How to Select a Continuous Planning Platform
Who it’s for
- Finance leaders or change agents charged with transforming finance
- Executives seeking an understanding of where the organization is in its financial process maturity
- Business Leaders evaluating Continuous Planning platforms
What you’ll learn
- Steps you can take to build a plan for a successful evaluation
- What to expect from a unified Continuous Planning Platform
- How to determine your project’s projected ROI
Business units now have more autonomy in selecting and deploying software. Cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription models eliminate the need for huge upfront expenditures, burdensome hardware requirements, and expensive maintenance contracts. Whether it’s software for Continuous Planning, CRM, marketing, or customer service, individual departments are making the decisions, in many cases with little IT involvement.
The freedom and flexibility are, however, a double-edged sword. The new model means that non-technical teams are tasked with the important work of evaluating software—often an unfamiliar exercise for business users. Selecting a Continuous Planning platform requires a deep understanding of the challenges faced by finance, some of which are familiar and others which may come as a surprise. Read on to learn how to set yourself up for success and streamline your Continuous Planning selection process.
How to Select Continuous Planning the Right Way
1. Define the selection team and clearly identify roles
A selection team typically consists of five to eight members, with the core from finance and potentially some from the business, operations, and/or IT. It’s important to clearly define their roles and responsibilities upfront.
2. Get a visible executive sponsor
Few factors can have greater impact on the selection of a Continuous Planning solution and subsequent implementation than a visible executive sponsor. This person should serve as a high-level coordinator of the Continuous Planning project and be the project’s champion to others across the organization.
3. Involve the business and IT the right way
Now that the selection team and executive sponsor are identified, this team should create buy-in with key business leaders across the organization. Additionally, don’t underestimate the value IT can bring to the Continuous Planning selection process. They often have valuable techniques developed over many years of technology acquisition that can help you make a better decision.
4. Get alignment on requirements
Requirements should be diligently documented from the start, adjusted as needed, and created in a shareable format. Think about your requirements in terms of how they support your journey to Continuous Planning.
5. Make the business case
Ideally, you’ve been benchmarking your pain points and inefficiencies in your current processes. Finance frequently runs processes in manual offline spreadsheets, which Continuous Planning solutions can eliminate for immense time savings, for example. Documenting these pain points gives you a good baseline to estimate your ROI as part of a formal business case or justification.
What to Look For
1. One Unified Platform
A unified Continuous Planning platform brings together financial planning, close, and reporting & analysis into one platform, which keeps your data centralized and secure, streamlines your budgeting and planning processes, and gives budget owners more confidence in the numbers. The result is what every finance team wants: a higher financial IQ across the entire organization.
2. Designed for Collaboration
Gartner reports that by 2020 at least 25 percent of organizations will conduct more collaborative, continuous, and consistent financial planning. By closely aligning financial strategies and processes across an organization, according to analysts, finance can better manage the performance of the entire business. In other words, keep collaboration and communication in mind as you evaluate Continuous Planning platforms. Any platform should give workers in every department an intuitive, easy-to-use tool to input budget and forecast numbers no matter how or where they work. Finance shouldn’t have to spend time chasing managers, manually gathering data, and bouncing back and forth to ask questions or gain clarity on variances.
3. Continuous Planning in the Cloud
Employee productivity was one of the top 10 CFO concerns in the last quarter of 2018, according to a study by Duke CFO Global Business Outlook. But if your employees are spending all their time gathering, troubleshooting, and emailing data instead of analyzing and strategizing, your productivity is never going to improve.
With a cloud-based Continuous Planning platform, you can increase productivity by simplifying and automating your processes around budgeting, planning, and forecasting. And since finance will no longer have to rely on IT for software implementation, maintenance, or upgrades, you can lighten their load as well, freeing them up to develop and focus on more strategic technology initiatives for your entire company.
4. Intelligent Use of Excel
Departments across the organization have depended on Excel to manage budgeting and planning for years. The interface is familiar, it’s simple to enter numbers into cells, and frankly, it’s always been done that way. But companies are finding that Excel has its limitations and shortcomings.
But even if you’re ready to upgrade to a Continuous Planning platform, you still need to ensure that people will use it. That means adopting an interface that is familiar to employees, regardless of their function or role in the organization. A Continuous Planning platform that uses Excel intelligently is one that gives front-end users the familiar look and feel of their favorite spreadsheet program while reducing the inherent risk of insecure templates and disconnected data.
Build your Continuous Planning platform selection team the right way by defining roles and requirements, getting an executive sponsor, and gaining a clear understanding of how IT can help.
Find a Continuous Planning platform that has these four key requirements at a minimum: Excel-like functionality, cloud-based delivery, robust collaboration tools, and a unified data platform.
Choose a platform that’s easy to use, eliminates manual tedium to give you more strategic capabilities, and helps elevate the financial IQ of every user so you can maximize your ROI.