Part 4 in the 10-part series “Collaborative Enterprise Planning“
Collaborative planning requires an enhanced set of technologies not found in earlier planning solutions. Those solutions tended to be little more than “adding up” machines where data was submitted by users through a standard template and consolidated through the organization’s business hierarchies, with a set of results produced for senior management to review. Many of these capabilities are still required, but by themselves are not enough to support true collaborative planning.
Similarly, today we have a range of technologies that support collaboration such as email, instant messaging, and various social media apps such as What’s App, Facebook, and LinkedIn. But again, these do not support collaborative planning, which for business, needs to be directed and controlled, as well as intuitive to use and relevant to the individual user.
To be effective, collaborative planning systems must integrate a number of technologies that together form the basis of a solution.
Planning is more than just a user interacting with a single model. Sure, a single model may be used to collect forecasts. But to do that, the user will need access to detailed historic data, which may comprise both text and numbers, and whose source may be internal and external to the organization. For this reason, modern collaborative systems are built on a platform that allows these different data sources and models to work together and act as though they were a single system. It is an environment where all the tools required are on hand and where the user can see only what is relevant and perform appropriate actions as directed by the planning administrator.
The tools used to build models have built-in financial intelligence. Without having to construct complex rules, these systems “know” how to convert currencies and deal with the aggregation of different data types such as balance sheet, profit & loss, and statistical accounts. These systems can also access centralized metadata definitions so that, as organizational structures change, the models are automatically kept in sync. This includes “knowing” which users are responsible for what areas and thereby presenting them with up-to-date information that is always complete and relevant.
This relates to the different management processes such as budgeting and forecasting. Workflow capabilities include the automatic dissemination of information that is completely relevant to individual users and directing them as to what is required and in what time frame. Users can likewise interact with managers and peer groups to ask questions as plans are built and adjusted.
As plans are put into practice, alerting capabilities spot anomalies and bring them to the attention of the user responsible. If alerts are ignored, escalation functionality helps ensure that potential issues are dealt with before they cause further trouble. Again, users and managers alike, can respond using text or slices of data that give context to the issues as they arise.
Administrator’s control panel
A modern solution many involve hundreds or potentially thousands of users from across the organization, and might even involve third parties such as suppliers and customers from outside the organization. With so many users, it’s important to monitor processes that can draw attention to any issues requiring intervention. Modern collaborative systems provide a control panel for this purpose. An intervention might involve launching sub-processes to deal with an issue affecting a few departments or resetting of targets, triggered by events or abnormal exceptions.
The next blog in this series will address how strategy can be connected with operational plans.