Make Cash Management a Competitive Advantage

Make Cash Management a Competitive Advantage

Everyone in Finance has been beating the drum of cash preservation since the pandemic first hit the news cycles. Now, many months later, if cash remains king, uncertainty is surely queen. Getting a handle on your cash flow is the job of FP&A, but with so much continuing change, the business is relying on you for financial accuracy, speed, agility, and vision to keep your company moving forward. 

I recently presented at the Amalgam Insights TEM Expo 2020, an event designed to help Finance better manage IT resources in the midst of remote work and digital transformation. The pandemic has forced FP&A to reevaluate every penny. But, with respect to IT projects, we’re seeing more evidence that companies that continue to invest in transformational technologies are not just weathering the COVID storm, they’re positioning themselves to lead as the world emerges from this crisis. A key to FP&A success is using these technologies to provide the business with better visibility into cash flow. 

As CFO of Planful, I’m a big proponent of enhancing our competitive advantage through cash management. That was the topic of my session at TEM Expo, but whether you’re still struggling to overcome the impact of the pandemic or you’re already looking towards 2021, cash flow management and transparency can make a difference. CFOs and FP&A know we need to prepare for a wide array of possibilities because everything is still in flux. But, providing the business with better cash flow visibility during uncertainty gives them the confidence to make decisions and move forward with decisiveness. 

So how do you get there? You can watch my TEM Expo presentation, but to summarize, I believe there are three foundational prerequisites FP&A needs to turn cash management into a competitive advantage: 

  1. The role FP&A plays in your business recovery.
  2. Your ability to quickly respond to the business.
  3. Getting beyond today’s chaos to prepare for tomorrow.
#1 – Put FP&A in the Driver’s Seat

FP&A spends a lot of time on the manual tasks of finance, but that’s a time sink you can no longer afford. The level of uncertainty today leads to constant reforecasting, remodeling, replanning, and repeating all of it. It wasn’t that long ago when companies were looking at cash flow on a monthly or quarterly basis. Today, it’s weekly or daily. When FP&A is bogged down in the manual weeds, your resulting guidance is neither accurate nor timely.

I talk to a lot of CFOs and CEOs at our customers and those evaluating Planful. What I’ve heard again and again in 2020 is that they need accuracy and speed from Finance. Everything is changing quickly, so they need real-time data that’s as accurate as possible so they can make decisive, confident decisions in an instant. That means FP&A is being asked to do more, faster, and, unfortunately today, maybe with less resources. You can’t keep up with those expectations if you’re relying on spreadsheets.

Before the pandemic, I used to build good, better, and best cash flow scenario plans. Now, they’re more like OK, worse, and “sky is falling.” That’s just the situation we live in. Since we use Planful, however, we’re always working with accurate, timely information. We can dynamically collaborate with our business partners, and we’re confident in the recommendations and decisions we make. So the business looks to us for guidance.

FP&A has a great opportunity today to get in the driver’s seat, take the wheel, and give the business what they need: more updates, more reports, and a better understanding of your cash flow situation. Without the proper tools, you’re in a constant state of reaction and you’re likely days or weeks behind what the business needs. In today’s reality, that lag could be catastrophic. 

A rock solid cash flow plan, built on current data and today’s situation, gives everyone across the business the confidence to make decisions and move forward, quickly. 

#2 – Put Speed and Agility Above All Else

Yes, everything is changing at a breathtaking pace and uncertainty is the only known. You’ve heard that a thousand times since this pandemic began. But it remains true and it should be driving how you run FP&A. In other words, speed and agility mean more than anything right now. 

What the business needs is for FP&A to forecast, model, plan, and then reforecast, remodel, and replan, and then repeat. Repeatedly. Being able to do this in a few clicks is, obviously, better than having to gather new data, integrate spreadsheets, tweak formulas, check and double check…you get the point. Providing these scenarios to the business quickly lets them respond to what they’re reading in the market. Accurate cash flow insights can then drive real value for every corner of your business. 

