To keep up with market volatility, business leaders must take two key steps.  First, leaders must promote demand planning as a business-critical process from the depths of the back office.  Second, leaders must better equip those who do the demand planning with new approaches and tools that improve the forecasts used in the strategic decision-making and Extended Planning and Analysis (xP&A) processes.

Aside from the immediate impact on revenue, poor demand visibility over the long term leads to risks from decision-making based on inaccurate data and a lack of confidence in xP&A processes.  Why?  Because for business leaders, making well-informed decisions in today’s volatile climate can’t be hindered by obsolete processes and technology, especially if the sheer amount of data available can’t be leveraged.

Whatever changes arise, demand planning helps organizations adapt.

Demand Forecasting meeting with team

What Makes Demand Planning So Hard?

Understanding demand in today’s volatile business climate has become increasingly difficult for organizations.  For instance, many business leaders struggle to understand demand elasticity (i.e., how demand reacts to a price change).  A good understanding of demand may help adjusting prices, but the majority can’t forecast demand accurately and will therefore attempt to hold on by squeezing productivity while battling increasing costs.  Smaller companies, however, may not have the option to increase prices due to larger, more cash-flush competition suppressing the price.

Regardless of size, for many leaders, demand forecasting is critical but generally lacks transparency when profit margins narrow to unbearable levels.

Demand planners can provide forecasts and insights on demand elasticity that then enable leaders to draw better demand shaping and demand shifting actions.  So why do companies struggle with demand predictions?

Ask any demand planner and he/she will tell you that possibly the most frustrating part of the job is making forecasts that no one uses or follows. Lack of accuracy and lack of speed in delivering meaningful forecasts are the two most frequent reasons why internal stakeholders may not trust their output.

Here are some of the most common challenges facing demand planners who are trying to increase the speed and accuracy of forecasting:

What’s the impact to the demand planner in all this?  Ultimately, once the data has been prepared, the forecasting models available to the planner can hardly address the needs of the current business climate.  The pace of change is just too great.  And there is more to add:

Demand Planning meeting
In short, the demand planner isn’t to blame!

5 Key Considerations for Demand Planning – At Speed with High-Level Accuracy

Certainly, the above challenges aren’t new, but they stand out in current unstable market conditions.  Every effort to improve demand planning will therefore help the business be more competitive and make better use of cash and resources.  What’s the best way to improve demand planning?  Here are 5 considerations to look out for when aspiring to better demand planning:

1. Adopt a holistic approach to planning and secure ownership from senior leadership.

Research shows that planning doesn’t work well in silos – doing so narrows perspective, creates redundancy, breeds the wrong behaviors, and blurs the vision.  In essence, it’s like being guided by a map in pieces.  This effect doesn’t remove the need for deep planning per area.  Rather, it all must be unified so that, when operational planning is seamlessly interlinked to financial planning (xP&A), demand planning is elevated and becomes an indispensable activity that drives business performance at a corporate level.  The CFO should ideally own the xP&A process and stimulate the organization with a culture of collaboration and no finger-pointing.  No one on the team should be shy about bringing this point forward until it’s addressed!

2. Seek goal alignment among participants.

Because every function has different and sometimes conflicting objectives, demand forecasting becomes an accessory and not mission-critical.  Often, demand planners fail to connect with the stakeholders and listen for needs.  This failure is problematic because clarity regarding the intended use for the demand forecast is an absolute must.  Will it be used as input for marketing and sales planning?  Will it inform budget decisions?  Will it drive manufacturing production scheduling?

3. Anchor the forecast to the right data points.

Good data is hard to get in a timely manner, so demand planners are contented with suboptimal, easy-to-access datasets (e.g., sales bookings, sell-in ratios, manufacturing throughput, on-time in- full deliveries, etc.).  But the goal is to forecast demand, not sales or supply chain performance.  For example, shipments are not a true reflection of demand because they often fail to honor the customer-requested delivery date, so why not use that instead?  As another example, when building the constraint demand plan, is it fastened to the right financial data points?  Using substandard data points is a clear symptom that the technology itself is an inhibitor.  Accordingly, those looking to enhance their demand planning outputs must include the right demand data points in the design and watch for solutions that deliver those data points.

4. Select forecasting techniques that are a good fit with the business.

With the pace of change in the market, time is of the essence.  And with all the disparate input sources and judgmental views of the forecast, organizations tend to build overly simplistic assumptions to justify using a few standard forecasting methods.  But there’s no one size fits in forecasting.  In fact, overly simplifying the choice of models to use limits the accuracy of forecasts.  Choosing a method depends on what’s being forecasted (type of product), the availability of abundant and meaningful data (meaningful = relevance, granularity, veracity), the complexity and volume of causal factors required, and the time available to perform the task.

5. Appeal for one version of the truth.

Due to the fragmented nature of systems and organizational structures, many plans and viewpoints exist.  That makes it practically impossible to have one version of the plan or see what’s happening (actuals) in time to respond to volatile risks and opportunities.  To avoid those pitfalls, all parties should look at the same numbers, ideally under one solution that can handle disparate sources of inputs, upgrade data quality and combine different modeling methods (inclusive of machine learning).  A unified solution should also respect the identity of each business unit and business function by showing the information in ways that are meaningful to those identities: multiple product information grouping (e.g., by product family, SKU, territory, stock location, etc.), measure (i.e., unit, value, currency), multiple horizons and flexible intervals.

Extended Planning & Analysis (xP&A) team meeting

Conclusion

Business leaders who must drive better business performance can always ask themselves the following question: If demand forecasting accuracy increased by 1%, how much would it mean in terms of…

The answers lie within the demand planning team!  And while there will always be a need for adding assumptions, achieving higher demand forecasting accuracy at speed must be a key business priority.

Learn More

To learn more about how OneStream can help improve demand forecasting accuracy, download our Sensible ML solution brief for Demand Planning here.

