3 Tips to Help Leaders Take Care of Their People

3 Tips to Help Leaders Take Care of Their People

We’re all looking forward to a brighter 2021, but we still have a few months to go before we’re there. For many, the combination of work, social, family, and political stressors can make these days feel heavy. 

For most leaders, a big question on our minds is “how on earth do we keep this ship moving forward?”– particularly now that “Pandemic Panic” has shifted to “Pandemic Burnout.” By focusing so heavily on the idea of “moving forward,” many organizations are becoming tactical and task-focused and losing sight of the individual. We’ve perhaps forgotten that our organizations are no longer made up of full-time employees, but of full-time working parents and full-time homeschool teachers, too. I’ve come to realize that the human connections with, and support from, managers and colleagues are more important now than ever.

At Planful we embrace a “People First” mentality, and as Planful’s leader of People & Culture, I’ve been recommending a few simple steps our managers can take to help their teams cope. These recommendations probably sound familiar, as they stem from the values that most of us carry with us in our day-to-day lives. However, during times of stress it’s extra important to bring them to the forefront.

So, what are we at Planful doing to make the situation better for our people? What’s been working? Here are a few tips I’ve shared with our leaders that I hope will help you and your people, too. 

1. Be Human

Recently I was on a call with a colleague, and I could sense a familiar tension in her voice; I’ve heard that same strain in many voices since mid-March. Before diving into the work, I asked her how she, her kids and her family were doing. To my complete surprise, she burst into tears. This gesture that felt small to me felt huge to her- she was touched that her well-being felt like my priority.

This experience got me thinking; are managers asking their teams these questions? More importantly, are they asking them and meaning it? It’s impossible to identify the signs of stress and burnout if you don’t know the people on your team. 

At Planful, we run team surveys each quarter to understand company-wide attitudes and get a pulse on employee wellbeing. In Q2, the main concern for nearly everyone was the pandemic. In Q3, it was stress and burnout, which is understandable given what we’re all going through. So taking the time to simply ask “How are you doing?” or “As your manager, how can I better support you?’ has never been more important. But it has to be authentic; it’s authenticity that increasingly separates amazing managers from the rest.

In other words, it’s being human. 

2. Get Ahead of the Stress

Working with your people is the best way to discover what they need, and discussing professional development is a great place to start. Being stressed in a role you love is manageable, but being stressed in a role you aren’t thrilled about is much more difficult. It’s a manager’s responsibility to both recognize stress and find a way around it. 

Our managers carve out specific blocks of time with each member of their team to discuss everything except their jobs: training, personal needs, work schedules, etc. This builds relationships and offers an early warning system so there is more time to figure out solutions. It also gives people the opportunity to share their concerns and ask questions. 

A common example these days is the stress of caring for other family members, worrying about at-risk parents, or adding “online educator” to the long list of roles. Most people won’t volunteer that information, so give them the opportunity to share any conflicts or concerns. It may be something as simple as moving a meeting by 30 minutes that could make a person’s day massively easier. 

3. Focus on Wellness

We’re lucky to have a CEO who is an advocate for wellness and work-life balance. I mentioned this in a previous post as one of the reasons why our company values are taken so seriously; our CEO, Grant, lives these values and reinforces them in every interaction. 

One of Grant’s main concerns is employee wellness across their physical and mental health. We consciously make decisions with “wellness first” organization. We’ve added mental health benefits, increased the frequency of our company-wide meetings to reduce uncertainty, and we continue to encourage people to disconnect and take time off. We also celebrate the wins, no matter how small, to add happiness and excitement wherever we can.

Our approach to wellness extends to executives and managers, too, and we encourage them to be open and vulnerable with their teams. At the risk of sounding like a hopeless romantic, I’ve become a big fan of the “Love Language’” trend. “Love Languages” describe the specific way in which an individual expresses love and hopes to receive love in return. While these are typically used to describe romantic relationships, they can also be translated to the workplace. I encourage managers to do a bit of investigating to see if they can figure out what “language” each member of their team speaks. Does someone need extra words of affirmation right now? Who needs a bit more of your time? Understanding individual needs and “speaking their language” is crucial to making sure everyone on your team feels appreciated and supported in these trying times.

Being Positively Planful

This advice I’ve provided is probably very familiar; everything is akin to the various “golden rules” we all learned as kids. Be nice, be honest, and care for your fellow person. 

The stresses of work and life have always been present. In 2020, these stresses have been magnified. It’s easy to forget the bigger picture goals and retreat into a tactical focus, checking off to-dos, and forgetting about important things like long-term health, aspirations, and what makes you happy. 

So, make sure you take care of your team and take care of yourself. Celebrate the wins, no matter how small. Be vulnerable, and be human.

And if this all seems like a lot and you’re not sure where to start, you can begin by asking someone you work with one simple question; “How are you doing?”

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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

CFOs are becoming more focused on employee morale and retention, as well as new employee recruitment. It’s a reflection of the increasingly positive outlook Finance chiefs have on the remainder of this year and into 2021. But that positivity extends to workers, too, who may be seeing greener pastures at companies choosing to expand flexible work options, maintain salary increases, and even provide more automation so Finance can avoid manual tasks and focus on the more strategic and rewarding aspects of their jobs. 

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: As Companies Recover, CFOs See Risks Ahead

Dire headline aside, a new survey of CFOs from “some of North America’s largest and most influential companies” found that optimism among Finance chiefs continues to increase. Over 70% expect 2020 revenues to hit at least three-quarters of their pre-pandemic projections. Better still, 37% expect to reach 95% or more of pre-pandemic budgeted revenue and 40% say their cash levels are at least 10% above pre-pandemic levels. Digging deeper, it appears a key strategic move for those weathering the COVID storm has been continuing to invest in their business during the crisis. “(A)ccelerated investments in digitization and heightened focus on achieving better flexibility in capacity and cost structure—can help put their organizations in a better position to navigate the uncertain trajectory of the pandemic.”

