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5 Best practise ideas to make your next planning cycle less of a nightmare!

Planning cycles have developed an infamous reputation for being too much effort to put together and losing value/relevance faster than the time taken to put them together. For the finance team, especially, it more often than not means long hours trying to cobble together a planning presentation together while keeping their head above the water on their ‘day job’.
Add to that, the year that ‘2020’ has been with: COVID-19 pandemic, remote working, coordinating challenges and endless changes to most business models means most finance teams feel like they are fighting with their backs against the wall. In this background, planning for 2021 may just feel like an uphill battle. Time and the demands of putting together a budget for 2021 allow no rest for the weary, however.

5 best practise recommendations below can help make your next planning cycle effective and efficient, and therefore a ‘little easier’.

 

Planning cycles have developed an infamous reputation for being too much effort to put together and losing value/relevance faster than the time taken to put them together. For the finance team, especially, it more often than not means long hours trying to cobble together a planning presentation together while keeping their head above the water on their ‘day job’.
Add to that, the year that ‘2020’ has been with: COVID-19 pandemic, remote working, coordinating challenges and endless changes to most business models means most finance teams feel like they are fighting with their backs against the wall. In this background, planning for 2021 may just feel like an uphill battle. Time and the demands of putting together a budget for 2021 allow no rest for the weary, however.

5 best practise recommendations below can help make your next planning cycle effective and efficient, and therefore a ‘little easier’

1) Clarify the story board : Begin with the end in mind

Ensure you have clarity on the broad/directional story (plot) for the planning. Best approach is to organise discussion with the management while bringing your proposals to the table using your business acumen and knowledge of the industry/market. This makes it easier to ensure you are collating the right level of information avoid going back to the teams (or markets) again! Additionally, doing it initially helps you provide the right guidance to your teams and ensure alignment to the strategic vision or expectations

(Refer to our blog on Love And Hate The ‘Budgeting Cycle).

2) Plan for the planning cycle: Jot the path to success

Design the planning steps for the planning cycle, the macro-steps like:

  1.  Issue templates (Excel or digital)
  2.  Team inputs and internal review
  3.  Submission and consolidation
  4.  Analysis
  5.  Review with local management
  6.  Re-run where necessary
  7.  Submission

Alongside the summarised steps, you should provide a detail action plan of what exact actions do each step entail, who owns those actions and deadlines for the same. A Gantt chart with summarised steps, detailed plans, clear ownership and a start and delivery dates would be ideal.

3) Clear expectations: Allocate clear roles, responsibilities and deadlines

Sharing the Gantt chart with the team on a call (if face-to-face, isn’t possible) always adds more value. It helps you as the finance leader, understand the challenges faced by the local teams and build credibility while walking them through the steps. Also clearly articulating the expectations helps minimising the scope misinterpretations as it provides room to ask questions. Running multiple training sessions (depending on people’s availability and time zones) is also something to consider depending on the complexity of your organisation.

4) Manage data: Plan for data input and have an extraction plan

Most planning templates are designed in MS Excel still, so make sure you have provided enough data points for the teams to provide you with right level of information. Also, ensure you have a plan for data extraction which is efficient, scalable (use Power Query, where possible) and time efficient thereby minimising the consolidation activity. If you are using digital platforms for budgeting cycle, more time needs to be spent in the clarification of expectations and training the teams especially the new joiners.

5) Make room for Analysis: Ensure allocated time for analysis and review

For a planning cycle to be successful it is crucial to have your ‘story’ clear and concise. Hence, it is pivotal for you to plan time for analysing the numbers and reviewing the same with the submitting teams to ensure that you not only have understood their line of thinking but also had a chance to help them clarify their thoughts and pose the right challenges. This is also an opportunity for improving credibility for finance and develop better finance business partnering (something we will cover in more detail in our next blog). Working with the operational teams is crucial for the success of not only the planning cycle but also the delivery of the same.

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