Download the Solution

As today’s Finance leaders learn how to best navigate global uncertainty, increasingly more organizations are turning to extended planning & analysis (xP&A) to propel rolling forecasting and collaboration between Finance and Operations.  At the forefront is a push toward a coordinated approach to artificial intelligence (AI)-enabled planning designed to achieve greater alignment between the strategic, financial, and operational levels within an organization.  But the promise of transforming finance and operational planning into one cohesive ecosystem has fallen short due to fragmented solutions leaving little opportunity for true collaboration outside of Finance.

At least that’s what you’ve been led to believe.

Leveraging AI and other technologies have opened new possibilities for Finance leaders looking to drive continuous forecasting in the xP&A world.  Accordingly, organizations of all sizes globally are leveraging AI to refine the rolling forecast process and increase business value.  Many of the same leaders, however, are not putting the same emphasis on measuring and improving collaboration across the enterprise.  Why?  Well, fragmented solutions cause misaligned technology and forecasting processes, eroding organizational collaboration.  And the level of effort to correct the imbalance can simply feel too steep.

Want proof?  Just think about all the times Finance teams have had to chase monthly forecast files from sales, HR, supply chain, etc., only to find out the provided files are incomplete or have some anomalies that require follow-up.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?  Whatever the case, it still feels like a waste of valuable time across all lines of business.  Guarantee this kind of collaboration isn’t the kind for which organizations strive.  But unfortunately, this world is the one in which most organizations live.

This environment is, however, one where AI can step in – especially amid the rise of xP&A – to reduce the level of effort needed to drive continuous collaboration with rolling forecasts.  How?  By automating siloed operating plans, speeding up the delivery of actionable insights, and aligning the Finance and Operations planning processes.

Without Organizational Collaboration, Rolling Forecasts Will Never Succeed

The forecasting process not only represents a core responsibility of the Finance function but also presents some of the most fundamental challenges as Finance must coordinate with other functions and departments in the organization.  This core process requires Finance to leverage critical data points from Sales, Supply Chain, HR, and others across the organization and to gain the proper context from stakeholders.  In essence, Finance must maintain full access to critical information and meaningful participation from partners in the business.

As Finance transforms into the central hub within an organization, siloed and fragmented solutions are not sufficient for sophisticated organizations that are streamlining their budgeting, forecasting, and planning (see Figure 1).  After all, most organizations strive…

Finance OneStream
Figure 1: Finance Central Hub of the Organization

Collaboration is forever joined to rolling forecasts, both fostering flexibility and enabling a response to economic pressures that traditional forecasts can’t.  Additionally, AI accelerates real-time data availability – allowing Finance, Operations, and Sales teams to regularly come together to assess the forecast makes for a more accurate and updated forecast.

Flexibility and Agility Required for Rolling Forecasts

We’ve previously defined a rolling forecast as “a management tool that enables organizations to continuously plan (i.e., forecast) over a set time horizon” vs. a calendar or fiscal year.  For example, in a 12-month forecast period, as each month ends, another month will be added.  In other words, forecasting involves always looking 12 months into the future (see Figure 2).

OneStream Rolling Forecast
Figure 2: Rolling Forecast Maintains 12 Periods

Best practice is to ensure rolling forecasts can extend (e.g., roll) beyond the current calendar or fiscal year-end.  Most commonly, rolling forecasts contain a minimum of 12 forecast periods, but can also include 18, 24, or more periods depending on the needs and complexity of the organization.

Rolling Forecast Strengthen Collaboration between Finance, Operations

In recent years, Finance leaders have taken on several major strategic initiatives to prepare for an ever-evolving landscape.  Replacing detailed annual planning cycles – which take too long and result in a budget that’s out of date as soon as it’s complete.  With continuous planning, however, Finance is more effective, focusing on rolling views that look 12 to 18 months ahead.  How?  Continuous plans enable managers to respond more rapidly to emerging events and trends and to changing business environments while increasing higher levels of corporate collaboration (see Figure 3).

Planning for XPA
Figure 3: Collaborative Continuous Planning for xP&A

Simply put, a rolling forecast is a call to action informing leadership of the need to engage and change when the forecast is updated.  Why?  Because rolling forecasts can transform the way Finance and Operations manage the business, obtaining better insights to make faster, more accurate decisions.  And at the end of the day, leaders know that highly engaged, collaborative employees create a healthier overall organization that will increase performance.

AI-Enabled Rolling Forecasting Enables Intelligence xP&A

Despite the rapid pace of adoption, many Finance leaders believe that FP&A teams must learn AI and machine learning (ML) modeling techniques when attempting to deploy AI-enabled rolling forecasts across the enterprise.  Further, for organizations with existing AI investments, FP&A teams generally lack the dedicated business analysts and data science engineers required to build ML models.  And as the adoption of AI and ML for rolling forecasts moves from fiction to fact, many FP&A teams are asking the same basic question:  Where to begin?

To start, don’t let AI market noise derail the evaluation process.  Here are 3 steps to consider in the process: 

Most AI solutions offer everything from AI infrastructure solutions to data science toolkits and complete AI platforms to create and deploy ML models.  While these are powerful tools addressing varying use cases, the tools aren’t designed for FP&A teams.

Conversely, purpose-built solutions like OneStream’s Sensible ML (see Figure 4) focus on a user-friendly, workflow-driven approach.  That approach allows Finance and Operations users to build, deploy and consume time-series ML models directly within a unified experience while accelerating productivity for existing data science resources.

Sensible Machine Learning
Figure 4: Sensible Machine Learning Dashboard

And unlike “most” predictive forecasting solutions – which look at prior results and statistics and generate forecasts based on what happened in the past – Sensible ML has the capability to not only look at prior results but also then take on additional business intuition (e.g., events, pricing, competitive information, and weather) to help drive more precise/robust forecasting.

Those capabilities are exactly why a unified technology platform is so critical.  A unified platform instills confidence regarding information creation and gives organizations the flexibility to create operational relevance without compromising on control and governance.

Conclusion

AI-enhanced rolling forecasts can save huge amounts of work, freeing all managers and analysts to spend more time on value-added work.  Adopting these forecasts will also improve the relationship between Finance and Business managers.  After all, Finance will have more time to provide better service.

