It was a meeting that Planful CFO Shane Hansen tells us he was not looking forward to. The SaaS developer’s FP&A team had discovered a “fairly large” forecasting error, and Hansen deemed it necessary to brief Planful CEO Grant Halloran on the matter.
So, as planning teams are apt to do, Planful’s FP&A crew performed an extracurricular round of scenario planning—or what might more accurately be described as “CEO planning.”Read More
Says Hansen: “We did our homework and put things together in order to be ready for whatever reaction Grant might come up with.”
Halloran’s response: “Oh, that’s just a mistake. What can we do to improve?”
Of course, whether the Planful CEO’s reaction was among those considered by the planning team in its anticipated responses is not the point. Instead, the tale of the forecasting snag allowed Hansen to bump our discussion concerning continuous planning into the continuous improvement lane.
And make no mistake: Planful’s finance chief views these two realms as one and the same. Only a month away from his 1st anniversary as Planful’s CFO, Hansen leaves little doubt that his leadership voice and actions are making as important a contribution to the company’s culture as they are to Planful’s monthly forecasts.
“This is about empowering our culture by saying ‘Let’s improve,’ as opposed to pointing out who is to blame,” explains Hansen, whose words are no doubt intended in part to influence finance leaders inside organizations that have struggled to embrace continuous planning and at the same time perhaps failed to realize the potential of planning tools such as those provided by Planful.
Asked whether his own interactions with Planful’s planning team involve scheduled weekly or monthly meetings, Hansen observes that his arrival at the company more or less coincided with Planful opting to have its employees work remotely due to the pandemic.
“I have found that the consistent interactions that we’ve had while everyone has been working from home have really helped us to band together and provided a lot more unity than there would have been otherwise if not for the circumstances,” comments Hansen, who flags greater unity as yet another underpinning of successful continuous planning. –Jack Sweeney
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CFOTL: Tell us about your approach to continuous planning. What steps have you taken to help the organization embrace it?
Hansen: At Planful, we’ve tried to take continuous planning at its word and implement it not only across our traditional planning processes, but also in how we make decisions in each department across the business. One of the steps that we’ve included really is looking at each set of decisions as both short-term and long-term—splitting things up in this way allows us to be both tactical and strategic. When I say “short-term,” what I’m referring to is something like the current quarter forecast—maybe where you’ve got presumably one or maybe more tools that give you some type of a read on your forecast: You’ve got your finance models that you’ve developed, and then maybe you have a bottom-up view from your sales team and a roll-up view from your sales leader. You’re trying to determine where you’re going to land for the quarter and what you can do in the immediate term to impact this.Read More
This would be for a short-term decision for which having all of the data points—having them all in a system—and being able to have models that update automatically—things like that—make the continuous planning component very easy. This would be as opposed to longer-term decisions such as how much to invest over time and one route to market versus a different one.
If historically the lion’s share of my time has been spent operationally and tactically, this has now shifted to about an even split in which I’m now also focusing on the strategy and some of the longer-term questions around things like where we’re going and how we’ll get there—coupled with how we’re doing today, of course. This is really where my mind’s at these days and where my focus is for this coming year.
Value Quote: “If historically the lion’s share of my time has been spent operationally and tactically, this has now shifted to about an even split in which I’m now also focusing on the strategy and some of the longer-term questions.” jb
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