You know what keeps finance up at night? Errors, inaccuracies, variables, unknowns, noncompliance — anything that falls outside of their highly-organized financial and regulatory requirements. That’s because finance is fundamentally structured. Financial planning is built around general ledgers, accounts, journal entries, cost centers, debits and credits. And finance uses those constructs to deliver even more structured outputs, like P&L’s, balance sheets and cash flow statements.
The structure of these items rarely, if ever, changes and is highly consistent even across industries. An income statement prepared for a global manufacturing conglomerate is very similar to one prepared for a local retailer. What’s more, these structures only require infrequent, periodic updates, usually quarterly or monthly.
Now contrast that need for structure and control with the flexibility and data update frequency desired by everyone outside of finance. They want to create dynamic plans that work for them, for their business, and in a format they understand. These plans are as unique as the people creating them, are customized for bespoke business use-cases, activities, and goals, and can change on a whim. They also require data from various operational systems, and which often need to be updated daily (if not more).
In other words, the dynamic planning needs of the business can’t be restricted by the structured rigidity required by finance. But they also can’t continue to rely on slow, disconnected, error-prone spreadsheets. They need speed, collaboration, data access, workflow, and the flexibility to build dynamic plans that accurately represent their business — but it all needs to connect back to the structured world of corporate financial planning.
Dynamic Planning Tailored to Every Need
For dynamic planning, the best word that describes what the business needs is “bespoke”. That’s a fancy word for customized or tailored, but it fits well because every business user wants a dynamic plan to fit their exact needs. Just like a tailor builds a suit for an individual customer, dynamic plans and data models need to be infinitely customizable for different business functions, processes, and use-cases.
The dynamic planning interface also needs to be customizable. Some teams like charts, others like tables of information, others want to flip between the two. A dynamic planning platform has to offer a blank slate that’s not only easy to use, but is highly customizable and enables teams to create unlimited variations of how they consume, interact with, and present their data. Maybe executive teams want to see a highly visual representation of different acquisition plans for the next year, and they want to easily change between scenarios to evaluate different acquisition strategies. A VP of marketing might prefer to visualize conversion rates and lead trends in charts, whereas a VP of sales might need a combination of graphs and tables of numbers. The point is, everyone’s dynamic planning needs are different.
Dynamic plans also require flexibility around data access and data refresh frequency. Business users need to update their plans and models with data from a variety of systems, and in many cases they need it refreshed daily. For example, maybe the VP of Sales wants to look at intradaily changes in pipeline as she plans territory quota allocations for next month, or in revenue forecasts during the last few days of the month to ensure the revenue target is met. Users can’t be tasked with downloading data from multiple systems, converting or formatting it for their needs, and uploading it into a separate system manually. That’s wasted time and effort that results in missed opportunities.
Finally, dynamic plans have a lot of variability in the frequency of user interactions with those plans. For example, Sales has high-frequency touchpoints with their models during month-end and quarter-end closes when they’re trying to pull different levers to hit the revenue target. Whereas Marketing is more deeply involved with their dynamic plans before the quarter even starts, making sure sales has enough pipeline to cover their quotas and forecasts.
Structured & Dynamic Planning: Two Sides of the Same Coin
As you can see, the nature, timing, and frequency of dynamic planning varies quite about from structured planning. Dynamic planning is called dynamic for a reason: because the purpose or need or usage is constantly changing. But that doesn’t mean that one is more important than the other, or that either can exist in a silo.
We believe finance should be strategic advisors to the business. In order to do that, they need the financial and operational insights to do their job, which also requires empowering and elevating the financial IQ of the business so that everyone is collaborating in planning and decision cycles in more meaningful ways. Even as the structured planning needs of finance differ greatly from the dynamic planning needs of the business, the two need to work harmoniously together as one seamless process because they are two sides of the same coin. They support the same strategic goals.
You need a platform with the flexibility, interface, and data access required for today’s dynamic planning needs, while also providing the structure and control needed by FP&A. This is how you move closer to a vision of Continuous Planning. And we can help get you there.