Learn More

To learn more about key considerations for the journey towards xP&A, click here to download the White Paper titled “Unify Connecting Planning or Face the Hidden Costs.”

Download the White Paper

Have you, as a financial analyst, ever sat in a meeting with Supply Chain, Engineering, Operations, and Manufacturing teams and felt like you needed a translator to follow what’s going on?  Many Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) professionals can relate.  They can understand the struggle of bringing together Supply Chain and Finance inputs to effectively forecast supply and demand as part of  Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) processes.

In fact, the responsibility usually lands on FP&A to unify the demand plan with the financial plan.  But without cross-functional inputs from the Operations, Supply Chain, and Manufacturing functions, this responsibility can be a massive challenge.  However, the cross-functional inputs are an essential piece of the puzzle when elevating traditional FP&A software processes for eXtended Planning and Analysis (xP&A).

What Is S&OP?

Sales and Operations Planning is a process by which organizations forecast demand, supply, and financial plans to enable supply chain management.  While collaboration between the Operations and Finance functions has improved, there are still significant disconnects that result in a financial plan that doesn’t paint the complete picture of the enterprise.

Capturing these inputs within FP&A software does, however, give the whole picture.  The software helps align the organization by leveraging inputs beyond Finance that more effectively prepare the business to operate in turbulent market conditions.

How Does the S&OP Process Typically Work?

The S&OP process is typically run on a monthly cadence.  To start, the process involves data gathering and then moves through the demand and supply plans, plan reconciliation, and, finally, meetings and approvals (Figure 1).

OP process
Figure 1: Typical monthly S&OP process

Effectively leveraging the S&OP process to inform xP&A planning cycles gives an organization better insight into the plan beyond just the numbers.  In the xP&A process, leveraging these S&OP insights is important, and doing so in the most effective fashion is enabled by unifying the planning processes in a shared software environment.  Here are just a few examples of why unifying S&OP and xP&A processes are so critical to consider within FP&A software:

When FP&A isn’t part of the S&OP process, there’s often a disconnect between operational planning and the financial impact of the related decisions.  Balancing supply and demand impacts Finance as the balance influences revenues, cost of goods sold, profit margins, inventory carrying costs, headcount, cash flow, working capital, and various other financial metrics.

What happens when supply and demand aren’t balanced?  Well, when suppliers can’t deliver on time, it not only affects the organization’s ability to meet customer needs but also influences other non-financial metrics that are important to Finance.  Understanding these intricacies of the S&OP process can help Finance to develop a financial plan that takes these S&OP factors into account.  At the same time, Finance can lend insights into the process as it’s happening to ensure complete integration into the financial and operational plans (see Figure 2).

OP process
Figure 2: S&OP Dashboard

Incorporating the S&OP sales and demand planning outputs into the financial planning process provides, among others, two key benefits.  First, organizations can better understand the supply chain and operations impacts.  Second, organizations can also sense potential disruptions in supply chains and issues in manufacturing and labor availabilities.  These benefits are especially crucial in a post-pandemic new normal.  To remain competitive, FP&A must move away from a functional process and move to a business process that encourages collaboration and cross-functional integration of supply chain, sales, operational and financial data.

The new normal ultimately requires companies to be more agile and efficient than ever to react to real-time disruptions.  The ability to do so requires ensuring the insights and reporting gained from forecasting cycles are shared across the organization.  In turn, that capability enables the organization to better react to labor shortages and fluctuations in the availability of raw materials and resources that would otherwise slow or stop production amid high demand.

Key S&OP Metrics for FP&A

The S&OP process has both financial metrics as well as demand and supply metrics, and the financial metrics are important to incorporate into the financial planning process.  Here are some of those key financial metrics:

Why Effective xP&A Must Unify FP&A & S&OP

During the S&OP process, the financial implications of the decisions are vital considerations, but the exclusion of Finance means these decisions are often overlooked.  Ensuring that the financial perspective is considered during the development of the demand and supply plans lends weight to the decision-making happening as part of the S&OP process.

Conversely, if Finance is preparing the demand plan as part of the FP&A process without Supply Chain buy-in, there will be frustration from both groups.  Why?  Because they’ll be operating on different assumptions and understandings of the organizational objectives.

Conclusion

Ultimately, FP&A is not only a key input to the S&OP process but also a consumer of the output.  It’s just as important for Finance to be involved in the process as it is for the output to inform the FP&A, and now xP&A, planning cycles.  Understanding the financial implications of the demand and supply plans developed as part of the S&OP process helps align organizational goals – from both a Finance and Supply Chain perspective.

Learn More

To learn more about how your organization can grow your FP&A process to xP&A, click here to watch a video on the 5 Key Factors to Consider in the FP&A Evolution to xP&A.

Watch the Video

All CFOs and Finance leaders know an important truth: all data ultimately leads back to the income statement, balance sheet, and cash flow.  With that in mind, eXtended Planning and Analysis (xP&A) takes traditional financial planning and analysis (FP&A) and changes the game.  How?  By unifying plans and forecast data from across the enterprise.  That allows Finance to synchronize operational plans and forecasts into a single, unified plan that can inform business decisions for all departments.

And for FP&A teams, storytelling – the ability to combine financial and operational data and tell a story that reflects business performance and/or risks – is a vital skill.  That’s been especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic and the disruptions it has caused.  Amid the related uncertainty, organizations have been stretched thin, asked to do more with less, and expected to react quickly to unpredictable disruptions in global supply chains.

Finance professionals understand these pressures all too well.  Why?  Well, with so much reliance on spreadsheets and legacy corporate performance management (CPM) applications, it’s often Finance that feels the pain of combining large, disjointed datasets from disparate systems and manually consolidating data.

But what if organizations could replace spreadsheets and disparate silos of data with a unified data store and visualization environment that can be quickly and reliably refreshed?  One that not only ensures data quality but also brings the data into an easily consumable reporting and analytics platform.  One that enables the storyteller to drive key decisions quickly and easily across xP&A processes.  All of that and more is possible through storytelling that drives effective xP&A.