Also, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can’t spare the time to modernize FP&A. This current situation won’t be over next month and then everything is back to normal. It’s been many months since this began, and the uncertainty is likely to continue for at least another year, likely longer. Taking a few weeks now to accelerate and increase the accuracy of your processes is a no-brainer. Just imagine how you’d be working today if you spent last month moving to a connected, collaborative, modern Continuous Planning platform.

#3 – Start Planning for Tomorrow

This might be a byproduct of my Boy Scout days, but I follow the “Be Prepared” motto, especially in Finance. Keeping an eye on the road ahead, and constantly updating your forecasts and plans, helps you weather any oncoming storms. Thinking through the scenarios helps you develop potential responses. If the scenarios do then happen, you aren’t simply reacting, you’re executing a known plan. 

It’s also important to take an ecosystem view as you do your cash flow scenario planning. Forces that impact your business will likely impact your customers, suppliers, and partners as well. Extended payment terms are one result of the pandemic. But what’s next? Will more customers request even longer extensions? Will the extensions be permanent? Will new types of COVID clauses be added to contracts, and will they impact cash flow? 

Planning for these potential scenarios puts you in a better position to respond when they do, or even if they don’t, come to pass. Going further and working with your ecosystem to have candid conversations about these scenarios and the cash flow impact can also create goodwill. That will pay dividends with those customers, suppliers, and partners for years to come. 

Take the Lead to Emerge Intact

FP&A is in a unique position to lead your business through this current crisis. With better cash flow management and planning tools, and a move towards Continuous Planning, you’ll get the speed, agility, and responsiveness your business needs to deal with current and coming threats and opportunities. 

Use smart cash flow management to chart your course, move fast while increasing accuracy and flexibility, and proactively prepare for tomorrow. Make this your mantra for post-pandemic business success. And remember, we’re in this together!

Want to learn more about how you can put FP&A in the drivers seat?

Download our Ultimate Guide to Continuous Planning.

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Positively Planful: Meet Vishnu Vivekanand

Positively Planful: Meet Vishnu Vivekanand

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. We interview members of our team and share a glimpse into their lives. It also lets you 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. 

Our people are spread around the world, and together we’re working around-the-clock to get more organizations started on their Continuous Planning journey. So while our North American teams are unplugging, our team in Hyderabad is just getting revved up for their day. And half-a-day later, it happens in reverse. 

“Teams” is one of the five Planful values, and we love having a large, globally-dispersed team. We stay well connected thanks to our digital collaboration tools, and we also stay well connected on a personal level, as our teams work together seamlessly no matter how much distance is between them. 

This week, we’re profiling Vishnu Vivekanand, a manager of software development in our Hyderabad office who focuses on our Consolidations product. Vishnu was interviewed by Sai Ramya Bhanu Tumuluru, a SCRUM master in the same office. Vishnu has been working with Planful for over  2 years, but—and we’re all shocked by this—a career as a software developer wasn’t what he dreamed about as a child! 

Let’s learn a bit more about Vishnu.

Sai: You’ve grown quickly in your role at Planful. To what do you attribute your success?

Vishnu: It’s been a very nice journey for the past two and a half years. I brought in a lot of curiosity. I was asking questions, and I had no qualms asking even the silliest of questions.  That sense of curiosity helped me get through a steep initial learning curve. Without the leadership’s backing and support, and without all of my questions, I wouldn’t have grown as quickly as I did.

Sai: When you were a child, what were your career aspirations?

Vishnu: I always aspired to enlist in the Indian Defense Forces, particularly in the Indian Army. I wouldn’t call it luck, but whatever happened, I landed in software engineering. I guess you can say it was my destiny.

Sai: What advice would you give to others?

Vishnu: Be relentless in your pursuits. Never back down. Never say die. And just be passionately curious about things. 

