Integrated Business Planning — The Inevitable Journey For Finance

Integrated Business Planning

Integrated Business Planning — The Inevitable Journey For FinanceIt should come as no surprise that the next mile of finance is upon us – changes are afoot in the world of budgeting and forecasting.

Traditionally, this has entailed the finance organization accumulating information at a high level of aggregation from their business partners (sales, HR, marketing) and other cost and responsibility centers.

This information feeds into budgeting, forecasting, and strategic planning models with most of the emphasis on revenues and expenses. But many of these models lack collaboration, clarity, and timeliness. In response, many companies are heading down the path towards integrated business planning (IBP).

What Is IBP and Why Should We Pursue It?

With many definitions in the market place, here’s a common one: Integrated business planning (IBP)enables a complete and integrated planning process across strategic, long-term planning; financial planning for planning, budgeting and forecasting and profitability; and sales and operations planning (S&OP) for sales plan, production plan, inventory plan and new product introduction plan.

Business planning challenges are driving companies to start pursuing IBP. These challenges include:

Planning on a scheduled, calendar basis rather than on a “right time” basis (i.e. when it needs to be done)

  • Most organizations adhere to a scheduled calendar of planning events through the course of the year. These may include budgets, forecasts, budget updates, and the like.
  • These planning events are fairly infrequent due, in part, to the massive amount of work involved within finance itself, as well as the workload they place on other lines of business.
  • Finance typically shies away from asking for too many updates during the year, despite the fact that external threats, such as competitor activity and economic crises, are constantly impacting the business’s ability to achieve its financial objectives.
  • Resulting forecasts are always out of step with what’s happening in the here and now.

Increasing data volumes and varieties

  • It’s a challenge to grasp these data volumes, which are increasing on a per second basis.

Performance bottlenecks prevent planning at a detailed level

  • Most companies plan, budget, and reforecast at a very high level of aggregation working with the systems they use today simply because they find that doing anything else takes an inordinate amount of time.
  • I’ve spoken with finance teams that have abandoned the pursuit of gaining visibility into deeper levels of revenue and costs granularity associated with things such as individual SKUs that the business has asked for.
  • The teams shelter behind the excuse that “it’s just not available in the time scales” and unfortunately, that has actually been true because of the performance limitations of the systems they use.

Delayed insight into information slows decision making and corrective action

  • I once worked with a company that was trying to assess what impact awarding stock options had on the turnover of key staff. It took a week and a half, with much back and forth with HR to source the right data, before the report could be run and the results validated.
  • A poor HR system was in use that contained limited information, and it took endless meetings to identify the right employees, their pay grades, and eligibility before deciding whether they should be included in the analysis.

Planning tools that aren’t flexible enough or fast enough to keep up with organizational and external changes

  • Most planning systems, and spreadsheets in particular, struggle to keep in step with everyday business life at the macro level (acquisitions, divestitures, or mergers) or the micro level (new product lines, new SKUs, and new geographies).

The challenges that businesses face may be great, but IBP offers many solutions. Stay tuned for my next blog, Integrated Business Planning—What it Is and How to Start, to learn how IBP offers solutions for the challenges outlined above. I will also give you some tips on how to get started with IBP in your organization.