Companies are looking towards 2021 as the traditional planning season gets underway. Of course, “traditional” looks different these days, so now is a good time to rethink your approach to planning in a reality where we still don’t know what next month will bring, let alone next year. However, this puts CFOs in a unique position to add flexibility and agility to the planning process now, so plans can be continuously updated as new information becomes available. And, if you haven’t already, it’s also a good time to improve FP&A productivity by ensuring teams are in sync and de-stressed.
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: Annual Planning Methods to Navigate the Year Ahead
Companies are beginning their annual planning process, but this year will likely force many changes due to pandemic-level uncertainty. FP&A will face the likely need for frequent revisions, changing assumptions, and unexpected events. But this “constant scenario development and modeling” can only be accomplished with better collaboration with the business, a flexible scenario planning process, and a more intelligent connection between organizational drivers and the resulting financial outcomes. “The events of the first half of 2020—including the COVID-19 pandemic, which few, if any, corporate financial plans foresaw—have clarified the need for infusing the conventional planning process with greater agility.”
Cash preservation should be your first priority, according to the CFO of Bessemer Venture Partners. The benchmark they recommend is two years of available cash, and if you don’t have it, then it’s time to find ways to lower vendor prices, eliminate discretionary spending, and more. But the CFO should be leading those efforts to reduce business risk because, well, that’s the CFO’s job. “No matter the type of organization you’re in, Epstein said, the CFO’s number one job is to be the c-suite’s arbiter of risk.”
Deloitte / WSJ: COVID-19 May Bring Lasting Change to CFO Recruiting
The pandemic is pushing more companies to reorganize or make drastic shifts in strategy, which is sometimes followed with a c-suite refresh. But with many businesses struggling, successful companies are well-positioned to easily poach CFOs with in-demand restructuring, strategy, and business transformation skills, according to a group of CFO recruiters. Equally important, however, is a CFO’s digital fluency. “‘One of the first filters to determine who even gets a call is whether candidates are adept at leveraging digital tools to turn data into actionable intelligence.’”
Forbes: Planning For Normal 2.0
Planful CEO, Grant Halloran, digs into Finance’s role in reevaluating how they approach planning and decision-making as the world looks towards a new, post-pandemic reality. Uncertainty has pushed Finance to not only model constantly changing scenarios, but as new information becomes available, executives are demanding ever faster turnaround times. Automation, Artificial Intelligence, and tighter collaboration with every corner of the business is the only way Finance can keep up with this new cadence. “Transformative events often serve as catalysts for change, and Finance needs to be prepared to meet the challenges of today and be ready to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.”
As everyone focuses on cash flow, revenue visibility has become more important. Finance and Sales have been forced into closer relationships so incoming cash flow can be maintained, new revenue sources can be identified, and supply chains can keep up with demand. Sales technologies, particularly CRM, are a staple of every sales team, but now FP&A is seeking easier ways to integrate with and capture that data to better inform their own planning and forecasting capabilities. “In the current environment, companies also wanted to see how well their sales reps responded to the changes and the opportunities presented. Sales performance management solutions, particularly ones that work with financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools, became more important.”
Accounting Today: 3 strategies for rethinking team productivity
Working from home has challenged work/life boundaries and impacted team productivity, even as more technologies are available to keep teams in sync. It’s important to promote emotional wellbeing to minimize stress, but it’s also critical for leaders to improve how teams collaborate and to ensure that they’re maximizing the benefits of available technologies. “We often see two big issues: First, firms aren’t unlocking the full potential of these tools to see true gains in productivity, and second, teams have not developed agreements and do not experiment with practices and processes to make sure everyone is using the tools in the right ways at the right times.”
While the headline is more gloomy than the content, the JPMorgan Chase CEO says the firm is planning for “no fewer than five different paths the economy can take.” That’s a very wide range of potential outcomes, which makes planning and budgeting especially difficult. But the point is that FP&A has to model, forecast, and plan for many scenarios, and then take proactive steps to prepare for all of them. “‘The word unprecedented is rarely used properly,” Dimon said. ‘This time, it’s being used properly.’”
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.