January 18, 2018 Martin Kratky

The Troubles We have Seen: Roadblocks to effective FP&A

Over more than 10 years and hundreds of projects we got a good insight into the typical pain points with their financial planning and analytics processes that our clients experience prior to working with us.

Here are four typical ones and of course a little plug how Agility Planning can address that.

1. Spreadsheet Chaos: misusing Excel as a database

The number one challenge by far is the dreaded “Spreadsheet hell” that consists of an innumerable number of Excel Workbooks, a minimum of 5 versions for each report in a gazillion of Folders. We have seen spreadsheets so complex that they required years of development. When the respective author leaves the organization the related process completely breaks down and we are getting a call. Good for us not so good from a process perspective and our clients bottom lines. We love Excel don’t get me wrong but as with everything in life: “horses for courses”. Excel is the best tool for complex and flexible reporting requirements.  What it is not is a replacement database (apart from using Power Pivot but that’s another story). As soon as you start copying and pasting large data amounts on an ongoing basis into spreadsheets things will get messy. A clear separation of data and presentation is the cure: a one version of the truth analytical data mart that contains all relevant structured data linked to the relevant sources. Agility Planning does exactly that by providing a super fast data model server (in the cloud or on premise) using the market leading technology. Based on a standard SQL RDBMS not a proprietary (AND typically expensive…) black box application. Result: All FP&A process user work with the tool (Excel, web browser, Power BI, etc.) that best suits their need on the ONE version of truth, protected by exact user rights, audit trails and focused on valuable analytical work not maintaining and updating spreadsheet convolutes for 80{f07a6f3c804bbd895dffcff5ec51214cdb073f853260fed95f3ef441bb0f77b1} of the month.

2. Limited write back capabilities

A bit of a continuation of the story in 1: after months of work your budget is ready you proudly present it to your manager and she says these totals need to be changed by x{f07a6f3c804bbd895dffcff5ec51214cdb073f853260fed95f3ef441bb0f77b1}. Kissing good bye your spare time plans you embark on substantial over time hours to update the 59 spreadsheets that make up the total with lots of back and forth to get to the desired target. OR?

You use a tool like Agility Planning that not only provides you with a real-time view of the aggregate situation at any point in time but also enables you to enter data on any part of the model as an absolute number or a relative change automatically applying the distribution logic as required on the underlying levels that make up the total.

3. Missing modelling capabilities

Let’s assume you are lucky working for an organization that already utilizes central data models (or a big and mighty “Data Warehouse”) and your reports in Excel automatically update based on that. Great first hurdle taken. Not so great that very often this is the starting point and you want to change something that is not in the central model.  Simple things like the introduction of a new product, splitting up accounts. Etc. That’s typically the point when you end up back at paint point #1 copying data into the worksheet and creating a manual Excel report. Not so with Agility Planning: using a super easy to use web based modelling tool you can change existing models exactly as you need to or create a new model reflecting the changed requirements. Your IT is happy that they are not bothered with another change request for the data warehouse and your partner is happy to spend some quality time as the last minute “can you please analyze what that change would do” from your boss was done in a few minutes.

4. Complex data integration

Gone are the days when -at a client in Germany- I was told: Let’s add 20 consulting days (to an already generous budget) for the integration of an accounting system so that we are on the safe side”. Data integration on widely used standard platforms should -in the best case- be a click in the worst case require a reasonable amount of effort for data integration measured in a few days not months of consulting. Agility Planning offers standard connectors to a wide range of accounting platforms respectively the biggest number of general source connectors on the market through our integration with the Microsoft BI platform.

Pain points exist across many business operations and when it comes to financial planning and performance management this is especially true. However, with the right tool in place, like Agility Planning, you could streamline your processes significantly! Want more information on how an effective financial planning tool could benefit you further? Feel free to reach out to us at any time!

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