Presented by Planful

Do you know your company’s financial IQ? It’s not a number generated by a test — rather it’s the overall confidence in your organization’s ability to leverage accurate, relevant data to make financially smart decisions. It’s measured by your company’s ability to quickly produce plans, generate actionable performance insights, and re-plan continuously in response to internal and external changes that affect your business.

A high financial IQ amongst all your employees positions your company to be more competitive, innovative, and prosperous, in an increasingly dynamic business world. And Finance is the strateg­ic advisor at the heart of it all.

Financial IQ is more important than ever because the pace of business is only getting faster. The winners in the modern economy are the agile companies that can turn on a dime as new trends emerge, customer demand shifts, and business conditions evolve. Effective business leaders use data from a variety of sources to identify opportunities and risks; those who don’t have that insight in real-time to execute more iterative planning cycles inevitably get left behind.

In this environment, frequent and collaborative planning is the key to sound decision-making. Every business unit’s plans and decisions are grounded in detailed financial data. Marketing develops demand generation plans and tracks a myriad of data. Sales deals with capacity models, quotas, and compensation plans and monitors progress toward those targets. Operations creates supply chain and demand fulfillment plans. The C-suite allocates resources and tracks performance.

Since business activities are interconnected, the data from these plans is relevant beyond the departments that produced them. But at all too many companies, planning data is siloed in spreadsheets, and it isn’t factored into the broader decision-making process. The finance team typically has the highest financial IQ in the organization, but financial IQ shouldn’t be exclusive to finance team roles. To achieve maximum agility, companies need everyone engaged in Continuous Planning, which elevates financial IQ across the board. In many ways this is the new mission for modern FP&A teams-to evolve from being a service provider to the business to being an empowerer of new capabilities across the business.

Modern finance teams lead the way

Because of the dynamic and unpredictable nature of modern business, the importance of agility, and the centrality of data to business decision-making, the role of finance has evolved significantly, expanding far beyond the back office. Today, finance leaders function as key strategic advisors who are intimately involved in driving innovation and growth.

For the businesses that are the heart of the economy, it’s finance leaders rather than pricey consultants who understand the complexity of the business. Today’s finance leaders are tech savvy, and since all of the company’s financial data flows through their department, they have the clearest, big-picture view. Extending that view is what Continuous Planning is all about.

The Finance team is already positioned to lead the way. By adopting a collaborative approach and then driving iterative planning cycles across the entire organization, Finance can stretch operations in all the right areas to enable companies to be nimble. When finance leaders can speed up financial consolidation and reporting cycles, bring more people into planning and decision making, and automate core processes, they can increase decision frequency, accelerate insights, and shorten the time it takes to turn insights into action.

Structured vs. dynamic planning

One major challenge to reaching that state is that finance has very specific Structured Planning and reporting needs, whereas business units have Dynamic Planning requirements. Reconciling these two sets of needs is the key to Continuous Planning.

One growing company, Planar Systems, experienced these challenges as they transitioned into a global organization. The Oregon-based digital display manufacturer was tracking data across regions, divisions, and products with spreadsheets, which made meaningful analysis time-consuming and difficult. After implementing Planful’s FP&A platform to support Continuous Planning, Planar automated and streamlined processes. When it was acquired by China-based Leyard, the Planar team was able to provide the only consolidated management view of the global business group, thanks to the platform.

The combination of both Structured and Dynamic Planning capabilities allowed the company to monitor a range of metrics to inform executive decision-making. Planar went on to double-revenue growth while holding steady on overhead. Planful also gave Planar and its parent company a single source of truth about business status, including revenue and profit drivers.

Automation and integration for the win

As Planar’s experience shows, automation and integration improve financial IQ across the board to enable faster decision-making and more nimble operations. That’s the advantage of a Continuous Planning approach: it provides the flexibility, interface, and data access to meet Dynamic Planning requirements, while also delivering the structure and control finance needs.

The benefits include more accurate forecasts, more frequent planning cycles, better resource allocation and less disruption from annual planning exercises. Digital Realty, a San Francisco-based business that develops and manages data center infrastructure and real estate, also found a more collaborative approach to planning with Planful.

With a Continuous Planning approach, Digital Realty centralized operational and financial metrics, consolidating data from the systems of various departments and applying financial rigor to deliver “an unbiased view of the big picture,” according to Digital Realty’s vice president of corporate FP&A, Glenn Snyder.

And that’s Continuous Planning’s superpower: the ability to bring everyone into the planning and decision-making process in a meaningful way, thus fostering greater collaboration to break down silos, and elevating the entire organization’s financial IQ. Continuous Planning accelerates financial consolidation and reporting, enabling faster, more informative planning cycles. With Structured and Dynamic Planning capabilities, businesses with a high financial IQ are in a better position to compete and win in today’s high-stakes, fast-moving economy.

Grant Halloran is CEO of Planful.

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