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7 questions to assess your business planning system for flexibility and automation

by Allison Martin

December 12, 2012

Review 7 key questions about data, modeling, and security -- all designed to help ensure a flexible, secure planning system that  supports automation and is adaptable enough for future updates.

This tip is from the session presented by Anurag Tambe at Financials 2012 in Madrid this fall:  "Business planning intelligence: Key lessons to streamline your organization’s planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes."

Assess your planning system for flexibility & automation

1. Is data model adaptable and scalable for future changes?

The data model should preferably have 7-9 dimensions 

2. Can data interfaces be extended and adapted by business users?
Data interfaces for loading data should be built to be maintained and modified by the business users

  • Adequate data validations should be built to check the data quality
  • Data loads should provide intelligent messages to the business users for rectification
  • Data load design should consider concurrent running by business users and resolution for stuck data loads
  • Automation should be provided to build up the transformation files for data mapping

3. Is the security model integrated and team-based?

  • Good design of planning roles reduces the risk of accidental data updates and maintenance efforts
  • Integrated security model should restrict access at:
    • Transaction levels, Member hierarchy data levels, Member data levels
  • Team-based security authorization should be provided to reduce the maintenance and update effort

4. Can all activities be executed without human intervention?

  • The planning process should assume absence of key personnel during any planning cycle and enable automation of their input with a certain degree of accuracy
  • The planning process should enable delegation of activities from manager to subordinates
  • The planning process should avoid excessive detailed calculations in the high-level process

5. Can planning cycles operate at different levels of granularity?

For quick and efficient execution of the planning process, the process should be divided into different levels of granularity

  • The process should enable execution at the high-level nodes in the hierarchy and, if required, enable detailed-level planning
  • The high-level planning should not be dependent on detailed-level planning execution
  • Planning assumptions for high-level planning and detailed-level planning can be the same or different

6. Can one-step simulations and what-if analysis be performed?

  • The planning process should enable execution of all the planning steps with a single trigger of the planning function sequence
  • The execution of sequence should take a reasonable amount of time (minutes) to enable multiple end-to-end simulations 
  • End-to-end simulations should have parameterization enabled to restrict data granularity to high-level only
  • Graphical representation and drill-down variance analysis should be provided for meaningful analysis of the data
  • Ideally, the planning data should not be saved in the system unless the manager is convinced by the results of the simulation

7. Can unstructured data and dashboards be updated on a near real-time basis?

  • The planning system should not only store and synthesize the numerical information, but should also be adept at storing and processing unstructured data and presenting the same
  • Planning systems are expected to provide integration with office applications, such as Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, for management reporting
  • Planning data should have provisions to expose data to different systems
  • Automated publishing of planning figures and underlying assumptions using corporate portal is the final objective for organization-wide alignment

For more financials, forecasting, and planning tips, join me at SAPinsider's upcoming Financials 2013 event  in Las Vegas and Amsterdam. Visit our website and follow us on Twitter at #FIN2013 for all the details.

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