If any work disciplines can offer us a window to the future, Financial Planning and Analytics (FP&A) is certainly one of them. In an environment where your speed to move can make the ultimate difference to your company, it’s no accident that financial forecasting is now at the cutting edge of change in today’s business world. And indeed, future business success may lie with those who embrace these changes sooner rather than later.
Faced with a post-Millennium atmosphere of uncertainty and rapid change, accurate forecasting – and the ability to reforecast at pace – has gained huge currency for business leaders. Add to this the influence of automation tools on traditional accountancy roles, plus the growing need for top-line expertise in reading and disseminating our vast quantities of data, and you have a sector at the centre of the action when it comes to change. Michael Page recently sat down with one of FP&A’s thought leaders to plot five factors driving change in today.
1. Speed and Simplification
Larysa Melnychuk, CEO and founder of the International FP&A Board, spends much of her time these days in discussion with the world’s leading CFOs about the changing world of financial analytics, financial planning and analysis.
She notes that in an environment of unprecedented “black swans” and “perfect storms” in our global financial market, business leaders are now more aware than ever of the need to move fast: “Situations that we never expected would happen, have happened in real life. Obviously in the business environment, this is one of the biggest reasons why financial analytics has changed,” she notes.
Combine this pressure-cooker environment with the arrival of newer and cheaper Cloud-based systems that are easily managed within a finance department, and you have an environment ripe for change. “In this dynamic business environment, it’s not possible to use the old, very detailed and static methods we used,” notes Melnychuk, who is based in the United Kingdom. As a result, the landscape for financial analytics is now more forward-looking and speed conscious than ever.
2. Find Your Key Drivers
In an increasingly complex environment, the ultimate goal is to understand in the simplest way, how a business makes its money. “We’re talking about simplification beyond the incredible level of detail that we had before,” notes Melnychuk. “It’s all based on key business drivers that are very important to identify – it’s about the 20% of drivers that explain 80% of the results.”
She notes that while many managers claim to know these key drivers, the reality of our big data world is that some drivers become less sensitive over time, while others prove less reliable. The ideal key drivers process should be part of a company’s business intelligence project, she notes. “It should be automated: and the drivers should be checked often, through analytical automation.” Likewise, it is also important to pay attention to both internal and external drivers, she notes.
Yet are many companies in the world currently doing this? “I would say not many,” she notes. “Definitely leading companies have started – and this is on the agenda of many companies.”
3. Tough Roles to Fill
Increasingly, she says modern FP&A teams require three distinct roles (as per Mark Gandy’s model). The first is the Architect who builds the driver-based model. Next comes the Analyst, who can track its progress. And ideally, a third role, that of a business-partner, or Communicator. “It’s difficult to find these three people in one role,” Melnychuk notes from her own experience as an FP&A director. “Analysts and Architects can be introverts, and not so comfortable going to the business to communicate it. I’ve seen this a lot.”
As such, it tends to be a tough job to fulfil: “Around 70% of UK CFOs, and 80% of US CFOs, say that FP&A roles are the most difficult to fill.” While in traditional accountancy, being qualified and examining past financial history was once sufficient, this is no longer the case. “In FP&A it’s different. We’re seeing the emergence of big data, from which you have to analyse these key drivers.”
4. Rapid Reforecasting
In an environment of sudden and intense market change, being able to identify and simplify your business drivers can provide an invaluable chance to move fast against competitors. “It’s dependent on the visibility of their data, and the ability to drill down and make decisions very quickly,” Melnychuk notes.
She takes the example of a sudden market interruption, a so-called black swan event. “With traditional planning models and traditional hires, you needed four-to-seven months to reforecast. But with this new generation of systems, models and people, you can probably do this in a couple of hours – almost in real-time.” One New York based banking group she spoke with, had reforecasting down to a fine art. “At the moment, it’s less than 36 minutes, while previously it used to be more than three weeks. This is an indication of how the world’s changed,” she notes.
“And why? It’s because traditional line-by-line forecasts were replaced by driver-based planning model that is implemented through system. Just 36 minutes and it’s done – and the quality of this forecast is quite good as well. So this is a good example of how much this can achieve.”
5. Future role replacements
Melnychuk anticipates a realignment ahead in terms of job roles within finance departments, as some traditional roles become replaced by new ones. “Fewer traditional accountants will be needed, and more combinational skills, especially with this data management, analytical and business-partnering will be needed,” she predicts. “I can see a time when data scientists work together with FP&A. And it is already happening in some leading analytical organisations”
Leading companies already enlist data scientists to identify, for instance, the one driver responsible for 60% of their forecasting. Melnychuk notes that effective driver-based planning can save teams a lot of time and effort: “You don’t need a lot of data, or to spend a lot of time. But to identify those key drivers really can help you to very quickly and very effectively build your plans and different scenarios for the future.”
