5 Planning and Forecasting Tips You Can Use Today

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Annual budgeting and reliance on spreadsheets are no longer viable options for flexible, agile companies that are able to adapt quickly and respond to changes in the industry, economy, or the business.

Once per year budgeting and planning simply produces a set of targets and spending plans that are out of date before the process is complete. What does modern planning and forecasting require? Start with automation, accuracy, consolidation, flexibility, and security. With the right processes and tools, you can plan, analyze and forecast regularly, assure the results are current, and get the process completed quickly so that the findings are still relevant when the plan is done. 

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1. Utilize Automized, Standardized Tools & Processes to Streamline Planning and Forecasting 

DataminingThe right tool will draw data from numerous disparate sources and systems and streamline it all into a single, cohesive set of data for powerful analytics. 

How does the data come in? Is it in a consistent format? Creating a defined and locked formula for entering data greatly speeds the aggregation. When it is presented in the right format consistently, everyone can take advantage of the data because it does not have to be converted in order to be useful. However, the right tool for keeping data consistent should be supplemented with the right training for those charged with entering the data into the system. These workers are rarely in the finance department, but with a little training can learn to enter data in such a way that it is useful to the finance and accounting departments. 

2. Improve Accuracy by Collecting Financial Data in a Single Place 

Is the data you need spread out across multiple departments and stored in various file folders around the organization? The right tool will allow you to bring all of this disparate data together, normalize it to assure accuracy, and ready it for analysis. The best tool for this job is a purpose-built EPM solution. These tools collect and centralize the data as it is entered to avoid the time-consuming and error-prone process of finding, collecting, and manually aggregating data from various sources. 

3. Consolidate Financial & Operational Data to Allow for Advanced Planning, Forecasting & What-If Analysis 

Is your data collection and analysis limited to financial data? It shouldn't be. Including the operational data can deliver far deeper insight and more powerful planning and forecasting capabilities. The data from other systems around the organization -- such as human resources, sales and marketing, MRP and ERP, etc. -- provides you with a more comprehensive picture of what's going on across the organization, as well as where it is headed. 

4. Accommodate Changes in Business Conditions by Using Flexible Processes & Tools 

It is no longer enough to know where the business stands today. Modern organizations need to be able to predict where the company will be this time next year, or even five years from now. This allows them to prepare for situations like a downturn in the economy or a steep uptick in the amount of business coming in. More dynamic planning processes and tools, such as rolling forecasts, will give you the flexibility to remain agile in a continually changing business environment.

5. Improve Data Integrity with Security, Availability, and Access Controls 

EPM_-_Secure_DataNo tool is complete without the power to keep the data secure and assure its integrity.

The integrity of the data refers to how readily available it is for processing and analysis and how secure it is from outside (as well as internal) threats. The right tool will assure that the data remains available to those who are authorized to access and work with it, while keeping those who shouldn't have access to the data out of the system entirely. 

Are you ready to learn more about the 5 tips you can use to improve your planning and forecasting? Visit Host Analytics for free access to the white paper "Financial Planning and Forecasting Best Practices".

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Posted by on August 6, 2015
Topics: EPM
John O'Rourke

John O’Rourke is Vice President of Strategic Marketing at Host Analytics. With a background in accounting and finance, John has over 30 years of experience in the software industry and 20 years of experience in EPM product marketing at Hyperion Solutions, Oracle and Host Analytics. He has worked with many customers and partners on financial reporting and planning initiatives and has spoken and written on many topics in EPM. John has also held positions in strategic marketing and product marketing at Dun & Bradstreet Software, Kenan Systems, and Decisyon. John has a BS degree in accounting from Bentley University and an MBA from Boston College.

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