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Planning for the Unpredictable

It’s been said many times before, but it’s worth saying again – the modern business landscape is fast, furious and ever-changing. Market conditions can shift from day-to-day, never-mind on a quarterly or annual basis. As a result it is increasingly difficult for companies to deliver predictable financial performance for their investors and stakeholders.

However, the key word here is ‘difficult’ and not ‘impossible’. As with everything in life, delivering performance comes down to thorough planning.

Of course there are numerous solutions on the market that can help businesses with forecasting. Organisations have to pick between cloud, on premise, and in-house solutions; companies can either automate their current processes or select a vendor that explores new methodologies. And even with the myriad of available solutions, organisations may find that they are still unable to plan and re-forecast as quickly and accurately as they’d like.

So, can you have it all? Yes – but it comes with conditions! Organisations need to ask the right questions of potential vendors in order to find a balance between a solution that satisfies immediate requirements and one which can be adapted to your future needs.

 

Here are the three key questions to ask your potential financial planning provider:

 

1. Can it handle the data flood?

According to PwC, “Institutions that leverage Big Data to gain insights into their operations, customers, and marketing opportunities can position themselves for ongoing success. But transforming Big Data into actionable insights requires sophisticated analytics tools.”

Finance will soon find themselves in the domain of big data with models that run to many billions of data points. Yet many planning and budgeting tools were not designed to cope with this level of volume. In order to handle operational big data, ensure that the solution you select is built around an in-memory calculation engine.

 

2. Can I get insights from my data when I need them?

Traditionally, budgeting has been time consuming and costly. Information required for reforecasting departmental needs is often held in other offline models or multiple spreadsheets. This can be resolved by integrating business planning with financial planning in a driver-based budget. Changes made to any input value or driver directly impact future revenue or expenses. Adopting such methodologies means reforecasting becomes a continuous, light-touch process. Having financial projections built on internal and external business drivers gives earlier awareness of future variances, helping you to become more agile and responsive.

 

3. Can I access my data everywhere?

In 2013, the Apple App Store generated $10 billion in downloads. With the swipe of a finger, consumers can accomplish anything on their mobile phone or tablet.

For businesses, mobile can facilitate real-time collaboration and the shortening of core processes for greater efficiency. Re-forecasting requires timely inputs such as updates on how sales opportunities are progressing from field-based and operational staff. Remote employees that require access to business planning and budgeting can leverage mobile to receive automated alerts, self-guided analysis, and the ability to amend and approve budget submissions and re-forecasts. Ensure your solution integrates all mobile platforms today to get the most valuable return for your business.

Asking these three critical questions will help you identify if the solution provider really can match both your immediate requirements and future plans. Forecasting is a valuable tool – and offers a chance for businesses to make better decisions and position themselves for growth in what is often an uncertain market. Don’t underestimate its value.

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