managemnet company strategy managemanet How a Continuous Planning System Can Help You Prepare for the Unexpected

How a Continuous Planning System Can Help You Prepare for the Unexpected

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By Bharath Srinivas

While the Covid-19 pandemic left many restaurants across the U.S. reeling in its wake, Tex-Mex chain Chuy’s saw an opportunity to use continuous planning to transform uncertainty into greater profitability.

The pandemic was a catalyst for Chuy’s to rethink its operations and planning, replacing its outdated financial planning and analysis (FP&A) solutions with a more flexible system of tools and processes that gives its teams the real-time data and predictive insights it needs to chart their organization’s course.

Using Technology for Change Management

If your organization spends copious amounts of time trying to work with legacy technology for financial planning and struggles to meet customer expectations, you’re not alone.

One of the keys to maintaining a competitive advantage in today’s marketplace is your ability to use automation technology to help set the pace for change management. A real-time financial picture is essential for making informed decisions based on data-driven insights.

Natalie Harden, director of finance at Chuy’s, says that an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered continuous planning framework enables the company to perform scenario forecasting of its cash needs and provides the requisite tools to maintain and monitor its profitability. “I don’t have to even think about data consolidation anymore,” she says.

Increasing Agility with Continuous Planning

Continuous planning enables your organization to adjust more easily to changing business conditions. Replacing legacy FP&A technologies and processes with a comprehensive cloud-based platform may make it easier to integrate data from other applications—such as enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management, and customer relationship management—with no need for third-party tools.

ERP automation aggregates your data and provides a flexible, scalable platform that optimizes decision making based on everything from workforce and revenue projections to capital expenses and sales targets so your organization can quickly move from planning to execution in response to changing market conditions.

Overcoming legacy IT constraints also increases organizational agility, giving you a greater ability to plan, execute, and analyze using one integrated system. Streamlined FP&A technology can also reduce bottlenecks and help eliminate friction in your business processes.

Continuous planning was a critical factor in enabling The E.W. Scripps Company to flourish after it sold its flagship newspaper division so it could focus on its TV and entertainment business. Using the right tools and technologies for integrating transaction and reporting data in real time gives Scripps a holistic view of financial management, human resources (HR), and payroll.

“We found opportunities to link finance and HR better, including improvements in how we use data,” says Kevin McDonald, vice president for people services and insights at Scripps. “We discovered that reporting, analysis, and planning often took a back seat to the time and effort spent chasing and reconciling data.”

Overcoming legacy constraints with automation enabled Scripps to use real-time data to make informed business decisions while mitigating risks and improving organization-wide oversight. In addition to getting more accurate budgets and forecasts, continuous planning helped Scripps dramatically reduce its enterprise planning cycles, consolidating 32 systems into a single platform. Integrating planning and data analysis processes reduced its monthly reporting time from two days to about 30 seconds.

More Agile Forecasting and Analysis

The results Chuy’s and Scripps achieved underscore how a continuous planning model can help your company use advanced technologies for implementing a more agile approach to planning.

FP&A teams can use more powerful modeling, reporting, and analytics to unlock invaluable insights into emerging trends, customer preferences, and competitive landscapes.

Armed with a comprehensive and up-to-the-minute understanding of the marketplace, your organization can more confidently chart its course and seize opportunities that the planning practices you’re using today—however battle-tested they are—may be obscuring from your view, thus keeping you from growing to your full potential.

Bharath Srinivas is global chief technology officer, Accenture Workday Business Group.

Learn how to adopt a continuous planning system to become a more agile organization.

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