In the book “Future Ready,” renowned forecasting experts Steve Morlidge and Steve Player describe business forecasting like sailing at sea: “It makes sense to plan before you start the journey, but the original plan is often soon out of date because of changes in the weather or tides.”
The pace of change isn’t slowing down, so in order to remain competitive, businesses must continuously adapt and quickly take action. A critical element of that is having the right technology systems in place that enable continuous and collaborative planning.
Traditionally, the goal of planning has been to define targets or budgets to measure performance—comparing actuals to plan. But planning today requires more. Done effectively, planning can improve achievement of business outcomes and mitigate the risks of underperformance. Whether it’s modeling for potential opportunities such as mergers and acquisitions or identifying potential risks and competitive threats, planning—done the right way—can be a game changer.
How can organizations do this? First and foremost, it’s about having accurate and immediate access to business data—workforce, financial, and operational—and using it to continuously shape business plans. It’s all about speed and accuracy, since action taken too late or misapplied is ineffective.
Secondly, collaboration with stakeholders across the business in order to track progress against plan is essential. Planning by definition is an iterative process, requiring involvement from multiple teams who are responsible for meeting their own financial goals. By bringing them into the planning fold early and regularly, there is greater individual ownership of results.
Many call this approach continuous planning, yet executing this model is much easier said than done—especially without the right technology, processes, and access to data. Finance teams often get stuck in the administrative work of manual data gathering and reconciliation, taking valuable time away from what matters most—analyzing data in order to drive strategic decision-making. Without immediate access to accurate and real-time data, it’s impossible to respond to changes and opportunities as they are happening.