When we ask CFOs what keeps them up at night, their top response is usually “missing the numbers.” But here’s the thing: What really worries them is not knowing whether they’re going to miss the mark. Finance leaders simply don’t have the big picture of revenue and sales—and that’s what keeps them tossing and turning.
To solve this problem, forward-thinking CFOs are moving to a modern, integrated planning process that unifies finance and sales departments, helps them collaborate closely, and as a result, allows better, more accurate revenue forecasting and sales planning.
Why CFOs lose sleep over uncertainty
CFOs tend to ask their teams a lot of questions. Are we going to meet the quarterly plan? Can services deliver forecast revenue? Our pipeline is $10 million, but where will we finish? What does the forecast look like by product? Did we overrun on commission expenses? Until they have the answers, they can’t achieve the accuracy and predictability needed to forecast revenue effectively.
However, to paraphrase John Donne, no finance team is an island. To give CFOs the answers they want, finance needs to collaborate closely with its business partners in other functions, including sales, marketing, human resources, and operations. Without such integrated planning, companies risk misalignment with corporate strategy, inventory issues, inaccurate forecasts, and even a financial plan that’s just not realistic.
If people don’t or can’t collaborate, they probably won’t accept ownership of the numbers or accountability for performance. Sooner or later, though, those missed numbers will shake investor confidence and hurt the company.
A common planning process
The planning process typically used by finance and sales teams seems to operate on two different tracks. On one track is the FP&A team, which pulls enterprise resource planning and sales data from source systems like NetSuite and Salesforce.com, then uses Excel and other tools to create their revenue forecasts and budgets.
Meanwhile, on the second track, sales operations pulls opportunity and personnel data from some of these same source systems and creates their sales forecasts, and territory and capacity plans, in Excel.
And when the teams try to report on and analyze the data—and set KPIs—there’s more duplication and confusion. It might not be clear which systems the reports and metrics were created from and, if there are multiple versions, which one contains the correct numbers.
In a situation like this, it’s almost impossible for executives and business managers to get any insights into performance. The experience doesn’t foster collaboration; in fact, people invariably argue about the numbers. Because the process is often done manually in disconnected spreadsheets, it’s prone to errors. It doesn’t give you the agility to adjust to changes in the market, because you don’t have the flexibility to model other scenarios or conduct what-if analyses.
Worst of all, by the time the plan is created, it’s probably out of date, because you don’t have real-time visibility into the current numbers. There has to be a better way. Thanks to advances in performance management and cloud computing, there is.
Modern, integrated planning
The new integrated, active planning model transcends spreadsheets and focuses on automation, workflow, and usability for all stakeholders, not just finance. It unifies the planning activities and data collected from different source systems, and gives FP&A and sales operations a connected, intuitive user experience. Everyone can access dashboards, visualization, discovery, and reporting.
For example, A10 Networks, a leading application networking provider, implemented a connector between its Oracle ERP system and Adaptive Planning and Discovery for collaborative revenue planning. The connector automatically inputs bookings, shipments, and gross margin data into the team’s financial models within Adaptive Insights. The technology upgrade helped the company reduce data entry errors and eliminate time-consuming tasks involving extracting and consolidating data. In addition, A10 now has a single version of the truth for performance against financial metrics for employees worldwide.
“The Adaptive Suite has everything we need to accurately forecast and measure performance against our most important revenue goals,” said Zoby Shaikh, the company’s director of FP&A.
Questions to ask
Here are five important questions when you’re evaluating different revenue planning and analysis solutions:
1. Even if the solution is automated, does it support the speed of your business?
2. Does it do more than just allow access by everyone—does it enable collaboration?
3. Can it provide relevant views to your executives and business managers, from a unified version of the data?
4. Do the reports and metrics stay connected with your plans and scenarios?
5. Can the infrastructure grow and adapt with your business?
If you can answer yes to these questions, you’ve found a modern planning solution that drives the engagement, ownership, and accountability needed for accurate, predictable revenue forecasting.