Sai: If you were told that life ends at 40 years old, how would you live differently?

Vishnu: Oh, that’s a tough question. I want to live longer!  But, I guess if that news was just disclosed to me now, I would just have to accept it and move on and enjoy life. But if I could do my life again, I would work even harder and maybe enter the Defense Forces.

Now you know a bit more about Vishnu Vivekanand, a member of our fantastic development team in Hyderabad. We’re grateful to have Vishnu on our team, and we’re very lucky he didn’t enlist in the Indian Defense Forces!

Let us know what you think about this glimpse into Planful. We’re Positively Planful that if our people-first attitude sounds like a good fit for you, you should check out our Careers page. 

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Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World

Most signs point to an ongoing recovery for the U.S. and much of the world, but regional COVID spikes have prompted renewed calls for stay-at-home restrictions, keeping uncertainty as the only sure thing. That’s been the case for most of 2020. But CFOs are hoping to get in front of constant reforecasting and revised modeling with more digital investments. And, proving that remote and flexible work are here to stay, companies are now beginning to hire directors of remote work.

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: Data analytics, RPA top list of 2021 digital priorities, survey finds

A new Gartner survey of CFOs found that the pandemic amplified any digital shortcomings, so they’re upping their digital investments for 2021 to close those gaps. Advanced data analytics and robotic process automation were named as the two biggest areas of investment. And, for the first time ever in a Gartner CFO survey, the top 5 priorities were technology related. It reflects the pressure FP&A is under to help the business react and respond to uncertainty. “The business is demanding faster agile planning and insights to help the business find and respond to challenges and growth opportunities.”

Deloitte / WSJ: Global Economic Brief: Manufacturing Bounces Back

U.S. jobless claims continue to fall, but the global economy is also showing signs of continued growth. A recent update to the global purchasing managers’ index (PMI) hit a 29-month high. That indicates moderate growth, firm demand, and supply chain resilience. In a reflection of widespread global improvement, every major industrial nation saw a positive move in their PMI. But, obviously, uncertainty is still a factor. “It remains to be seen whether hopes generated by Pfizer’s announcement will be realized…(and the manufacturing industry) continues to face the challenge of weak global trade.”

Fortune: Not everyone is feeling the recovery: The economy as told by 8 charts

The current economic recovery is faster than that of the Great Recession, but it’s also fractured. U.S. states differ widely in unemployment rates, from 15% in Hawaii to 3.5% in Nebraska, and family finances have changed anywhere from a 31% increase to a 33% decrease. New home building is also increasing, with September up 11% from a year ago, while 2% of the labor force has stopped looking for work. “It’s truly a tale of two recoveries whereby some people, professions, and geographic areas have recovered swiftly…while others are mired in a long slog.”

Fast Company: Facebook is adding a new director of remote work

Remote work is here to stay, at least in some form. That’s prompting companies to hire a remote work leader to design and execute their plans. Their goal will be to ensure both on-site and remote workers have similar work experiences, including career guidance, giving workers what they need to be successful, and helping managers better understand how to work with hybrid teams. And, that applies for those working at home and those working in the office. “While employees who are working remotely may need the most guidance and help feeling connected, companies need to think about those employees working on campus as well.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

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From the Classroom to Any Room: 4 Ways to Reimagine Training

From the Classroom to Any Room: 4 Ways to Reimagine Training

When the pandemic first hit, we saw a massive spike in traffic to Planful Academy. That was great, because we knew it was helping our customers quickly transition FP&A to the remote style of work that everyone was thrown into. The faster they could expand their team’s Planful expertise, the faster they could get to work rebounding from the pandemic’s impact on their business.

We quickly realized, just as with every other face-to-face activity, that our on-site, three-day boot camps had to go virtual. And, as students across the world now know all too well, online learning isn’t great if you just move everything to Zoom without thinking it through. So we needed to make sure our Structured Planning & Reporting and Dynamic Planning boot camps would continue to help customers during the pandemic. 