“There will be this new work for analytical people, because they will start from different levels of analytics, and they will go forward. So it’s very motivational for good analytical talent to be at such organisations.”
Source: Luke Clark
Every day, a small Ant arrived at work early and starting work immediately, she produced a lot and she was happy. The boss, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce more if she had a supervisor!
So the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports. He recruited a spider who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.
The Lion was delighted with the cockroach’s report and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and analyze trends so that he could use them for presentations at board meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and recruit a fly to manage the IT department. The Ant , who had been once so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time.
The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the Cicada whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant, whom he had brought from his previous department to help him prepare a work and budget control strategic optimization plan.
The department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset. It was at that time the cicada convinced the boss, the Lion, to start a climatic study of the office environment. Having reviewed the charges of running the ant’s department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before so he recruited the Owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The Owl spent 3 months in the department and came out with an enormous report, in several volumes, that concluded that ” The Department is overstaffed..”
Guess who the lion fired first?
The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
Forest bathing, basically just being in the presence of trees, became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy.
Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.
Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better, inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function.
Read more here or just enjoy the video.
Over the past couple of decades, The Chasm Model has been the centrepiece of nearly every conversation I’ve had about launching new technology.
While its merits are many, lately I’ve been wondering how applicable it is in business-to-business markets. Sure there are early adopters. Perhaps even an early majority. It’s the late majority that seems to be in trouble.
Having sat around harvesting revenue from their customer base, the late majority wake up one day to face a revenue precipice. In short, the early adopters and majority reach a tipping point and start acquiring their customer base en-masse. Powered by the economics of the cloud (not just technology but also business) these new players scale at speed – achieving continuous growth rates in the high double and even triple digits.
We see a couple of shifts driving the acceleration of the new players. For instance, cloud technology and business models on the supply side, and then mobile on the demand side. Entrepreneurs emerge from both sides presenting the late majority with an impossible force to counter – and their brand advantage and customer relationships are quickly weakened.
Look at what happened to booksellers, record stores, and others. We are seeing the same in accounting where new disruptive value propositions are being built on cloud platforms like ours. What’s important is that these new players aren’t just using new technology – they are reshaping their brands, service offerings, price points and more.
The message is clear. Rather than wait for the late majority, fuel the high-growth early adopters and watch them grow. Who would you rather be (or be backing)? The eater or the eaten?
Reproduced from Xero Small Business Guides.
Cash is not king. Cash flow is.
If you are running a business, you need to be updated on your cash flow. How? The best is to have automatic bank feeds directly into your accounting software, real-time.
With Xero online accounting software, you can log in online anytime, anywhere on your Mac, PC, tablet or phone and see up-to-date financials. It is small business accounting software that’s simple, smart and occasionally magical.
Xero has all the time-saving tools you need to grow your business: unlimited users and 24/7 support, not to mention the security and reliability you’d expect from Xero.
Why do people feel so miserable and disengaged at work? Because today's businesses are increasingly and dizzyingly complex. Traditional pillars of management are obsolete.
“The real battle is not against competitors. This is rubbish, very abstract. When do we meet competitors to fight them? The real battle is against ourselves, against our bureaucracy, our complicatedness.”
“Now, in front of the new complexity of business, the only solution is not drawing boxes with reporting lines. It is basically the interplay. How the paths work together. The connections, the interactions, the synapses. It is not the skeleton of boxes, it is the nervous system of adaptiveness and intelligence. You know, you could call it cooperation, basically. Whenever people cooperate, they use less resources.”
The key is collaboration. We should not put employees into boxes, who tend to protect their own turfs. Collaboration is essential in business management.
The 6 rules to simplify are:
1. Understand what your people do
2. Reinforce integrators
3. Increase total quantity of power
4. Extend the shadow of the future
5. Increase reciprocity
6. Reward those who co-operate
"Blame is not for failure, it is for failing to help or ask for help"
Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO Lego Group.
Watch this refreshing and engaging TED video by Yves Morieux to learn more:
Written by someone who has worked with Steve Jobs. Not copy and paste from various sources. Ken Segall is also the inventor of the iconic letter "i" for Apple products.
The KISS mantra should be in the mind of all business owners and staffs. It should form part of the corporate culture. Keep it simple, stupid (KISS) is more true than ever. Why keep it complicated and confusing (KICC)? Simplicity can even lower the cost of doing business.
How simple is your sales fulfillment process? Do you require your staffs to prepare thick report or just a one page report? Do you still print and file invoices that are sent to customers? Do you still print (and file) payment vouchers? Do you still maintain your own servers, install complicated network wiring etc etc? Re-evaluate your business process to ensure that it is really simple. You can then focus on creating customers.
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