The Top 3 Trends in Business Planning

by Gary Cokins 

In my prior blog, I described the three categories that are foundational for effective business planning: destination/purpose, information access, and integration. What are the trends with these three categories?


Business plans are derived from a vision and mission

The primary responsibility of the C-suite executives is to establish strategic direction by answering the question, “Where do we want to go?” Their answer will depend on the vision and mission of the organization. An organization’s mission statement does not always need to be the oftentimes hollow words displayed on the wall of the company’s entry lobby (e.g., “We will be the best …. “). It can be simpler. For example in the 1980s when Bill Gates said “A computer on every desk” Microsoft employees understood his vision and their mission.

The trend in this first category involves answering a second follow-up question, “How will we get there … to where the executive want to go?” The digital vehicle to achieve and execute the C-suite’s strategy is the integration of the various components of the integrated business planning (IBP) framework. These include strategy maps; product, channel, and customer profitability reporting and analysis; driver-based rolling financial forecasts; enterprise risk management (ERM); and lean and quality management techniques for process improvement. Each component should have analytics imbedded in them.

Access to information

Many organizations are drowning in raw transactional data but starving for information. The trend in this category involves converting data into information. This is typically accomplished via modeling.

For example, a one page strategy map is a model of the executive team’s strategy. The process of costing to calculate individual customer profit and loss (P&L) statements is accomplished by modeling how resource expenses (e.g., salaries, supplies) are causally and proportionately consumed as calculated costs of outputs.

Associated with this trend is the emergence of business analytics. What analysts want are two capabilities: (1) easy and flexible access to data; and (2) the ability to manipulate it. The IBP framework enables this via the trend I describe below.

The integration of the IBP framework’s component methods

The more seamless the integration of the IBP framework’s components, the better will be an organization’s performance. The trends in this category involve cloud-based planning, real-time information flows, and analytics.

  • Cloud-based computing – the attractiveness of remote computing power and storage over on-premises computing, maintenance benefits and the ability to easily extend use to enterprise users is commonly accepted today.
  • Information flows – transactional data and its conversion into information today can flow bi-directionally between business operation systems (production, logistics, and customer demand) and financial systems (profit reporting, budgeting, rolling financial forecasts). And the flows can be in real-time (or near real-time) refreshed at short term time intervals.
  • Analytics – The more savvy companies now embrace analytics as a competitive advantage. The goal of analytics should be to gain insights and foresight and solve problems, to make better and quicker decisions with more accurate and fact-based data, and to take actions.

Future trends in business planning?

In a future blog I will answer this question of future trends in business planning. But for now consider that if you can imagine a digital capability, then it will eventually (and soon) be realized.

Join me at the SAP Conference for Financial Planning, Consolidation and Controls in Las Vegas 10-11 November, where I’ll be delivering a presentation on performance and risk management. I hope to see you there!  

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About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM


Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC .  He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methods, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.

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CFO: From Scorekeeper to Storyteller

by Neil Krefsky

Is your CFO a high-performing asset who heralds innovation or a number cruncher focused on compliance and keeping the financial house in order? CFOs are expected to do more than present numbers. They must monitor, interpret, and share what they find in those numbers.

Great CFOs aren’t running on a hamster wheel trying to keep up with reporting and compliance issues – they’re providing invaluable insight that takes a business to the next level.

In a recent Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Bill Fuessler, global finance risk and fraud leader for global business services for IBM; Nick Castellina, research director for the Aberdeen Group’s business planning and execution practice; and Neil Krefsky, senior director for development and execution of the product marketing strategy for finance line of business solutions at SAP, discuss the evolution of the role and current expectations.


CFO as trusted confidant

Fuessler reviews a recent CFO study in which CEOs were asked which member of the C-suite they most depend on for strategic advice. The overwhelming choice was the CFO, underscoring how much more important and complex this role has become. It’s no longer a debate of whether a CFO should add strategic value to the business, but how much strategic value a CFO should bring to the table.

Krefsky details the evolution: “About 10 years ago, we all remember Enron and things that came up there where compliance came top of mind. It pushed that strategic debate to the back burner. In the last five or six years, the debate resurfaced to where I wouldn’t even say it’s a debate anymore. It is an expectation.”

Command of the cloud and Big Data

So what are these top-performing CFOs doing to set themselves and their companies apart? They are looking at Big Data for insights around the customer, which leads to increased understanding and greater success with new profitable growth initiatives. One example offered by Fuessler is an insurance company that used external data such as demographics and life events information. The company wanted to determine the best actions for profitable growth. It combined the financial demographics and life events to grow sales to current customers by 20%.