Since we already had experience creating other online training courses for Planful Academy, we had a successful model to follow. But it still wasn’t a seamless transition and we learned quite a bit along the way. Now, having successfully transitioned our boot camps, here are 4 things that helped us move our in-person courses to an all-virtual learning environment. 

#1 – Reimagine everything, not just the delivery model

From the start, we knew the biggest hurdle would be the translation of the in-person learning experience to online. Some learning techniques that work well in a live classroom simply do not translate, or, at the very least do not translate well, into the virtual world. One example of that would be a lesson that requires students to work together, or a lengthy exercise that we work through as a class. That’s tough to do over a video call.

We knew this new paradigm of working virtually required us to reimagine everything from the ground up, and that we couldn’t just copy-and-paste the in-person experience to a virtual platform.  Within the learning design world there is a strategy called ADDIE, which stands for Analysis, Design, Development, Implementation, and Evaluation. We follow that strategy at Planful when we create any new learning course. But transitioning from in-person classes forced us to go back to square one: Analysis. For this phase, we defined the instructional design problem and our goals and objectives for the “new” courses. We already knew who our audience was (our amazing customers!), but we needed to identify potential learning constraints and sort through the various content delivery options. Finally, we set our deadlines. These were tight because we wanted to have limited downtime between the in-person boot camps and our new virtual courses. 

#2 – Adjust for the lack of face-to-face guidance

Jumping into the Design phase, we knew which courses had the most interest from customers, so we prioritized those to transition first. Luckily, they also had the least amount of new content to create. That would speed the transition and get customers back in class faster. 

The in-person boot camps were structured around a typical workday, with mostly lecture, exercises, and group discussions. But the virtual courses wouldn’t have a captive, focused audience, and students would be easily distracted during the day, so the program had to be broken down into manageable lessons. Our previous experience creating virtual courses really gave us an edge here. To help students focus, we built checklists, quick reference guides, and self-study classes with guided exercises. We then added virtual instructor-led classes with accompanying guides, workbooks, lectures, and exercises. Some content from the boot camps was repurposed, but we needed to create a great deal from scratch. 

The Development phase of ADDIE is where all these pieces come together and we didn’t waste any time assembling the new courses. Instead of three all-day, in-person classes, the new virtual courses would consist of four to five parts. Each course begins with a “Getting Started” class to introduce students to the fundamentals of the product, and then progresses through a series of lessons delivered in a mix of formats. It begins with self-study and students can work at their own pace. But, it ends with a live, virtual instructor-led class to wrap it all up and answer questions. 

Once the content was created, and because we spent so much time really thinking through the learning experience, the Implementation phase was easy.  

#3 – Continuously evaluate and improve

The final Evaluation phase of ADDIE is both summative and formative, and it really never stops. In other words, the launch of the course is merely the basis for future improvements. So it’s critical to get feedback from every student on every aspect of the course to understand if your training goals are being met.

We get some of this information from our post-course feedback surveys, but those insights are just one piece of our overall evaluation. We want to understand where students easily grasp concepts and where they stumble, which exercises resonate and which do not. We look at the questions we get during office hours and even the response to the final exam and how they mesh with what the course is teaching. As we gather more insights, we iterate everything in a never-ending process to continuously improve the courses.

It’s a never-ending process, but it’s one that helps us constantly increase the value our customers get from these courses. And, it applies to all of our courses.

#4 – Get in front of virtual distractions

As we all know, it’s difficult to stay focused amid the constant noise and interruptions of email, Slack, texts, and every other work and personal notification we get from our devices. We like to say that the most valuable resource in any classroom is the attention of the student. Even in an in-person classroom setting, keeping the student engaged is a challenge. But, in a virtual environment, that challenge is magnified due to the many available distractions. The solution was to incorporate more checkpoints. 

