You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘strategic’ tag.

Ventana Research recently released the results of our Next-Generation Business Planning benchmark research. Business planning encompasses all of the forward-looking activities in which companies routinely engage. The research examined 11 of the most common types of enterprise planning: capital, demand, marketing, project, sales and operations, strategic, supply chain and workforce planning, as well as sales forecasting and corporate and IT budgeting. We also aggregated the results to draw general conclusions.

Planning is the process of creating a detailed formulation of a program of action designed to achieve objectives. People and businesses plan to determine how to succeed in achieving those objectives. Planning also serves to structure the discussion about those objectives and the resources and tactics needed to achieve them. A well-managed planning process should be structured in that it sets measurable objectives and quantifies resources required to achieve them. Budgeting is a type of planning but somewhat different in that is financially focused and is done to impose controls that prevent a company from overspending and therefore failing financially. So while planning and budgeting are similar (and budgeting involves planning), they have different aims. Unlike budgeting, planning emphasizes the things that the various parts of the business focus on, such as units sold, sales calls made, the number and types of employees required or customers served.

Integrating the various business planning activities across a company benefits the senior leadership team, as I have written by enabling them to understand both the operational vr_NGBP_02_integrated_planning_works_betterand the financial consequences of their actions. There are multiple planning efforts under way at any time in a company. These plans typically are stand-alone efforts only indirectly linked to others. To be most effective, however, an individual business unit plan requires direct inputs from other planning efforts. A decade ago I coined the term “integrated business planning” to emphasize the need to use technology to better coordinate the multiple planning efforts of the individual parts of the company. There are good reasons to do this, one of which is accuracy. Our new research reveals that to be accurate, most (77%) planning processes depend to some degree on having access to accurate and timely data from other parts of the organization. For this reason, integrating the various planning processes produces business benefits: In our research two-thirds of companies in which plans are directly linked said that their planning process works well or very well. This compares favorably to 40 percent in those that copy planning data from individual plans to an integrated plan (such as the company budget) and just 25 percent of those that have little or no connection between plans.

Technology has been a major barrier preventing companies from integrating their planning efforts. Until relatively recently, joining the individual detailed plans of various departments and functions into an overall view was difficult because the available software, data and network capabilities were not sufficient to make it feasible and attractive to take this approach. To be sure, over the past decades there has been steady progress in making enterprise systems more accessible to ordinary users., but while dedicated planning software has become easier to use, evidently it’s still not easy enough. The research reveals that across the spectrum of corporate planning activities, three-fourths of organizations use spreadsheets to manage the process. We expect this to change over the next several years as the evolution in information technologies makes dedicated planning software a more compelling choice. One factor will be enhanced ease of use, which will be evident in at least two respects. Software vendors are recognizing that a better user experience can differentiate their product in a market where features and functions are a commodity. Ease of use also will extend to analytics and reporting, making it easier for business users to harness the power of advanced analytics and providing self-service reporting, including support for mobile devices. The other factor will be the ability to make the planning process far more interactive by utilizing in-memory processing to speed calculations. When even complex planning models with large data sets can be run in seconds or less, senior executives and managers will be able to quickly assess the impact of alternative courses of action in terms of their impact on key operating metrics, not just revenue and income. Having the means to engage in a structured conversation with direct reports will help executives be more effective in implementing strategy and managing their organization.

vr_NGBP_03_collaboration_is_important_for_planningTechnology is not the only barrier to better planning. The research demonstrates the importance of management in the process, correlating how well a planning process is managed with its accuracy. The large majority (80%) of companies that manage a planning process well or very well wind up with a plan that is accurate or very accurate. By contrast, just one-fourth of companies that do an adequate job achieve that degree of accuracy and almost none (5%) of those that do it poorly have accurate or very accurate results. Additionally, managing a planning process well requires clear communications. More than three-fourths (76%) of companies in which strategy and objectives related to plans are communicated very well have a process that works very well, while more than half (53%) with poor executive communication wind up with a planning process that performs poorly. And collaboration is essential to a well-functioning planning process. Most (85%) companies that collaborate effectively or very effectively said that their planning process is managed well, while just 11 percent of companies that collaborate only somewhat effectively expressed that opinion.

