In a recent whitepaper, PwC outlined the top challenges and trends in financial planning. 

We delve into the top concerns in the realm of financial planning, as well as what can be done to address each one thanks to DataRails.

Continued reliance on spreadsheets

More than a quarter of respondents to a PwC survey (27%) said their companies are using spreadsheets and manual processes—not ERP, custom-built applications, or best-of-breed systems—for financial planning. There are good reasons for the ubiquity of spreadsheets, finance executives observed. “The reality is that spreadsheets aren’t going to go away,” said ATK’s director of finance Michael Varecka. “Financial analysts like them; they’re fast, flexible, and they’re personal, too.” Understandably, analysts “have confidence and take pride in the models they’ve developed.”

With DataRails, finance professionals don’t have to leave the Excel spreadsheets they know and love. DataRails recognizes that every company is unique, and each one has built financial models over the years that help them perform better. A company that has been holding its budget/forecast process on spreadsheets for years has built its financial IP (Intellectual property) into their spreadsheets. DataRails adapts to you, not the other way around, by letting you keep working in the same way you’re used to within Excel all while automating and improving budgeting, forecasting, and analysis processes.

Time-consuming, inflexible processes

Companies are spending a great deal of time and effort on consolidating, summarizing, communicating, explaining, and reviewing information for financial planning. One unfortunate consequence of these lengthy planning cycles is that final budgets often fall out of step with quickly evolving business conditions. Oftentimes, by the time the budget is approved, it’s already stale. Most finance executives agree that the time and effort expended on the most mechanical tasks associated with budgeting and forecasting—tasks like data-gathering, reconciliation, and consolidation—would be better spent on more valuable activities.

This pain point can easily be addressed with DataRails. DataRails automates key financial processes including consolidations, hierarchies, and eliminations just to name a few. It doesn’t require you to change the way you currently work, but rather works in concert with your personal spreadsheets and organizational systems. Budgets can be refreshed and kept up to date by being updated with a simple click of a button.

Seeking the right level of detail 

“It’s really about getting down to what some people call the ‘drivers’ of the business, which in turn define the level of detail,” said one senior finance executive. “One of our key objectives over the next couple of years is to try to develop one set of master data that will satisfy both groups of stakeholders in this [financial planning] process. But as of today, we in finance don’t think we have enough data, and operations don’t think we have the relevant data. There’s a lot of work to be done.” Obtaining the right level of detail for an organization means that a company has to understand and focus on the real drivers of the business that significantly impact their financial statements and spend less time managing detailed accounts and products that have little impact on decision making. Finance executives aspire to increase the level of detail in their forecasts to gain a more granular view of the future.

With DataRails, ensure you have enough of the right data by automatically consolidating data from all of your organizational systems. Create a master set of data by bringing together financial and operational data with ease.  You can easily obtain a granular view of your data to understand the root of any piece of information by breaking down the data right from within your existing Excel spreadsheets.

More frequent forecasting

More frequent forecasting can yield a better view into swiftly emerging trends. But moving to more frequent forecasting, it has been said, poses challenges—not least of which is identifying the right level of detail for those forecasts. Implementing more frequent forecasting can create unnecessary burdens in finance and in the business unless companies take compensatory measures: automating processes, reducing the amount of forecast detail, or some combination of both.

With DataRails, organizations don’t have to gain more frequent forecasting at the expense of forecast detail. Instead, forecast more frequently and in greater detail by automating core processes. Automation is a crucial step towards frequent forecasting that can better help organizations prepare for the next steps. Automate data collections for your financial and operational data, no matter what their shape or form. This includes GL, TB, Budget, Forecast, Sales, or any other data that is generated by any organizational system or resides on any spreadsheet.

Get the best value from your processes.

The budgeting, planning, and forecasting process at most organizations is a very expensive and time-consuming activity that has often failed to deliver its intended value. Having more reliable and timely views of future financial performance continues to be at the top of the improvement agenda for many CFOs. Transforming the financial planning process requires strong leadership and the ability to have finance, sales, and operations work together to offer realistic views of the future. 

Through collaboration, a higher level of planning detail utilizing business drivers, reduced planning cycle times, and system automation, companies are beginning to reap the true benefits of integrated financial planning. DataRails, the leading CPM software, is here to help you get the most out of your processes.