ASK ETHAN: Advancing FP&A Best Practices with the Cloud


CFO-Thought-Leader-Horz-599-131Ethan Carlson, co-host of the CFO Thought Leader Podcast, discusses how companies can benefit from running company models and forecasts from the cloud.

Join us as Ethan Carlson, CEO of Carlson Management Consulting, once more tackles our questions to supply you with answers and a new mindset designed to help empower your finance organization to look ahead.

Listen and subscribe to the Podcast on iTunes.

The following is an edited abstract from CFO Thought Leader’s “Ask Ethan” podcast featuring Ethan Carlson, CEO, Carlson Management Consulting, and Jack Sweeney, co-host of CFO Thought Leader.

CFOTL What can companies do to prepare an organization to better leverage what cloud solutions can offer?

Ethan You need to look at how quickly a piece of software can deploy. If an application is truly Web-based, when you sign a contract within a day or so you should have access to all that software in a hosted environment. From a usability perspective, if you’ve got the actual set up, it’s measured in hours, though I would say that most cloud, FP&A CPM deployments that we see, usually span the eight- to 12-week time range. But the measurement is hours, it’s not total duration. The idea is if you’re going to spend a few hundred hours deploying a major piece of software in an enterprise setting that’s a fraction of what it used to take. That part now can happen really fast.

The trap companies fall into is thinking that because that can happen so fast, they don’t have to do all the planning and the preparation they necessarily should have done. I always tell organizations that yes, the deployment will happen more rapidly than any other software process or project you’ve been a part of. However, the planning, the thought around your organization, all of the principles of project management and sound execution of change management still apply. So you need to make sure you’ve looked at what you’re currently doing.

If the only problem in how you’re currently running your models and forecasts is that you need a platform, then yes, you can deploy very quickly. But if you have a need to revamp how you’re running your business, that can take some time. So I think that you have to go into it making sure you recognize that all software projects have a process element to them and all the same principles would apply of any deployment.

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Finance Leadership Through Technology – How the Cloud Elevates FP&A

Carlson CPM-solutions for businessTop CFOs see themselves as catalysts of enterprise-wide collaboration and seek to empower business units with self-service analysis and predictive “what if” planning capability to anticipate future challenges to success. The status quo of using spreadsheets for financial performance activities is no longer acceptable due to their inherent risks and limitations. Just run a Google search on “spreadsheet errors” and you will read about some of the catastrophic outcomes that companies have experienced due to their reliance of spreadsheets. With spreadsheets having been identified as a significant risk factor in effective financial planning and analysis, why do so many organizations continue to rely on them.

We see three main misperceptions preventing organizations from moving to more appropriate technologies:

1. Investment in the latest technology is too expensive – Businesses spend significant amounts on GL systems and other transactional systems. Ironically, when it comes to spending on the critical value-added activity of financial analysis, planning and budgeting, many organizations fail to get executive-level consensus to invest in point solutions that contribute to competitive advantage.

2. Implementation times are too great – Traditional on-premise systems often require in excess of 12 months to implement. By the time the time the deployment is complete, the underlying financial models are obsolete; or worse, the projects never get completed due to constantly changing requirements.

3. Resources are too constrained – Finance and IT teams everywhere are overworked. They simply do not have time to commit significant amounts of effort to large scale implementation projects. Furthermore, they are weary of the learning curve for re-engineered business processes that often come with a new system.

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