The No. 1 Reason to Get Serious About Integrated Planning

If you haven’t started looking at this best practice model for seamless management, there’s no better time than now. 

When you walk around the office — maybe while giving a new employee the grand tour on their first day, for example — everyone looks like they’re part of one cohesive team. It’s only when things seem to go wrong that finance, HR, sales, and marketing start to look like little fiefdoms.

The whole point of integrated planning is to avoid that problem. We’ve touched on integrated planning (sometimes called integrated business planning) before, but you can think of it as a best practice model for more seamless management. And CFOs are by no means the only ones pursuing it.

An association for supply chain management professionals called APICS, for instance, recently published a list of the top five elements that lead to integrated planning success. Some of these might seem obvious, such as getting executive buy-in, establishing effective governance and making the business case. The factor that got the most attention, however, was the strategic use of IT:

“Technology can replace the manual efforts of collating and reviewing siloed data with streamlined automation and facilitate top-down or bottom-up reconciliation. This frees up resources that can be applied to higher-value analysis,” the article said. “Technology also can be used to create process timelines, orchestrate the IBP process, and enforce deadlines through user notifications.”

Much of that will resonate with what finance leaders have been saying about the evolution of their role. In fact, earlier this year the Association of Financial Professionals (AFP) published its own deep-dive on integrated planning. This two-part series is well worth looking at in its entirety, but it’s especially good at articulating the need to bring finance and operations closer together:

Today, finance functions are embedded in regional and functional entities and each create its own budget . . .  Integrated Planning is the glue that holds all these together, allowing senior finance leaders to have a line of sight into various budgets and allowing budget owners to make sure they’re all looking at the same numbers.

What do you do with those numbers? Interpret, extrapolate and prepare for the future, of course. The quest to improve forecasting may be the perfect catalyst for making integrated planning a bigger priority. Once an organization has its act together, it becomes a lot easier to know the actions it should take next.