. ‘The lessons business leaders have learned from COVID-19 can be a springboard for helping them prepare for the inevitable.’”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

We’ll be continuing this weekly update with links related to how FP&A and CFO’s are leading their organizations through the continuing recovery. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Announcing Planful Certifications: Elevate Your Planful Skills Without Leaving Home

Announcing Planful Certifications: Elevate Your Planful Skills Without Leaving Home

When you’re forced into a new situation, it sometimes turns out to be an opportunity for discovery and evolution. The COVID-19 pandemic created just such an unavoidable situation for, well, pretty much everyone and everything. These last few months gave us a moment to reimagine how Planful Academy can become something bigger and better for our loyal customers and devoted users. 

We’ve heard from so many of you during our face-to-face Planful Bootcamps how valuable those sessions have been for both your day-to-day work and your career trajectory. You’ve explained that improving your Planful expertise has made you more critical to your team, and passing on what you’ve learned has helped elevate the financial IQ of your entire organization. We’ve also seen how those who thirst for knowledge and actively seek out new skills quickly move up to higher levels of responsibility.

It’s all been incredibly inspiring to us, so now we’re bringing these same learning and career growth opportunities to everyone, everywhere!

Today, we’re launching Planful Academy certifications to deliver our Bootcamp program completely online. You’ll still learn the same skills, but now you can do so from the comfort of your home office.. That’s right, no matter where you’re working from, how busy you are, or the last time you had a haircut, the Planful Academy offers an online combination of self-paced and virtual, instructor-led courses, plus quizzes and a final certification exam. You’ll be officially certified as a Planful user upon course completion. 

But it’s not just the certification that makes it worthwhile. Planful Academy offers a fun challenge that earns you new skills and gives you bragging rights. That’s right, FP&A bragging rights! As you advance through the courses and earn certifications, you’ll earn the envy and admiration of your colleagues, and doors will open to peer recognition and new opportunities. You’ll also gain access to an exclusive badge to proudly display on your resume and LinkedIn page. 

The certification programs for Structured Planning and Reporting are available in Planful Academy starting today. Over the next few weeks, you’ll soon see programs for Consolidation and Dynamic Planning, and even an updated look to Planful Academy itself. 

We’re also making these programs more affordable. In addition to the money you’ll save by not traveling, and the flexibility of self-paced learning, we’ve reduced the price of a certification to just $595. 

You’ve inspired us by your stories and the importance you personally place on being Planful certified. It validates your skills, gives a boost to your career, and puts you alongside an elite group of FP&A professionals. Now, Planful Academy not only helps more people get started on that same path, but also lets certified Planful users digitally toot their own horn. These courses are rigorous and the final exams are tough. Those who become certified have achieved a significant milestone worthy of celebration. 

Are you ready to become Planful certified? Learn more at Planful Academy. And while you’re there, sign up for your first certification program today because space is limited in each session. 

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported last week that employment rose by 4.8 million in June, lowering the unemployment rate to 11.1%. That’s down 2.2% from May and the second consecutive month of decrease but still nearly 8% higher than pre-pandemic levels. So while the trajectory is positive, there’s continued uncertainty about the speed and breadth of the recovery. And, regional COVID-19 spikes add to the uncertainty around reopening, which all means continued revisions of plans, forecasts, and models for FP&A.

Here are a few expert opinions we’ve found helpful in the past week, and we hope you do, too. We’d love to hear from you, so please join our FP&A Slack Community and share your thoughts and suggestions. It is publicly available to everyone to discuss ideas related to the current crisis as seen from the FP&A perspective.

What the Experts are Saying on FP&A

CFO Dive: How often should CFOs speak with the board?

It’s the CFO’s job to keep the board well-informed during “normal” times, but now that flow of information should be ramped up considerably. Planful’s CEO, Grant Halloran, spoke with CFO Dive to explain why CFOs should be deepening that relationship given the current conditions. “But it’s not enough to simply make projections into uncharted territory. ‘You can’t just throw a bunch of numbers at the CEO and board members,’ Halloran said. ‘You need to explain the risks, the decisions underpinning the forecast, and whether things need to be redone.’”