WSJ: Finance Chiefs Prioritize Employee Retention as Coronavirus Pandemic Drags On

The initial shock and uncertainty of the pandemic kept many workers from even considering a new job offer. Now, however, the job market appears to be heating up and those who may have delayed a departure are starting to move. U.S. unemployment is also dropping fast, now at nearly half its April peak of 15%. It has put HR and Finance executives on the defensive to bolster employee retention programs and reconsider salary freezes. “Eighty-eight percent of senior managers…said they are worried about losing high-performing office professionals, up 7% from last year.”

CFO Dive: Google CFO: In-person work ‘key’ to fostering innovation

When Google moved all of their 120,000 employees to remote work earlier this year, they immediately focused on the impact to mental health and wellbeing. Those efforts helped to keep workers connected while virtual, but the company is expecting to be back in the office in mid 2021. However the company, like many others, thinks flexibility is what workers now expect. “If you save people commuting time, you have better access to talent, because you’re giving people what they want in their personal life.”

CFO Dive: Pandemic shuffles companies’ real estate strategies

Widespread office shutdowns, and the subsequent and stable productivity of at-home workers, has CFOs rethinking their real estate strategies. For office space, even a relatively small move to remote or flexible work arrangements would have a real impact on demand. But for warehousing and data centers, many companies are looking to increase investments as pandemic concerns keep more people shopping and working from home. “Whatever (real estate) strategy you have today, it might have to look very different in early 2021.”

CFO: Pushing Ahead With Global Expansions

A recent CFO Research survey of senior financial executives found that employee health and safety continues to remain top of mind. Those concerns were about twice as prevalent as concerns over business strategy, revenue, and costs. Finding and retaining top performers are also key factors as Finance teams push global expansion efforts, with nearly one-third saying talent acquisition was a deciding factor. “(B)iggest benefits from global expansion would be an expanded talent pool, sales advantages, scaling of operations, and productivity increases.”

Financial Executives International: How CFOs are Preparing for the Robot Revolution

The pandemic has pushed nearly every company to accelerate their digital transformation. Progressive CFOs have eliminated 40% or more of their team’s manual processes, according to a recent survey, but nearly three-quarters of finance teams still spend up to 520 hours per year on manual processes just for accounts payable tasks. CFOs who promote automation are finding reductions in risk, better visibility, faster reporting, and even increases in employee morale. “By implementing AI and automation to improve time-consuming manual processes, operations become faster and less labor-intensive and allow finance to significantly impact their organizations.”

Business Insider: Coffee rush has shifted as people need ‘a break from their Zoom,’ says Dunkin’ CFO

The ripple effects of remote work extend to those morning staples of lattes, donuts, and McMuffins. Breakfast sales are down across the board, but Dunkin’, the venerable coffee-and-donut shop, says they’re seeing more mid-day traffic as they suspect workers are looking for a bit of a mental health escape from their daily at-home grind. “People are coming out a little later, maybe they need a break from their Zoom.”

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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Analyst Perspectives on Planful

Analyst Perspectives on Planful

We’re always excited when Planful is recognized by leading analysts for the hard work we put into our solutions and the value our customers receive.  But what should these reports mean to you

I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and highlight the differences in how all of the various analyst firms view our market. This is our “state of the analyst market” streamlined for you.

Here’s a quick rundown of the five analysts we primarily work with and their different approaches and how they place Planful within their scoring framework.

BPM Partners

BPM Partners is focused exclusively on business performance management (BPM) solutions. That’s budgeting, consolidation, financial reporting, and more, which makes them a great resource for our customers. For their Vendor Landscape Matrix, BPM interviews customers on 15 key product attributes then provides a vendor ranking to help companies choose the best solution for their needs. Planful achieved an “excellent” rating (4.55/5.0)  and was named a Core Vendor in their most recent report, with noted strengths in finance self sufficiency, ease of use, and reporting. Recently, Planful was recognized as a Top Rated Mid-Market Performance Management Vendor.

Read more from Craig Schiff, President and CEO. 

Constellation Research

Constellation Research looks at technology solutions that help companies achieve their digital transformation goals. The prestigious Constellation ShortList for Cloud-Based Planning Platforms identifies the top vendors based on technology investment, use cases, strategic vision, customer value, executive leadership and price. There are no customer, geography or revenue requirements needed to land on the short list. The firm talks to customers and partners, and combines their own research to identify the four leading vendors. Their analysis is geared towards early technology adopters.  

Constellation Research doesn’t have a grid, matrix or any other ranking system.  They simply put vendors on their Shortlist.  Planful has been on the Constellation ShortList eight consecutive times.

You can learn more about the Constellation ShortList here.

Dresner Advisory Services

Dresner Advisory Services Their flagship report is the Wisdom of Crowds that is 100% based on customer input across 33 criteria. In 2020 Planful received an Industry Excellence Award from Dresner, and we’ve been a “leader” in both customer experience and vendor credibility categories in Wisdom of Crowds for five consecutive years, and Year over year, we’ve seen our scores consistently improve.  Dresner reports are directly related to customer satisfaction, so our perfect recommendation score validates our best of breed continuous planning platform. 

Get your copy of Dresner Research Wisdom Crowds Report, and don’t forget to watch Howard and I discuss the emerging trends on Being Planful.

Gartner

Gartner is, by far, the biggest and most recognizable firm, advising “enterprise leaders” with hundreds of reports and guides published each year. Their flagship reports are called Magic Quadrant’s.  Each Magic Quadrant evaluates many factors but they all roll up to the intersection of Completeness of Vision and Ability to Execute. Gartner’s focus on large, global enterprise clients (77% of their customer base within the Global 500).

Gartner is predicting a major shift in the FP&A vendor landscape, and it is their belief that by 2023, 50% of enterprises will have implemented the FP&A solution of their ERP vendor.  As an independent FP&A vendor we don’t necessarily see it that way, and we hear many customers that are looking for their FP&A vendor to act as an abstraction layer for single and often multiple ERP solutions that they have. 

