The four cornerstones of business agility
As the pace of technological change continues to accelerate, now more than ever businesses must achieve new levels of agility in order to stay ahead of competitors. And while most organizations are undergoing some level of digital transformation, I’d argue that for modern businesses, the key to agility lies in transforming business planning processes. Finance executives agree and recognize the important role that planning plays in an organization’s success. In fact, in a recent survey, 75% of finance executives said they aren’t confident that their current planning process gives them the ability to respond to economic and geopolitical changes. Not surprisingly, they pin this lack of agility on a mix of reasons, including planning processes that are siloed and disjointed and legacy planning platforms that slow them down.
So how can businesses prioritise agility in today’s fast-paced environment? It boils down to adopting planning processes and solutions that deliver in these four key areas:
- Visibility via the cloud
One of the most common issues in organisations working with legacy planning systems is that there is no easy, reliable, way to get a full view of performance-related data from across all departments. A lot of the time information gets lost in data silos, and those in charge of reporting have to chase down necessary information from across the business to ensure they have up-to-date data. A crucial first step to achieving business agility is therefore to ensure that all data collected within the organisation is stored in a cloud-based infrastructure, where anyone who needs to can access reliable and comprehensive data in real-time.
- Insights that speed up decision making
While having a system in place for reliable data collection and access is an important first step towards achieving organisational agility, it means little to nothing if finance teams cannot instantly use that data to construct effective plans based on a real-time view of the business. Key to this is using a powerful platform that can collect insights from across the entire business at any point in time, visualise those insights through intuitive dashboards, and generate and update forecasts based on current data. With this real-time view of the business, organisations are better equipped to respond to change and can make informed decisions faster.
- Collaboration for an active plan
A plan is of little use if it isn’t actionable and for it to meaningfully contribute to business agility it needs to go beyond the old-school, static plans that take months to develop and live in spreadsheets. Historically, various departments created and executed their parts of the corporate plan separately, with little collaboration and visibility of shared performance. By encouraging collaboration in a single planning system, robust financial and operational models can provide an understanding of performance and dependencies. Everyone involved with planning and budget development—from business managers to functional leaders–can dive into granular data related to their team. This real-time view of how the performance or decisions made by other teams impact the organisation, turns a static plan into an active plan that is continuously updated and reflects current business conditions.
- An ongoing cycle of plan, execute, analyse
Once credible and up-to-date data has been used to put a business plan into action, analysis is required to evaluate success—but it must be an ongoing cycle of plan, execute, and analysis. This should include financial KPIs such as revenue, cash flow, and profitability, but modern businesses are also leveraging non-financial metrics such as sales pipeline, marketing pipeline, and net promoter score (NPS), to name a few. These robust models give a more holistic view of the business allowing a multi-faceted and complex reporting process that is only possible if all relevant data can be drawn from one source of truth and be automatically collated into interactive reports based on the analyst’s preferences. As important, a system that allows business users to “self-serve” reports brings critical data to all corners of the enterprise.
When these four approaches are all working in harmony, organisations can achieve the level of agility today’s complex business environment demands. It allows the creation of new strategies, operationalising them into plans, and executing them quickly and easily. In doing so, businesses can continually optimise their organisation for the changing conditions around them and use that capability as a true competitive advantage.