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Chicagoland FP&A professionals gathered last night at the AFP FP&A Roundtable, sponsored by Peloton Group, to discuss some of their biggest challenges in financial planning and analysis.
FP&A professionals were most concerned with rolling forecasts, FP&A business partnering and talent acquisition, management and retention.
None of those topics surprised Philip Peck, vice president of Peloton Group. “What’s interesting is the intensity and application of those themes and their impact on FP&A,” he said. “Everyone says they’re really struggling with forecasting and budgeting. Now it’s even more relevant; the sooner they allocate and reallocate sources, the better.”
Competition is forcing FP&A groups to pivot quicker than ever, noted Guy Daniello, founder and CEO of Peloton. When Wal-Mart hikes its minimum wage for employees, for example, its competitors must respond—and the FP&A group needs to be ready. “They must revisit their labor modeling and figure out how to help the company make changes such that shareholders don’t get hurt,” he said. “You’re forced to stay in lock-step with your competitors.”
Daniello said Peloton clients are indicating a strong desire to change their budgeting processes and get away from spreadsheets. “However, they are constantly challenged by resource constraints and the cycle time to make that change,” he said. Added Peck: “People love the concept of rolling forecasts but most struggle to make it work.”
Cloud technology is helping speed the transition, Daniello said. “As finance starts to slowly embrace cloud technology they’re starting to say, ‘We can set something up faster.’ We’re beginning to see this with mid-market clients,” he said. “We’re even seeing companies taking a hybrid approach. They’re using corporate FP&A on this model and then acquiring a company to bring them on board and saying, ‘Let’s use cloud to leverage and deploy FP&A.’”
“Roundtable to roundtable, you get such a wide variety of people,” Peck said. “You hear similar themes come across.”
One topic not under consideration at the Chicago FP&A Roundtable: big data. “We’re seeing a trend toward clients having a more realistic view of big data and how it can realistically enable and help them make better decisions, which tend to be more medium to modest-sized data with the ability to see patterns,” Daniello said.
Peloton is also starting to talk to clients about analytic competency centers—how they think about analytics and creating centers of excellence within the organization—“much like years ago when there was a push toward business intelligence centers within the organization,” Peck said.