The 2020 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions was just released and we’re proud to announce we’ve been named a Visionary. Gartner recognizes visionary providers as those that “understand where the market is going or have a vision for changing market rules.”  This is exactly what Planful is doing right now: changing the market

In the past year, we refined our go to market strategy towards underserved midsize companies. We infused new energy and excitement into our products, and we rebranded the company to reflect this sharper vision. Being named a Visionary shows that we’re changing this market for the better, and doing so precisely for the customers we serve. 

In the Gartner’s Critical Capabilities report, a companion to the Magic Quadrant, the Planful Platform shines. We’re excited that Gartner has given Planful top scores for ease of use, application governance, financial budgets and plans, and complex financial budgets and plans. Gartner scored Planful #1 for “upper midsize” organizations (annual revenue of $50 to $250 million) and in the top 3 for “lower midsize” companies ($250 million to $1 billion). This is further recognition of how Planful is changing the Continuous Planning market for the midsize customers we serve.

Download the Critical Capabilities for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions report and read for yourself what else Gartner has to say about Planful.

Nucleus Research

Nucleus Research is focused on how technology drives ROI. Their Value Matrix specifically assesses software vendors, using customer feedback to rate solutions on usability and functionality. That usability angle helps you understand how fast solutions will be adopted by your teams, and the ROI angle puts a heavy weighting on tangible benefits. Planful shines in all of these areas, which is why we’ve been ranked a “leader” on their Value Matrix for seven consecutive years.

Read Planful’s blog post on the CPM Value Matrix.  

The New Analyst: You

A growing trend is the voice of the customer review platforms such as  G2 Crowd and Gartner Peer Insights

G2, the largest software marketplace and review platform, ranks the world’s best software companies and products based on authentic, timely reviews from real users for its annual Best Software Awards. Earlier this year, Planful earned a spot on G2’s Best Software Products 2020 list. Planful ranked #13 in the Best Products for Finance 2020 top 50 list, with recognition for its Financial Close capabilities.  

Gartner Peer Insights is a new platform for ratings and reviews of enterprise technology solutions by end-user professionals for end-user professionals. In 2019, Planful received a 2019 Customers choice award for Cloud Financial Planning and Analyst Solutions. With a current score of 4.6/5.0, we have plenty of happy customers leaving reviews like the one below.

“Planful #1… Real Game Changer!!”

The functionality of Planful which I like most is the ability to do continuous planning, Spotlight (for BOD and Management slides). HR module has reduced our cycle time. Lastly, the ability to distribute reports (Report Collection) within minutes after the consolidation with the click of a button is amazing. 

What It All Means

For you, decide what matters most to you. Ultimately, these analyst reports are the result of a highly valuable, continuous process between vendors, analysts and end-users. The result is an incredibly valuable view into our market, and from many different perspectives.

My job is to get you on your Continuous Planning journey as quickly and successfully as possible. We offer Planful Now to get you going in under 30 days. We have tons of mid-size/enterprise customers ready to tell you how they cut monthly close cycles by 80% or found a few million dollars in cost savings using Planful.  Check them out at planful.com/customers

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Positively Planful: Meet Maria Cherry

Positively Planful: Meet Maria Cherry

People are what makes a company great. That, and a healthy dose of humor and humility. 

At Planful, we have nearly 400 diverse and interesting people spread all over the world, all contributing to our company’s success. Their hard work, and all of our hard work together, is what makes Planful what it is, from our customer experience to our day-to-day work life, to the silly virtual conversations in our #positively-planful Slack channel. 

But who are they? Who are these hundreds of individuals who turn our company values into reality, ensure our customers’ happiness, and who sing, dance, cook, create, surf, hike, parent, and do so many other things outside of Planful?

Positively Planful is our way of inviting you inside our company to learn who we really are, especially if you’re considering a career at Planful. I’ll be interviewing members of our team and sharing a glimpse into their lives. You’ll meet the individuals whose name or face you might not regularly see on our website or at our events, but who equally contribute to our overall success. 

This week, I spoke with Maria Cherry, a senior financial analyst at Planful. She’s a multi-talented individual, with a degree in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley, and whose career transitioned from sales administration to her current role in Finance. She was also a two-time All American pole vaulter and a participant in the Olympic Trials! That’s where we started our recent conversation, so let’s learn a bit more about Maria. 

Mel: You were a pole vaulter? How do you even train for that?

Maria: Well, it originally started because I was a gymnast for seven years. When I was in high school, we did the physical fitness tests and one of the tests was for pull-ups. I did seven pull-ups and the P.E. coach said, ‘You have a lot of upper body strength. You need to try out.’ I said no, but the P.E. coach set up a meeting with the pole vaulting coach and told me I had to go. So I tried it and loved it. I stuck with it, tied for first place in the state my senior year, and then it got me into Cal. 

That’s why we make a good team: you have upper body strength and I have no upper body strength. It’s a good balance for us. I just had a mental picture of you running through Target on a Saturday and pole vaulting. If we were to see you on a weekend, now, at Target, what would you be doing?

I’m a huge window shopper. There was a time when I would go to Target and buy random anything and everything. Now I can walk around for hours and just look at things. 

My son is three. If you had to explain to him what your job at Planful was, how would you describe it?

I work with numbers to make sure people don’t spend too much money and stay within their budget. I don’t know if he would know what a budget was, but I’d explain that, too. 

Tell us about your Planful journey.

I started about five-and-a-half years ago. I was hired to work on the deal desk, but my role changed very quickly. But that was good, because I got to learn the product early on, which was nice and I made that my baby. Then, I started training other people on the product and tried to learn as much as I could about it. 

Now my job is more making sure people are sticking to their budgets. And if not, working with the business leads to make sure they’re on track and understanding the ins and outs. Basically just bridging the gap between Finance and our business partners. 

How would you describe our culture at Planful?