Instructors can’t read the room in a virtual classroom, so it’s hard to tell if students are absorbing the content, confused, or are simply distracted. Adding checkpoints along the way, like polls, quizzes, and questions that require more than a yes/no answer,  helped us assess whether the content was being absorbed and maintain student attention. Most video meeting software has emojis or other interaction features, such as checkmarks, thumbs up or down, and other fun responses students can respond with when asked questions. It makes lessons more interactive.

More value and more opportunities

The move to a 100% virtual Planful Academy wasn’t planned. But moving to a virtual classroom has opened the benefits of Planful to more people in more companies. That’s good for us, obviously, but it’s fantastic for our customers, since they get to maximize the value of Planful. Being Planful certified is also an accomplishment for the individuals, too, and something that can help people grow professionally. 

Our goal is to help more customers get more value out of Planful. Now, it’s easier than ever because you can get a Planful certification from anywhere and at a pace that fits your schedule. If you haven’t checked out the available certifications, or if you’re interested in signing up for a certification course, login to the Planful application and visit Planful Academy today. It’s a great way to expand your skills and add to your resume! 

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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 entering the final days of 2020 with indicators pointing to a much better 2021. Of note is the continued decline in business news about the pandemic’s effects and an increase in content about how this year’s adaptations can help make future years better for companies and FP&A in particular. Remote work is an obvious change, but so are new approaches to talent retention, leadership, compensation, planning, modeling, and M&A. As always, FP&A is critical to how these approaches play out at companies.

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 GDP Surges by Record 33.1% in Q3

This past quarter saw a huge increase in annualized GDP,  yet many economists still warn that we’re far from fully recovered from the economic effects of the pandemic. In fact, the GDP is still 3.5% below its 2019 ending and we’re only halfway to refilling the 22 million jobs lost earlier in 2020. But, in a positive sign, spending was up across the board. “The third-quarter rebound was fueled by a record 40.7% surge in consumer spending (and) business investment in equipment leaped 70.1%.”

Deloitte / WSJ: M&A Alternatives Take Center Stage: Survey

Mergers and acquisitions all but stopped at the onset of the pandemic, but a new Deloitte survey shows that 61% of companies expect activity to return to pre-pandemic levels before the end of next year. And, while barely one-third of companies are currently pursuing traditional M&A, nearly half are looking at alternatives, such as alliances and joint ventures. What’s more, 87% say they’ve been able to manage deals entirely remotely. “More than half (55%) anticipate that virtual deal-making will be preferred even after the pandemic is over.”

CFO Dive: Finance leadership means owning blame, CFO says

A critical, unspotted error deep within a spreadsheet pushed one CFO to accept responsibility rather than assign blame. Quickly moving beyond finger-pointing pushed the company to completely revamp their modeling and forecasting methods, ultimately eliminating older, static assumptions across their processes. That not only set the tone within FP&A, it reinforced the CFO’s approach to teamwork and team building. “If you have mediocre people, you’re mediocre. If they’re better than you, you can leverage your team.”

Diginomica: How winning HR and Finance teams can get workforce planning right in 2021 – together

Planful CEO, Grant Halloran, says the pandemic brought workforce concerns front and center for companies as health concerns, shutdowns, and cost cutting combined to put HR in an incredibly tough spot. But HR teams who quickly partnered with FP&A to chart a path forward were able to retain top talent while balancing cash flow needs. That not only helped them navigate 2020, it now gives them a better foundation to adapt to whatever uncertainty 2021 brings. “As economic activity ticks up or down in response to factors outside the company’s control, the company is able to pivot quickly to mitigate risks and embrace opportunities.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

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

Many CFOs are getting rave reviews from their executive counterparts based on their handling of the pandemic. As a result, and as 2021 approaches, everyone is now looking to the CFO and Finance to take an outsized role beyond just the financial aspects of the business. Strategic guidance is a critical need for the business, especially as more departments expect to start spending instead of cutting. Office reopenings will also cut into FP&A’s time as new rules and expectations force spending in new areas of workplace safety and reconfigured office spaces.

