Author:Valentina Petrinić / 20. 10. 2020.

Top 5 challenges of the planning process and how to solve them

“You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.”

– Martin Luther King, Jr.

If you are working within a company, you are probably familiar with the planning process. At some point in your work career, you have collaborated or you were/are in charge of the entire planning process.

Then you know how painful this process is and how much time and nerves it costs. Data collecting and sending, adjusting templates, tracking participant’s progress and changes, consolidation of all templates, lack flexibility for changes.

Let’s be honest – most of the companies are making their plans in Excel or some custom tool. The possibility for tracking changes, data populating progress, accidentally changed formulas or incorrectly populated data is big. Endless e-mail threads and file-sharing cause a complete mess in a bunch of data and after all, time is passing, and deadlines are just around the corner. You are probably feeling frustrated, without a strategy to get out of that mess.

Therefore we have singled out the top 5 challenges you have faced during the planning process, and we have a few ideas on how to solve them using Planning Analytics solution.

#1. How to track the planning process progress and who did or did not send back their planning figures?

What is the progress of the planning process? Do our participants have some issues? Did they fill the data into planning templates?

The above-mentioned are just a few questions that you have probably asked yourself during the planning process.

The endless e-mail threads and asking about progress is very stressful for everyone. It could result in a painful planning process and pressure for everyone. Planning should not be a nightmare. On the other hand, everyone should be involved in the planning process and be aware of the importance of the planning process.

You are probably wondering is it possible to have timely and clear communication and control of the planning process progress all at the same time? – Only with the right tool.

Many tools allow you to do your job easily and with much greater efficiency, and help you organize the planning process in the best possible way.

IBM offers a leading solution that will complete your business wants and needs and make the planning process much more efficient. IBM Planning Analytics is a reliable tool that will incorporate your needs for tracking and controlling the planning process, collaboration across the organization, and simple review of inputted planning figures, as well as the entire planning, budgeting, and forecasting process. The intuitively designed web-based interface and tight integration with Microsoft Excel enables users to easily access data and can satisfy all user’s needs.

#2. How to collect data for the planning process in one place?

Preparing files for data input or just collecting already inputted figures in one master file could be a nightmare. Especially if the structure of the file has changed, new rows or columns are added or calculations have been changed accidentally. What about when some complex formulas need to be applied and suddenly file crashes. This file is now difficult to maintain and it becomes a very time-consuming process. Your intervention is needed for every change that occurred.

There is no need to manually prepare templates for each planning process. IBM Planning Analytics solution is providing you with a possibility for data collecting in one place. Once data is entered into the system for all entities, it could be reviewed in one place. If there is a need for any new lines or calculations, this will be automatically transferred between the systems within all related connections.

Data are in the system, and all the changes will apply for all participants without the possibility of manually adding rows or columns. IBM Planning Analytics saves 63% time to complete the annual budget cycle so you can reduce waiting time and spend it on analyzing the results.

#3. How to be flexible and handle changes during the planning process?

“We would like to sell new products in the next year, or we would like to introduce a new market.” How many times have you heard this sentence in the middle of the planning process?

I believe that happened to you more than once. Management decided to involve some new products or markets in the planning process. Probably when you hear a sentence like that, you start to sweat. You are thinking about all these files where it needs to be added and what will that cause. They do not care how this will be included in the planning process, but they do care about the output of the plan and decision which they will make based on the planned figures. Usually, all this happens in the middle of the planning process.

IBM Planning Analytics solution covered this part for you. No more stressful situations and thinking about all the places where new products or markets needs to be added. Once management decided to involve a new product or market, it is enough to be added into the system directly or in some of the data sources used for building products or markets. It will apply for all participants without any manual interventions or adding within a few places. Isn’t that a great feature that saves time and nerves?

#4. How to ensure data transparency in the planning process?

To make sure that each participant is “on the same page” with filling data in the provided templates is very hard. Usually, they do not know what is required of them at each stage of the planning process. In the bundle of data and preparing the master file, you have also a supporting function in the planning process. You have to make sure that everyone is “on the same page” and that all modules in the planning process are aligned. When I talk about modules, I mean sales, expenses, reporting, or any part of your business that you are planning. Everything should be aligned. In the end, you are in charge of the data between modules being reconciled and making sure that management is able to make quality business decisions.

To make your planning process much more quickly and efficiently, IBM Planning Analytics solutions offer you data transparency, alignment between planning modules (for example sales or expenses with P&L data), as well as guidance through each stage of the planning process. By automated collaboration between modules and real-time data, potential problems could be identified quickly. It allows you to collaborate and synchronize across your team and without manual reconciliation.

#5. How to build unlimited what-if scenarios and reports?

The first iteration of the planning process finished and it is time for you to prepare the reports for management.  They do not care about how many files you needed to combine in order to present them the reports. They just want to see the numbers in order to make business decisions. Usually, they are not satisfied with the first version of the plan. They are asking what if we increase sales for this product or decrease costs in this department? They want to have some test scenarios and to see the impact of decisions that they will have on the business.

Having a bunch of data, this could be a nightmare. You have the master file with all the individual files linked that are received from all participants in the planning process. The size of this file is massive. Adding additional test scenarios will further increase the size, and any changes could potentially cause some errors or break the link between the files.

Is it possible to have unlimited what-if scenarios?

Yes, it is possible to prepare unlimited what-if scenarios and as a result, get the impact of the same before making decisions. This could be accomplished by using the IBM Planning Analytics solution where you have inserted plans in one place, including the reports based on the planned figures. By changing the figures directly in the Planning Analytics, you can simulate test scenarios and see the impact of the changes on the business result. One of the methods is Data spread that allows you to apply different kinds of data spreading on your planned data. If you do like to play with the initial version of the plan, you have the possibility to create another plan version. The results of what-if scenarios could be presented to management by using many different features. It could be some Excel reports, scorecards, dashboards, or automated visualizations. There are many different ways and all could be adapted to the user’s requirements and needs.

 

With everything mentioned so far, I would return to the thoughts of Martin Luther King, Jr. from the beginning of this article. For you, the planning process is a nightmare. At just the mention of it, you get a  headache and become nervous. It is time for you to take the first step – choose the right tool. A tool that will save you valuable time and resources by unifying the data and automating the planning process.

Based on the IBM Planning Analytics research, 33% of critical information is delivered late. The information delivery affects poor decision-making and business results. In order to stay competitive in the business world, it is necessary to have a solution that is intuitive for all users and on the other hand, can deliver speed and agility in the planning process.

Do not waste your time on repetitive and manual tasks. By taking the first step and choosing IBM Planning Analytics solution, you will be closer to seeing the top of the staircase and achieve other benefits for your organization.