Our culture is very welcoming and inviting. Everyone just takes you in. If things are going on in your personal life, they’re very accommodating. Overall, just welcoming and helpful. 

You’ve been at Planful for over five years. Knowing what you know how, how would you describe the last five years to the back-then you?

I’m more comfortable with where I am now in my role. I know the Planful product really well because I work with it so much. I know the business really well. I just feel really comfortable here. It’s been so nice to see the business grow over those five years. 

What advice would you give to a job seeker considering Planful or a new hire just starting here?

Communication. And don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and ask questions. When you first start, you’re kind of timid because you really don’t know people. Don’t be afraid to reach out at Planful. Everyone is very welcoming here. It’s a family environment and the people are very nice.

Well, now you know a bit more about Maria Cherry, one of our senior financial analysts! We’re so grateful to have her on our team, especially because she can vault over even the tallest budgeting challenges. Haha, get it? 🤸🏻‍♀️

Let me know what you think about this glimpse into the people at Planful. We’re Positively Planful that if our quirky, people-first attitude sounds like a good fit for you, you should check out our Careers page. No pole vaulting experience required; we need shot put and discus. 😉

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How Carta Rolled Out Planful in Just 6 Weeks During the Pandemic

How Carta Rolled Out Planful in Just 6 Weeks During the Pandemic

Carta is a Palo Alto-based tech company that specializes in capitalization table management and valuation solutions. Since the company is spread out over nine different offices, their Finance team was already comfortable working remotely even before Covid-19 hit.

What they weren’t so comfortable with, however, was rolling out brand-new technology over a six-week timeframe—remotely and during a global pandemic, no less. But that’s exactly what Carta’s Finance team did with Planful earlier this year. The result: cutting 10 hours from their monthly close process after the first week. But more on that later.

Carta viewed their six-week implementation as so easy, any company, of any size, could achieve what they did. Here’s how they rolled Planful out in just six weeks, and some of the important lessons they learned along the way.

When Finance Hits the Wall on Spreadsheets 

When Kevin Zell, Strategic Finance Manager at Carta, joined the team two-and-half years ago, they were pretty lean. At the time, he reported directly into the CFO and was just beginning to carve out the traditional finance function by building out the annual planning cycle, developing the board reporting process, and establishing the standard monthly and quarterly metrics. 

Like most companies, Carta built these items in spreadsheets and relied on a variety of disaggregated data and tools that didn’t always work well together. As the team grew, it quickly became apparent that spreadsheets weren’t going to be sustainable. So they began a search for a dynamic financial planning tool

Evaluating different planning solutions, one of the things that stood out was the fast time-to-value of Planful. Many of the other platforms Carta considered also had pretty steep learning curves, but they were impressed by how easy and intuitive the Planful platform was. 

A Continuous Planning Start in Six Weeks 

Rolling out an entirely new FP&A platform in six weeks during a global pandemic felt daunting, according to Carta. To set themselves up for success, they teamed up with Planful partner KeenVision to help guide the implementation. 

Along with Planful, KeenVision helped Kevin and his team establish goals and map out how to execute on the Carta vision. At a high level, here’s what it looked like:

  1. Define the goals. It was important for Carta to realize a fast time-to-value. This was a big consideration throughout their evaluation process, and they wanted to begin utilizing the benefits of Continuous Planning as quickly as possible. 
  2. Execute on the vision. Carta and KeenVision decided on weekly sprints to keep the project on track. It also gave the team a chance to regularly celebrate successes and maintain momentum and morale.

With those two elements as the guiding lights, KeenVision developed a detailed roadmap to reach these goals. They started with the low-hanging fruit of reporting. Within a week, Carta was building reports and transitioning profit and loss (P&L) and balance sheets out of Excel and into Planful. With faster, easier reporting Carta was able to cut 10 hours out of their monthly close process.

Next, Kevin wanted to focus on recreating what they affectionately called their “Big Planning Model” in Planful. It required a tedious, tab-by-tab approach, starting with simple templates Carta could continue to build out over time. 

To help speed the time-to-value, KeenVision used a “teach-first” build environment where they helped Carta build different pieces of the model. Kevin and team would then replicate what they were taught to build out other parts of the model. Eventually, the entire operating model was moved to, marking a huge accomplishment for Carta. 

3 Key Takeaways for Carta

One of the (many) positive outcomes of the Planful implementation has been how much Kevin and team learned about themselves as a finance team. But, working remotely over those six weeks strengthened collaboration, communication, and ownership across the team in completely new ways. 

Kevin said that it also left them with three very important takeaways:   

  1. Celebrate the Small Wins 

Celebrating small wins is important to the vision and critical to rolling out a tool like Planful. The shorter sprints were also really encouraging, and gave the team something to look forward to each week.

This incremental approach also turned into a great way to learn the platform. Since Carta started with their lowest complexity use cases, they were able to build up their skills and confidence before moving into more complex, multi-dimensional use cases. 

The team added a weekly stand-up meeting with the CFO at the beginning of each week. During the Planful rollout, Kevin said it gave them a sense of accomplishment  to preview a new feature that had been rolled out in the past week. The CFO could see the progress, and that Kevin and team were accomplishing big things. 

The final takeaway: Rather than waiting months for the big “a-ha!” moment with a new tool, Carta had something new go live every week. They then announced each win to the rest of the business. This helped everyone in the company understand the impact of the project and the ROI Carta was realizing from the transformation. 

  1. Bring the C-Suite into the Onboarding Process 

It’s no secret that C-level executives have high standards and high expectations. But Kevin was really impressed with how easy it was to roll out the Planful platform to Carta’s executive team. 

Similar to implementation sprints, they used a training program to get executives hands-on with Planful. They started by providing very basic reports, high-level summary budgets, and budget vs. actual reports within the platform. This helped the executives become familiar with Planful and the user interface. Since they were also moving away from spreadsheets, Kevin could direct the executives to Planful anytime they had a question. This alone has driven adoption faster than Kevin ever thought possible. 

