How the Pandemic has Changed Everything—and Nothing—for the Office of Finance

If you would have asked me six months ago what the biggest challenge facing finance is, the answer would have been easy: disruption. Market volatility, changing regulations, evolving business models, emerging competitors — you name it, finance has to deal with it. 

Then along came COVID-19, and to say it took the meaning of disruption to another level would be an understatement. If finance found it challenging to inject speed and agility into the planning process before the onset of a global pandemic, well, the conditions afterward made it nearly impossible to do so.

Today disruption remains a worthy opponent for finance. And if you asked me six months ago how finance could manage the waves of volatility, my answer would have been the same then as it is today. It begins and ends with adequate planning. 

Everything is nothing and nothing is everything 

It’s almost hard to remember what life was like for finance before the pandemic. Since COVID, we know that business operations have been challenging for finance leaders, to say the least. In fact, according to the recent Gartner report, “How to Get the Most Out of Your Cloud FP&A Implementation in Times of Crisis and Opportunity”:

COVID-19 has disrupted most organizations, negatively affecting business performance and making existing plans unachievable. Organizations must replan and reforecast while increasing forecast frequency in order to produce a new financial plan that matches the new business environment.”

Let’s pause for a second at the phrase “making existing plans unachievable.” In many ways, the current conditions feel like finance teams have been given a brand-new hoop to jump through. This is largely true: we’re facing challenges we’ve never had to worry about before and coming up with solutions to problems we never thought imaginable. 

But then we get to “Organizations must replan and reforecast while increasing forecast frequency,” and it becomes clear that what we’re dealing with today isn’t inherently new for the office of finance. Re-planning, re-forecasting, continuous planning: these are all activities that have become the norm and are set to grow in adoption over the coming years. 

So if we knew then, and we know now, that re-planning and re-forecasting are essential activities to help manage disruption, what continues to hold the office of finance back from achieving greater agility? Why are finance organizations still struggling to pivot quickly and adapt nimbly to changes? 

I believe the answer comes down to two things: the toolset and the action.

First, let’s start with the toolset

One of the reasons why finance teams struggle is because they lack the right toolset. On-premise solutions are inflexible, slow, and fragmented. Spreadsheets can’t handle the complexities of large data sets and changing business conditions. Neither option is flexible or collaborative enough to meet the needs of today’s dynamic business environment.

Put another way: think about this as it relates to the game of golf. You wouldn’t show up to 18 holes of golf with just a nine-iron. You would bring your entire golf club set so you can adjust which club—which tool, if you will—is best for each shot. Par 5? Pull out your driver. On the green? Grab your putter.

The same kind of concept applies to your planning toolset. Finance teams need a flexible, collaborative cloud-based planning solution that gives them the individual tools they need to adapt and adjust to different business conditions. 

For example, the Planful platform offers finance teams purpose-built solutions—such as structured and dynamic planning, reporting, and consolidation—that are specifically designed to meet the distinct requirements of FP&A planning. Having all of these tools within a single platform accelerates planning cycles and provides insightful financial reporting to make confident business decisions. 

In the report, “2020 Strategic Roadmap for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions,” analysts Robert Anderson and Jon Van Decker share: 

Solutions blending core financial management and FP&A will soon provide new levels of agility and transformational value. Enterprises seeking a unified platform strategy will be increasingly attracted to these solutions.”

Now, let’s talk about the action

The toolset is the first part of the equation; the second part is how finance teams put it to use. 

Let’s go back to the game of golf for a second. We know that having the right set of clubs is a start, but it’s the strategy behind your swing that ultimately gets the ball into the hole. 

There are several components to this. First, you have to evaluate your surroundings and consider any hazards: wind, distance, water, sand, and so forth. In the meantime, you have to block out all of the noise around you. Each shot is different from the last and you have to continuously plan your next move.

Your planning process is no different, and your toolset is only as good as it’s being used. You can have the best cloud-based financial planning platform, but you can’t get to where you want to go without having the right planning process in place. This is where a Continuous Planning process comes in. 

Continuous Planning gives finance leaders an agile and responsive way to operate, plan, and perform. It’s a vision for finance and business leadership to drive a more continuous, agile planning, and decision-making culture. It increases the financial IQ of an organization and, in turn, increases the speed, agility, confidence, and frequency of finance-led decision-making.

Putting the two pieces together

When companies can combine these two pieces—the toolset and the action—successfully, they should be able to get time-to-value quickly. But for some companies, time-to-value is just another part of the struggle. In the “How to Get the Most Out of Your Cloud FP&A Implementation in Times of Crisis and Opportunity” report, Gartner found that:

While many organizations have implemented new cloud financial planning and analysis (FP&A) tools, many have not completed all of the phases of their planned implementation. They are struggling to assemble all operational and financial details that are necessary inputs into the planning process.”

At Planful, we understand this struggle all too well — it’s a challenge many of us have regularly faced throughout our own FP&A careers. We understand that most companies simply can’t afford to wait for a drawn-out, months-long implementation project. They need time-to-value quickly.

This is what makes Planful Now so critical for finance teams who are looking for better ways to manage today’s unpredictable business conditions. It can shorten FP&A cycle times, open collaboration channels across the business, and enable the agility businesses need to respond to unpredictable market shocks. The best part? It can be rolled out in under 30 days. 

How can your FP&A platform empower confident and agile financial decision-making? Join us for our weekly interactive Continuous Planning demo! Learn more about the Planful platform and its solutions here

Gartner, How to Get the Most Out of Your Cloud FP&A Implementation in Times of Crisis and Opportunity, John Van Decker and Robert Anderson, 5/28/2020
Gartner, 2020 Strategic Roadmap for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, , John Van Decker and Robert Anderson, 2/21/2020

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?