Collaborative Enterprise Planning: Who Should Be Involved, And To What Extent?

Michael Coveney

Part 3 in the 10-part Collaborative Enterprise Planning series

Collaboration, by definition, involves people working together for a common aim. That aim is usually far bigger than could be accomplished by an individual working alone, mainly because of the unacceptable timescales that would otherwise be involved, the wide range of skills required, or a combination of both.

In the British Museum in London, there is a series of exhibits dedicated to the development of clocks and watches. Anyone who has taken off the back of an old windup watch can’t help but be amazed at the intricate nature of the mechanism. To work at all, the precision required is beyond most anyone’s comprehension, no matter what experience they have in working with metal. But to function with any degree of accuracy, the skills necessary are extraordinary. Yet back in the 1500s, clockmakers possessed those skills.

Or did they?

In the museum is a plaque entitled, “Who made watches?” The inscription reads:

Watches were not made by one craftsman working alone. Even in the 1500s, spring makers, gilders, and engravers worked alongside the watchmaker. By the 1700s, the making of watch mechanisms was becoming a specialist industry. Unfinished mechanisms were supplied to watch finishers. Dials and cases were then added ready for retail. The 1819 publication Ree’s Cyclopedia lists 34 separate trades involved in making a standard English watch.

The key to successful watch-making, as with business planning, is to carefully coordinate the skill and expertise of different people who work in different areas, but who are collectively working toward a common goal.

Because every department’s role in creating a business plan is different, managers are required to assess different data and respond in a way that makes the overall aim possible. This means that the traditional approach of using common templates, leaving users in the dark about the roles they play in attaining corporate objectives, just doesn’t work.

Planning to plan

The starting place for any plan is to decide on the overall aim of the plan. Plans come to fruition only when people take the right actions using the right resources at the right time. So it’s essential to define:

  • What is the overall goal?
  • What decisions need to be made?
  • What are the timescales for those decisions?
  • Who has to make those decisions?
  • What data do they need to review and analyze
  • What information do they need to supply and to whom?
  • Who will collect and approve any decisions proposed in the overall context of achieving organizational aims?

The above can be drawn out as a map of interactions, which ideally should be shared with all the managers involved. This, then, paves the way to developing an overall model in which the data can be held and, equally important, a process by which data is broadcast and collected.

The role of technology

The data model derived by addressing these questions might include internal and external data, historic and forecast results, as well as background information and textual notes on the objectives of the plan. There may be multiple models to handle the different levels of detail, but it is important that they the user can see them in a single aggregated view.

The only way to achieve this is with a modern intelligent finance solution that can cope with multiple, integrated models, where users are automatically restricted to the data they personally need. The solution must have an intelligent workflow capability that presents data and collects responses at the appropriate time.

Finally, the solution should possess a workflow “dashboard” by which senior management can see the progress of the plan and any areas where users are struggling to meet deliverables. This will allow interventions to assess any changes required to bring the process back on track.

The next blog in this series further explores technologies that support the collaborative enterprise planning process.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

Michael Coveney

About Michael Coveney

Michael Coveney spent more than 40 years in the software analytic business with a focus on transforming the planning, budgeting, forecasting, and reporting processes. He has considerable experience in the design and implementation of business analytic systems with major organizations throughout the world. He is a gifted conference speaker and author. His latest book "Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning In Uncertain Times" is published by J Wiley. His articles have also appeared on, encouraging innovation in FP&A departments.