To help individual executives, Carta built out different templates for executives to explore. For example, letting them see what changing a quota might look like in real-time helped them see how that decision flows through the business. This visibility empowered their executives to make more insightful decisions. 

The final takeaway: A lot of Carta’s executives have a financial background (we’re a financial services company, after all), but the overall ability for them to interact quickly and get value from Planful has been really impressive. It’s encouraged their executive team to ask a lot of really good questions, but gives Kevin and team more time to review numbers instead of just preparing them.

  1. Position Finance as a Strategic Business Partner  

Over the past few years, Carta has expanded and evolved its business and product lines. Each of their business lines has what they call “The Trifecta”: the business lead, the engineering lead, and the product lead. Together, they control the full P&L for that business.  

It’s Kevin’s team’s job to serve as the CFO for those mini business units. They help each Trifecta evaluate different business decisions and make the right trade-offs. Since implementing Planful, they can now look at data in real-time whenever they have questions (instead of calling on Finance to pull together an ad hoc spreadsheet).

The final takeaway: As a high-growth company, Carta has had plenty of business evolutions throughout the years and will continue to do so in the future. With Planful, they are able to make business decisions much faster, and help teams across the company interact with data in a much more dynamic way. 

Breaking down barriers and creating new connections aren’t two activities you typically associate with Finance. But with Planful, that’s exactly what’s happened for Carta. It’s brought back the fun part of FP&A: spending time on the analysis, not building massive datasets and tabbing through dense reports. 

With Planful, Finance is being viewed as a business partner rather than someone just telling the business if they are over or under budget. It gives Finance a way to transition into a strategic advisor to the business.

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Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Surveys and economic statistics continue to prompt optimism as we inch closer to the final quarter of this unprecedented year. Many executives still expect 2020 to be a down year, but as employment and retail sales continue to climb, many also are looking ahead to a bright 2021. For FP&A specifically, the pandemic-induced realities of remote work, office closures, and increased digital reliance appear to be ushering in fundamental changes to how these teams are managed, how they’ll work in the near future, and how they approach business-wide digital transformation.

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

CFO: US Confidence Starts to Rebound

CFOs ended Q2 with much optimism about the direction of the economy and their own company’s financial prospects, says a new survey from CFO and Duke University. But, most still see 2020 ending as a down year, and 2021 showing solid revenue growth. “Many of the executives surveyed said they expected their firms’ operating income, employment, and total compensation to bounce back in 2021 after shrinking in 2020.”

WSJ / Deloitte: US Jobs Recovery Continues

The U.S. employment rate continues to show surprising resilience, albeit at a slowing rate over the past few months. More people are returning to the labor force and many of those were able to find work. Retail, professional services, restaurants, and healthcare all showed significant job growth for the month. While news of layoffs in the airline industry could adversely affect this positive trend in September, the August data is both surprising and promising. “The expectation was that personal income would decline in August, leading to a decline in spending and weakness in employment.”

CFO: Reshaping the CFO Role

The coronavirus crisis pushed CFOs to be more focused on strategy and creating business value over simply standardizing and automating financial processes, according to a recent survey of financial executives. What’s more, CFOs are showing a newfound affinity for advanced analytics and artificial intelligence. This aligns with the overwhelming response of CFOs who say they’re continuing innovation projects amid the pandemic. “More executives slated advanced analytics for accelerated implementation (29%) than they did any other category of technology. Artificial intelligence was a close second at 23%.”

CFO Dive: Pandemic shuffles companies’ real estate strategies

Widespread office shutdowns, and the subsequent and stable productivity of at-home workers, has CFOs rethinking their real estate strategies. For office space, even a relatively small move to remote or flexible work arrangements would have a real impact on demand. But for warehousing and data centers, many companies are looking to increase investments as pandemic concerns keep more people shopping and working from home. “Whatever (real estate) strategy you have today, it might have to look very different in early 2021.”

InformationWeek: The Other CFO: The Rise of the Cloud Economist

The pandemic has accelerated what was already a fast-moving digital transformation of the broader workplace. That’s put Finance on the hook for monitoring and managing cloud costs as the business increases usage. It’s also prompting CFOs to put “cloud economists” in place to not just manage costs, but to look more broadly at how their company uses technology for competitive advantage. “The cloud economist will have a deep respect for the budget spreadsheet and an intimate understanding of how applications are built — helping tech pros get what they need and prevent financial disaster.”

CFO: Is Working Remotely the Future of Finance?

Survey after survey has shown that at least some portion of workers will continue to work remotely after the pandemic subsides. But many CFOs were surprised to find just how effective their Finance teams have been, which could signal a shift in how Finance teams are structured. “Given the data-intensive nature of finance and the use of technology tools to mechanize, digitize, and automate traditional finance and accounting processes, there is no burning need for a physical office.”

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

More surveys were published these past few weeks, and most continue to show resilience in business outlook and optimism. There’s still plenty of uncertainty to go around, but that’s pushing FP&A in healthy directions as they look for creative replacements for traditional approaches, which have been rendered virtually useless by the pandemic. On an even brighter note, most CFOs expect salaries to rise a bit in the next year as they struggle to retain hard-to-replace workers.

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

CFO: Business Optimism Rebounds From Virus Shock

Surveys are in vogue these days and many are refreshingly positive, including this one from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. The share of companies saying they plan to expand within the next year nearly doubled from last quarter, from 24% to 43%. And, their “CPA Outlook Index” shows that executive optimism is nearly as high as it was a year ago, well before the pandemic. But, all of the optimism is tempered by continued uncertainty. “We’re seeing improvement in a number of categories this quarter but it’s worth remembering we’re digging out of a very deep hole of pessimism.”

