The true ROI of a planning solution

Business Planning (Budgeting and Forecasting) and by extension, Financial and Management Reporting is a necessary but often costly process that organisations must undertake.

When we talk about “costly” processes, it’s not just about the obvious costs relating to highly paid finance personnel being involved in mundane practices. It is also about opportunity cost

  • the time these personnel can better spend on value adding activities
  • the impacts of not having accurate and timely plans
  • the cost of not being agile enough to make critical decisions when needed

There are indeed many benefits that must be considered when assessing the merits of improved business planning and reporting.

When considering the move beyond spreadsheets to the latest fit-for-purpose technology, executives often see the investment as just another cost without an appreciation of the true pay off.

Understanding the Return on Investment (ROI) equation, and how it can support a compelling business case, is an important step in pushing this agenda with the Board, CEO or key stakeholders.

So what factors impact the ROI equation?

Productivity improvements

Productivity improvements are one key driver of benefit. This is most keenly felt in the office of finance, where finance teams are no longer distracted by low value adding planning and reporting tasks such as transposing data from source systems and the manual collation and integration of worksheets.

If the finance team can conservatively get a 30% improvement in productivity, then that may translate into 1 FTE being more usefully deployed as an analyst who can partner with the business to drive benefits in other areas.

It may also avoid the need to add further manpower to your finance team, at a time when boards and executives are demanding more information and analysis within shorter time frames.

This is without even considering the productivity improvements across the wider business. Top performing finance professionals know the benefits of fostering a planning culture of involvement and accountability to managers and operational personnel.

Providing a solution that promotes collaboration within and between departments and a simple interface to contribute to the planning process will have an enormous ongoing benefit, both in time efficiency and ownership of the plan.

Significant reduction in planning and reporting cycles

Significant reduction in planning and reporting cycles is also hugely beneficial. It is not just about “ticking a box” to say the reforecast was completed within the first week of the month, or the reporting was finalised in 2 working days.

If the reforecast is timely, then the flow on decisions from that reforecast are also timelier. The benefits of being agile in the face of competition or external economic factors cannot be underestimated.

Similarly, with reporting, the value is not in the report preparation itself, it is in the extra time available to do the proper analysis and to understand the driving factors behind the results.

Accurate insights

This leads us to another compelling benefit: accurate insights. Having a single source of trusted information at the right level of granularity across both actuals and plans means the variance analysis is far more insightful.

Managers can easily drill into further detail as needed to understand the drivers behind the results and to take corrective action.

Cost control and/or margin improvement

Cost control and/or Margin improvement is also possible when this information is readily available. This removes the risk of making poor strategic decisions due to the misinterpretation of poor-quality data.

These benefits may be hard to quantify, but even a basis point or two improvement in margin can make a substantial contribution to the ROI.

Quick and easy scenario modelling

Finally, quick and easy Scenario Modelling is incredibly powerful in current economic times. We have seen the devastating impact of COVID-19 on many industries and businesses.

Being able to model out multiple scenarios in hours rather than days or weeks has been incredibly valuable to businesses that have already invested in such solutions.

Of course, there’s no need for another “black swan” event to justify the investment in a fit-for-purpose planning and reporting solution.

Even the most conservative approach to assessing potential benefits from such a project – including productivity improvements, reduction in cycle times, accurate insights from a single source of truth and the agility to change course quickly when required, will see ROI rarely exceed 12 months.

If you’d like to understand how we can help build a business case and ROI projections for the implementation of a planning and reporting solution leveraging the latest technology, please reach out. We have supported many organisations in this process and have also implemented dozens of solutions using Workday Adaptive Planning (formerly known as Adaptive Insights) and IBM Planning Analytics.

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