Finance and HR Leaders Discuss Planning in Times of Uncertainty

If we’ve learned anything from 2020, it’s that agility must be at the center of business planning. Leaders from Microsoft and G6 Hospitality talk about how they’re embracing continuous planning in times of disruption.

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If 2020 has taught the business world anything, it’s that business strategies and plans are rarely set in stone, and agility isn’t a nice-to-have. As companies continue to deal with the impact of the global pandemic, they’ve adjusted their plans faster than ever before and are modeling multiple scenarios to adapt to a bevy of potential changes. 

This was a key theme at the recent Workday global digital event, Conversations for a Changing World. In the session “Planning in Times of Uncertainty,” moderated by KPMG’s Sanjay Sehgal, Sherry Vidal-Brown, chief human resources and communication officer at G6 Hospitality, and Mustafa Ozkeskin, vice president of FP&A at Microsoft, shared how they’re approaching planning in tumultuous times. 

Businesses have faced unprecedented challenges this year, from adjusting nearly overnight to remote work to dealing with supply chain disruptions and policy and procedure changes within their organizations. That’s why many have embraced a continuous planning approach.

Earlier in the year, as digital signals of the pandemic’s effects began to roll in, some businesses started scenario modeling in earnest to avoid harmful disruptions. Ozkeskin shared that at Microsoft, they had to “really think about the impact that this pandemic can have on our business— light impact, medium-size impact, and deep impact— and we started to look at some of the daily indicators in our business and adjusted our planning process accordingly.” 

Some businesses have utilized existing teams to help manage the disruption. For example, Vidal-Brown shared that they have a crisis team in place to help support communities when natural disasters strike. When the pandemic hit, the crisis team asked themselves how this crisis was different from others they’d dealt with, and how they had to plan differently. Supply chains were affected, so they had to look at the effects on procurement. They looked at how they needed to change processes to ensure team members and guests stayed safe. And they did it all with the goal of keeping the lights on so essential workers had a place to stay if needed. Vidal-Brown said, “Our goal was really around how we could operate differently and quickly adapt, and that’s what we’ve put in place with our crisis team.” 

Agility and flexibility are at the core of how businesses are adapting to the challenges of 2020. For example, today’s challenges have to be balanced with long-term aspirations. Ozkeskin shared that Microsoft  decided to keep its robust internship program going, since interns often become future employees and move the company forward. He also said that by looking back at the effects of the 2008-09 global financial crisis, Microsoft concluded that “one of the biggest learnings from the previous crisis was the need to have more flexibility and agility in planning, forecasting, and many other parts of the business.” 

As a challenging business environment continues this year and beyond, an agile, flexible approach to continuous planning and scenario modeling is essential for businesses to survive and thrive in the years ahead. 

Interested in hearing more about continuous planning from Ozkeskin and Vidal-Brown? Watch the full session from Conversations for a Changing World.

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