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From Excel to Professional Planning

My journey from being an 'Excel-Crack’ Controller to Integrated Business Planning Consulting

If you are working as a controller, you have probably seen Excel-filenames like these quite often: ‘Copy of Copy of Salesplan_Final_V2.xlsx’. So maybe you already know the troubles controller are going through during budget season. I used to work as an FP&A expert / financial controller and gathered a deep knowledge about the strengths of Excel, but I also discovered a lot of weaknesses and limitations if you use Excel for corporate planning. One of the most critical challenges regarding budgeting with Excel was to update and merge the subplans to receive the latest version of the planned income statement and balance sheet. Furthermore, I have been spending hours to build reports for the leadership team just to come to the situation that the CEO wanted an information I was not prepared to deliver. In this case, Excel-models most likely will have reached the limit of providing satisfying information. After my first steps with CPM-software there was no way back for me to Excel. I started working as a consultant at smartPM.solutions because I am convinced of their approach – and discovered the benefits of using a state-of-the-art Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Tool in terms of planning budgets, forecasting and reporting.

We work with multi-dimensional data-cubes offering financial data from different relevant sources, e.g. ERP- or CRM-Systems. After a 2-day Power-User training we set up specific business rules together with our clients and provide advice in terms of general business questions. Once the CPM model is completely set up, the P&L-statement, Balance Sheet and Cash-Flow statements are generated automatically (Integrated Planning Module). Thus, you never have to deal with numerous Excel spreadsheets again. If you have certain adjustments in your subplans (e.g. Asset, Loan, Personnel etc.) the effects will be shown directly in your financial statements. In addition, trust in your data will definitely increase because of uniform data bases and processes. Pascal Speicher, Corporate Financial Controller of Villeroy & Boch, one of our clients, shares this experience with our solutions and estimates tool-wise up to 50-60% reduction in planning time. 

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Another significant benefit is that the CPM system allows to analyze and monitor data in specific dashboards and reports for the different target audiences. Because of the multi-dimensional design extensive information is available as well as drill-throughs along the dimensions (e.g. Distribution Channel à Region à Country à Customer).

From my point of view one of the biggest advantages is the scenario-based planning. Since volatility has become increasingly noticeable in all sectors of the economy in recent decades, it became one of the toughest challenges in corporate management and made what-if analysis more than necessary. Therefore, it is essential to prepare certain scenarios to answer what-if questions in case of exogenous shocks like Covid-19. The current crisis shows us how important a state-of-the-art planning software is to adjust your targets and track the consequences for your financial statements.

Read my full story in my article on Linkedin

Efficient Planning, Improved Forecasts, Better Decisions.

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