It’s a great time to be in finance. And yes, I really believe this to be true.
Before you click away, hear me out. Now, depending on your specific situation—or even your current to-do list—I fully understand that my bold declaration may not ring true for you. In fact, you may think I’m downright delusional.
About a year ago, there’s a good chance I would have agreed with you. Prior to coming to Adaptive Insights in July, my two-decade finance career included plenty of the long-standing challenges faced by FP&A professionals. I was frequently frustrated by bottlenecks and swamped with low-value manual tasks. Efforts to be responsive and strategic were often derailed or hopelessly delayed by the need to go through IT or an off-site support team for more advanced reporting and data to fulfill a specific request. I was stuck in what we call at Adaptive Insights, static planning.
When I joined Adaptive Insights’ finance team, the first thing that really struck me was the affirmation that we, as a company, are avid users of our own active planning solutions to run our business. An active planning process is collaborative, comprehensive, and continuous—one that results in a better business plan.
So, for instance, when I was asked to create a specific scenario model, I was amazed by how fast and easy it was to get it done in an afternoon. And not just get it done, but we had the power to craft the model in a way that allowed us to build out several different scenarios. We even had the real-time ability to make adjustments when asked by senior leaders to consider additional possibilities.
Enter modern finance tools
That experience, and scores since, have given me a glimpse into the unprecedented potential for FP&A pros to make big, strategic impacts at their organizations, while doing more engaging and meaningful work to boot. And, yes, it gives me the full confidence to say it is a great time to be in finance. Yet here’s the caveat. You need the right tools and technology, the right support, and the right mindset to venture into what for many of us is uncharted territory.
In short, you need to shift from static planning to active planning. With active planning, you’re no longer hamstrung with traditional FP&A tools and tactics that force you to endlessly compromise just to get your work done. You can leverage easy, fast, and powerful cloud-based software to shift finance toward a leadership and guiding role, instead of being buried by back-office transactional tasks.
As we move into 2017, I hope to use this blog to help you effectively navigate that territory. I’ll share my insights and information—not necessarily as an expert but rather a fellow FP&A practitioner who is on a journey that’s likely similar to yours.
To set the stage a bit further, I’ve found that in my own experience and through scores of conversations with Adaptive Insights customers and prospects, three key areas present the most pain for FP&A teams. These areas also offer considerable opportunity for transformative change.
1. Making your time count: Many FP&A teams, buried in tedious low-value tasks, can make big strides by leveraging technology that is fast and easy to use and has powerful capabilities to consolidate data, automate manual functions, play nice with Excel, and more.
2. Ramping up your reporting: Relevant and timely reporting and analysis is where FP&A can add real value to an organization. The key is to identify the reports that are most useful to business partners and then establish efficient and consistent ways to deliver that information in easy-to-access tools such as customized dashboards and dynamic visualizations.
3. Extending your reach: In a way, this is the holy grail for finance. Once your FP&A team moves down the road to efficient data consolidation and effective automated reporting, you can spend more focused time on active planning. Then you can start adding value beyond traditional finance activities through an active planning approach that allows you to plan and adapt without compromise, resulting in better management, increased collaboration, and a greater impact on drivers of the business.
In upcoming blogs, I aim to take deeper dives into all three of these key areas—exploring the specific challenges as well as the potential solutions. As finance professionals, most of us for years have aimed to get to a place in which we can provide real strategic value to help drive growth, increase profitability, and improve efficiency and productivity. In the not-so-distant past, getting there was all but impossible. Not anymore. The road from static to active planning exists. I know, because I am traveling it now. I look forward to helping you get there as well.
Kerman Lau is vice president of finance at Adaptive Insights.