Use Storytelling to Drive Effective xP&A

Today, storytelling capability isn’t just nice to have.  It’s an absolute necessity if you want to operate effectively amid seemingly endless economic uncertainty.

Here are some of the key benefits of leveraging visualizations for storytelling to drive effective xP&A:

Data Storytelling in Finance
Figure 1: Data storytelling in Finance

Enable Easier Access to Data Using Visualizations

It’s said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and as many financial analysts can attest, painting the proper picture with visualizations (see Figure 1) is critical when telling the story behind a large dataset.  When taking FP&A to the next level by shifting to an xP&A process, organization-wide collaboration drives the unification of financial and operational plans across the enterprise.  Combining data from various sources into interactive dashboards with precise visualizations (see Figure 2) makes the data accessible to a wider audience and enables the alignment of operational plans with organizational goals.

Why is that so important?  Well, utilizing these dashboards and visualizations can enable Finance professionals and leadership to make more informed and rapid business decisions.  Those decisions are enabled by everyone staying informed of changes in financial performance with easily refreshed, quickly consumed representations of the data.

Interactive Visualizations
Figure 2: Interactive visualizations

Ensure Data is Consumable Using Visualizations

Sharing consumable data with the audience is crucial to storytelling.  Why?  Because time is valuable and in short supply these days.  And if key stakeholders cannot quickly assess risks and opportunities to drive performance without needing hours to sift through reports and spreadsheets, then FP&A has failed.

In the age of disruption and volatility, it’s more important than ever that organizations can consume and react quickly to whatever the data is saying.  And they can do it in real-time to predict what’s coming next, which is critical given the uncertainty and instability caused by the pandemic and other global disruptions.  Utilizing quickly and easily refreshed data visualizations ultimately helps leaders gain insights critical to keeping organizations running as smoothly as possible.

Data storytelling in Finance
Figure 3: Data storytelling in Finance

Ensure Data is Dynamic Using Visualizations

Having dynamic data at your fingertips is crucial to being able to quickly detect and react to change.  Yet many Finance leaders have experienced the pain of being reactive instead of proactive to issues that arise with the financial plan.  Instead, leveraging reliable and easily refreshed dashboards that offer near-real-time visual insights into the trends and financial signals the data is revealing can enable organizations to respond more quickly and more reliably to anomalies.  That’s why dynamic visualizations are so critical.

Here are just a few examples of the key benefits for xP&A:

Conclusion

For most organizations, dashboards and visualizations are not new, but leveraging them for xP&A is especially important to remain competitive and agile in the face of unprecedented global disruptions. Being able to quickly and reliably refresh and access data and bring it together in a way that can be shared across the organization is crucial – and telling that story through visualizations is a powerful tool in the Finance toolkit.

Learn More

To learn more about using OneStream to create data visualizations for xP&A, download our reporting and analysis e-book here.

Download the e-Book

OneStream recently released version 6.8 of our platform, designed to drive speed and flexibility for financial and operational planning and reporting.  This release is all about improving the user experience for our customers, from enhanced ease-of-use capabilities with new chart types to an enriched Financial Class Functions experience.  Additionally, OneStream 6.8 features a powerful new capability called Drill to Dashboard.

Read on to learn more about these capabilities and how they can help organizations like yours plan and report with more speed and flexibility than ever.

Supporting eXtended Planning & Analysis (xP&A)

OK, let’s cut to the chase with the most powerful new feature in the 6.8 release.  Drill to Dashboard is part of the broader effort to further improve the OneStream user experience for eXtended Planning & Analysis (xP&A) use cases.

Here are a few of the core requirements driving our newest innovations:

To address those realities, Drill to Dashboard now opens the door to many possibilities for data lineage analysis and data exploration.  This added functionality will help to eliminate the need for users to incorporate too much detail in a single Cube View and/or Dashboard.  Instead, users can now “navigate or drill-to” the details as needed (see Figure 1).

Drill to Dashboard
Figure 1: Drill to Dashboard

If you’ve ever felt the challenges of tracking down specific data for management reporting, you know the pain of jumping from one report or dashboard to another. Or realizing you think you know what data the Dashboard or Cube View contains only, to find out you were wrong. Sometimes a seemingly simple request can take hours, if not days to fulfill due to data not easily being accessible.

Drill to Dashboard enables users to quickly and seamlessly obtain the slices of data required for planning or reporting – and do it at speed.

For example, with Drill to Dashboard, users can quickly pass parameters from a Cube View to Dashboard for fast, focused reporting and analysis.  Users can also link multiple Dashboards and link Dashboards at different levels, leveraging the entire Cube View or specific Cube View Rows or Columns for planning or forecasting.

In other words, Finance teams and business analysts can continue to focus on delivering the data needed to drive enhanced reporting, informed decision making, and improved business performance.

Below is a quick summary of additional features available in OneStream 6.8 and the benefits to all customers.

New Financial Class Functions

Users can do more calculations with the Microsoft Financial Class suite of functions.  Now available in the Business Rules Editor, users can take advantage of the class procedures that perform financial calculations, such as depreciation, present, and future values, interest rates, rates of return, and payments.

Ease-of-Use Features

The New Chart Types in the Spreadsheet within the OneStream Windows App offers powerful features in the OneStream platform that enable users to transform data into better insights by quickly visualizing common financial, statistical, and hierarchical data.  In OneStream 6.8, we introduced seven powerful charts providing users the ability to explore data and tell richer stories.

Here are the new chart types and the benefits users can expect:

Waterfall chart quickly illustrates the line items in financial statements and gives users a clear picture of how each item is impacting the bottom line.  The Waterfall chart is a great way for users to get a complete picture of how different factors combine to achieve the “final result.” Comparing product earnings, showing budget changes over time, or illustrating employee growth are all good examples of ways users can benefit from a Waterfall chart (see Figure 2).

Waterfall Chart
Figure 2: Waterfall Chart

Sunburst chart lets users easily see the largest contributing segments within a hierarchy of multiple levels.  The Sunburst chart shows hierarchical data and their proportions, but it can also show more levels and how a ring is broken into contributing pieces.  For example, through the Sunburst chart, users can better understand revenue sources of your business or salary expenses of employees across departments (see Figure 3).