Collaboration is essential because the process of planning in corporations ought to get everyone onto the same page to ensure that activities are coordinated. Companies have multiple objectives for their planning processes. Chief among these is accuracy. But since things don’t always go to plan, companies need to have agility in responding to changes in a timely and coordinated fashion. In a small business, planning can be informal because of the ease of communications between all members and the ease with which plans can be modified in response to changing conditions In larger organizations the planning process becomes increasingly difficult because communications become compartmentalized locally and diffused across the entire enterprise. Setting and to a greater degree changing the company’s course requires coordination to ensure that the actions of one part of the organization complement (or at least don’t impede) the actions of others. Coordination enables understanding of the impact of policies and actions in one part of the company on the rest. Yet only 14 percent of companies are able to accurately measure that impact, and fewer than half (47%) have even a general idea. Integrated business planning address that issue.

In most organizations budgeting and operational planning efforts are only loosely connected. In contrast, next-generation business planning closely integrates unit-level operational plans with financial planning. At the corporate level, it shifts the emphasis from financial budgeting to planning and to performance reviews that integrate operational and financial measures. It uses available information technology to help companies plan faster with less effort while achieving greater accuracy and agility.

For companies to improve competitiveness, their business planning must acquire four characteristics. First, planning must focus on performance, measuring results against both business and financial objectives. Second, it must help executives and managers quickly and intelligently assess all relevant contingencies and trade-offs to support their decisions. Third, it must enable each individual business planning group to work in one central system; this simplifies the integration of their plans into a single view of the company and makes it easy for planners in one part of the business to see what others are projecting. Fourth, it must be efficient in its use of people’s time. Success in business stems more from doing than planning. Efficient use of time enables agility, especially in larger organizations.

Today’s business planning doesn’t completely lack these features, but in practice it falls short – often considerably. Senior executives ought to demand more from the considerable amount of time their organization devotes to creating, reviewing and revising plans. They should have easy access to the full range of plans in their company. They must be able to engage in a structured dialog with direct reports about business plans, contingency plans and business unit performance. Information technology alone will not improve the effectiveness of business planning, but it can facilitate their efforts to realize more value from their planning.

Regards,

Robert Kugel – SVP Research

Business planning includes all of the forward-looking activities in which companies routinely engage. Companies do a great deal of planning. They plan sales and determinVentanaResearch_NGBP_BenchmarkResearche what and how they will produce products or deliver services. They plan the head count they’ll need and how to organize distribution and their supply chain. They also produce a budget, which is a financial plan. The purpose of planning is to be successful. Planning is defined as the process of creating a detailed formulation of a program of action to achieve some overall objective. But it’s more than that. The process of planning involves discussions about objectives and the resources and tactics that people need to achieve them. When it’s done right, planning is the best way to get everyone onto the same page to ensure that the company is well organized in executing strategy. Setting and to a greater degree changing the company’s course require coordination. Being well coordinated in this case means being able to understanding the impact of the policies and actions in your part of the company on the rest of the company.

Our recently completed research on next-generation business planning benchmarked 11 of the most common types of business planning (for example, demand, head count, strategic and supply chain). The research finds that planning activities typically are created in a stand-alone fashion by the departments primarily responsible for them and receive little or no direct input from other parts of the organization. The main exception is the budget, which is the only integrated business plan; most companies connect individual plans with the budget in some way. The research finds a correlation between how a company connects individual plans with the budget and how well the planning process works. Two-thirds of companies that have vr_NGBP_02_integrated_planning_works_betterdirect links from individual plans to their budget said their planning processes work well or very well, compared to two in five that copy detailed information from individual plans into the budget and just one-fourth that have little or no connection between individual plans and the budget.

