Why True Collaboration Matters in Enterprise Planning

The role of finance professionals is becoming less transactional and more analytical. That requires more effective collaboration with others across the company on financial and workforce planning. Barbara Larson shares her view on what's needed to make this happen.

I recently read a quote that the most meaningful collaborations create something bigger than the sum of what each person can create on his or her own. When it comes to enterprise planning, this couldn’t be more true.

Having worked in corporate finance for more than two decades, I’ve experienced a major shift in how organizations operate as the business environment has changed. The role of finance has also been impacted, changing our focus from transactional to more analytical. These changes have put greater pressure on corporate finance teams to more effectively collaborate with stakeholders on financial and workforce plans in order to drive growth and help organizations not just adapt, but capitalize on change.

Finance is often spending more time on collecting data and reporting, rather than partnering across the organization to understand where the business stands.

According to a 2015 report from KPMG and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants titled “Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting: An eye on the future,” over three-quarters of finance professionals agreed that collaboration between finance and the rest of the business is imperative in planning, budgeting, and forecasting. This makes sense given how interconnected every piece of the business is.

However, effective collaboration is easier said than done. Finance is often spending more time on manually collecting data and reporting, rather than partnering across the organization to understand where the business stands and how market or business needs might impact financial performance. A big reason for this is that many finance organizations are working with multiple, disparate systems, and their planning system is disconnected from their general ledger. This results in the manual replication of metadata structures like cost centers, legal entities, and employee information from one system to another, or requires complicated integrations in order to ensure data accuracy. By the time this is all said and done, data is no longer current, making it difficult to collaboratively and continuously plan as the business evolves. This approach is ineffective, creating silos and security risks in the planning process.

The good news is that advancements in technology and planning systems are making it possible to knock down these barriers and promote true collaboration. Here are three things that finance can do to set the stage for effective, collaborative, and continuous planning.

Think Big Picture

True collaboration starts by bringing the right mindset to the table. Begin conversations with questions about business needs versus the more tactical elements of planning and forecasting. For example, I often think about how to take the finance piece out of planning discussions so it’s not just about “How many headcount do you have?,” or “What are you going to spend this quarter?,” but goes deeper to understand business goals and objectives and how finance can support them. This creates alignment between financial and workforce planning goals.

Finance is no longer the sole keeper of the data—everyone involved in the planning process needs to understand the data.

Be on the Same Page

For finance to have truly collaborative relationships, everyone needs to be on the same page. Data spread across multiple systems and spreadsheets leads to more time  spent on manual calculations and ensuring data integrity. Having a single source of truth—where planning, forecasting, and real-time financial and workforce transactional data all live in one system—will free up finance from a lot of the administrative burden and give everyone greater confidence in the numbers, so discussions are more meaningful. In addition, planning and forecasts are informed by a true and accurate reflection of the business, helping organizations better adapt to changes and enabling a more continuous planning process.

Empower Business Counterparts with a Voice

Finance is no longer the sole keeper of the data—everyone involved in the planning process needs to understand the data. In doing this, the planning process can be better informed and reflective of business needs and direction, all while still maintaining tight governance and control.

As business needs shift to meet the growing demands of today’s dynamic environment, so do the enterprise planning needs of successful organizations today. Building a strong foundation for the future will require organizations to function in a more unified, collaborative, and continuous way. Technology is at the forefront of this enablement so businesses can better plan and forecast their business needs. We’re only just beginning, and I’m excited to share my experiences with you along the way.

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