Sunburst Chart
Figure 3: Sunburst Chart

Treemap chart provides a hierarchical view of user data and an easy way to compare different levels of categorization.  Treemap charts are great for highlighting the contribution of each item to the whole, within a hierarchy. Making it easier than ever to spot patterns or compare proportions and relative sizes.  Representing balance sheets in a Treemap chart, for example, offers very quick insights on how the company is financed (such as debt rather than equity) or where the largest portion of assets lies (see Figure 4).

Tree Chart
Figure 4: Treemap Chart
Other new chart types introduced in OneStream 6.8 include the following:

Learn More

If you’re an existing customer looking to learn more, check out the OneStream 6.8 release notes on the OneStream MarketPlace.  Not yet a customer?  Sign up for our upcoming webinar or another upcoming event.

As your FP&A team begins the xP&A journey, download our whitepaper to learn more about the key factors that are critical for effective xP&A.

Download the White Paper

While many of our customers are busy prepping 2022 budgets, at OneStream, we recently delivered our latest quarterly platform release, boosting your corporate performance management capabilities.

For both new and existing customers, OneStream version 6.6 is a must-have. We’ve enhanced the ease of use with Task Scheduler, added new Waterfall Charting capabilities, and enriched the Excel Add-in and native Spreadsheet experience. Plus, OneStream 6.6 also includes a powerful new capability called Hybrid Scenarios. Read on to learn more about these capabilities and how they can help organizations plan and report with more speed and flexibility.

Supporting eXtended Planning & Analysis (xP&A)

OK, let’s cut to the chase with the most powerful new feature in OneStream’s unified Intelligent Finance Platform. Hybrid Scenarios are part of a broader effort to further improve the OneStream user experience and eXtended Planning & Analysis (xP&A) use cases. How? By providing agile and flexible features to help organizations like yours lead at speed.

A few core realities are driving our newest innovations.

First, corporate performance management (CPM) applications inevitably grow and evolve over time through several different levers but primarily through the addition of more dimensions and additional dimension members. That growing dimensionality leads to higher data volumes and a continued need for scalability and performance for planning and reporting on larger volumes of more detailed data.

Second, as companies optimize and enhance their applications, the natural evolution can drive the need for model changes, such as splitting up cubes to focus on slices of a dimension and data sets. Unfortunately, splitting cubes traditionally comes with extra costs for data movement, data synchronization, and additional overhead management.

Now with OneStream, Hybrid Scenarios allow the application to easily grow with an increased demand for dimensions and any additional growth of members within dimensions, giving users the ability to choose the right capability for your specific needs. (See Figure 1)

Platform Feature Capabilities
Figure 1: Platform Feature Capabilities

If you’ve ever felt the pressure of tracking down specific data for management reporting, you know the pain of not having it. Or realizing you have it only to find out it takes a painfully long time to gather and format. Sometimes a seemingly simple request can take hours, if not days to fulfill due to data complexity and volume.

Leveraging Hybrid Scenarios helps end that pain. With this new capability, users can quickly and seamlessly attain the slices of required data for planning or reporting—and do it at speed.

For example, with Hybrid Scenarios, users can quickly “share data” from an existing source scenario for fast, focused reporting and analysis. Users can also “copy data” from a source scenario and seed a new scenario for planning or forecasting.

In other words, whether you’re on the Finance team or a business analyst, you can focus on delivering the data needed to drive informed decisions and improve business performance.

Below is a quick summary of additional features available in OneStream 6.6.0 and the benefits to customers.

Ease-of-Use Features

Task Scheduler: This is a powerful feature of the OneStream platform that enables users to automate the running of data integration and data management processes. In OneStream 6.6 we introduced new settings in the Task Scheduler providing users the ability to set the Minutes (Hourly) schedule with more granularity around the time in which the tasks are executed (See Figure 2). This includes:

Task Schedule Control
Figure 2: Minute Task Schedule Control

Waterfall Chart: This significant new chart type adds to the already robust Dashboard options currently available. In OneStream 6.6 we introduced Waterfall Chart interactive capabilities with some additional new series settings that enhance data visualization capabilities. (See Figure 3).  This includes:


Figure 3: Waterfall Chart

Excel Add-In/Spreadsheet: Finance users heavily leverage OneStream’s Excel Add-in and native Spreadsheet feature for data entry, reporting, and analysis while letting our platform provide control and governance on the back-end.  OneStream 6.6 adds the ability to use VBA (Excel Macros) when using large Excel files with multiple tabs to automate the files to set data rather than opening up each file one by one and using the Submit function in the Excel Add-In.  The XFGETCELL, and now XFSETCELL, functionality can be surfaced using VBA to run a macro to set and get data via VBA.

Advanced Design & Analytical Features

BI Viewer Dimension Hierarchy Support.  This new feature in the OneStream BI Viewer enables viewing data in an easy-to-understand hierarchical format via dimension leveling. With the BI Viewer, users can design various dashboard items (e.g., grids, pivot tables, charts, etc.) in which to view the dimension-leveled data. (See Figure 4). New features include:

Imagine, your users walking into the office knowing they will no longer be bound to rigid views of hierarchies in your legacy finance reporting tool. Sounds great, doesn’t it? This powerful new OneStream feature within BI Viewer specifically addresses the challenges users may have felt in the past. The feature will also enrich the reporting experience through increased flexibility that increases efficiency.

BI Viewer Hierarchy
Figure 4: BI Viewer Hierarchy Support

Learn More

If you’re an existing customer looking to learn more, check out the OneStream 6.6 release notes on the OneStream MarketPlace.  Not yet a customer?  Sign up for our upcoming webinar or another upcoming event.

As your FP&A team begins your xP&A journey, download our whitepaper to learn more about the key factors that are critical for effective xP&A.

