The role Financial Planning & Analysis plays within an organization has always been vitally important. As the need for agility, resilience, and collaboration has increased dramatically, this important role is evolving to better meet the needs of businesses which were highlighted by the challenges of the global pandemic. At a recent CFO Magazine Australia event on the ‘Future of Finance,’ three industry professionals using Jedox shared how FP&A has supported their organizations through very challenging times. We have the highlights of the conversation:

Originally coined by Gartner, the term Extended Planning & Analysis (xP&A) essentially means empowering operational departments with the same power as FP&A for a truly unified, comprehensive view of business performance. As the role of FP&A continues to evolve, the value of extended planning is becoming clear.

Starlight Children’s Foundation is Australia’s broadest reaching children’s charity, and their FP&A Manager, Anna Schell, shared that using a modern planning solution has been essential during the uncertainty of the pandemic. With it, Starlight is able to produce forecasts to the end of the next calendar year and give real confidence to the numbers they produce. Schell noted that the purpose of a modern planning solution is not to simply replicate existing processes. It can provide new (and much needed) functionality that helps keep pace with fast-changing environments.

Till Brauckmann is Finance Director at Siemens Healthineers, a leading global medical technology company with offices in Australia. He added that “2020 highlighted the important role that Finance has to play to prepare for a crisis” and being able to do scenario planning helped his team identify what actions to take to guide the organization through a crisis.

Being a strategic partner to the business is also considered an important part of the evolution of FP&A. Brauckmann observed, “Excel has served us well but today, we’re confronted with such vast amounts of data, we rely on modern enterprise planning solutions to connect all the different data points in the business and build a bridge between long-term, strategic planning and day-to-day planning.”

With more than 470 learning centers across Australia, FP&A Manager at G8 Education Joe Nichols was able to help the organization undertaking long-term planning when the pandemic hit. “Access to real-time data helped the business to work with families and team members to continue operating through such a challenging period,” Nichols says. G8 Education has been able to generate 18-month rolling forecasts, which enabled them to quickly see how the pandemic changed customer behavior.

As for the future, the panel agreed that most Finance teams are moving from preparing budgets to doing rolling forecasts. Schell’s advice to businesses introducing new planning processes is to be prepared to work through teething problems. “Explore what xP&A could look like in your organization in terms of people, processes and technology. There will be constraints, but it’s worth working around them because future planning is crucial to managing uncertainty.”

This article first appeared on https://cfomagazine.com.au/.