WSJ / Deloitte: Dynamic Planning and Forecasting for Better Insights

Flexibility is the new buzzword as the rigidity of traditional FP&A approaches to planning and forecasting continues to fall short. For those still considering their old ways, FP&A should think twice before they base plans on past assumptions and historical data. What’s happening, according to Deloitte, is that the combined need for constant scenario planning and a lack of confidence in future projections is pushing CFOs to challenge their own ways. That puts FP&A at the center of this reengineering. “FP&A is ideally positioned to help the business understand which assumptions and actions taken in immediate response to the pandemic were effective and which were not.”

Forbes: Creating The Right Climate For Creative Ideas

At this point in 2020, we’re all taking on chaos and uncertainty as just another day’s work. But some innovative Finance teams are taking the opportunity to build more brainstorming and creativity into their function. A suggested approach is to promote a “Yes, and” environment, where ideas are allowed to develop before others react. “As CFO, the staff looks to you to establish boundaries for acceptable behavior and contributions. Before encouraging creativity from others, understand how you react to new ideas.”

FM: The pandemic’s effect on CFO tenure

The average CFO tenure is just under five years, and that seems to be holding steady during the pandemic. However, there have been some high profile CFO moves, including at GM, Cisco, and Avis Budget Group. Some are departing after getting through the high pressure slog of the pandemic, while others are finding they’re just burned out from crisis management and workplace changes. “The job is becoming ‘less about scorekeeping’ and more about leading a virtual workforce with empathy.”

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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What’s Trending for FP&A: Dresner Advisory Services on the Being Planful Podcast

What’s Trending for FP&A: Dresner Advisory Services on the Being Planful Podcast

Our first episode of Being Planful featured planning and decision-making expert Howard Dresner, Chief Research Officer at Dresner Advisory Services. Howard’s firm is noted for their Wisdom of Crowds® research reports, which are based on data collected on usage and deployment trends, products, and vendors. You can get a free copy of their new Wisdom of Crowds® Enterprise Performance Management Market Study here

Related to current events, Howard’s firm recently released two pandemic-focused studies: Covid Business Impact Survey and Current Trends in Planning. Howard and I discussed the findings in this inaugural episode, but here’s a quick overview of what he told me. 

The Outlook is Positive

Our customers have been using Planful more than ever since the pandemic took hold. During that time, we’ve been hearing and seeing three distinct business phases of this crisis: ambush, regrouping, and recovery. The entire world was ambushed by COVID-19, but then as businesses better understood the impact over the first couple of months, many began to regroup.

But now, Howard said, more businesses are entering the recovery phase. About half of companies he surveyed are still under hiring freezes, but between April and June, hiring has started to increase. And, although many budgets are still capped, companies have stopped reducing budgets, which is promising. 

“I think that most companies have already done what they had to do,” Howard said, in reference to budget and headcount cuts. “Now they have a sense of what this new normal is going to be.”

Modern FP&A Teams Were Better Prepared 

Howard shared a few interesting charts comparing business recovery split by those who do or do not employ a cloud-based Planning platform, which Howard refers to as Enterprise Performance Management (EPM).  As you can probably guess, those not rushing to move to Continuous Planning—even after struggling through the pandemic—have a less-than-rosy outlook. Companies using Continuous Planning, however, “were able to better manage (their business) because they figured out the scope and impact more quickly, and they could adjust their plans and execute against them more quickly,” Howard noted. 

These modern tools also helped FP&A react with more agility and speed, and work more closely with the business. Howard found that many companies moved from annual and quarterly planning to more frequent cycles. And, for forecasting, the share of companies using a weekly cycle doubled from last year. It shows that the pandemic pushed more companies to adopt a Continuous Planning approach because they needed the speed and flexibility to react to the chaos and uncertainty. 

“(The pandemic) forced organizations to think deeply about how they run the business, measure the business, monitor the business,” added Howard. “I’m hopeful that it sticks so that when the next ‘black swan’ hits, they’ll be better prepared.” 

Here’s What Dresner Recommends

OK, you’re going to have to listen to the episode to get the details, but I promise, it’s an engaging and deeply informative conversation. If you’re in a hurry, jump to the 43:00 mark for Howard’s recommendations. 

Once you’ve listened to Howard, check out the next episodes of Being Planful. Episode 2 is a conversation with Kevin Zell, Strategic Finance Manager at Carta, who detailed the benefits they’re realizing by moving to Continuous Planning and away from spreadsheets. Episode 3 features Tim Zue,  CFO at the Boston Red Sox, who talked about the organization’s transformation as they expand Continuous Planning to cover reporting, monthly forecasting, financial close, and more.

Subscribe to Being Planful

This new podcast series explores the benefits of adopting a “Planful” mindset by inviting your FP&A peers, analysts, industry experts, and more, to share their experiences and insights. Podcasting also lets us stay socially-distant while giving you a more flexible way to learn about Continuous Planning, whether it’s watching it on your phone, listening during your morning run, or tuning-in whenever it’s convenient.

If you’d like to subscribe, click on your podcast platform of choice (Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, or Spotify), or just search for “Planful” wherever you listen. I’ll be releasing new episodes often, so be sure to subscribe. And, if you have any comments, questions, or think you’d make a great guest, send me an email at beingplanful@planful.com. 

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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

Multiple surveys find that CFOs are beginning to see a glimmer of light at the end of the pandemic tunnel.  But they expect unpredictability to be the new normal, which renders their traditional Finance processes somewhat useless. This is driving a thirst for modern planning and forecasting methods to help them act on what they’ve learned during the pandemic and position Finance as a nimble, technology-driven force for future growth. It’s all thrust FP&A into a more strategic role, but only if they’ve been able to both adjust to the chaos and bring more innovation to the table. 

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

CFO Dive: Nearly half of companies at pre-pandemic operating levels: CFO survey

A recent survey shows that CFO optimism has increased significantly (to 60% from last quarter’s 11%). But the biggest takeaway is how CFOs are using the lessons learned during the pandemic to fundamentally change how Finance operates. Specifically, this means pushing digital and operational transformation within their own organizations. “CFOs are looking at this as an opportunity to create permanent structures in how they employ their people and utilize their tech in new and innovative ways.”

