Building a World Class FP&A Team


Jotham Lane, Director

Now that budget season is over, it’s time to reflect on the effort taken to complete the task and to challenge the status quo. For many financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals, it can be a grueling and rote activity as described in my previous blog post, Avoid the Budget Season Blues.  If your company still has a spreadsheet-based budgeting process, your FP&A team likely spent a lot of time on the following:

  • reconciling data to prior period reports such as P&L by cost center
  • keying in or copying/pasting data for analysis
  • writing formulas in Excel
  • using pivot tables
  • reviewing and testing to eliminate errors and validate results
  • consolidating multiple spreadsheets from various cost centers (watch out for those formula errors!)

There is significant opportunity cost associated with spreadsheet planning not only in the time it takes to budget but also in not fully leveraging the business acumen and capabilities of the FP&A staff.

All of these skills are required in the majority of FP&A positions but it begs the question, “Do they add value to the organization?”  Generally speaking, they do not.  In my previous roles in corporate FP&A, I found the process to be a time drain that diverted me from more fully impacting the business for the better.  There is significant opportunity cost associated with spreadsheet planning not only in the time it takes to budget but also in not fully leveraging the business acumen and capabilities of the FP&A staff. In my experience, finance professionals would prefer to focus on analyzing the numbers and providing answers to more strategic issues.

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Let’s Meet Up: CMC’s November Events

Ethan-Carlson-at-MIT-Sloan-CFO-SummitThis month we’ll be participating in the MIT Sloan CFO Summit at the Boston Marriott Newton hotel on November 20th.  The MIT Sloan CFO Summit is the nation’s premier CFO event bringing together financial executives from around the world and leading faculty from MIT. The annual event offers a day of interactive learning and thought-provoking discourse on the future of finance, accounting, and business that is not available anywhere else. It includes presentations, panels, networking and a closing reception.  Event information can be found here.  The agenda is outlined below:




Corporate Performance Management Systems Selection

You have gone through another painful budget cycle and made the decision that spreadsheets just aren’t cutting it. It’s probably a realization you made a long time ago but now you are ready to evaluate new options. You put in a lot of effort but recognize your 2015 budget is already bordering on obsolescence, and it’s still only Q4, 2014. Now there’s more time and effort to update it again plus you are being asked to create more reports. Wouldn’t it be great to focus on more value-added strategic financial planning? After all, that would be a much better use of your skills and experience. It’s time to start looking around for a corporate performance management solution that frees you and your team from drudgery. Once you’ve made this important decision, it’s time to consider some of the key factors that will guide your goals and short list of vendor solutions.

Cloud or On-premise


BYOD – Access Cloud CPM on a variety of devices

For a long time, CFOs and CIOs insisted that all financial data needed to reside behind the corporate firewall. In the past, that probably made sense. However, Cloud solution providers have invested tremendously in security, availability, and redundancy. Indeed, their systems have evolved to the point that they are likely more secure than your own. In addition to security, Cloud systems have other benefits such as significantly reducing IT overhead costs, allowing access with just a web-browser on a variety of devices, and a rolling update schedule that eliminates your IT team’s involvement. Indeed Cloud-based corporate performance management (CPM) solutions are the fastest growing segment in this market. While some providers claim to offer Cloud solutions, beware those that have merely taken legacy technology and ported to the Web. Here’s a link to an Adaptive Insights blog that addresses the risks of the “Fake Cloud”.


Usability often means the difference between a successful implementation and a failed one. It’s human nature to be resistant to change, particularly when people have been using spreadsheets for their entire career. For that reason, consider solutions that offer a familiar user interface (UI). If it’s intuitive and looks like what people are used to, the likelihood of frictionless adoption is going to be that much greater. Indeed, end users will get the best of both worlds – a spreadsheet-type UI with the benefits of a much more robust Cloud budgeting and planning solution.

Integration Capability

Implementing new software should always present an opportunity for business process improvement. Many finance professionals spend inordinate amounts of time copying and pasting data into and out of spreadsheets and other applications. In addition to the time drain, it’s also one of those steps that inadvertently introduce errors into the system. In order to mitigate those risks and add efficiencies to the workflow, integration with other systems is key. Bi-directional integration among systems also ensures that everyone is working from the same data.

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The Value of Carlson Premium Support

Carlson Premium SupportHere’s the scenario: You and your team implemented Adaptive Insights to replace your inefficient spreadsheet-based budgeting and planning process a while back and, by all measure, it was considered it a success.  You rightfully patted yourselves on the back and then got back to business.  Initially, most of the finance team happily used it as they had the support of an internal “superuser”, who was the go-to person for questions, data uploads, and model updates.  Then that high-value individual moved to a different part of the business or left the company.  Without your superuser, the momentum for broader adoption began to decline and some of the key new features weren’t being used.  In some cases, models were not being updated and finance staff were falling back to spreadsheets.  You know your system provides great value – you just need to have the right support ecosystem in place.

The above scenario illustrates one of many possible reasons the benefits and value of software can decline over the longer term – the lack of ongoing support.

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