Do you know if your organization is using the best budgeting and forecasting process possible? Tried-and-true static budget methods are what many organizations resort to today. But static budgets built within legacy financial forecasting software are not flexible enough to react to what’s happening in the business during the budget period. Meanwhile, rolling forecasts are designed to change and adapt throughout the year, which provide more value if large and sudden changes impact your business. Now is the time to take the best of modern finance planning and extend it across the enterprise through xP&A (extended planning and analysis). Read on to learn more.

Let’s face it, the world is changing rapidly, and organizations face tremendous pressure to evolve with the changes. It’s no longer good enough for Finance and Line of Business leaders to create an annual plan with financial forecasting software and make multiple adjustments throughout the year.  Why?  Well, as the pace of change increases, annual plans become increasingly less relevant and, in many cases, are completely abandoned by Finance chiefs before the ink even dries.

As Finance transforms into the central hub within an organization, static budgets alone are not sufficient for budgeting, forecasting, and planning.  It isn’t that the annual budgeting process isn’t a useful exercise.  After all, the process still…

But static budgets do little to help organizations drive ongoing performance.  Why?  Well, annual plans are generally reactive to changing conditions.  Such plans are also time-consuming to build and update, inflexible and ineffectively utilized – causing employees to lose faith in the budgeting process.  The budgeting, planning, and forecasting process is seen as an exercise imposed by Finance and yielding little benefit to operational groups (e.g., Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain).

Albert Einstein perfectly captured why static budgets need to go: “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

Today, Finance chiefs are challenged with helping their organizations break the reliance on annual plans and embracing more agile planning techniques including driver-based planning and rolling forecasts.

Optimizing Day-to-Day Performance

Rolling forecasts (see figure 1) are extremely beneficial for large and dynamic enterprises as financial forecasting software tools to help continually adapt planning processes to actual performance and market trends.  How?  Rolling forecasts allow for more accurate and multifaceted forecasting by re-calibrating the forecast based on changes in both internal variables (e.g., changing demand volume and pricing), and external factors (e.g., fluctuations in the industry, economy, weather, or geopolitical ecosystem).

Rolling Forecast
Figure 1: Rolling Forecast Example

Below are a few additional reasons annual plans do little to help manage day-to-day performance:

We’ve previously defined a rolling forecast as “a management tool that enables organizations to continuously plan (i.e., forecast) over a set time horizon” vs. a calendar or fiscal year.  For example, in a 12-month forecast period, as each month ends, another month will be added.  In other words, you’re always forecasting 12 months into the future.

Best practice is to ensure rolling forecasts can extend (e.g., roll) beyond the current calendar or fiscal year-end.  Most commonly, rolling forecasts contain a minimum of 12 forecast periods but can also include 18, 24 or more periods depending on the needs and complexity of the organization.

Here’s a summary on the key differences between traditional and rolling forecasts (see Figure 2):

Rolling Forecast
Figure 2: Traditional Forecasting vs Rolling Forecast
Keep It Simple to Best Solve a Complex Problem

Simplifying how your team approaches forecasting is a keyway to drive efficiency, which is a key driver of value.

Luckily, we previously provided a framework to get you started on the first steps to becoming an agile Finance organization.  But there’s an additional accelerator to consider, supercharging accuracy and delivery, with the concept of eXtended Planning and Analysis (xP&A).

The paradigm shift from traditional FP&A to xP&A (see figure 3) offers a way to fully support a rolling forecast by enabling the inclusion of all organizational functions into a cohesive unified process and platform that adjusts to challenges and needs.

Gartner’s Vision for xP&A
Figure 3: Gartner’s Vision for xP&A

According to Gartner [1], by 2024, FP&A is expected to encompass xP&A, a strategy where “x” denotes how the traditional silos separating enterprise financial and operation planning processes are broken down.  The result?  A new level of transformative business value.

At OneStream, we call this Intelligent Finance.

Learn More

As your FP&A team begins your Rolling Forecast journey towards organizational agility, download BARC’s (Business Application Research Center) latest Future of Planning survey here to learn more and contact OneStream if your organization is ready to make the leap from static planning to agile forecasting

[1] Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, Greg Leiter, Robert Anderson, John Van Decker, 6 October 2020

The need to integrate financial and operational planning for enterprises has been recognized for many years, with the objective of aligning goals, objectives and resources across Finance, Sales, Marketing, Supply Chain and other functions.  Various planning approaches have been defined over the years to support this need, including Integrated Business Planning (IBP) and Integrated Financial Planning (IFP). But there was no defined software architecture to support these concepts – until now.

In 2020, Gartner began defining the concept of Extended Planning and Analysis (xP&A) as the next evolution of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A).  According to Gartner, XP&A is the evolution of planning, combining financial and operational planning on a single composable platform. It “extends” traditional FP&A solutions focused solely on finance into other enterprise planning domains such as workforce, sales, operations and marketing. And in 2021, Gartner has now published a Market Guide for Cloud xP&A Solutions which defines the key market requirements and how various software vendors match up to those requirements.

Read on to learn more about the market guide and how OneStream is positioned.

XP&A Addresses the Need for Improved Business Agility

The global pandemic that emerged in 2020 put a spotlight on the need for enterprises to have agile planning and reporting processes that allow them to respond quickly to changing business and market trends.  According to Gartner, xP&A is a vendor response to these evolving enterprise planning needs. xP&A solutions help organizations exploit the challenges faced when introducing new digital business models and navigating economic uncertainties. Solutions introduced in the market are capable of merging together financial and operational planning processes, so management improves decisions and delivers better results across the enterprise (see figure 1).

Figure 1 – The Business Impact of xP&A
Figure 1 – The Business Impact of xP&A

XP&A vs. FP&A Solutions

You may be wondering how xP&A solutions differ from FP&A solutions.  Below are some examples provided by Gartner of how xP&A solutions “extend” the ability of FP&A to connect to, integrate with, and align with operational plans.  These include the following:

Gartner predicts that although best of breed operational planning solutions will remain popular, FP&A solutions will begin to incorporate some of the capabilities of operational planning software as it evolves into xP&A — a platform-centric approach capable of supporting and integrating both financial and operational planning. By extending FP&A and other planning applications beyond the finance domain to other key business stakeholders, xP&A can offer decision makers a holistic view of their planning processes, results and progress toward fulfilling a strategy and meeting an organization’s goals.