Deloitte / WSJ: Fear, Not Lockdowns, May Drive Economic Activity

A study by the University of Chicago points to fear of contracting the coronavirus as the reason for most of the decline in economic activity. The researchers say just 7% of the decline can be attributed to government-imposed lockdowns. The suggestion is those fears may last much longer than any lockdown, so FP&A might want to take a longer-term view of potential recovery targets. “Easing economic restrictions alone will not be enough to significantly boost economic activity. Rather, the only way to bring activity back to pre-crisis levels is to convince consumers that the virus is no longer a risk.”

CFO: Scorecard: Safeguarding Working Capital

The 2020 CFO Scorecard found that companies have about 10% of working capital “needlessly tied up in receivables, payables, and inventory.” That poses a huge challenge for FP&A as suppliers demand cash and customers take more time to pay. But the Scorecard also points to opportunities for improvement, and that Finance should look to help strategic suppliers when they can. “‘Every organization is being even more affected by the resilience (or lack of) of their suppliers. We would anticipate, for the first time in recent memory, that some organizations will shorten payment terms if they believe their suppliers need support.’”

TechRepublic: Operations remain at or above 80% of pre-crisis levels for 72% of CFOs

A recent CFO survey by Deloitte shows that most CFOs are expecting a “slow to moderate” recovery. More than half don’t expect to reach pre-pandemic operating levels until at least 2021. “Technology and energy/resources CFOs expect a faster return to pre-crisis operating levels. Manufacturing, retail/wholesale, healthcare/pharma, and services are the most likely to expect a return to pre-crisis operating levels by the fourth quarter of 2021 or later.”

CFO Dive: Short-Term Cash-Flow Forecasting: Metric of the Month

We missed this one earlier in June, but short-term cash flow forecasting is essential in our current environment. Constant change requires frequent revisions to cash flow forecasts so everyone makes better decisions based on the most recent information. That means cutting FP&A cycle times down to hours instead of days. “A company with a month or less cash on hand may need to generate a forecast weekly or even multiple times a week as it works to keep the business above water.”

CFO: Regaining Momentum in Cross-Border Operations

We’ve seen much written urging CFOs to look beyond today’s crisis and find opportunities where they can invest for tomorrow’s success. CFO Research contrasted studies from January and April to spot trends, and it doesn’t appear as though strategic moves like global expansion, maintaining supply chains, and M&A activity have been altered by the pandemic. “They’re seeing beyond the present moment toward economic recovery and organizational growth, and many of their pre-pandemic concerns, such as those related to supply chains, have only intensified during the crisis.”

Forbes: The CFO Essential Summer Reading List

For those CFO’s with enough free time to consider reading a book, this piece offers nearly 60 recommendations. Although half are specifically aimed at finance leaders, the topics range far from finance. “Reflecting the modern role of the chief financial officer, the books these executives read focus on strategy, leadership, and problem-solving.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

We’ll be continuing this weekly update with links related to how FP&A and CFO’s are leading their organizations through the continuing recovery. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World: COVID-19 Resources for FP&A Professionals - Part 41 I Planful...

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You Won’t Want to Miss these Key Trends in Financial Planning & Decision-making

You Won’t Want to Miss these Key Trends in Financial Planning & Decision-making

Planning and decision-making expert Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer at Dresner Advisory Services recently released its “2020 Wisdom of Crowds Enterprise Performance Management Market Study” report. Now in its 11th year, the report profiles enterprise performance management (EPM) market trends based on customer survey data and ranks vendors against 33 different survey criteria to provide an overall ranking that are categorized as Customer Experience and Vendor Credibility.

We’re honored to once again be recognized by survey respondents as an Overall Leader in Customer Experience and Vendor Credibility. This recognition is particularly meaningful for Planful as we’ve spent the past year continuing to enhance both our platform capability and customer service capabilities to help our customers realize their Continuous Planning vision.

The findings of this year’s Dresner report are exceptionally promising — especially the nearly 10% increase in FP&A software adoption in the last year alone. More and more, we’re seeing momentum in the market as business leaders and executive teams look to company-wide planning approaches for more collaborative and agile decision making.

Let’s look at some of the key trends and takeaways from this year’s report, as well as Planful’s focus on the customer experience over this past year. Below I dive into some of the findings we found most interesting. You can also tune into my recent episode of our Being Planful podcast where I dive deeper with Howard himself.

