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From One CFO to Another: How Intelligent Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions Put the “A” Back into FP&A

The way business is conducted in today’s digital economy and how the finance department (Finance) and CFOs drive results are now validated and necessary in a different light.  Globalization and digitalization has exponentially changed the way we do things.  Too many of us still rely on planning tools that aggregate budgets but provide little in terms of anything else, and many of us are still devoted to Microsoft Excel.

These past generation tools assist in one regard immensely, looking back and reflecting. But how do we move forward with analysis and provide value?  The answer is to adopt an intelligent financial planning and analysis (iFP&A) solution. An iFP&A solution allows you to access information instantly, continuously collaborate, and spearhead innovation.

Finance needs to be able to act in the moment and not provide value after the fact.  Too often in the past, I’ve been a part of a team that had to say, “I’ll get back to you.” Technology and globalization have made business a never-ending race.  The value Finance needs to provide must be live, and that is only possible with instant access to information.

To have this access, a planning solution must be able to perform traditional planning activities (like allocations, reports, forecasts) and leverage modern analytics (advanced visualizations, machine learning, augmented intelligence).  The ability to analyze, plan, predict, and report all in one environment is the way to get ahead of the curve.

Continuous Collaboration

A fundamental piece of an iFP&A solution is the ability to continuously collaborate natively.  As a finance department, we may be schooled in the art of financial statements (like Income Statements, Balance Sheet, Cash Flow) but these numbers need value outside of our org and require dependence and trust from another group—the Business Users.  The true value of an iFP&A solution is the scalability.  Cloud-based iFP&A solutions allow you to extend your planning and analysis to all departments.

For example, Marketing can track their program spend, IT can forecast equipment purchases and depreciation, Sales can forecast deals and as Finance, we get the value of this information in a collaborative manner to be able to provide the best guidance. This collaboration, however, isn’t just about involving the enterprise, it’s about true collaboration in the tool.

In the past, during Budget/Plan cycles, there would be endless e-mails, versions of plans, or long, drawn-out meetings where we discuss things that should have been handled much earlier.  With an iFP&A solution, you can discuss issues on the fly, whether it concerns a report, an allocation method, or a budget driver.

Embracing Machine Learning and Augmented Intelligence

Moving forward as FP&A means embracing the latest technology and for me, it’s about embracing intelligent insights through machine learning and augmented intelligence.  As Finance departments, we’re always looking for an extra body to help drive analysis as opposed to repetitive tasks.

These intelligent features mean I don’t need to employ a team of data scientists, but rather my Finance team can use their skills to focus on providing true financial guidance with the assistance from modern analytics.  Intelligent features provide guidance on hidden trends or recurring patterns that we may not have caught.  They should also be able to help me predict future values automatically to make the best use of my resources.

Learn More at SAPPHIRE NOW

Overall, iFP&A solutions have stepped up the game for the office of the CFO, planning across the enterprise and modern analytics.  We as finance are not only able to advance forward, but are also able to drive the enterprise ahead.

To hear more about how this is happening, join me at SAPPHIRE NOW 2018 as one of our customers, Pratt Industries, shares how their iFP&A solution, SAP Analytics Cloud, revolutionizes their FP&A function.

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