A year on from the release of BPC 10, the dust has settled, and there is plenty of information in the SAP ecosystem – demos of the new functions and features are easy to come by; either from the SAP marketing machine or independent testimonies on the Web and YouTube. But has SAP delivered on its promise of providing the next generation enterprise grade planning and consolidation platform for its customers?
Many organisations are still using manual financial planning systems and I constantly encounter disjointed planning processes run using a myriad of off-line spreadsheets supported by constant e-mails and attachments which typically looks as follows:
- Finance request information from business users
- Business users compile a set of off-line spreadsheets containing information from various sources
- Finance manually consolidate spreadsheets and make adjustments
- The process has multiple iterations, each time consuming not only finance but business users’ time and effort
- By the end, values have either been changed beyond recognition, or become out of date and are no longer relevant
So how can BPC 10 help?
There are numerous challenges which organisations face in implementing any planning process. I have highlighted some of the typical process challenges I’ve witnessed and how I believe BPC 10 now helps organisations address these.
Integrate Strategic Goals
Organisations will have strategic goals (for example growth targets or new products) that should be incorporated in their planning process. How can this be achieved without having two distinct versions of a plan – one aspirational (strategic) and one achievable (operational)? The planning process should include strategic goals as a starting point for creating financial plans. Including review steps in the planning process will ensure strategic goals have been included to determine how any gaps can be met. It is important that it is a joint effort to address gaps and reach a consensus in order to achieve an agreed plan supported by the relevant management, finance and business users. Strategic goals will not be met unless they are both reflected in the plan and supported throughout the organisation.
- Make strategic goals transparent by including them as part of the planning process – this is supported by including documented goals or high level numbers as a starting point in a system supported business process. BPC can point to documents as part of a process flow, or can use specific values as targets or assumptions to drive planning.
- Develop a system supported review process – as well as having a system driven submission and approval process BPC can validate aspects of a plan before it is submitted. It will also allow entry of and store commentary at different level or dimensions in the plan to support the review process.
- Include executive level reporting to measure against strategic goals. BPC integrates with BusinessObjects reporting; this will ensure the ability to better analyse strategic goals, and model goals for future planning cycles.
Empower Business Users
Once a strategic plan is aligned and supported by business users it is also important for them to take ownership of their individual plans. Outside of simply coming up with a set of numbers enable business users to be involved in thinking about strategic objectives and the financial impact of their decisions. If the focus is only on generating a one-off set of numbers business users become detached from, and lose visibility of the planning process. Business users should be empowered to take control of, own and support their part of the plan. This can be achieved by allowing them to enter, monitor, report on and review their plan as part of the planning process.
- Using BPC users are able to directly enter a plan in an excel user interface. This can be easily accessed by multiple users and reported on in real-time across the organisation.
- BPC Business Process Flows guide users through the planning steps allowing them see where tasks fit into the planning process and this can also prompt users for action, for example, email reminders of when tasks need to be completed.
- BPC integration with Business Objects reporting provides an enhanced reporting suite to monitor and support planning.
- BPC enables system based scenario modelling, and driver based calculations to both accelerate and improve plan generation.
Keep Planning Relevant
All plans will change. Plans should be flexible enough to allow for changes yet still align with the underlying assumptions on which they were generated. There is also a balance to ensure the right level of detail. Too much detail can create complexity even reducing the accuracy while increasing the time taken. This is time that can be spent either actioning plans or analysing results. Although the plan needs to be agile enough to suit all areas of the organisation, developing specific planning models for different parts of the business can create complexity and inconsistency.
- BPC will automate the consolidation of plans eliminating time to bring individual plans together.
- Changes and adjustments to inputs, assumptions or drivers will also automatically flow through the system.
- BPC’s direct integration with SAP BW will combine information from various sources to provide a baseline to begin planning; for example using a combination of actuals and previous forecast as a starting point for the next planning cycle.
- BPC will incorporate changes to underlying planning structures – allowing integration with BW master data, or direct changes and creation of master data within BPC. This allows plans to adapt organisation changes also allowing planning at various levels of detail.
- BPC Business Process Flows allows for monitoring of tasks, to track which areas of the business have submitted or are yet to submit their plans. Business Process Flows also can be aligned to each business area so they are only guided through their relevant parts of the planning process.
BPC 10 delivers a simplified Excel based planning tool, and provides fully integrated reporting and process flows. Now more than ever BPC 10 is enabling the transformation of business planning within organisations, so “yes” it’s fair to say that this time SAP has delivered on its promises.
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