Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a trend away from static, annual business plans towards more dynamic, rolling replanning. The increase in uncertainty we have seen over the last year is driving that shift home.
In businesses where the CFO is able to deliver a consistently accurate rolling forecast, the executive team is able to make better-informed decisions. And a recent survey we did showed that employees who are given insight into financial projections have more confidence in their organization.
But although many finance teams want to deliver that agile, future-focused approach because they understand it will give a competitive advantage, they may feel they are struggling to make sense of the onslaught of data that the pandemic has brought.
Rather than spending endless hours with their nose in last month’s numbers, they want to put that time into more strategic questions - such as evaluating the effect of various ‘what if’ scenarios. But this is easier said than done.
This is why we designed PlaceCPM to support finance teams who want to introduce rolling replanning and we continue to develop our software in that direction. The functionality that we are bringing on board through the first quarter of 2021 is unparalleled in the space.
Without delving into too much detail, I want to pick out a few of our new features and explain how they can help finance leaders to move to rolling replanning.
1. Close past periods swiftly
Closing month end is often a challenge for finance teams. They may not have the information they need to close the accounting period at their fingertips, they have to go out and chase it. It can be a struggle to collate information coming from different systems, and it may end up being out of date. That can take time and without this data, it is impossible to close the period immediately.
But before you can really start focusing on the future, you have to know where you stand today. What is the cash position? Is it the same as predicted or different - and if there is divergence, what has caused this?
Being able to answer questions like this within a day of the period closing is a strong foundation for creating the best possible forecast for the coming period.
Revised month-end workflows: These enable the finance team to streamline forecast variance analysis and easily manage predicted or unpredicted cash flow month-to-month to continually improve the quality of forecasts on a rolling basis.
2. Share operational data with the finance team
The biggest lever for the finance team moving away from over-reliance on historic data towards looking at what is about to happen is collaboration. Breaking down the silos and bringing the finance team into the world of operational data is the first step towards a more future-focused approach.
Many finance teams in the past were more focused on accounting standards. But to deliver rolling replanning, they need the best quality information they can get about what is going on in every aspect of the business. Providing technological tools that facilitate and encourage this flow of information is vital.
PlaceCPM’s transaction-based architecture is built natively on Salesforce. This means it is easier to share valuable information which the finance team can access and analyze. They can make sense of the inputs and then immediately push the results back out to the operational teams to help them to make better-informed decisions.
Rate cards: Professional services companies can build out the revenue and cost for individual projects, including resource allocation, hourly billing rates and record any pre-payments or project deposits for accounting.
3. Streamline workflows
Many people who work in finance will have experienced the headaches that result from trying to pull together information from different systems which don’t talk to each other, or reconciling over-complicated spreadsheets.
In this kind of situation it can take days of burning the midnight oil to come up with a credible forecast in the first place, let alone to continually update and refine it every time a new deal is sold or an existing customer doubles their order. But if that doesn’t happen, the plan becomes increasingly inaccurate.
Instead, when the workflow is smooth and the information that results is easy to see, it can be drawn into the plan immediately. As soon as a new deal is sold it can be entered into the projected revenue, and when the invoice is sent out the amount can easily be logged and any difference between the planned and the actual amount can be analyzed.
Streamlining workflows with the help of technology allows finance leaders more time to look at the bigger picture. They can see what is going on and adjust the plan to reflect reality.
Integrated Billing: our new integrated billing feature will enable you to complete the full revenue cycle systematically. Opportunity data flows into your financial and cash forecasts, and when you win the deal it books the revenue and then flows that data into the billing engine to be invoiced - all in real-time. We will handle both recurring and non-recurring invoicing.
A continually updated forecast supports better decision making
Like many people, members of the finance team, including the CFO, are likely to feel that their workload has increased in the wake of the pandemic. There are likely to be even more calls on their time - for example answering questions from other department heads about the effect of ‘what if’ scenarios before choices are made. They will have to spend even greater time than before wrestling with data from past periods, trying to work out the cause of divergence between planned and actuals.
Putting tools in place which allow the different teams and departments across the organization to share current and accurate data is the key to freeing up the finance teams time so they can move to rolling replanning. That means that instead of a static plan which is likely to get out of date as soon as it is created, people at every level of the company will have access to a continually updated forecast which helps them to make better decisions.