It used to be that companies could get by with a static, siloed approach to planning. Every month or quarter, departments would send fixed templates to finance to consolidate into a corporate plan, and then they’d go focus on executing their individual roadmaps.
However, organizations today face major disruptions that have accelerated the pace at which decisions must be made. To keep up, finance teams are scrambling to collect and analyze financial and operational data from various departments. This faster pace of change has been a wake-up call for companies that lack an approach to planning that allows for nimble and continuous adjustments.
It’s less about creating a perfect plan, more about always refining.
To succeed here, finance organizations need to consider all internal operational and financial data as well as gather insights from external sources — information on customer sentiment, economic conditions and consumer trends, for example. Incorporating multiple data sources leads to more accurate plans and forecasts and ultimately helps the organization make better decisions.
So what are the key processes for companywide, data-driven planning that gives finance the flexibility to refine and reforecast quickly?
1. Strategic planning. Before finance or any other department can plan effectively, leaders need to understand where the company is headed. A strategic plan sets out goals for the next two to five years, and all plans across the company should flow from it.
Goals must include action plans that give the organization a way to measure progress and know what success looks like. Each goal within the strategic plan should also come with milestones to help set direction and define success and include relevant KPIs to assess performance — a requirement for data-driven planning.
2. Scenario planning. The value of scenario planning lies in its potential to control costs, mitigate risks, even provide a competitive advantage. Scenario planning exercises combine projections, budgets and forecasts to paint a picture of key business drivers and the likely positive and negative effects of potential future events.
A comprehensive scenario plan offers decision-makers a list of pitfalls that could derail the company, along with the likelihood of each. It also gives executives and the board of directors a framework to set strategy more effectively by providing insight into finances and future plans.
Finance teams can leverage scenario planning to examine the possible outcomes of various economic or investment realities and factor this information into decisions involving all lines of business. Success here does require finance and operational teams to work together and jointly create models.
3. Use of external data sources. Both scenario and strategic planning require forward-looking insights based on outside information. Whether that involves seasonality, weather, local unemployment, web analytics, consumer or producer prices or supplier fill dates, many factors outside your control affect your business, and data can help you understand how.
NetSuite’s Fall 2021 Outlook Survey(opens in new tab) identified improved data collection, better use of data and improved forecasts as top priorities for the finance team going into this year. Incorporating external sources into the planning process is key to all three, not to mention its role in effective decision-making.
4. Regular customer feedback. The voice of the customer should not only inform sales and marketing efforts, it must play a significant role in companywide planning. Knowing what’s going on with your largest or most profitable accounts will always improve financial and operational models.
Finance leaders should partner with customer-facing teams to make customer conversations happen on a regular cadence. The goal of these discussions is to learn what opportunities and challenges clients see in their businesses, how these might affect your organization and how you can help optimize their efforts. By regularly incorporating customer feedback into your planning processes, you can avoid many unpleasant surprises and be seen as a contributor to client success.
5. Integrated planning technology. The organizations that are most successful at companywide planning use technology to break down silos. Well-integrated planning software drives accurate and connected plans across the business, identifies patterns in financial and operational data to forecast most likely outcomes and allows for powerful dashboards and predictive capabilities that can give you greater visibility and insight into the business.
How NetSuite Can Help You Build Companywide Plans
Companywide planning may not happen overnight, but by investing in these five key processes, organizations can take practical steps to achieve their strategic objectives. It may be challenging, but the payoff is a significant competitive edge. The visibility you’ll gain imparts a first-mover advantage by helping businesses spot and mitigate risks and react to changing market conditions and customer demands.
NetSuite Planning and Budgeting(opens in new tab) enables quick adoption of world-class planning and budgeting across lines of businesses with flexible and customizable deployment options.
Companywide planning is the future, and NetSuite customers are prime examples of why. Many are already extending the NetSuite Planning and Budgeting solution beyond the finance department to work toward objectives that complement financial planning, such as workforce and demand planning. NetSuite Planning and Budgeting allows you to quickly create long-range forecast models using built-in scenario planning capabilities and delivers the collaboration, control and visibility needed to better manage the complete planning process using a single end-to-end solution.
To learn more, watch this on-demand webinar to learn about what finance leaders need to know about companywide continuous planning(opens in new tab).