Deloitte / WSJ: Retool FP&A for the Recovery Economy

The pandemic has elevated FP&A into an active part of each company’s recovery due to the need for constant revisions to scenarios, models, and plans. It’s given CFOs and FP&A leaders a new outlook on the work, tools, skills, and processes FP&A needs in this new, unpredictable normal. And, it’s highlighted the limitations of those teams who try to maintain their status quo or simply depend on historical assumptions. “The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the vulnerabilities of traditional FP&A processes and inputs, and brought new challenges.”

CFO Dive: Pandemic pushing CFOs further into strategist role: survey

A new survey by Grant Thornton, an audit, tax and advisory firm, found that CFOs are spending much less time on core responsibilities and much more time on strategic activities. Unfortunately, many CFOs also delayed modernization projects, which the firm sees as a mistake since innovation is critical to maintaining positive momentum. “During a pandemic, a time of significant change in how business works, is when you should be innovating.”

CFO: Work-From-Anywhere Future Exposes Holes in Operational Strategy

Working from outside of a traditional office is looking more and more like the preferred scenario going forward. But remote work also brings up some issues, like training challenges and erosion of corporate culture. For the CFO, it also brings tax implications, auditing challenges, real estate confusion, revised salaries, and more. The new thinking is that flexible work arrangements might be a better strategy than wholesale remote workforces. “Ultimately, the evolution that’s currently unfolding is one where corporations will need to have the best of both worlds.”

CFO Dive: CFO: The path to finance leadership should wind through FP&A

The CFO’s job is to make the right decisions to create growth, but FP&A sets the cadence that makes those strategies come to fruition, according to the CFO of HubSpot, a marketing technology company. That makes FP&A experience critical for any CFO, giving them a deep financial understanding of the company to spot opportunities that no other business leaders can even see. “You have perspective and understanding of different parts of the business and how your peers are going to be thinking through things and making choices.”

Forbes: How To Put People First In The Midst Of Crisis: A Q&A With Booz Allen’s CFO

Moving 27,000 employees to remote work while avoiding layoffs has put Booz Allen under the microscope as other companies try to understand this enviable outcome. The firm’s CFO credits a focus on people first, specifically alleviating job stress and layoff fears. By repurposing budget for travel and events, plus scaling back raises and promotions, the company was able to fund emergency time off, dependent care, and more. The benefit was a happier, less stressed workforce, and it showed. “With reduced job worries, our employees have been more productive than ever, our financial performance has been exceptional and we still have some of the (funds) available if there are new COVID-related impacts later this year.”

McKinsey: 2020 leadership reading list

If you have the free time to dive into a good book (lucky you!), McKinsey surveyed 60 business leaders from diverse fields to get reading suggestions. Recommendations come from CEOs, entrepreneurs, philanthropists, journalists, teachers, and more. It’s not all work, however, since many of the picks relate to current social and cultural events, or are just to help you “find opportunities to reflect and recharge.”

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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Summer20 Speeds Continuous Planning for Every Corner of the Business

Summer20 Speeds Continuous Planning for Every Corner of the Business

We believe that FP&A is the strategic core of every modern business. When they work faster and more efficiently, they have more time to raise the financial IQ in every corner of the business.  Helping FP&A connect and collaborate with the business is one of the many powerful and transformational benefits of Continuous Planning. Now, with our new Summer20 product release, customers get the power of exciting enhancements that make collaboration across the business faster, easier, and more impactful than ever. 

Summer20, which is now available to Planful customers, continues to build upon the capabilities of our industry-first Dynamic Collaboration, which we rolled out in our Spring20 release. It also brings a totally redesigned workforce planning experience and adds improvements to our platform speed and performance. And, we’ve improved access to the Support Portal, added dozens of new customizations, and made enhancements to improve overall usability. Let’s unpack each of these areas. 

All-new Workforce Planning Experience

Current uncertainties have made workforce planning a challenge at many companies. With our goal of getting FP&A more connected and collaborative with every corner of the business, we’ve put extra effort into easing your workforce planning efforts in this latest release. We’re innovating on these and other types of cross-organizational capabilities to provide a platform for your Continuous Planning journey. 

You’ll first notice an enhanced, more intuitive user experience for Planful Workforce Planning. Our previous release, Spring20, gave you a preview of this new look, but Summer20 puts it front and center for every Planful customer. It’s a redesigned experience that enables you to customize Workforce Planning for what’s important to your business. The streamlined experience means fewer clicks, which makes it easier to get your work done faster and build more insightful plans and forecasts.

Other improvements to Workforce Planning let you customize your employee roster with the addition of compensation items or compensation attributes. You can then hide these confidential items based on user roles so that personal information is only shared with those who need it. You can now easily manage employee rosters across multiple departments simultaneously. We’ve also added advanced search functionality so it’s easier and faster to find and update information for individuals or groups of employees. 

More Dynamic Capabilities for a Continuous Planning Culture

We’re the pioneer in giving FP&A the capabilities they need to be an agile, fast, and powerful force within their organizations. This ability to dynamically change direction, respond to shifting needs, and react to business needs with confidence has always been foundational for modern FP&A. Today, they are a requirement for every company.

We launched Dynamic Collaboration in our Spring20 release, and it’s been one of our more popular new capabilities. It’s given users the power to work smarter and more efficiently within FP&A and across the business, and the Summer20 release builds on that collaborative power. We’ve added enhanced filtering, sorting, editing, and highlighting capabilities, and they’re user-specific which enables Planful to remember your preferred choices. New email notifications makes it easier to track and manage comments as you work, making sure everyone stays focused and aligned on key tasks and deliverables. You can also include comments and background narratives so that teams see the story behind the numbers, in context, for better decision-making.

Dynamic Planning also gets a performance and usability boost in Summer20 with enhanced APIs and behind-the-scenes improvements that make the entire experience faster and more intuitive. Customers are seeing data move much more quickly between financial and operational models, with transfers happening as much as 5 times faster. Also, a new and improved folder structure makes it easy to organize, locate, and work with all your various Dynamic Planning maps.