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: Survey: CFOs ‘bullish’ on returning to pre-pandemic spending

Executives are giving CFOs good marks on their handling of the pandemic, but most Finance chiefs are logging over 50 hours per week to get there. This new survey also finds CFOs are putting less effort into cash preservation and more into strategic spending. “’It’s clear the ambition is to get to near-normal spending levels; CFOs have cut about as far as they can right now.’”

Accounting Today: CFOs taking on bigger role during coronavirus

Executives overwhelmingly see the CFO role expanding significantly after the pandemic. Overseeing Finance has become just a portion of the CFO’s job. Operations, strategy, and execution are all areas where CFOs are taking more responsibility, given their unique view across the organization. It’s setting CFOs up to be in charge of “growth optimization,” and potentially the next CEO. “The CFO will provide the greatest value to the organization through forward insight rather than retrospective reporting.”

CFO Dive: 4 cost management mistakes for CFOs to avoid in 2021

CFOs are looking to next year for a full rebound into cash flow growth and increased profitability. But some are considering cutting back on digital transformation projects to help achieve these goals. That’s a mistake, says research firm Gartner. Instead, CFOs should look to fund continued transformation, organizational change, and innovation. “This recovery is an opportunity for leaders to rapidly go digital in everything they do.”

Deloitte / WSJ: As Offices Reopen, CFOs Rebuild Real Estate Plans

Office reopenings are going to require more than just opening the doors. CFOs will need to consider increased budgets for safety and technology, and they’ll need to reassess their real estate strategy. Office designs may also need to change based on pandemic restrictions, employee preferences, remote work rules, and the expectations of future recruits. “At a time when CFOs in just about every industry are likely addressing questions about their organizations’ business and talent plans, CFOs would do well to think carefully about the optimization of real estate within those strategies.”

CFO Daily News: A remote work policy that’s tailored to Finance

Surveys find that permanent remote work will be available for a good portion of the workforce even after the pandemic subsides. CFOs can have an outsized influence on how those remote work policies are implemented, both inside and outside of Finance. Flexibility, collaboration, and fairness are critical in implementing a policy that’s both acceptable and sustainable, but so is the business justification. “The key is to show a legitimate business reason for doing so and enforce the rules consistently with your staff.”

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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The Secret Weapon to Strong Sales Performance

The Secret Weapon to Strong Sales Performance

As far as Cinderella stories go, the office of finance is at the top of the list. In more recent years, its focus has shifted from cost management practices to the likes of enterprise planning, market differentiation, performance delivery, and strategic business partnering. Now strategic advisors to the company, finance teams help drive revenue across the entire business. 

In doing so, finance has uncovered an unlikely ally in the sales team. More and more, we’re seeing that a collaborative partnership between sales and finance is the secret weapon to delivering strong business performance – something that Planful customer SmartyPants Vitamins knows all too well. 

But it’s not always easy to break down the walls between sales and finance. Let’s look at common friction between the two teams, how Continuous Planning can remove it, and later, how SmartyPants has connected finance and sales in Planful for unified insight across the business.

Understanding the Friction Between Finance and Sales

When it comes to business planning, collaboration between different business units is a key ingredient. Yet despite our very best efforts, these silos still exist. In some ways we can chalk it up to human nature: as a people, we’re inherently tribal. People inside of our circle are good. People on the outside, well, they’re generally viewed as not-so-good.

In many ways, businesses are no different and departments in and of themselves can feel quite tribal. This is often the case for sales and finance, who both drive revenue and growth for the company, but do so in different ways. 

For finance, it’s all about making strategic decisions that drive revenue. Sales, on the other hand, cares about hitting their revenue goals while keeping costs in line with financial forecasts. Together, these two teams need to address gaps in performance early (and often) to avoid the kinds of surprises that can throw revenue goals off course.

