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Tips & Tricks to Use Planful for Financial Performance Management

Adam Leash, Senior Financial Analyst at Planful
Adam Leash
Senior Financial Analyst at Planful
Adam Leash's headshot against an orange background with purple geometric shapes.

Organizations worldwide rely on Planful to increase financial agility and effectively guide financial performance. We use Planful at Planful, too, and, as a Senior Financial Analyst here, I use it daily.

I’ll be at Planful Perform24 in San Diego from May 14 – 16, hosting a session offering tips and tricks for SaaS top-line ARR reporting and bottoms-up budgeting.

In this session, you’ll learn how your team’s FP&A strategy relies on its players, coaches, and resources. We’ll also highlight Planful use cases for driver-based planning using your unique company profile and scorecard.

To give you a taste of what to expect at my session, I’m sharing three tried-and-true financial tips for success using the Planful platform.

Whether you’re a new or experienced user, these will make a big difference in your day-to-day use of Planful.

3 Tips to boost financial performance management with Planful

It’s a new ballgame for SaaS businesses in 2024. But, just like there are different strategies for success, the Planful platform has many creative solutions to plot your wins your way.

Let’s look at three top tips to make the most out of your Planful experience.

Tip 1: Create flexible budget hierarchies to match your business

In most organizations, data is collected at a much more granular level than it is reported. Planful’s department and finance entity hierarchies give you maximum flexibility in defining how items are “budgeted in” versus “reported out.”

When creating budgets, individual teams and departments typically need the flexibility to capture unique regional or other custom budget items. Department leaders can then define what’s required in Planful budget templates, where business users enter new budgets.

But, this granular budget data is not typically reported to higher-level leaders like the board of directors in a monthly or quarterly report.

For example, companies typically have a budget for sales development that may be split into departments for the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and other countries.

These departments need to enter data in local currencies and capture custom line items. But, those many department entities may then map back to just two finance entity departments for reporting purposes, such as sales development for North America and sales development for international.

Taking advantage of finance entities versus department entities in Planful gives budget holders the flexibility to run their unique slice of the business. At the same time, Finance can easily consolidate the budgets and actuals for higher-level reports, budget versus actuals analysis, and more.

Tip 2: Seed data to drive side-by-side comparison from actuals to plan

Many budget owners start this year’s budget using last year’s numbers. It’s a great way to create trends, adjust to meet strategic goals, and manage budgets year over year.

With Planful, it’s easy to surface past data in budget templates to guide new budget creation. Planful goes a step further to let you build templates for a forecast scenario that shows a side-by-side comparison to plan — an absolute game-changer for Finance and budget owners that reduces hopping between reports and planning templates.

In Planful, business users can work in a budget template while viewing relevant past, forecast, or other data in the same view.

Even better, those forecast numbers can also be dynamic, such as for a rolling forecast, updating automatically as your forecast changes.

Tip 3: Use substitution variables to build a report once and run it any time, any scenario

I’m a big fan of substitution variables. It’s the best part of Planful reporting, in my humble opinion.

Substitution variables save you time, plain and simple. The most common usage is automating the time component of financial performance management, such as changing a month from a static value to a dynamic current-month variable.

This enables you to build a report once and then run it anytime, knowing it will show the latest monthly data. It takes me just 10 seconds during the end-of-month close to roll forward the current month and current quarter variables.

Derived variables are substitution variables you can tweak based on existing substitution variables. For example, you can use the current month variable, subtract 13 months, and use it to create a new variable that defines a 13-month balance sheet.

You can also use substitution variables to create scenarios for a what-if analysis with several views based on pulling different levers within the organization. Just build a single what-if and then replace the variable as needed.

It’s like automation for scenario planning, and you’re always confident the data is accurate.

Join me at Perform24 to boost your team’s financial performance

Perform24 is from May 14-16 in San Diego. In addition to my session, you’ll have the chance to learn from Planful customers like Otter Products, Tokio Marine HCC, Chosen Foods, and others, plus keynotes, networking, thought leadership sessions, and more.

Register now to save your spot at Perform24.

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