Temple University: Moving from a paper close to the cloud in just four weeks

Temple University: Moving from a paper close to the cloud in just four weeks

Financial close and consolidation on spreadsheets is always difficult. Add in a literal paper trail, international collaboration, and rigid reporting formats, and the manual efforts can sometimes begin to buckle under the pressure. 

That was the monthly status quo for Temple University’s Finance team. They labored to manage the reporting and consolidation process across tens of thousands of grants and programs, with added complexity given their foreign campus in Tokyo. Running financial close and consolidation with spreadsheets and paper is, unfortunately, an all too common occurrence. But this Finance team had finally had enough. Their pinpoint focus on financial close and consolidation led them to Planful.

“Planful was the only vendor we evaluated that had a viable solution for the central portion of the financial closing and reporting process,” said David Marino, Controller and Associate Vice President at Temple University. 

Taking months to deploy a new solution, and the related process disruptions, just weren’t something they were willing to accept. David and team wanted to get time back, not have it taken away. They wanted close and consolidation to be faster and easier so they could focus on higher-value projects. Thanks to Planful’s rapid deployment, they had everything they needed in under a month. 

“We got up and running on Planful in 4 weeks,” said David. “The path for our team to start using and getting value from the platform was very fast and remarkably smooth.”

A month later, the university was running full consolidations, including complex allocations, restatements, journals, and currency conversions, all within Planful, with required data being automatically loaded from their existing systems and reports being automatically generated and formatted. Currency being instantly converted from Yen to U.S. Dollars. 

“Planful drives so many efficiencies for us and allows our team to focus on value-added activities,” said David. 

Planful also gave Temple a clear path to Continuous Planning

“We definitely see significant opportunities to expand the use of the Planful platform across our university ecosystem, including to our campus in Japan,” David added.

With Planful in their hands in just 4 weeks, Temple University realized:

  • Fast time-to-value.
  • Close and consolidation without the stress.
  • More insights for everyone.
  • A first step on their Continuous Planning journey.

To learn more about how Temple University uses Planful, read the full customer story here.

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Ahead of the Rest: Planful Tops the Charts in Product Capabilities in Gartner’s Critical Capabilities Report

Ahead of the Rest: Planful Tops the Charts in Product Capabilities in Gartner’s Critical Capabilities Report

Planful solutions are consistently recognized by the analysts and influencers who cover FP&A applications. Gartner recently released their latest FP&A-focused report, Critical Capabilities for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.

The critical capabilities is a summary of vendors product capabilities and serves as a companion report to the prestigious Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions Magic Quadrant.

Download the 2020 Gartner Critical Capabilities for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions report.  

The Planful Platform Shines

Gartner has given Planful top scores for ease of use, application governance, financial budgets and plans, and complex financial budgets and plans. These capabilities are foundational to the demands of FP&A teams in today’s rapidly changing environment.  

FP&A leaders don’t have time to learn complex new solutions and new formulas as they modernize the back-office. They need simple, fast and beautiful solutions that they can stand-up quickly.  You can get started with Planful Now in under 30 days.  As your needs mature you also want to know that your FP&A application can scale with you, and Gartner’s Critical Capabilities shows that Planful has you covered as your needs evolve, and can solve for your financial close and consolidation processes, too.

Planful Received Top Scores in Mid-Market Use Cases

Organizations all have different needs, and that’s why Gartner creates separate scores for organizations based on revenue.  Planful ranked #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).  These distinctions are important, as the demands and resources within these organizations are different and Planful will scale along your growth journey.  

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

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Leveraging FP&A for Growth: Carl Seidman of Seidman Financial on the Being Planful Podcast

Leveraging FP&A for Growth: Carl Seidman of Seidman Financial on the Being Planful Podcast

In this episode of Being Planful, I welcomed Carl Seidman, FP&A Advisor at Seidman Financial. Carl is an FP&A practitioner and educator. Through his eponymous firm, Carl helps financial leaders solve their most pressing challenges so they can enjoy their work and contribute in a more unified, empowered manner. He’s a firm believer in people-driven organizational success, no matter how big or small an organization might be. 

