My finance war stories: Not much different than yours

Growing up alongside five brothers in a small Utah town, you could say I was raised in a survivalist household. My parents even adhered to the old adage, “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” Simply put, if we didn’t grow it, we didn’t eat it.

One of my favorite childhood memories is a 15-day survival trek where the only food we brought with us was a 20-ounce bag of wheat. (Believe me when I say that good planning was critical to surviving that trip.) I didn’t know it then, but survival and the need for good planning would follow me throughout my career in finance.

Since joining Planful, I get asked a lot about why I’m so excited about Continuous Planning. To give a thoughtful answer to this question, I’ve been reflecting on my career and I’ve realized that in many ways, I’ve been largely focused on my survival skills before Planful.

For years, I’ve been looking for a better way to plan. While I didn’t know it then, it’s clear to me now that I was searching for Continuous Planning.

3 stories from the finance trenches

Like many finance professionals, I’ve spent a large portion of my career simply making do with Excel and other inflexible tools. I’ve struggled with the same blockers that finance teams face today: version control issues, endless analysis iterations, nonstop fire drills, clogs in communication, and delayed planning processes.

I’ve always felt the need for good planning, but I was always too busy just trying to survive to find the time to figure out what, exactly, good planning should look like. 

Looking back on some of my experiences, I can see exactly how a Continuous Planning solution would have eliminated my pain points. Here are three stories from the finance trenches and the lessons I have learned from each.

#1. When you’re so busy “planning” that you can’t get to the “doing”

When I was the vice president of finance at a large, publicly-traded company, our teams often joked about how long it took us to budget each year. We would start our annual planning process in September and not fully finish until the following June. This left us with just a few months in the year to actually get anything else done.

Despite our best intentions, we still got the budgets wrong and occasionally sent the wrong information to the wrong people. There were also more times than I’d like to admit when we arrived at what we thought was an ending point, only to realize there was another viewpoint that required us to rework the entire corporate plan and budget

The lesson learned: At the time, we were so busy just trying to plan that it was tough for us to finally execute. We were also constantly checking back to see if we were working on the most updated file. We just didn’t have a collaborative cloud platform like Planful.

#2. Missing deadlines before numbers are even distributed

If I’ve learned one thing throughout the years, it’s that many companies struggle to figure out how to plan fast enough. One year, we were so late getting our budgets finalized that we missed our quarterly deadlines before the budget owners even got their numbers. 

Building a plan and rolling forecast — these things are hard enough to do once or twice a year. Now more than ever, we need to plan and reforecast even more frequently. If it was tough to course-correct in the past, it’s even more difficult to do so today.

The lesson learned: The speed and agility of a Continuous Planning process, coupled with the ability to ramp up quickly during implementation, are really fundamental building blocks for finance teams today.

#3. Conversations about growth > arguments over accuracy

I had a CFO once ask me to consolidate the company’s bookings report. “That’s not a big task,” I thought to myself. Well, not until I found out that the company had 29 distinct bookings reports, and not one of them was tied to another. 

Instead of spending days with different department heads talking about growth plans, we ended up spending weeks consolidating data and arguing about why the data was inconsistent or incorrect. 

The lesson learned: With a single source of truth, our conversations could have shifted from debates over the accuracy of numbers to discussions around what we were actually doing or could do about the data.

Resolving hard lessons with an easy solution

When I first saw the speed and the single source of truth in the Planful platform, it resonated with me at every turn. Circling back to the question from the very beginning, I’m excited about Continuous Planning because it’s a liberating platform and a must-have, not a nice-to-have, in today’s business environments. 

Here’s why: As keepers of the purse, so to speak, finance leaders tend to be hyper-attentive on what they spend on their own teams and their own tools. As a result, I’ve seen delays in updating the finance back office, delays in moving to the cloud, and delays in deploying tools that are truly game-changers in an unsettled world. 

These delays can be extremely costly. In times of business uncertainty, being able to see and act with clarity is crucial for finance teams, and our decisions are only as good as the data and plans they are based on. 

A Continuous Planning solution provides that clarity. It helps finance teams make faster, more frequent, and more confident decisions. It gives finance teams a break from simply trying to survive, and gives CFOs and finance leaders the opportunity to lead their organizations with agility, data-backed decisions, and thoughtful planning.

The adage of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without” fared really well growing up in the Hansen household. But for finance and the tools we use, the times of “make it do or do without” are well behind us.

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