How to Start the Journey to Level Up your Financial Planning & Analytics Processes

Level Up your Financial Planning & Analytics Processes
Level Up your Financial Planning & Analytics Processes
Written by Heather L. Cole, April 25th, 2024

Let me tell you a story...

Once upon a time, there was a struggling named Excel Power User who dreamed of becoming a respected finance professional.

Every day they thought about nothing else but improved financial planning & analytics processes and how to stop data chasing.

But after a while, Excel Power User started to doubt if their improved planning process goals were just a daydream.

One day Excel Power User overheard  Mr. Broken Processes saying there was no way Excel User would ever gain the respect of executives!

Excel Power User was so mad they could barely see straight and resolved to succeed with improved planning processes no matter what it took!

Unfortunately, reality quickly set in for Excel Power User.

They were confronted by critical questions, including: how do I fix our budgeting and planning processes?

They also had to face the fact that everywhere they turned there were broken spreadsheets and data links.

Finally, they needed to get past the false belief that they would never have enough time.

But, despite all that, they were determined to connect the strategic plan with the planning and budgeting process.

Then, as if by chance, Excel Power User discovered the Evaluating your Planning Processes & Tools Program video , and things changed fast.

They discovered Steps to Review The Current Processes, Steps to Evaluate Planning and Budgeting Software, and how to get IT buy-in for their initiatives.

Before they knew it, Excel Power User had become a respected finance professional who understands the secrets of "How to Start the Journey to Level Up your Financial Planning & Analytics Processes”  so that it aligns with the strategy of the executive team and is viewed with significant importance.

So, if you view yourself as the “Excel Power User” in this story and would like to discover a faster path to success, we have a program for you.  After working in the budgeting and planning software space helping hundreds of clients evaluate your processes and tools to level up their planning, Heather Cole has created the Evaluating Your FPA Processes and Tools Program.  It’s a series of self-paced videos and checklists that help you look like a rockstar in your organization.    This program costs you nothing but your time and commitment to making a difference.

To access the Program just register here.

Not sure, and not ready to commit to a “program” no problem. 

Would it help to have a 20-minute call with someone who has walked in your shoes?  Someone who knows the challenges you face in initiating corporate change and the struggles you have to get the executives to understand the importance of having a robust, agile process.  You don’t have to go it alone!

So, click here to schedule a complimentary 20-minute FPA Next Steps call with one of our experts.

If you have questions, you can email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Check out all of Lodestar's upcoming events here.

Strategies for Boosting Confidence in Business Analytics Professionals

Strategies to boost confidence in business analytics professionals
Strategies to boost confidence in business analytics professionals
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 31st 2023

Business Analytics professionals in finance are often tasked with managing a plethora of responsibilities that require a lot of time and expertise.  They are responsible for gathering, analyzing, and interpreting financial data that informs decision-making across an organization.  Moreover, they must keep up with the latest technological advancements in the field, such as IBM Planning Analytics software, to ensure that their analyses are both accurate and efficient.  On top of all that, these professionals face numerous challenges that impede their ability to achieve their goals, including a lack of time, understanding the ever-changing business landscape, and dealing with imposter syndrome.  This article outlines how business analytics professionals can overcome these challenges and implement new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics, along with the benefits of doing so.

Lack of Time

When was the last time you said, “Wow, I have nothing to do?”  As a financial and analytic professional, I am guessing you have never said that.  One of the biggest challenges that business analytics professionals face is a lack of time.  They have to juggle multiple responsibilities including preparing financial reports, forecasting budgets, analyzing data, and presenting findings to stakeholders.  Often they must work under tight deadlines, which further compounds the time crunch.  To overcome this challenge, business analytics professionals should prioritize their tasks, delegate responsibilities where possible, and automate repetitive tasks.  Moreover, they should identify areas where they can improve their efficiency.  We shared some ideas on this in our blog, Find More Time for Analytics Projects  But one of the biggest time savers I have discovered is learning when to just say NO and doing it more often.  Focus on the needle moving tasks.

Tools for More Time

One area that can use improvement for many is making sure you have the right tools for the job.  I am amazed how many mid-market companies still use Excel for their budgeting planning when there is power like IBM Planning Analytics.  I compare using Excel for budgeting and planning to mowing your ½ acre yard with a weed whacker.  You can do it, but should you?  To learn more about Excel see Mike Bernaiche and I’s video, Have You Outgrown Excel for Budgeting and Planning? 

Imposter Syndrome

Another significant challenge that business analytics professionals face is imposter syndrome.  Imposter Syndrome is that little voice in your head that says, “Who do you think you are?  They will discover you don’t know what you are talking about…”   According to Psychology Today, “Those with imposter syndrome are often well accomplished; they may hold a high office or have numerous academic degrees.”   

Imposter Syndrome can be particularly challenging in finance, where the stakes are high, and there is little room for error.  To overcome imposter syndrome, professionals should focus on their strengths and accomplishments, seek feedback from trusted colleagues, and continue to develop their skills and knowledge through training and education.  I have discovered that little voice in my head doesn’t show up when I am watching Netflix, but it does show up when I am growing, learning, challenging myself and stepping out of my comfort zone.  So next time that little voice says, “What do you think you know about AI, and Analytics?”  Know amazing growth is about to happen.  And remember you are part of a team and your contributions are valuable.