Where collaboration grows difficult for the two is in the data and tools they use. Spreadsheets have plenty of benefits as personal productivity tools, but they simply can’t align revenue targets with sales plans or provide real-time visibility into margin and revenue drivers. 

For finance and sales teams who re-forecast frequently, spreadsheets can quickly melt into a vicious quicksand of wasted time, energy, and productivity, especially when combined within a manual planning process. This is exactly where a Continuous Planning approach can help.

Continuous Planning = Collaborative Planning

Companies today no longer operate in an annual planning cycle. In fact, many business leaders will tell you it’s more akin to a daily planning cycle. To make continuous decisions with greater accuracy, it’s become more important than ever that people collaborate with data and plans in real time.

Here’s an example of why: Let’s say your company just wrapped up its annual operating and revenue planning process. Your sales team starts selling and for the first couple months, they’re on track with their targets. But we know business is fluid and therefore, your sales soon begin to ebb and flow. 

At any given point, you could find your sales trending higher or lower than your revenue targets. This is where the relationship between sales and finance teams becomes key. Finance and sales leaders have to carefully watch these numbers to spot any significant deviations or disruptions to the plan. 

When these disruptions happen, collaboration between the two departments becomes even more important and your decision-making points become critical. Depending on the disruption, this collaboration can range from pulling new levers to improve lagging sales performance to analyzing different scenarios for dividing territories or assigning quotas. 

When sales and finance can do this effectively, it can accelerate the growth of a company. SmartyPants is a great example of this. At SmartyPants, different areas of the business all rely on the accuracy of the sales forecast to make strategic decisions. 

For example, during the COVID-19 outbreak its demand planning team needed to make decisions based on a weekly sales forecast. By moving its sales forecast into the Planful platform and providing greater visibility into that data across the company, different teams can now get the insight they need in minutes. 

During Planful’s Virtual Tour, Senior Finance Manager Cheryl Chow explained: “Being able to pull the information that we need – right when we need it – really helps us drive better business decisions across the company.”

How SmartyPant’s Finance Team Supports Sales with Planful

Sales is one of the biggest drivers of business operations at SmartyPants and how they re-allocate their working dollars throughout the year ultimately depends on the topline. “We implemented Planful because we needed a tool that could allow us to pull in actuals, and then re-forecast sales and trade spend for the rest of the year really quickly – at a very detailed level,” Cheryl shared during her Virtual Tour session

Due to COVID-19, re-forecasting needed to speed up, and therefore, the finance team decided to create a complete, dynamic forecasting ecosystem in Planful. Because of the impact that sales has on the entire organization, having sales forecasting and trade spend as the very first use cases live within Planful felt like a natural step.

Teaming up with Planful partner Cogenics, the SmartyPants team implemented the Planful platform in under three weeks. And within two months, Cheryl said, the company was fully forecasting its 2021 sales and trade spend budget and preliminary 2021 profit and loss reporting in Planful. 

Now that they have reliable sales, trade spend, and operating expenses templates and reporting available to sales and across the entire company, SmartyPants found similar opportunities to connect finance with other areas of the business.  

As Cheryl explained: “We’re beginning to roll out operating expense templates to other departments to help them maintain and manage their own forecasts. Now different teams can make changes and see what’s happening in their forecasts without coming to finance for information.” 

Greater ownership across departments is one of the key advantages of a Continuous Planning platform. No matter where you start your journey, you’ll find endless ways to connect different data sets, collaborate across business units in new ways, and make more data-informed decisions. 

As we see more and more companies use Continuous Planning to align sales and finance, we look forward to even more success stories like the one shared by SmartyPants. 

For more information on how SmartyPants automated its sales and trade spend reporting in 20 days, you can read their customer story here

And if you missed the Planful Virtual Tour earlier this year, get on-demand access to presentations from Planful executives, industry thought leaders, and valued Planful customers. 

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