How I Got Better At Strategic Planning

Eman Goubran

Have you ever heard the saying, “You can’t turn a parked car”? It’s a good analogy for looking at the way CFOs approach planning. Broadly speaking, we tend to fall into one of two camps. Either we’re attempting to steer the organization with static, out-of-date data, or we’re motoring along nicely, making continuous adjustments with real-time insights. Both CFOs are sitting in the driver’s seat, but only one is going to get where they want to go.

I’m genuinely surprised by the fact that many enterprises significantly underappreciate the value of real-time information: sitting in parked cars.

Like most things, I think it’s partly human nature to stick with what you know. But it occurred to me the other day that, in the same way tools and technology have changed the way CFOs work, they’ve also changed the way we plan. Thanks to analytical tools, our planning skills have matured. We are better at it now than we were five years ago, not just because we have better insights at our fingertips, but because we also have more exposure to the bigger picture and more experience in shaping it.

Today, there’s an assumed expectation from our business partners that we have instant answers that allow them to make informed decisions swiftly. On a lot of occasions, timely responses and decisions have become the differentiator in securing important agreements.

I frequently get these types of “dynamic demanding” questions from my business partners, and it is easy to pull up the information on my mobile. But because I work for a technology company, it’s also easy to assume everyone has instant access to real-time information whenever and wherever they are.

Sitting in parked cars

Yet we see companies that still focus on back-end transactions, punching everything into the system, and waiting for the end of the month to know the results. This approach, in my view, costs those organizations dearly in terms of missed opportunities that could be grasped if real-time information were available. In this environment, CFOs don’t get to nurture their planning skills or use the full spectrum of their capabilities to offer their organizations true strategic leadership.

We read a lot about how the role of the CFO has evolved from reactive to strategic, the need to plan to take the whole organization forward (not just the finance department), and the importance of automation and digitalization. But just as important is the need to eliminate the complexity of planning.

Driving forward

Tools such as predictive analytics and solutions for financial planning and analysis don’t just give us real-time insights and an integrated view of our organizations. They also enable us to get better at improving business performance. If your systems are holding your organization back, chances are they’re probably holding your skills back as well.

Why have AI, machine learning, predictive insights, and digital assistants become the must-have new tools of forward-thinking CFOs to drive business performance? Watch the Nov. 6 webcast.

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Eman Goubran

About Eman Goubran

Eman Goubran is CFO of SAP MENA (Middle East and North Africa). Eman has been working with SAP since 2011, and has nearly 25 years of business experience predominantly in the software industry. Eman has a special passion for customer-facing activities and how to help SAP customers run better. She is a member of the Member of the Institute of Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario, Canada and holds a CPA from the University of Illinois, USA.