Information technology has the potential to make business planning more useful, enabling it to  improve a company’s performance and increase its competitiveness. Most companies can fundamentally change how they plan for the better, thanks to increasingly capable and easier-to-use information technology. Technology makes it possible for companies to take an integrated approach to business planning. In such an approach individual parts of the company continue to plan as they are used to doing, but they are also able to see what other parts of the company are planning, and they can determine what impact their plans will have on the rest of the organization. Questions they can answer include, does the marketing budget align with the individual sales plans? Will there be a sufficient number of people to make the plan work? Are there more people than necessary, too few of some or too many of others? It’s not that companies are completely incapable of doing this today – they just take too long to do it and don’t get enough of a return on the time they invest. They aren’t able to achieve the kind of accuracy they need. They aren’t able to adapt as business conditions change. Today, in a period of relative stability, it’s easy to forget that during the last downturn, most companies spent months producing plans that were obsolete right from the start.

Most companies can use business planning to improve their performance and competitiveness. To do so, it must achieve four main characteristics. First, business planning must focus on performance. In other words, it must establish a baseline against which results can be measured. Performance must be measured against both business and financial objectives – not just against budget. Second,  it must help executives and managers quickly and intelligently assess all relevant contingencies and trade-offs to support their decisions. Third, it must enable each individual business planning group to work in one central system; this simplifies the integration of their plans into a single view of the company and makes it easy for planners in one part of the business to see what others are projecting. Fourth, it must be efficient in its use of people’s time. Let’s face it – success in business comes from doing, not just planning. Having a time-efficient planning process makes it possible to improve a company’s agility in responding to change, especially for larger organizations.

Contrast this with how companies plan today. As we said, the purpose of planning is to figure out how to succeed in achieving business objectives. Typically, today the only company-wide business plan is the budget. It should be an open-ended exercise that explores different paths to success. However, the budget’s main purpose is to prevent a company from failing. It’s about setting limits and ensuring those limits are enforced. Budgets are essential for financial management, for corporate governance and for control. But they much less useful for determining how to achieve objectives through a coordinated set of actions. Most budgeting and operational planning efforts are only loosely connected. In contrast next-generation business planning closely is designed to integrate unit-level operational plans with financial planning. At the corporate level, it shifts the emphasis from financial budgeting to planning and to performance reviews that integrate both operational and financial measures. It uses available information technology to help companies plan faster with less effort while achieving greater accuracy and agility. By using capable software and accurate, timely data, current systems can simultaneously support better business planning and traditional budgeting.

Today’s dedicated planning software is an important vr_NGBP_05_quality_of_planning_is_criticalelement to more effective business planning. Our research demonstrates the connection between how well a company manages its planning processes and the accuracy of the resulting plans: 80 percent of those that manage their processes well or very well have plans that are accurate or very accurate. Only one-fourth (24%) of those that manage their processes just adequately said they get these kinds of results, and almost none (8%) of those that manage their processes poorly said their plans are accurate. Used properly, today’s applications support better management of the process. They provide a single environment in which individual functions or business units can create and revise plans to meet their requirements while making the plans available to the senior leadership team and the rest of the organization. Because they are working from a common database, it’s relatively easy to combine the most up-to-date data from individual contributors or to aggregate planning data from multiple sources.

What’s more, collaboration is essential to effective planning. Perspectives from people in different roles or departments can help produce more complete plans and identify risks and opportunities. Here again many organizations fall short: Only half collaborate effectively or very effectively. And this, too, impacts the process: 85 percent of organizations that collaborate effectively or very effectively said they manage the planning process well or very well. Along similar lines, nearly half (47%) of participants reported that they have only a general idea of the impact of their department’s plan on the rest of the company. Most dedicated applications have built-in capabilities. Vendors increasingly are improving the ability of individuals to collaborate in context as a way to differentiate their offerings.

The findings of this benchmark research lead us to conclude that all but a few companies would benefit significantly from investing in improving the various aspects of planning, particularly technology. Applications dedicated to planning and next-generation tools such as analytics, collaboration and mobility can contribute to the development of fast, forward-looking plans that help in the spectrum of planning processes and benefit the entire organization.

Regards,

Robert Kugel

SVP & Research Director

Twitter Updates

Stats

  • 87,772 hits
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 71 other followers

%d bloggers like this: