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The Decision Factor offers insightful comments and observations on analytics—from views on new technology approaches and market dynamics to the latest industry trends driving demand for faster, smarter information analysis. This blog contains personal views, thoughts, and opinions from SAP employees, mentors, and friends working in the area of analytics. It’s not endorsed by SAP nor does it constitute an official communication of SAP.

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Integrated Business Planning — What It Is and How to Start

Integrated Business Planning -- What It Is and How to Start In my last blog, Integrated Business Planning— the Inevitable Journey for Finance, I discussed the many challenges that are driving companies to pursue Integrated Business Planning (IBP). Today, I want to discuss the solutions that IBP offers, and how you can get started with IBP within your organization.

IBP Offers Solutions to Business Planning Challenges

Business planning challenges are driving companies to start pursuing IBP. Some of the ways that companies can use IBP to address these challenges are:

  • Plan on a “right time” basis (i.e. when it needs to be done)
    • The only way to break through deadlock is for organizations to develop the capability to perform reforecasts and deep dive analyses on the fly.
    • This can be done by simply consolidating the latest data from the lines of business, such as the current sales pipeline and the latest production plan, without having to ask each line of business to take time out to update a new set of templates.
  • Consolidate data volumes and varieties
    • Rapidly consolidating massive amounts of disparate data will give companies insight into how the business is performing and help them gain the agility to outperform their peers.
  • Plan at a detailed level with in-memory calculation engines
    • Finance is failing in its role as a business partner to the enterprise by not providing the desired level of data.
    • Today it’s all because of the performance limitations of the systems they use, but make the move to in-memory calculation engines and the issue goes away.
  • Access critical information without delay
    • I once worked with a company that was trying to assess what impact awarding stock options had on the turnover of key staff.
    • If the organization had possessed reliable information about its workforce, this calculation would have taken an hour at most. This was all because there was a poor HR system in use that contained limited information and it took endless meetings to identify the right employees, their pay grades, and eligibility before deciding whether they should be included in the analysis.
    • To make right-time planning work, there can be no delay in accessing pertinent information, which means all the data in core systems needs to be reliable, up to date, and instantly accessible.
  • Update planning models quickly
    • For real-time planning to work, finance itself needs to be able to update models.
    • Better still, the planning model should update itself whenever it encounters a new member in a dimensional hierarchy.

Start Working Toward Integrated Business Planning

Clearly there are enough reasons for a business to consider re-engineering its current planning process to bring it into line with its business needs. Just how do you start?

First, work through the various line items that make up your P&L and ask yourself where you could source this information within other systems, rather than asking the line of business folk to fill in a template. For instance:

  • Payroll expenses from HR or operational headcount system
  • Interest expenses from Treasury or liquidity systems
  • Depreciation from capital or fixed assets systems
  • Revenues from sales, customer relationship management (CRM), or other systems with best information

The common theme, though, is systems. Today, with the advances in data integration and in-memory technology, enterprises can start to make the investments needed to access and synchronize data in real time so that it’s always available for analysis.

Next, tackle the big issues such as sales and operational planning. There’s so much data held in sales and operation systems, and so many different stakeholders that finance needs to consult with the various parties to understand exactly what data can safely be incorporated into IBP and at what level of granularity.

Finally, think of IBP as a journey that will constantly evolve. As your enterprise tackles new markets, solutions, and technologies, build a culture that’s constantly evolving to tackle the needs of the marketplace. Use technology both internally and externally as an enabler, rather than as the disabler it frequently is today.