Annual Planning Season is Here. Are You Prepared?

Two hands giving a high-five. One hand is purple. The other hand is orange. The space where the hands meet combines the two colors.
Annual Planning Season is Here. Are You Prepared?

Even though it happens every year, for most financial planning & analysis (FP&A) teams, annual planning feels like a chore. That’s because, while every organization conducts annual planning, few can execute their plan flawlessly.

In this article, you’ll learn best practices to craft a winning annual plan to help your organization reach its strategic goals. Plus, you’ll see a real-life example that proves strategic annual planning pays off, no matter the economic climate.

What is annual planning?

Annual planning is a process that helps organizations meet their long-term goals.

Think about it like a roadmap — you know where you need to go, but a strategic plan will help to get you there. Most organizations use findings from the previous year to think about how the company might perform in the future.

A great starting point is to reflect on what worked or needs improvement from last year’s plan. From there, build a pathway to get your company where it needs to be.

Most annual plans will include:

  • Business goals and objectives your company wants to achieve.
  • Specific actions that team members will take to meet those goals and objectives.
  • Important milestones to hit.
  • A budget to help your team get to those milestones.
  • Metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure.
  • Key stakeholders who will be responsible for executing the plan.
Why is annual planning important?

An annual plan gives Finance a sense of direction for the upcoming year. It also informs the overarching actions the entire organization needs to take to meet its goals.

Your planning efforts drive next year’s investments and focus. It also guides hiring decisions, influences market targeting, and directs product direction.

A benefit of effective annual planning is that it can help you identify organizational gaps. This means you can constantly innovate and improve your company’s process — and this practice will likely keep you ahead of the competition.

Best practices to make the most of your annual plan

It’s tough to nail down the most crucial process Finance does all year. If we had to choose, we’d probably say it’s annual planning.

We’ve got a few best practices to help you get started, including who should be involved, how to measure success, and what technology you need to use to feel the maximum impact.

Get the right people involved

To build an effective plan, you must get the right people in the door. That starts by understanding who makes the critical decisions that impact your company’s growth.

These people might look like:

  • Budget managers across the organization.
  • C-Suite executives, like CMO, CFO, COO, and CEO.
  • Team leads across departments like Sales and Marketing.

Ultimately, the titles are arbitrary. What’s important is that you include key stakeholders that represent functions across the business, not just in finance and accounting.

Once you get those people in the same room, determine what’s important to their team’s success. Knowing how they launch campaigns or meet specific goals is not enough. It would help if you also had a deep understanding of why those campaigns or goals are so crucial to the success of your business. This also builds in time to reflect on what worked the year prior or where teams fell short.

From there, goal setting becomes a much more straightforward process. That’s because you’ve baked in collaboration from the start — meaning you’re not assuming what a different function is working on. You know what is essential to other departments and what resources they need to be successful in the new year.

Determine measurements of success

Annual planning isn’t a theoretical practice — the plan must be carried out. To know if you’re meeting expectations, define how you’ll measure success.

We recommend expanding your reach beyond financial metrics. That’s important, but you also want to capture overall business performance, which means tracking business data from other departments like Customer Success, Sales, and Human Resources (HR).

Again, this is a big reason why collaboration with key stakeholders across the business is so crucial.

As a finance leader, you know the critical metrics connected to financial performance, like profitability, cash flow, and revenue. Be sure to include relevant metrics handled by other teams, like:

  • Employee headcount
  • Repeat business
  • Regulatory impact
  • Pipeline conversion

Be sure any metric your team decides to track ties back to a strategic objective or KPI.

By maintaining a single source of truth on metrics, Finance can create an action plan that allows business leaders to analyze the business landscape more meaningfully and make better-informed decisions as the year progresses.

Invest in the proper technology

The most effective FP&A teams use a cloud-based financial performance management (FPM) platform.

FPMs help finance and accounting teams track business performance, and these platforms also boost collaboration by maintaining a single source of truth for data.

The trick is investing in the right tool for your organization.

You want to find a dedicated FPM platform that:

  • Allows budget owners to contribute quickly and efficiently.
  • Has built-in workflow processes to manage tasks and deadlines.
  • Stores comments and communications alongside data.
  • Leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to supercharge your decision-making.
  • Let teams update and revise plans anytime, from anywhere, even offline.

Plus, an FPM solution gives instant access to real-time data that’s always current.

So when a change is requested or a market shifts, plans can be updated with just a click. Plans also become more credible, and the business puts more stock in the validity of those plans.

How National DCP boosted its annual planning

National DCP provides innovative supply chain solutions that deliver quality food and beverages to more than 8,700 U.S. quick-service restaurants.

The company had a financial planning process in place, but it was weighed down by manual systems that delayed the flow of critical information to the business.

National DCP needed a financial performance management system to empower finance to deliver financial insight across the company and bring decision-makers into the fold.

National DCP turned to Planful to raise the financial IQ of the business to speed decision-making, reduce the lag between data and insights, and give everyone more time to collaborate and act confidently.

“Our ultimate goal is to drive faster business decisions,” says Michael Zambetti, Manager, Finance & Data Analytics at National DCP. “With Planful, stakeholders contribute directly. They’re not just telling you information — and they’re a lot more likely to then buy into the decisions we make together.”

With Planful’s cloud FP&A foundation in place, National DCP was able to streamline its finance and accounting processes and give the business fast access to accurate data.

Read more about how National DCP turned to Planful to speed up business decisions.

Build a better plan with Planful

A cloud-based financial performance management platform, like Planful, is the tool you need to streamline and optimize your FP&A annual planning process.

Planful gives Finance and Accounting the tools to fully engage and collaborate with budget owners. It creates a secure single source of truth for data, so all stakeholders have equal visibility into the annual plan. Planful also saves you time by automating repetitive tasks and checking your data for errors, resulting in better insights for stronger decision-making.

Ready to transform your annual planning process? Watch a demo to see Planful in action.

Dynamic PlanningFinance TransformationFinancial PlanningOffice of the CFO

Latest Posts


Interviews, tips, guides, industry best practices, and news.

Get Started with Planful

  • LinkedIn
    How much time will you save?
  • LinkedIn
    How will your finance team evolve?
  • LinkedIn
    Where will technology support you?