5 Tips for a More Effective Financial Planning and Forecasting
Financial planning and forecasting are essential for any organization, yet the sheer amount of time and effort involved in gathering and collating data from various departments can make financial planning seem like a tedious and overwhelming exercise. It can take weeks, if not months, for the finance team to compile all the necessary information and ensure the numbers are accurate.
However, effective financial planning and forecasting can be a game-changer for businesses. By allocating resources and setting budgets based on accurate data and analysis, organizations can make informed decisions that will drive growth and success.
Importance of Financial Planning and Forecasting
Financial planning and forecasting are crucial components of any organization's financial strategy. When executed correctly, these activities can help track the progress of initiatives and drive financial results.
In fact, the importance of financial planning and forecasting cannot be overstated. It's a fundamental aspect of sound financial management and decision-making.
A 2017 study conducted by the Association of Accountants and Financial Professionals in Business interviewed 734 financial executives from high-performing organizations to uncover what sets them apart when it comes to financial planning.
The results showed that successful organizations prioritize financial planning, invest in robust financial systems, and ensure that their financial plans are aligned with their overall business objectives.
Without effective financial planning and forecasting, organizations risk making decisions based on incomplete or inaccurate information, which can lead to poor financial performance and missed opportunities. Therefore, it's crucial to take the time and effort to implement sound financial planning and forecasting practices that will help your organization achieve its goals and succeed in the long term.
Financial Planning Tips
Here are some financial planning and analysis (FP&A) principles from that survey, as well as some financial management tips, that you can apply in your own organization.
Standardize your data collection processes.
By implementing standardized procedures, your financial planning and budgeting activities will be efficient, accurate, repeatable, and reliable. If your organization requires it, you may consider implementing automation to reduce the risk of human error in the data collection process.
Know the story behind the numbers.
To achieve your desired results, your organization needs to have a clear understanding of what drives those results. This includes a thorough understanding of how your operational processes impact your financial outcomes.
Simply focusing on the numbers isn't enough. To gain a complete understanding, it's important to conduct a detailed variance analysis that can reveal what's happening behind the scenes. This analysis will help you identify the root causes of any variances and make informed decisions that will drive your financial success. So, when it comes to financial planning and forecasting, make sure to go beyond the numbers and uncover the story that lies beneath them.
Take action when your departments are falling behind their goals.
As a CFO, your focus should be on driving continuous improvement throughout your organization. To achieve this, your departments need to be agile and proactive. When they fall behind their financial and operational goals, it's important that they take swift action to identify the root causes and develop a plan to get back on track.
As a financial leader, you should encourage your teams to be accountable for their performance and take ownership of their results. This means regularly monitoring progress and taking corrective action when necessary. By doing so, you can ensure that your organization stays on course to achieve its goals and remain competitive in an ever-changing business environment.
Hold people accountable for delivering financial and operational results.
Establishing a culture of accountability is essential to achieving financial and operational success within your organization. To do this, it's important to clearly define roles and responsibilities and ensure that each team understands their specific objectives and targets.
Managers should be held accountable for delivering on their commitments, and there should be regular check-ins and reviews to monitor progress. To build a culture of trust, it's important to create an environment where managers feel comfortable reporting their progress without fear of being penalized or blamed.
By holding people accountable for delivering financial and operational results, you can ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal and that performance is being continuously evaluated and improved. This creates a culture of ownership and responsibility that can help your organization achieve its desired outcomes and stay competitive in a rapidly changing business landscape.
Monitor actual results and give incentives.
Managers should be motivated not only to hit financial goals, but also their own operational targets. To promote accountability for each team, there should also be incentives that are tied to your company’s performance management system.
Incentives should be tied to both financial and operational targets to ensure that managers are motivated to achieve both. By doing so, you can create a culture where managers are accountable for their results and have a stake in the success of the organization.
By following these best practices, your organization can significantly reduce the time spent on its planning and forecasting processes. When you have a clear snapshot of your company’s financial standing with respect to your targets and goals, you will be able to make data-driven business decisions and strategies.
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This post was first published 03 April 2018 and edited 28 March 2023. Edited by: Angelica Garcia