Carl and I dug into exactly those topics so we could understand how organizations can leverage modern FP&A resources for growth. We talked about the variations in continuous planning mindsets at companies of different sizes, how company culture is critical to supporting growth, and the differences between upskilling versus empowering your finance team.

Here are a few highlights from our conversation. Or, you can listen to the full episode here.

Growth Requires FP&A Maturity 

Carl has a deep understanding of FP&A, which he acquired through his own time in Finance, and then by helping CFOs build, scale, and turn around their finance functions. But he’s found there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach to continuous planning and it revolves around data, agility, and connectedness. And yet, while company size and complexity define FP&A, it’s usually the smaller companies that are “fractured” and struggle the most with collaboration and data integration. 

“They’re using Excel as their primary forecasting and planning tool, they might be on QuickBooks or Sage or some other accounting platform, they might be on another separate inventory or purchasing platform,” Carl explained. “So you have all this disconnect across the finance function. And in order to be able to forecast and plan and conduct analysis, you end up having to take all these little pieces of information, get them to the right person in the right way, and then it often takes a long time to do that.”

Of course, being a larger company doesn’t instantly solve these problems. And, growth usually introduces new issues because of size. Carl points to the relative lack of speed in larger organizations because the data, while connected, needs to find its way through the process. That data then struggles to get out to the business. And, even with big technology investments, or maybe because of them, larger companies tend to rely on spreadsheets more than one would expect. 

Good Processes are the Foundation

One area where all organizations, regardless of size, need help is in shifting their culture. Growing companies need to realize they’re no longer small, Carl said, and that takes time. Another area where companies need help is in changing how Finance works, and getting teams to accept that change is required to eliminate the frustrations and disconnects. The third area, according to Carl, is technology. But first, you need to understand what you’re doing well.

“If you have a company that is fractured in its people and processes and strategy, if you bring in software, it’s going to address some of those problems, but in some cases, it may even make it more splintered,” said Carl. “It’s really important to understand and redefine what your processes are, and make sure that they’re working the right way, that they can be well articulated so that when a platform comes in, those processes can be well migrated.”

The goal, he said, is to find the right technology that not only fits into your business, but that enhances and improves what you’re already doing. But that doesn’t mean technology can’t quickly move your business forward.

“I think what is really interesting about this current time is just coming to terms with what is needed that we don’t have, and then identifying what is possible,” Carl added. “Several years ago, to be able to forecast at the speed at which we now can, that was just in people’s imagination. This was maybe about a year and a half ago. To go into a company where they’re able to update their planning, redo their forecasts in less than a week’s time, the equivalent of a Fortune 500 or Fortune 100 company, and mostly done by non financial people, was unheard of. And that is what technology should be able to do.”

Today’s FP&A Must Act for Tomorrow

We pivoted to talk about what companies are experiencing today, with the impact of the pandemic, reduced cash flow, interrupted supply chains, and more. Carl said that companies are trying to understand how their business will look in the coming years, which then lands right back in the lap of FP&A. 

“So much of that has been revisiting the budget and the forecast and saying, ‘How do our assumptions need to change?’,” Carl explained. “It’s taking a look at contingency and scenario planning and saying, ‘Okay, if we lose this customer, or if we lose 80% of this business, or 20% of that business, what does that mean and how do we need to act? And we need to have those answers now.’” 

Oh, and Carl said, add in remote work to that need for agility, speed, and scenario and contingency planning. And that uncertainty still rules the day. And that most teams are trying to manage it all with spreadsheets and email. Add it all up and, according to Carl, companies need to start preparing for what comes next. 

“When a company is going to move into a more mature connected or integrated FP&A function, they start to act like the entity that they want to be,” said Carl. “Because if you don’t do that and you start to become a high-growth organization without that infrastructure, you’re going to end up being exposed to significant error, multiple sources of truth instead of a single source of truth, and you expose yourself to vulnerabilities.” 

