Analysis, forecasts and modeling: What’s the point?
In today’s business world, risk, uncertainty and volatility are just par for the course – everyday realities of simply being in business. Nothing is certain, they say, except death and taxes. Yet there is a fine art to driving profitable growth in a business, and adapting to existing and emerging risk takes a great deal of experience, information and agility. While planning and process development may occur at many levels within the organization, it is the FP&A (financial planning and analysis) capability which helps top performing businesses be top performers.
Financial planning and analysis are activities central to enterprise performance management (EPM) and must necessarily extend beyond finance. Integrating various functional domains in the business (financial, operational and strategic), FP&A should bring data together from the various facets of the business and use the information to help structure and guide the organization toward meeting short-term and long-term goals. Among the most critical of the duties of FP&A is calculating the financial impact, the monetary effects, of potential business decisions. Everything in business means money, so there is always an impact to a decision. With the right information supporting the decision, it is far more likely to have a positive impact and a level of sustainability.
While many CFOs may recognize the importance of performance measurement, planning and forecasting, a great many also believe the process isn’t very effective. The cause is frequently the divide between the various domains in the business and the information systems supporting them. Operational data are distilled into summary financial information and fed to finance systems, losing much of the underlying intelligence that might be gained from analysis of the details. Strategic development and planning may overlook certain volatile elements in the market, or may base successful outcomes on an expectation that conditions within the business will not change. Finding ways to integrate the data from the respective domains into a comprehensive model is essential to developing a better and more robust forecasting and scenario-playing capability. With the right information, analytics may be applied to all facets of management decision-making, anticipating and shaping business outcomes far more effectively than could be done without the insight.
Small business owners may believe that things like “predictive modeling” and “enterprise performance management” aren’t things they need to worry about, but the small business could use this information just as beneficially as a larger enterprise – perhaps even more as the insight could be the key to small business survival and growth.
Using analytics, the owner is able to adjust and re-align strategy in real-time to keep on the right path and goals clearly in sight. Analytics can also help a business better understand what really drives revenue, working capital and profits. Analytics can even help managers align compensation and strategy with business objectives, preventing compensation issues from outpacing business benefit.
There is a cost to growing a business, and some strategies might be more sustainable than others. Time will tell, but it is great if the business owner has some business intelligence that might indicate what’s going to happen before it actually does.