Inspiring Intelligent Finance: Moving Beyond Connected Planning
Connected Planning Defined
In recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of terms such as the ‘connected financial close’, ‘connected planning’ and ‘connected reporting’ starting to be used to describe the integration of key Finance processes – including financial close and consolidation, account reconciliation, financial reporting and extended planning and analysis (XP&A). And there’s a reason for that: the concept of connected sounds compelling. The idea is that – by “connecting” people with data, financial reporting and plans – “connected Finance teams” can move forward with speed and agility.
Connected planning solutions (see Figure 1) have supported Finance transformation for over 20 years. But these solutions aren’t really designed to help the largest and most complex organisations lead at speed – not in this new era anyway.
We recently started sharing a four-part blog series discussing the path toward Intelligent Finance through digital transformation. Regardless of where you are in your journey, our Inspiring Intelligent Finance series is designed to give you insights from the experience of OneStream’s team of industry experts. Today’s post, the third in the series, focuses on helping Finance teams understand why it’s time to move beyond connected planning.
Challenges of Connected Planning Solutions
Modern connected planning solutions offer a nice alternative for corporate and departmental Finance teams seeking to evolve from manual, spreadsheet-intensive processes. And for organisations with little complexity, connected Finance solutions might work well. But how do connected Finance solutions fare for large, global organisations with sophisticated requirements that extend across the entire Office of Finance and into lines of business?
These organisations have dozens of diverse planning and Finance processes, so connected Finance solutions are difficult to scale to meet sophisticated organisational requirements. Why? Because each and every departmental and corporate application or model must be connected – adding risk, cost and complexity to already-taxed Finance teams. Here are some additional factors to consider:
- Fragmented Software & Processes – Connected Finance solutions require fragmented cubes, modules and sometimes third-party software to support critical financial close processes, financial data quality, reporting, analysis and diverse planning processes (e.g., S&OP, sales planning and long-range planning). At scale, the constant addition and introduction of new software and processes adds risk, cost and complexity across the Office of Finance.
- More Data Management & Administration – The fragmented software and technical processes needed to support corporate performance management (CPM) processes create added technical complexity and administrative burden on the Finance team. This burden includes moving and reconciling data, constantly managing metadata, monitoring data latency and managing security between fragmented products or models. All of these tasks collectively dilute the ability of strategic Finance teams to focus on driving performance and supporting critical decision-making. In fact, data management and administration are major barriers to Finance organisations being able to lead at speed.
- Lack of Financial Intelligence – Many connected Finance solutions, particularly for planning, offer no financial intelligence. What does that mean? It means all the core “financial logic” for monthly financial processes – such as debit or credit account types, timeframes, hierarchies, dimensionality and currency translation – must be built completely from scratch.
The 2- to 3-Year Itch
Some organisations that began their planning journey with multiple point solutions and attempted to ‘connect’ them are arriving at a decision point 2-3 years later. Why? Well, decisions to implement planning solutions are often made in isolation. The solution is right for that specific part of the organisation at that specific time, and the organisation has probably seen many benefits and improvements to the planning and forecasting processes. There can be multiple solutions fulfilling many different planning requirements, but even if ‘connections’ or integrations exist between them, there’s no standardisation.
Not to mention, in organisations experiencing fast growth and change – which is pretty much every medium to large organisation these days – this lack of standardisation presents a problem when the need to have a single unified view of the organisation becomes imperative. Such organisations probably find themselves struggling with not only data silos but also, more importantly, planning silos. Finance, Sales, HR, Supply Chain and every other function are making forecasts based on numbers. But those numbers don’t always match – and that’s a problem.
Can this problem be solved by more integrations? No. In fact, having more integrations potentially makes the problem worse because more people and more time will be focused on integrating siloed systems. The implementation of these separate solutions has been an advancement in and of itself because users have become familiar with more advanced planning and forecasting capabilities. However, the next level of evolution needs to take organisations forward to a single version of the truth across all processes.
The Better Alternative – A Unified Platform
Organisations today should look to a truly unified platform for all their performance management processes. An intelligent Finance platform (see Figure 2) that allows them to break away from the limitations of spreadsheets and connected planning solutions. A platform that unifies financial consolidation, planning, reporting and analysis though a single, extensible solution.
OneStream offers a solution that delivers corporate standards and controls, with the flexibility for business units to report and plan at additional levels of detail without impacting corporate standards – all through a single platform. The hallmark of a unified platform is the capability of having multiple solutions for actuals, budgets, forecasts, plans, reconciliations, profitability analysis and more – all living together in a single application. Each solution benefits from leveraging everything the platform offers.
As a unified solution, OneStream eliminates risky integrations, validations and reconciliations between multiple products, applications and modules.
Customer Example – Hyperion/Howden Group Holdings
Founded in 1994 as Hyperion Insurance Group, the now re-branded Howden Group Holdings has grown significantly over the last 26 years to over 6,000 employees across 40 combined territories in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Howden Group is on a continuous mission to add controls and keep pace with growth, without crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. They needed a solution that would provide corporate standardisation while giving the individual subsidiaries the power to run their businesses as needed with a certain level of autonomy and control. That’s why Howden Group decided to upgrade their finance software and replace Anaplan with OneStream’s modern and unified CPM platform. To learn more, watch the replay of our webinar on Howden Group’s move to OneStream.
It was vital for Howden Group to invest in the long term, and OneStream is a strategic platform for the future. Previously, Howden Group had a very complex, fragmented data model that was hard to reconcile. OneStream instead gives them a single source of data, satisfying the corporate governance and control aspect while providing the ability to support divisional requirements through OneStream’s Extensible Dimensionality®. Business leaders are now able to drill into the details to understand the organic growth of the organisation.
To learn more, read our Intelligent Finance Whitepaper, and stay tuned for the final post from our Inspiring Intelligent Finance blog series coming soon.
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