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Gaining Organizational Support for a Planning System

  • By Bryan Lapidus, FP&A
  • Published: 11/22/2019

operational support
Even if the need for a planning system is known, the organization may be unwilling to support the investment. While it helps that the cost of planning tools is significantly less than enterprise resource planning systems (ERPs); there are several other ways to build support.

HOW DO I BUILD THE BUSINESS CASE?

FP&A knows how to build business cases, crafting a document that helps all stakeholders understand what is being requested, what is required, what the benefits would be, and how the benefits would be measured. Marginal projects are weeded out. It provides clarity of thought, communication, and expectations.

The challenge for FP&A has been how to craft a winning business case for a non-revenue generating system when the job is being completed under current methods, even if not optimally. “In my experience, the ROI calculation [for planning tools] is perfunctory; it is not the sole gating measure when you are in competition among multiple projects that all have positive returns,” said Mike Powers, financial controller at Abt Associates. Instead, “focus on the fact that this is for the common good, and then establish the prioritization versus other projects.” Here are a few ways to set up your pitch for investments:  

  • Economics: The obvious place to begin is the quantification. Explain the difference in cost versus upkeep of an old system (if you have an old system that needs care and feeding) versus the benefits of hours saved through operating efficiencies, system costs and other synergies. In many cases, system costs have come down to where they are not cost-prohibitive.
  • Capability: Improved ability to support and help the business be more agile: seize opportunities faster, and shut down bad decisions quickly.
    • Some members report engaging leaders from the other businesses to lobby the CFO for improved planning systems because they will receive enhanced service.
    • A use-case or “day in the life” story may be useful to illustrate the potential.
  • Risk: Fragile systems with links, spreadsheet errors, and masters of the model who represent single points of failure because of their unique knowledge of the tools, lack of process controls, inability to retain or hire new talent, and competitors moving ahead of you.
    • The final push for Fresenius Medical Group was that “we understood that our number one competitor had switched over, and we were stuck in the dark ages. We hired someone from their finance team, and she told us so much of what we were missing.”
  • Technology: Stay on the technology roadmap, whether that is for finance or IT; IT may want to simplify the profile of company assets (move to cloud infrastructure) or stop supporting certain systems.

Implications & Actions: Tie investment to a larger technology and organizational roadmap. Understand who your customers are, what your customers need out of a planning system and identify gaps. Explain the metrics you would use to determine the efficacy of your planning process/system and how you will improve on those metrics.

WHAT DO I NEED FROM MY LEADERSHIP?

An executive sponsor is critical; several voices at the leadership level are better since a planning system touches multiple parts of organization. To implement a planning system, leadership can focus on the transformation journey in the following ways:

  • Strategic alignment: Espouse the catalyst for change, present a compelling story about why the change is necessary—increased agility to act and react in the market. Comparisons to peer companies who have done this can be helpful.
  • Structural alignment: Be willing to adjust the org chart, job descriptions, career paths, and incentives (recognition or compensation) to incentivize acceptance of the change.
  • Behavioral model: Through behavior, repetitive communication and discussing the tool through the existing channels, the leaders should integrate the system and change management process into the fabric of department operations. Celebrate wins along the way to maintain momentum.
  • Set big goals: Do not dilute your target for fear of missing it—this type of project should yield a 10x improvement, not 10 percent; build goals around growth of capabilities and ability to capture (and reinvest) cost savings.

Implications & Actions: The goal or destination is not the installation or “go live” date, which would put the focus on the technology; the success comes later, with the long-term utilization and benefits from the new capabilities. Set your goals for then.

For more insights, download AFP’s FP&A Guide on Implementing a Planning System: Part 1, Laying the Groundwork, underwritten by Adaptive Insights.

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