Presented by Planful

If there were any remaining doubts that modern businesses need to have agility in their DNA, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 crisis should erase them. For some businesses, the virus and resulting lockdown orders aimed at containing the spread reduced demand virtually overnight. For others, demand increased, but broken supply chains made fulfilling orders difficult. In all cases, consequential business decisions had to be made — and quickly.

Even as some parts of the business world try to return to a semblance of pre-pandemic normalcy, change can happen quickly, and the ability to assess a range of potential scenarios quickly to maintain business continuity or competitive advantage is vital.

In every case, an agile response to evolving conditions requires businesses to ditch legacy tools like spreadsheets and modernize the back office with smarter planning solutions. Business leaders need FP&A professionals to serve as cross-functional, strategic leaders to the entire organization, fostering and enabling the business-wide collaboration that empowers agile and impactful decision-making, and FP&A teams require an integrated, collaborative planning process — across the business — to deliver.

Moving from static to continuous planning

As the pandemic disrupted supply chains, upended projections, and made sound, rapid decision-making even more urgent, FP&A teams raced to update data, put together what-if analysis and present various scenarios to the C-suite and the board. But many found that work was hampered by static planning methods, with data residing in siloed spreadsheets and plans disconnected across the organization. Static planning means critical data doesn’t get factored into decisions. In a world where the cadence of business has accelerated to the point where quarters feel like months, months feel like weeks, and weeks feel like days — that’s a big problem.

Every business unit creates plans and executes decisions based on financial data, so all plans are relevant to FP&A teams. Sales creates quotas, forecasts, and compensation plans. Marketing plans their campaigns and promotional spend and monitors results against those plans. Operations develops supply chain and demand fulfillment plans. The leadership team directs resource distribution and monitors performance. All of these activities are interdependent, and with finance leading the charge and ensuring the data is accurate, intelligent, and user-friendly, businesses are able to capture siloed, institutional planning processes and provide the organization with the information needed to reach a long-term FP&A vision.

Continuous Planning is the key — it allows companies to focus on compressing cycle times and facilitating faster collaboration with increased process and data connectivity, throughout every corner of the organization. For example, Planful customer Planar Systems, a multinational digital display manufacturer, is able to create ad hoc reports on demand, as well as profit and loss statements, balance sheets, KPI summaries, spending summaries, and a complete forecast vs. actuals on a weekly and monthly basis. With Planful’s continuous planning capabilities, Planar is able to make confident, data-driven decisions more frequently, which improves business agility. Faster, smarter, and higher-frequency decision-making provides high-impact value to their business.

FP&A teams understand these stakes and are looking for ways to improve speed and collaboration, for their own department and for business units across the organization. But the process of implementing a technology framework that makes it all possible used to be measured in months, and sometimes years. What if there was a way to take the friction out of the planning solution implementation process, so companies could get up to speed quickly and start seeing a return on investment in just a matter of weeks?

Planful customer SmartyPants, a fast-growing vitamin company, was up and running in around 20 days. With fast time to value, SmartyPants’ FP&A team was able to immediately close their quarter end, efficiently prepare for an upcoming board meeting, and create new forecasts for sales, advertising, and other areas of the business with complete business continuity.

How continuous planning enables organizational agility

Business never stops — not even during a prolonged pause in the economy for public health reasons. That means planning should be continuous too. Continuous Planning enables organizational agility, putting FP&A teams in the driver’s seat and bringing more people from across the organization into the planning process to elevate the organization’s financial IQ more broadly. To bring every business unit into the Continuous Planning process, companies need a platform that provides tailored models for a wide range of planning use cases — one that can be customized across functions, processes, and roles. The truth is that most companies are already conducting Continuous Planning in some capacity, but they are not doing it efficiently and therefore are not reaping the benefits.

Nature’s Sunshine has been using Planful to run hundreds of scenarios to quickly evaluate and understand their options to uncover insights that will help guide their decision-making moving forward. They have the ability to anticipate and respond efficiently to the never-ending demands of business, which is becoming exceedingly critical in uncertain times.

Continuous Planning can be the cornerstone of a new, modern approach to planning and decision-making, enabling finance teams to create capacity in the right areas to enable nimble operations. This planning framework gives finance leaders the power to speed up planning and decision-making cycles, while automating core processes, increasing decision frequency, accelerating insights, and shortening the time it takes to turn insights into action.

Modern planning capabilities are the finance team’s secret weapon

The ability to conduct what-if scenarios and make insightful decisions quickly to drive confident planning and decision-making cycles has always been important, but the COVID-19 situation underscores the value of that capability in new ways. The economic fallout also provides an opportunity for finance leaders to give their organization an edge, while modernizing the back office: a Continuous Planning solution that provides faster, more collaborative planning cycles across all areas of the business.

With Continuous Planning, companies can improve collaboration and workflows throughout their organizations. Finance can build rolling forecasts and conduct ad hoc analyses using accurate, current data. That results in better strategic planning and fast, frequent decision-making at every level. In these uncertain times, companies need to make smarter decisions — now. And with faster implementation options that deliver high-impact ROI and rapid time to value, now is the time for Continuous Planning.

Grant Halloran is Chief Executive Officer of Planful.

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