A look at the trends: more than just a tool for finance

One key takeaway from this year’s report is the evidence that supports growing market maturity over the past year. According to Dresner, 47% of organizations are currently using FP&A software, compared to 38% in 2019.

Figure 5 – EPM software use 2019-2020

Further analysis of the data indicates that finance and operations teams are the highest adopters of FP&A software solutions, with 61% and 57%, respectively. For the office of finance, this is no surprise since finance teams are often the ones using these planning and reporting capabilities most frequently. 

The higher levels of adoption by operations teams, however, are quite encouraging. According to Dresner, this year’s data indicates that operations teams are more prepared to embrace solutions outside of their domain silos. Its usage increased by 7% since last year, amounting to further evidence that businesses continue to embrace an enterprise-wide planning approach.

The positive signs don’t just stop with operations. FP&A software usage among executive management teams also increased significantly since last year, jumping up to 52% from just 25%. Dresner notes that this is a positive sign for how organizations can respond to the COVID-19 crisis, as FP&A solutions can help business leaders manage short-term uncertainty and plan for the new normal ahead.

Figure 8 – EPM software use by function

Perception among executive management respondents was also high: 85% believe that FP&A software is either “critical,” “very important,” or “important.” Dresner cites this as further evidence that organizations consider FP&A software to be an important technology across the organization rather than just a finance-oriented tool. 

At Planful, we believe that executive teams today have an exciting opportunity ahead of them. As leaders, we can re-imagine what the traditional planning and decision-making process looks like for our organizations and drive better business outcomes through a finance-led approach to business-wide planning.

Notable changes in use-case priority within FP&A

So, what did respondents cite as the highest-priority planning capabilities and what changed since last year? Unsurprisingly, budgeting and planning capabilities continue to remain a foundational aspect of any FP&A solution, and the annual financial budget once again clinched the top spot.

However, there were some notable changes in the top ten capabilities since last year. According to the Dresner report, capital asset planning replaced the ability to link strategic plans to the annual budget as a top-ten item. Cash-flow forecasting and planning also increased slightly in prioritization to overtake workforce planning as the second-highest priority.

Figure 23 – EPM planning priorities

The research reinforces what we’ve been seeing around the importance of disciplined cash management during a global pandemic. The focus on cash flow will likely remain a top priority for most companies this year. The same goes for capital asset planning: as businesses cautiously transition into their regroup and recovery phases, understanding where the traditional office environment fits into the new normal will be a key consideration.

All in all, Dresner believes these findings are positive signs since cash-flow and capital asset planning are key capabilities that will help organizations manage their way through the COVID-19 crisis.

One thing that hasn’t changed? Respondents continue to prefer cloud FP&A software over on-premises deployment. We saw the need for cloud planning tools become increasingly magnified during the onset of COVID, and we anticipate that this trend will continue to evolve as more businesses consider permanent remote working environments.

Our commitment to Planful customers

Customers are the heart of our business, and their quest for progress and innovation inspires the very decisions we make as a company. As a trusted planning partner, we’ve watched our customers shift their cultures to the adoption of proactive and continuous financial planning processes.

Our customers have not only become better at planning and decision-making, but they’ve become more interested in and aware of the operational benefits that are created by sound planning culture. As a result, our customers have become more planful — and this year, so did we

To learn more about current financial planning & analysis (FP&A) trends and FP&A technology vendors, download the Dresner “Wisdom of Crowds Enterprise Performance Management Market Study” and tune in to our latest podcast episode with Howard Dresner to drive into the data and findings live.

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Just Released:  Being Planful

Just Released: Being Planful

That’s right, today we released Being Planful, a show for you to watch, listen and learn from your peers, analysts and industry experts.  

I will be interviewing with folks from all over the industry where we will discuss how adopting a ‘Planful’ mindset can lead to huge wins for your organization, personally and professionally.

Without further ado, let me introduce the first three episodes.

Episode 0001 – Current trends in planning|Howard Dresner

We had to kick start the show with a bang, and that we did.  I hosted planning and decision-making expert Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer at Dresner Advisory Services recently to discuss two major pieces of research:

  • Covid Business Impact Survey
  • Current trends in Planning (EPM)

Howard also recently released Wisdom of Crowds® Enterprise Performance Management Market Study, grab your free copy here.