Carl and I went on to talk about the stark differences between companies whose FP&A acts bigger than they are — they dress the part, so to speak — and those who still see themselves as scrappy and having room for “error and forgiveness.” But what Carl has discovered is that being prepared for change is better than being forced to change. And if you’re prepared for growth, you’re better able to grab those opportunities when they present themselves. Culture means a lot, as does leadership and a willingness to give your people the skills and opportunities they need to grow along with your business. 

Listen to the full episode to hear all of Carl’s valuable insights on growth, the role of technology in FP&A, and how finance professionals can best position themselves to grow within FP&A.

Subscribe to Being Planful

This 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.
Subscribe to Being Planful 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

Digital transformation, workforce planning, and collaboration with the business continue to be trending topics heading into 2021. To keep you current, below are a few insights into how Finance and FP&A leaders are moving forward. We’ve found these articles helpful, and we hope you do, too.

Digital Transformation

Forbes: CFOs And The Digital Imperative

CFOs are being pushed to take more of a leadership role in digital transformations. The past year has shown the value of technology to facilitate everything from remote work to agile plans and forecasts, but CFOs should view this as a reason to double-down on digitization investments to help their business even during less chaotic times. “A thoughtful digitalization strategy enhances productivity by protecting revenue and enabling companies to pivot their business models.”

CFO Dive: COVID-19 has led to better business insights, CFOs say

The need for speed, agility, and insights during the pandemic forced FP&A to step up, and step up they did! CFOs are pointing to improved communication, business flexibility, and tighter connections with suppliers as some of the many positive outcomes of the past year. A more agile cash strategy was also a side benefit, and now some CFOs are facing the challenge of too much cash. “In hindsight, it wasn’t exactly what I would have liked to do.”

2021 Planning

Deloitte / WSJ: Vaccines Boost CFO Outlooks for Year Ahead

Deloitte’s latest CFO survey found that most Finance chiefs remain optimistic about the economy going into 2021. More than three-quarters expect COVID-19 vaccines to contribute to economic improvements by mid 2021. Few rated the current economy as good, however. “For the first time in the survey’s more than 10-year history CFOs expressed more optimism about China’s economy than that of North America.”

Forbes: The CFO: From Bean Counters To Brand Champions

It’s usually difficult to quantify the true return on brand-building investments, but FP&A should provide financial guidance in support of the brand. To do so, CFOs need to understand the value a good brand brings to the financial equation. “As brand preference goes up, price sensitivity goes down. Building brand preference makes money.”

TechTarget: 3 reasons why CISOs should collaborate more with CFOs

A data breach can cost your company tens of millions of dollars in both real costs and lasting damage to your business. So, the CFO should work more closely with the security team since they’re both working towards the same goal of preventing business losses. But it’s difficult to quantify security ROI because most investments are measured against the value of what they prevented from happening. “CISOs need to establish a stronger relationship with their CFO and financial team to better communicate the value of existing, and future, security investments.”

Workforce Planning

CFO: How to Prioritize Employee Health and Wellness

This past year has been particularly stressful for everyone. Finance has a fairly straightforward role in implementing physical safety protocols, such as increasing cleaning budgets and investing in hand sanitizer stations. But mental health and emotional wellness pose more nuanced challenges for most companies, yet the cost of addressing it is usually only time. “Scheduled time with your employees is an opportunity to communicate clearly, show empathy, and offer counseling, coaching, and support.”

CFO Dive: Should CFOs let remote employees play ‘paycheck arbitrage?’

With 42% of U.S. employees still working remotely, the chance to move to a more affordable area while retaining your salary has become an attractive choice. But some companies, Facebook, for one, have said they’d adjust salaries of relocating employees. Others aren’t so sure. “If a remote employee in San Francisco does the same work as their colleague in Little Rock, one person’s choice shouldn’t be rewarded while the other is penalized.”

Stay Tuned for More Useful FP&A Content

Check back for these occasional resource roundups with links to timely, helpful, and thought-provoking content for FP&A and CFOs. If you have comments, questions, or suggestions, please engage with us on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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