For many people, plan-do-check-act (PDCA) is a familiar concept; the iterative four step management method is widely used and has currency with lean methodologies. If not PDCA then there are many “same same but different” approaches that should allow you as a reader to get some value out of this blog post.   continuous improvement   One advocate of this approach is David Moore, General Manager Finance & Operations at Suntory Australia. As a result of a recent Business Leaders’ Summit, David, shared the benefits of a business intelligence/corporate performance management project (budgeting, forecasting, reporting and analytics) after a full year of operation. David told how Suntory Australia leveraged Professional Advantage and the Board software that:

  • ensured Suntory Australia was the market leader, based on organic growth, bucking the industry trend.
  • led the best product launch David has been involved with: correct targeting of accounts, proactive informed campaign management, minimal working capital, optimal inventory, ultimately profit above.
  • made significant savings from retiring legacy software and licensing and maintenance fees
  • delivered significant productivity benefits, for example, time saved consolidating sales forecasts from half a day to minutes.
  • ensured a ROI on its million dollar per annum investment of retail data from third party data brokers by integrated business insights into budgeting and forecasting, pinpointing customer and product profitability to support segmented sales and marketing strategies.
  • provided business and finance self-sufficiency and low cost of ownership, and freed it from development reliance and long lead times to realise improvements.
  • removed reliance on a well-known, highly technical tier 1 capability and Excel chaos.

In effect the pay back was immediate. David would argue that the $1m investment per annum in data was a sunk cost without it. Great case study aside, the basis of Suntory Australia choosing Board and David’s approach came down to finding a technology that would support his business’s ability to address business, PDCA style, in an intelligent, learning way and with ever diminishing latency.

What made the benefits possible was the ability to measure the plan and adjust it during key activities, to adjust tactics to keep a campaign on course, real time; for sales, marketing and operations to share a common platform; to budget, plan, control, analyse and measure, all in the same tool, leveraging relevant internal and external data.

So if you think about the PDCA wheel above, it’s about being able to dictate the speed, to be able to fluidly move forward or back through all aspects, to plan in context, analyse in the plan. That’s Board’s strength, the all in one vision fulfilled.

Now David has aspirations to keep improving. Productivity continues to improve, with reports and forecasts that used to take half a day to prepare now being generated within minutes. Reporting has become more flexible with managers able to compare previous forecasts to current forecasts, see sales trends or view individual product lines quickly and easily. Data such as performance by channel or brand, top line sales, gross margins and net brand contribution is now instantly available, enabling people to make informed decisions on the fly.

What’s also key is that the process should have a learning capability, so Board’s integrated predictive analytics can start to play a part. This goes beyond the typical application of algorithms that perpetuate demand planning, we need to add context information, we need to allow human participation and expertise to engage, concepts such as best next, and all this needs to be seamless and continuous.

So if you want a reality check, here’s a worthy exercise. Just apply the PDCA wheel for a moment to your business. As an example for a reality check let’s look at a key forecast cycle.  

CFO reality check fig 2 pdca continuous improvement example


  1. Draw the PDCA parts proportionally to the time and effort taken to deliver the end-to-end process.
  2. Draw a line at each stage there is a hand off between specific technologies involved. These indicate possible breakpoints in the process, as data and user experience crosses boundaries between applications.
  3. See how many BI/ budget/ report/ planning tools are involved and don’t aggregate everything into one bucket such as Excel whereby you rely on several Excel applications to service the need.
  4. Draw key milestones and typical durations around the circumference.
  5. Ask yourself whether you are truly covered through the whole cycle, across all PDCA elements and all stakeholders.
  6. If you currently exclude relevant data because “it’s too hard”, revise the wheel to build in your best guess impact even if it makes the situation look more acute.

Remember, there are many surveys that indicate the reality check can look pretty poor. Accordingly to a recent BARC survey of 400 organisations, 49% still had planning coordination processes that were too long and 26% stated that planning was outdated by the time it has been finalised.

Now ask how you could improve this, speed up the process, eliminating any latency, while maintaining, even improving, the quality of the outcomes. Indeed that is what the ‘act’ stage is about. Now think about an alternative solution, one that eliminates many of the breakpoints and the non-value added time, whereby the framework can be improved iteratively and critically delivers a quality outcome, or at least one that can be measured and improved on. That’s where David is. Where are you?

Thanks for reading. I’d be interested to read your thoughts on this area so please do comment below. Is thinking of the problem in these terms useful? What can we do to help?

You can download the full Suntory Board case study here.

If you’re interested in discussing what Suntory achieved in more detail and how you could apply that to your business contact us. [cd-form type=”contact-2columns” title=”Need an answer?” action=”” button=”Make an enquiry” thankyou=”Thank you for your enquiry. We’ll be in touch shortly.”]

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