Which king? The annual budget king, of course. Even before the GFC the writing was on the wall. Businesses should not live by the annual budget alone. I am going to widen that to include any annual planning review. Even if this might incoporate a fresh look at other planning reference points such as the strategic plan, 5-year, 10-year picture, etc.
My problem, therefore, is with the word ‘annual’. Now there are exceptions to the rule, but most businesses have much more regular reflection points, due to internal influences but more likely external ones.
Annual budgets, therefore, have their place along side on-demand forecasting, ‘what if’ analysis, rolling forecasts, etc. You need frequent, fast, high integrity planning.
What makes the the typical annual budget event even more dated is where its finalisation from start to finish takes an unwieldy amount of time and effort, in some case months and draining resources.
Making this more acute is that most businesses rely on spreadsheets and so simple activities such as rolling over a plan, consolidating, incorporating basics, capturing inputs, are time consuming and error-prone. None of these are value-added activities.
The result is, from inputs made from the front line, to final review and approval, events have changed, performance has marched on. The impact is the business then tracks its performance against a benchmark that few see as realistic. Worse still, it can continue to drive focus, energy and behaviour in perpetual motion, like a tanker unable to change course mid-way.
Given these circumstances a business literally cannot afford to plan more regulary. The effort involved is too much of a burden. If the business tries under these circumstances I find that planning becomes insular, down to the CFO alone, participation gets left behind, and the distance between front line and the swamped finance team gets bigger.
There is, I think, only one way to address this – technology. A proper planning platform can turn words such as ‘burden’ into ‘participation’, remove the negativity about planning; turning it into a welcome responsibility and ultimately aiding decision making and deliver business outcomes.
It means that when the CEO says ‘its all changed’, ‘where will we be if’ you don’t roll over in fright.