The door opened to a new world in 2020, one that renders old assumptions suspect and future outcomes more varied and uncertain. It’s likely that the transition to what’s next will be bumpy, which makes planning more effectively that much more strategic.
Board International offers a platform that enables financial planning and analysis groups to forecast, plan, budget, analyze and report, using a consistent set of data from across the business to speed these processes, improve forecast and planning accuracy and accelerate analysis and reporting. Organizations have faced considerable challenges over the past few years dealing with an uncertain future for economies, markets and supply chains. More recently, they have contended with inflation and rising interest rates.
Rapidly changing conditions and multiple potential outcomes has put a premium on having answers to what-if questions right away and put an end to, “I’ll get back to you with that” as an answer. Board’s platform helps organizations address these issues by enabling them to do what Ventana Research calls integrated business planning: a high-participation, collaborative, action-oriented approach to planning and budgeting built on frequent, short planning sprints. Short planning cycles enable organizations to achieve greater agility in responding to market or competitive changes. High participation promotes buy-in (it’s not just the finance department’s budget) and ensures that front-line perspectives are aligned with top-down objectives and consistent with financial constraints and goals.
Board’s software supports the changing role for the FP&A group, taking advantage of what’s now possible with practical and affordable technology. Instead of playing a relatively narrow role in orchestrating the company-wide budget and periodic analyses and reforecasts, FP&A should redefine its mission to support the rest of the organization in making business planning more effective, providing more insight into performance. To facilitate the planning process, support high participation and shorten planning and budgeting cycles, FP&A must design and implement streamlined processes that reduce the time required to create and update plans and budgets. They must also enable a structured dialog about plans and budgets as well as facilitating analysis and reporting of results. Ventana Research asserts that by 2025, one-fourth of FP&A organizations will have implemented Integrated Business Planning, bringing together operational and financial planning on a single platform to improve the business value of planning and budgeting. Those that do will enable executives to execute strategy more effectively. Board was categorized as an Exemplary Vendor in our Ventana Research Business Planning Value Index, and highlighted in our market perspective on their products and customer experience provided
Board’s offering includes software for enterprise-wide operational planning, budgeting and rolling forecasting with self-service analysis, dashboarding and reporting. Individual business units are able to plan in a way that best serves their needs, but these individual plans can immediately roll up to a divisional or enterprise level view. The software connects with multiple applications and data sources, enabling the automation of data extraction, enrichment, transformation and movement at a detailed level, eliminating the need for individuals to spend time on low-value work, and ensuring that the data available for planning and reporting is accurate, authoritative, timely and consistent. One example that is especially important to coordinate during uncertain times is that with revenue planning where our assessment in the Ventana Research Revenue Performance Management Value Index found Board Exemplary in our analysis of their product and customer experience.
The ability of Board’s users to execute short planning cycles is supported by a visual workflow management system that facilitates the definition of planning process steps and approvals. There is an embedded chat system that facilitates communication within and across planning groups as well as the ability to quickly create virtual planning teams, because enterprise planning is always a collaborative effort.
Board also offers simulation capabilities that enable FP&A groups to model multiple scenarios and rapidly assess their impact in detail. With black swan incidents becoming common, organizations need to consider a wide range of environments and assess potential outcomes to ensure the agility to respond quickly. The Board Enterprise Analytics Modelling capability evaluates the characteristics of time series to assist in model creation. The platform also facilitates the use of predictive analytics, without requiring staff to have high-level statistical or analytical skills. This is important, because our Office of Finance Benchmark Research found that only 24% of organizations utilize predictive analytics in planning and forecasting.
Productivity is one of the most important characteristics of reporting software, including the ability of business analysts to quickly create reports using readily available data that can be automatically refreshed. Rather than relying on FP&A or business analysts to generate reports, executives and managers must have self-service capabilities to create or personalize their own reports on the fly, and drill down and around to explore data in detail. Reporting tools must also offer the most used and well-understood visualizations to facilitate the meaning of the underlying data.
Board hosts its platform on Microsoft Azure, which has data centers around the world—important for compliance with data residency requirements. Cloud-based planning systems facilitate distributed and global planning efforts. They can be more cost effective, especially for planning and analysis, which is prone to spikes in activity and required computing resource. Cloud systems can be elastic, rather than requiring a trade-off between heavy investments in equipment and poor performance.
I strongly recommend that organizations adopt an integrated business planning approach to deal with the current predictably unpredictable times as well as the likelihood of a return to some sort of normalcy in the future. I recommend assessing Board as a vendor to support that effort.