Paving the Way for Future Planful Advancements

Under the hood, Summer20 adds an exciting upgrade to our underlying database technology. This improves performance and speed, and enables new artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities across the platform, with some extremely compelling use cases to unfold in subsequent releases. I don’t want to give anything away quite yet, so stay tuned for more updates on those in the near future.

Summer20 also moves us one step closer to handling all international characters, which paves the way for more countries and local language ledgers to be loaded and rendered in the Planful platform. This is a huge benefit for our international customers and makes Planful an even more powerful platform for FP&A teams around the world. 

While pushing to get Summer20 released, we’ve also enabled some of our largest customers to go live on Dynamic Planning and more than doubled our benchmarked performance measurements. And those are accomplishments that benefit all of our customers. Our product development team deserves a lot of the credit for these behind-the-scenes improvements and user-facing advancements. But so do our customers. Our innovation is driven by your continued feedback and passion for the Planful platform. It inspires us to make the product better every day, and to think well beyond your current needs today so we can get new capabilities into your hands before you even realize you need them. 

Summer20 is All Sunshine

We know times are tough for everyone these days. But we hope Summer20 makes your job easier and faster, and maybe a bit more rewarding, too. We’re continuing to pour our hearts and minds into Planful everyday. You’re the reason we do it, and we’re not stopping here. 

Every Planful customer received access to Summer20 automatically on August 21. There’s nothing you need to do. 

If you have feedback or a product suggestion, we invite you to reach out to your Planful account manager. In the meantime, we’ll be hard at work on the Fall20 product release. See you back here in a few months.

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How to Create All the Scenarios You Need. Fast, Accurate and Actionable.

How to Create All the Scenarios You Need. Fast, Accurate and Actionable.

Scenario analysis has taken on a whole new meaning these days. COVID-19 pushed companies into chaos, and the continuing uncertainty makes planning especially difficult. In the process, the playbook we’ve all used over the past decade or two has been rendered virtually useless.

The impact of the pandemic, along with the transition to working from home, has forced FP&A teams to scramble as the business makes more, and more frequent, requests for help. But this new dynamic has also pulled Finance front-and-center in nearly every company as the business looks to FP&A for the strategic financial guidance that only they can provide. Now, you’re being called on to do more what-if scenario planning, and do it faster than ever before because things are still changing so rapidly. Where it was once the status quo to turn around a what-if request in a day or two or “by EOW”, those insights are now needed in hours or even minutes. And the results could be the difference between stability and disaster.

It’s your job to help everyone, in all the corners of the business, make better, faster, more intelligent decisions. But the ad hoc scenarios you’re modeling need three things:

  1. Accuracy so the business can move forward with confidence. 
  2. Speed because new information and economic conditions are changing constantly, sometimes multiple times per day.
  3. Executability so the business can quickly put into action any course-correcting tactics.

We can help, and we show you how in our latest webinar, “Multi-dimensional Ad Hoc Analysis.” You can watch the webinar now, on demand. It includes a product demonstration showing you just how quickly and easily Planful helps you model new what-if scenarios, make changes on-the-fly and instantly see the results. 

The demo also walks you through several real-world use cases, highlighting how Planful’s multidimensional ad hoc analysis capabilities allow you to change granular assumptions or top-level results, and then use our breakback functionality to instantly run the necessary calculations across all of your accounts, departments, products, geographies, etc. It’s powerful stuff, and a huge time-saver. So, if you’re changing headcount or adjusting an expense line item, Planful cascades the updates across the entire scenario in seconds, so you can see the full impact instantly. Or, if you have a top-level target to hit, breakback does the same to quickly calculate the line item numbers needed to hit that goal. 

With Planful Spotlight for Office, you can leverage these multidimensional ad hoc analysis capabilities directly within MS Excel, Word, and PowerPoint, giving you the speed, power, and insights from your favorite Office applications, all while retaining the connection to Planful and your source data.

Once the pandemic took hold, we saw a massive spike in the usage of Planful across our customers. They quickly began running what-ifs and changing models as shut-downs and economic disruptions hit their businesses. Planful gave them the speed and insights to quickly react, provide their executive teams with strategic guidance when they needed it most, and then pivot just as quickly as the situation continued to change. 

“We’re definitely using a lot more scenarios in Planful in the face of COVID-19,” said Randy Brown, Director of FP&A at Nature’s Sunshine. Andrew Freeman, Director, Financial Planning & Analysis and Management Reporting at Webber, added, “We relied on Planful this morning because we need to do a new forecast with everything going on. Planful is a blessing because we can access it from anywhere.”

If you’re not already a Planful customer and curious how you can get started fast, Planful Now is a deployment program designed to get you up and running on the highest impact use cases you might be struggling with today. In 30 days or less, you could be using Planful for multi-dimensional ad hoc analysis to quickly create what-if scenarios, change business drivers on the fly, and dynamically analyze the results in real-time. The next time you’re asked to answer those critical business questions, you’ll be empowered to do it in seconds. And that’s the stuff FP&A professionals dream about. 

In the meantime, be sure to watch this 30-minute overview, “Multi-dimensional Ad Hoc Analysis.”

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3 FP&A Trends Shaping Our Digital Economy

Finance professors often teach that markets are working toward efficiency—that they’re linear. The reality? They’re bumpy roller coasters full of ups and downs. “Things are usually changing fast enough and people are imperfect enough that markets don’t always have it just right,” says Kevin Landis, CEO and CIO of Firsthand Capital Management and veteran technology ....

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When Is It OK to Prioritize Business Growth Over Business Debt?

If you’re in finance, your instinct likely tells you to always protect the money—and your gut’s not completely wrong. But business debt isn’t always a bad thing. It’s not uncommon for high-growth companies to use debt financing to achieve positive cash-flow status and fund business expansion. In 2019, global corporate debt held by non-financial corporations ....

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