Implementing Financial Planning and Budgeting Software

We mention having the right tools can be a huge time saver and help you lead the company to achieve strategic goals.  But implementing new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics can be daunting, especially for those who are not familiar with the technology.   It is common knowledge that there are numerous benefits of having advanced technology.  But often clients doubt their own organizations to be successful.  This is where having the right partner like Lodestar Solutions,  that has walked in your shoes and has implemented IBM Planning Analytics at hundreds of organizations, can help you achieve success.  IBM Planning Analytics can help streamline your financial planning and budgeting processes, reduce errors, and provide real-time insights into financial performance.  Moreover, it can help businesses make better-informed decisions based on accurate and timely data that results in achieving organizational goals.

To implement financial planning and budgeting software successfully, business analytics professionals should start by identifying their organization's specific needs and goals.  They should then research available options, taking into account factors such as ease of use, integration with existing systems, and cost.  Once they have selected a software solution, they should work with stakeholders to develop a plan for implementation, including training and support for end-users. 

Conclusion

Business analytics professionals in finance face numerous challenges, including a lack of time and imposter syndrome.  However, by prioritizing tasks, delegating responsibilities, automating repetitive tasks, focusing on strengths and accomplishments, seeking feedback, and continuing to develop their skills, they can overcome these challenges.  Additionally, by implementing new financial planning and budgeting software like IBM Planning Analytics, they can streamline their processes, reduce errors, and provide real-time insights into financial performance, enabling their organizations to make better-informed decisions.

Are you ready to learn more about Leveling up your skills and achieving Analytic Success in the office of Finance?  Contact us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule your complimentary roadmap discussion.

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times (Part 2)

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Written by Heather L. Cole, October 13th, 2022

Budgeting and Planning is even more important in times of uncertainty!  And I think we can all agree that we are in one of those crazy times.  This is a year of extreme uncertainty!  Inflation, supply chain issues, workforce issues, and crazy political unrest in many countries are all creating a budgeting environment we have not seen in decades.  Last week we blogged about things corporations should consider when budgeting for expenses.  This week we will cover Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times and focus on, revenue, the other important component of the Cash Flow and Balance Sheet. 

Revenue Planning

When times get uncertain, and scary, organizations usually tighten their purse strings and look at what expenses can be cut.  But wait, there are two parts to the Profit and Loss statement.  The revenue is a key component to profitability. 

There are only a few ways to increase your revenue. 

  •  Increase prices
  • Sell more to your existing clients
  • Find new clients

But there are additional ways to increase profitability even in uncertain economic times.

Profitability

Losing Clients on Purpose

One way I find interesting is to purposely lose the non-profitable clients.  I was talking to a CFO friend and client of mine a few years back and their industry was in a difficult situation.  Competitors were slashing prices, and it was putting them in jeopardy.  The CFO made a bold decision, after doing the analysis he determined if he increased his prices, he would lose about 20% of his clients.  He believed that the 20% of the clients he would lose were also the high maintenance, non-profitable clients.  At first people thought he was crazy, but they did it.  When they increased prices, they lost a little more than 20% of their clients but their profits soared. 

It's the old Pareto Principle, which states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes, also known as the 80/20 rule.  If you want to learn more about Pareto Principle I think you will find this Entrepreneur article interesting, The 80/20 Rule is True for What’s Holding You Back, Too.

Talk to Key Customers

Don’t just look at expenses and guess at revenue.  Talk to your key customers.  Remember they are facing the same uncertain times you are.  Talking to your customers about their business, their struggles, and their fears, will not only build a stronger relationship but give you clarity on your revenue stream. 

Another advantage to talking to your customers, is that you will also learn if the staff shortages you may be experiencing are jeopardizing your relationship with your customers.  I don’t know about you but recently I have experienced horrible customer service at companies I used to love to patron.  In some cases, I am not going back.  To accurately forecast your revenue, you must evaluate your customer service.  According to a Forbes article, Ninety-Six Percent Of Customers Will Leave You For Bad Customer Service.

The Other Important Statements

Most companies still focus on capital expense, operating expense and revenue in their budgeting and planning cycles.  But in uncertain times it is even more important to not ignore the other statements.  Yes, the cash flow and balance statement.

Typically these statements are viewed at the highest level of the organization but according to the Harvard Business Review article, Setting Your Annual Budget Amid Economic Uncertainty, “Business-unit budgets generally track revenues and costs — items on the income statement — but not cash-flow or balance-sheet items.  The three get tied together at the highest level of the company, but P&L owners should see them, too.  They’re likely to be the first to spot slowing orders, growing inventory, or delayed collections, but they effectively ignore the cost of capital and rarely look to the balance sheet as a source of funds or savings.  As a result, they often miss the broad significance of what they see.”

Lodestar Solutions recommends our IBM Planning Analytics clients redesign their models to incorporate all the financial statements - P&L, Balance Sheet and Cashflow.  But we also recommend monthly and quarterly reviews at the budget unit level to understand where the potential issues lurk. 

Ask Questions at Lower Levels

In the book, Seeing around Corners How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath the author discusses how team members at the lower levels often see changes, risks and opportunities first.  We recommend clients get more people involved and ask more questions to thrive in uncertain times.

Having the Right Tools

As a software reseller of IBM Planning Analytic software, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that having the right tools for your budgeting and planning process is essential.  I am amazed how many mid-market and large organizations still rely on Excel for their planning and budget process.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel, but also appreciate it’s limitations.  One of the things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times is the tool you are using.  If you want flexibility and to be agile in your planning, you need software that helps streamline the modeling and planning processes when budgeting in uncertain times.

LEARN MORE!

If you would like to learn what industry leading tools like IBM Cognos Planning Analytics can do for you, join us on Thursday, Nov 10th, 2022, at 1 PM Eastern for our webinar, Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech.

Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech
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