Episode 0002 – Managing high growth | Kevin Zell

We hit the shortcut button a little bit here to give you access to some amazing sessions from the Planful Virtual Tour.  In this session from the event, Kevin Zell, Strategic Finance Manager at Carta talks with Planful’s Senior Director of Product Marketing, Brian Martell. 

Brian and Kevin discuss how the Carta team were able to transition from a manual, spreadsheet based approach to managing Carta’s growth to rapidly adopting the Planful platform and achieving significant wins for the team and the business.

Episode 0003 – Hitting a home run | Tim Zue

This session from the Virtual Tour was too good not to reshare.  

Join Tim as he walks through the transformation of FP&A at the Red Sox and how his team has expanded the use of Planful across the Red Sox organization for reporting, monthly forecasting, financial close, and more.

Tim also touches on his approach to technology transformation in the office of finance, and how his team is regrouping to deal with a curtailed baseball season due to COVID-19.

Make Sure to Subscribe

I hope that you will join me each week by subscribing to Being Planful, and look forward to hearing from you.  If you’d like to be on the show, just reach out to me via email beingplanful@planful.com.

Subscribe:

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Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Different sectors of the economy are starting to show their pace of recovery, with some outperforming and others lagging behind. But with nearly all U.S. states adding jobs in May, and many businesses either open or on their way to reopening, more data on the recovery will quickly become available to help FP&A further refine plans and models. 

Here are a few expert opinions we’ve found helpful in the past week, and we hope you do, too. We’d love to hear from you, so please join our FP&A Slack Community and share your thoughts and suggestions. It is publicly available to everyone to discuss ideas related to the current crisis as seen from the FP&A perspective.

What the Experts are Saying on FP&A

CFODive: 3 Imperatives for CFO leadership, mid-recession

This year is being approached as “wartime” by some CFO’s, given the uncertainty, economic impacts, and continuing fallout from the pandemic. But CFO’s can take extra steps to keep their businesses heading in the right direction. This includes over-communicating to the board and continually re-planning as new information arrives, with CFO’s advised to explore “all scenarios”.  “All 2020 plans are virtually shot. Companies are going back to the drawing board.”

Deloitte / The Wall Street Journal: Finance Leadership and Planning in a Pandemic

The pandemic has affected every workplace in many ways, especially in how workers feel about their job security, working from home, and their employer’s future. For business leaders, especially in Finance, it’s given them the opportunity to lead and reassure both at the personal and professional levels. “It’s critical to bring people along to understand the potential range of outcomes the (business) may be facing, explain the scenarios and our processes, and then have open discussions about the actions to be taken.”

CFODive: When the CFO departs, who steps up?

Dealing with the stress of COVID-19 might push more CFO’s to either retire or use their success to advance their career. Openings in the CFO chair are generally filled from within the company, with a small survey showing that 75% of CFO’s were hired internally. But what are today’s corporate leaders looking for in a new CFO? A well-rounded financial executive who can see far beyond the spreadsheet. “People want someone who’s been in the company and enterprise, who can communicate well, and can move the dial with their teammates, instead of being in the corner collecting data.”

Diginomica: Experts predict major change ahead in the workplace

A recent study from commercial real estate firm, Cushman & Wakefield, found that nearly three-quarters of workers believe their employers should embrace flexible and remote working. This is another in a long list of surveys signaling a shift to remote work. But to make it work, processes will need to be revised, some roles will be more remote than others, and the workplace itself will change — all of which require strong FP&A guidance to weigh the financial pros and cons. “If companies make no change in enabling flexible working, they could see [workspace] footprint size increase by 15-20% as a result of social distancing measures and new types of collaborative environments.”

AccountingToday: 12 strategies for thriving after the coronavirus

Day-to-day chaos brought on by COVID-19 seems to be waning, but as tactical needs and adjusting to the new normal take over, it’s easy to lose sight of the more strategic opportunities available. Accounting experts offer a dozen ways to approach your business that might just “make the difference between merely making it through the pandemic and being ready to take off in its aftermath.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

We’ll be continuing this weekly update with links related to how FP&A and CFO’s are leading their organizations through the continuing recovery. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook

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