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Oracle Forward Planning

Zero-based budgeting
Five Basic Rules for Modern Planning

Wayne Heather, Director of EPM Cloud at Oracle @OracleBACloud

To make forward planning successful, look beyond the obvious by gathering insights from all areas of the business

I recently watched a viral video from the Netherlands in which a Tesla proves why we shouldn’t just make decisions based on what’s in front of us. In the clip, the Tesla’s autopilot uses real-time traffic data to predict an impending crash one full second before it happens and automatically pumps the brakes to avoid the collision. The car steered clear of harm, and thankfully everyone involved in the incident was uninjured.

The Tesla’s autopilot did something no human driver could do alone – it factored external data into its planning and made a smarter, safer decision for it.

 The more relevant information you have, the better your decisions can be. 

While the perils of the open road are far removed from the challenges facing the modern business, the principles of good planning are not. The more relevant information you have, the better your decisions can be.

So why do so many finance teams still rely on one-dimensional cost reports to inform their plans instead of working with better, more relevant information? Consider a shop floor manager tasked with refining a new widget – what insight can they really draw from a spreadsheet that only covers the cost of raw materials used?

Thinking outside the box with data will benefit every line of business, and therefore the entire organisation. Here are my five rules for making the most of your forward planning.

Applied Analytics

Finance: the new “Champion” for applied analytics

Rule 1: It takes an integrated platform

Finance leaders are considered the custodians of a company’s plans but every line of business (LOB) has its own forecasts to manage, all of which are interconnected. For example, a major marketing campaign will place demands on both sales and manufacturing.

Using disparate spreadsheets or systems to do this job can make for a time-consuming exercise, and keeping them aligned is often fraught with risk. With an integrated platform, any change to one department’s plan is automatically updated for other LOBs so they can easily adjust.

Rule 2: Embrace the wisdom of crowds

The more people get involved, the more knowledge gets factored into your plans. This is why a range of employees and stakeholders need to share their experience, predictions, and commentary during the planning and forecasting cycle.

Equally, the more people are involved, the more people are accountable and motivated to contribute towards a common goal and strategy.

Rule 3: Predictive analytics removes risk

It’s no secret that profit warnings scare off stakeholders and in some cases can make or break a business. Unfortunately, the market has never been more unpredictable and developing an accurate plan has never been harder.

By running advanced predictive simulations, finance teams can set realistic goals based on their past performance and predict the most likely outcomes, resulting in a more accurate forecast.

Driving Digital Transformation with Oracle EPM

Driving Digital Transformation with Oracle EPM

Rule 4: Plan for a change of plans

The road to 2020 will be filled with more uncertainty. What happens if trade tariffs between Europe and the US rise or fall? What if the pound starts to rise or falls even further as Brexit talks move forward?

Companies need to be in a position to react quickly, and be able to reforecast rapidly. I’m reminded of Aer Lingus, which overcame a tough market post 9/11 by quickly refocusing its business away from transatlantic routes.

Going back to the value of integrated platform, our research has found that they allow companies to shorten forecasting times by 38%, and to spend 35% more time actually analysing their data.

 What happens if trade tariffs between Europe and the US rise or fall? What if the pound starts to rise or falls even further as Brexit talks move forward? 

Rule 5: Contribute anytime, anywhere

When it comes to finance technology, the user experience is as important as the system itself. We are an on-demand generation and are at our best when we can access information at the moment inspiration strikes, whether it’s at our desk or on our mobile phones.

In the words of Christophe Eouzan, chief accounting officer at Orange France: “ “We need to provide [employees] with digital tools that are at least on a par with what they have at home, and certainly with what we’re selling to our own customers”.

 Companies need to be in a position to react quickly, and be able to reforecast rapidly. 

Clearly, financial planning is more complicated than driving a car, especially one that drives itself. There is no autopilot to help businesses overcome the obstacles of these uncertain times, but with the right systems and strategies in place they’ll be in a position to make the best decisions possible along the way.

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