Market Adoption and Requirements

So what’s the market outlook for adoption of xP&A solutions and how are software vendors delivering on the Gartner vision for xP&A?  According to Gartner, as the velocity of digital business — and the amount of associated data — increases, Gartner expects the xP&A approach to gain momentum, thus increasing its importance to all C-level executives. Gartner estimates that, through 2024, 30% of FP&A implementations will be extended to support operational finance processes, with 50% requiring a substantial xP&A roadmap from the vendor.

Gartner has seen a rapid increase in the number of client organizations seeking to integrate and link financial and operational planning processes wherever possible, and expects the following market trends:

How Was OneStream Positioned?

Gartner correctly identified that OneStream’s Intelligent Finance platform (see figure 2) unifies financial and operational planning, financial close and consolidation, and reporting and analytics in a single solution, enabling perspectives on both finance and operations from the same data. The unified platform (and data model) includes a number of key capabilities designed to support xP&A, including support for planning at a granular, business-driver level on dynamic data with multidimensional analysis and automatic alignment to financials.

Intelligent Finance Platform
Figure 2 – OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

In the report, Gartner mentioned several OneStream customers who are already using the solution to integrate and align financial and operational plans – including Guardian Industries, KLM Group and Capital One. The report also noted how the platform can be extended with over 50 other supported solutions from the OneStream MarketPlace that include people planning, sales planning, capital planning, cash planning and predictive analytics.

(Note – this plays very well into the concept of “composability” that Gartner highlights as key to supporting xP&A.  The idea here is that planning solutions are offered as packaged business capabilities that are assembled, configured and consumed with limited IT involvement – offering rapid time to value.)

Based on a recent briefing OneStream provided to Gartner, the report highlighted how OneStream recently added high performance aggregations to speed planning on large volumes of data and how we plan to add several new capabilities to further support xP&A including improved ad hoc modeling capabilities and a guided ML experience. This will give finance and LOB teams the power to leverage ML models throughout day-to-day planning processes and supercharge productivity for organizations with in-house data scientists.  .

Learn More

To learn more about the key market trends and how OneStream compares to other vendors in the market, download the Gartner Market Guide for Cloud eXtended Planning and Analysis Solutions.

With Gartner[1] projecting that, by 2024, 70% of all new FP&A projects will have an extended scope beyond the Finance department, FP&A teams are buzzing with excitement.  Why?  Well, along with the bold statement on the future of FP&A, Gartner has also reinforced what many of FP&A leaders already know to be true.  Finance’s role in driving granular, driver-based operational plans is increasingly critical to driving performance.

We’re now entering the era of what’s being called eXtended planning & analysis (XP&A).

Gartner defines XP&A as the extension of FP&A principles beyond the Finance department.  This extension could be into any area of the organization that produces business plans, including Sales, Marketing and HR.  What does that ultimately mean?  Here’s my take:

eXtended Planning & Analysis (XP&A)
Figure 1: eXtended Planning & Analysis (XP&A)

With the concept of XP&A taking flight, many FP&A teams are of course thrilled with Gartner’s third-party validation of the importance of operational planning.  But still, many Finance folks are also wondering how XP&A is different from integrated business planning.

To answer this question and more, we’re dedicating this post in our “Inspiring Digital Transformation with Intelligent Finance” blog series to the rise of XP&A.

Integrated Business Planning (IBP) Defined

As Finance leaders expand their roles, many leverage IBP as a management framework to set organizational strategy and optimize operational plans.  IBP allows for aligning external factors like competition and economic changes with financial goals and detailed operational plans between Sales, Operations, Marketing and HR.

Through such alignment, IBP creates a continuous cycle to review and analyze financial results and compare actual results with detailed operating plans across the entire organization.  That process, in turn, enables the organization to understand risks/opportunities and develop action plans.

IBP addresses 3 critical management questions.  Those questions are designed to align 1) how the company goes to market, 2) what plans are required to support the business and 3) how those plans translate to earnings and cash generation.

More specifically, these questions are designed to address the following (as illustrated in Figure 2):

  1.   What will we sell?  What products or services, and to what customers?  In what region?  When, and how many?  Is marketing required to assist?
  2.   Can we supply it?  What are the current capacity, staffing and logistical concerns, if any?  What changes are required to meet demand and Sales plans?
  3.   Will we make money?  What is the impact on the price and profit margin vs. the budget and prior year?  What is the impact on cash flow?
integrated business planning
Figure 2: Integrated Business Planning Management Questions

Today’s Business Planning Challenges

To thrive in today’s economy, sophisticated enterprises must conquer complexity to execute across diverse lines of business – each of which requires unique go-to-market and operational plans across the globe.  Without IBP, organizations face numerous challenges when creating alignment between consolidated company or business-unit financial goals and detailed operational plans.

Here are some of those challenges:

The Rise of eXtended Planning & Analysis

IBP focuses on providing a management framework for Intelligent Finance organizations to drive performance.  In contrast, consider XP&A as the technical enabler to actually execute IBP at scale and with control.

According to Gartner,[2] XP&A is a platform-centric enterprise planning strategy that extends FP&A use cases beyond Finance.  How?  By adding resident operational applications that use the same composable vendor platform, architecture and data model, all of which improves alignment.  And like IBP, XP&A aligns planning disciplines – beginning with Finance – with adjacent functions, such as Supply Chain, Sales, Marketing, Workforce, and IT planning.

And XP&A, according to Gartner, also starts with Finance (see Figure 3).

xP&A
Figure 3: eXtended Planning & Analysis (XP&A)

Inspiring Intelligent Finance with XP&A

For CFOs and Finance teams seeking a seat at the strategy table, XP&A’s “Finance out” approach validates the importance of Intelligent Finance.  Why?  Because XP&A calls for Finance teams to make technology decisions with the scale to address a range of capabilities – including people planning, Sales planning and reporting – without adding the technical debt of fragmented tools (see Figure 4).

Connected Finance
Figure 4: Connected Finance Solutions

In many ways, XP&A is designed specifically to address the technical complexity and administrative burden inherent in connected Finance tools, including the key challenges below:

Intelligent Finance teams are not just “connected” – they’re completely unified to allow Finance to conquer the key challenges of integrated business planning.

Intelligent XP&A: Unifying Finance & Operations with Control

For organizations beginning their XP&A journey, now is the perfect time for Finance teams to conquer the complexities of their “connected finance” processes.  To move away from siloed decision-making.  And to respond rapidly and effectively to the pace of change around them.

An effective XP&A platform also requires a unique set of features to technically enable real-time collaboration between Finance and Operations leaders in order to optimize performance.  Here are some of the key features to consider as part of the due-diligence process:

Modern Finance

Conquering Complexity to Lead at Speed

The rise of XP&A provides Finance teams with an ideal opportunity to conquer the complexities of their internal systems and processes – ensuring they have the time and confidence to focus on driving business strategy and performance.  Yet process automation, though critical, is not a new concept.

Still, XP&A puts Finance in the driver’s seat to inspire a digitally ready, data-driven and performance-focused culture across the entire organization to help bring the promise of true integrated business planning to reality.  To provide the operational relevance and flexibility required for lines of business groups AND Finance.  To enable the organization with controls and with the governance required to scale.  To continue the endless journey of unleashing the true value and potential of the Finance team to drive performance and inspire a new standard for corporate performance management.

At OneStream, we call this Intelligent Finance.

Learn More

To learn more about OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform, tune in for additional posts from our Inspiring Intelligent Finance blog series.  You can also download our interactive whitepaper.

 

[1] Gartner, 2020 Strategic Roadmap for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions, Robert Anderson, John Van Decker, 21 February 2020
[2] Gartner, “Innovation Insight for Extended Planning and Analysis (xP&A),” October 2020

After the unprecedented changes wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations worldwide are still striving to adapt. One particular area of impact has been to the most valuable resource of any organization – the workforce. Why? Because, as organizations recast their forecasts to align with the changing economic landscape, effective workforce planning is critical to fuel growth plans and mitigate risk.

Accordingly, a modern approach to that planning is not only desirable but also a necessity.

XP&A, A Modern Planning Approach

Planning, budgeting and forecasting, including human capital planning, can no longer succeed as siloed exercises. Sophisticated organizations have realized that maintaining forward momentum demands workforce planning that’s agile, adaptable and aligned with both top-level organizational strategy and business unit requirements. As organizations rise to meet the challenges presented by the current economic environment, we’re witnessing an acceleration in the movement toward an increasingly more sophisticated and comprehensive planning approach.

Gartner calls this eXtended Planning & Analysis (XP&A) and describes it as planning that’s unified across all functions of the organization to ensure top-level strategic goals are the focus of business unit planning. The Office of Finance, HR and business unit leaders must therefore all be empowered to develop and manage plans that collectively work toward organizational goals – something that legacy solutions just can’t deliver.

Legacy Solutions Limit Progress

Simple connected planning applications or fragmented spreadsheets are no longer adequate to meet modern workforce planning requirements. Legacy solutions simply can’t address the pace of change or the current complexity. Not surprisingly, these approaches frustrate Finance teams, who are forced to waste time managing data instead of focusing on how to add value.

In fact, in the white paper titled Accessible Analytics Improve Operational Performance, Ventana Research reveals that the two most common impediments to compensation management are information scattered across files and systems and a lack of integration. Finance leaders instead require a more intelligent corporate performance management (CPM) solution that empowers planning for all human capital elements in conjunction with all other planning functions.

Lead at Speed with OneStream People Planning

The OneStream Intelligent Finance Platform empowers Finance teams to lead at speed by unifying people planning with core CPM processes – such as planning, budgeting and forecasting; financial consolidation; reporting; and financial data quality – in a single, unified platform. The OneStream MarketPlace provides more than 50 business and productivity solutions customers can download, configure and deploy to quickly address additional requirements, without adding complexity to the application.

Here are just a few of the key capabilities of the OneStream People Planning solution for XP&A (see Figure 1):

OneStream People Planning Dashboard
Figure 1: People Planning from the OneStream MarketPlace

The OneStream People Planning solution empowers Finance teams at organizations such as The Carlyle Group and Cleaver-Brooks to lead at speed by aligning people plans with financial plans. The benefits these organizations have realized show the impact of using People Planning to make hiring and compensation decisions in real-time and to enable agility in decision-making.

Additional benefits include the following capabilities:

These are just some of the reasons that highlight how, in today’s unchartered and constantly evolving world, workforce planning is a critical success factor for XP&A.

 Learn More

To learn more about how organizations are conquering the complexity in their workforce planning, view our interactive solution brief: “Conquering Complexity in People Planning.” Ready to transform your planning, budgeting and forecasting processes, and increase alignment between Finance and Operations? Contact us today for a demonstration!

Amid the uncertain economic environment that persists today, Finance Transformation is critical for organizations relying on the impact of capital investment decisions to fuel their growth. Why? Because at large, complex organizations, effectively managing capital planning is one of the most challenging roles across Finance.

Finance teams require agility to model and analyze individual capital projects, assess risk and make recommendations. Finance teams also need the flexibility to aggregate individual projects into groups of capital projects, such as growth capital or productivity-related capital. And of course, Finance teams must understand how all capital spending impacts the P&L, balance sheet and cash flow.

(more…)

With 2020 finally behind us, CFOs are once again looking toward the future. And for those not sold on the value of Finance transformation, the global pandemic provided a crash course on why it’s a key factor in helping organizations navigate uncertainty and constant change.

If your organization didn’t see the 2008 financial crisis, trade wars, Brexit or the acceleration of disruptive technologies as motivation to digitize Finance, there’s now only one conclusion.

Finance teams at large and global organizations must conquer complexity through digital transformation if they want to lead at speed.

(more…)