Castellina points out that Big Data can streamline and simplify the three “Vs” of data to facilitate information sharing:

  • Volume: More data is coming in than ever before, from every disparate source imaginable.
  • Velocity: Data is generated, moved, and shared more quickly than ever – think “viral” content.
  • Variety: This data is both structured and unstructured and must be sorted and analyzed accordingly.

Krefsky adds, “With the advancements in Big Data, the CFO is really empowered. The tools are out there to take that strategic role to the next level where they can now not only consume all of this information but translate it into actionable business guidance. Rather than just simply being the scorekeeper, they can be the storyteller and, even more importantly, the fortune-teller.”

Krefsky sees a company’s customer base dictating how readily a CFO adopts new technology. Companies that cater to millennials are typically on top of cutting-edge technology. To find out more about what it takes to be a stellar CFO, listen to the full radiocast.

Modernizing the GRC Environment

by Bruce McCuaig

In the modern business environment, companies are often required to do more with less, while also navigating constantly shifting regulatory and technology frameworks. Given that reality, the need for a comprehensive solution for governance, risk management and compliance has never been greater. Such a solution can improve business performance, protect your company’s reputation and financial well being, while reducing GRC complexity. If you’ve hesitated to implement a next-generation solution for your GRC procedures and infrastructure, you’re missing out on a variety of opportunities for boosting GRC optimization, oversight and accuracy.

The Unification of GRC

Next-generation solutions like SAP’s GRC aim to holistically integrate every facet of effective GRC. This task often involves coordinating hundreds of departments and employees, and requires a robust, dependable software framework to support the effort. However, the dividends are wide-ranging and dramatic, with the potential for performance boosts in every entity tied to GRC.

With a focus on operating from unified central databases, SAP’s GRC solutions let your entire organization collaborate with unparalleled accuracy, seamlessly integrating efforts for everything from access governance to audit management and fraud detection. By jettisoning obsolete, fragmented workflow silos that can make it impossible to form a unified GRC picture, SAP’s solutions let your organization work from the same page while contributing to the overall GRC effort.

SAP Embodies Its GRC Solutions

SAP uses its own GRC solutions to manage its operations around the world. Miriam Kraus, senior VP of GRC at SAP, said, “We wanted to achieve the benefits of integration and automation throughout our worldwide GRC landscape, as well as accurate risk data produced in real time at a lower cost.”

At face value, the task was monumental for an organization as large as SAP, involving support for more than 68,000 users across 580 separate organizations in 100 countries over two years. But working with a team of in-house consultants, SAP was able to complete the implementation on time and under budget, garnering it a prestigious GRC 20/20 Value Award.

Because of the new SAP GRC solutions framework, SAP saw significant improvements in GRC metrics, including the following:

  • A 100 percent accuracy rate for control testing and remediation
  • Control testing that is 90 percent faster than before
  • A 20 percent gain in data maintenance efficiency
  • A 30 percent increase in report generation efficiency
  • Three FTEs now able to be redeployed to higher value activities

SAP GRC solutions enable your business to simplify its approach to GRC and make better business decisions by visualizing and predicting how risk may impact performance. To find out how SAP can help you unify and modernize your organization’s GRC, visit SAP GRC Solutions.



5 Top Tips for Vegas

By Chris Grundy, Director Product Marketing, SAP

As you know from my earlier blog, for many months now I and my colleagues here at SAP, along with a team from conference organizers TA Cook, have been preparing for our next event, the SAP Conference for Financial Planning, Consolidation and Controls. This is the new name for what was previously known as the SAP Conference for enterprise performance management (EPM), because this year we’ve expanded our content to not just focus on EPM, but also upon GRC (governance, risk and compliance). So, with just seven weeks to go until the event starts on 10 November in Las Vegas, I thought it was about high time I wrote a little something about what attendees might look forward to seeing and hearing this year, especially given the fact that we’re going to be joined by a number of industry analysts and thought leaders, along with many SAP customers ready to tell us about their experiences in implementing and using software solutions.

Illuminated Light Bulbs

So here are my tips for 5 top tips for sessions and speakers to see (and hear) at the conference in Las Vegas this November:

  1. Keynote panel day 1. Not one, not two, but three special guests join for what should be a hugely informative informative panel discussion during the day 1 keynote. Guests include Doug Henschen of Constellation Research, Scott Mitchell of OCEG and Brian Kalish of AFP Online. I’m really looking forward to hearing the opinions of this panel of industry experts and thought leaders on the topic of what’s driving Finance and the role of the CFO.
  2. Ray Wang day 2 keynote. I almost need say no more, as Ray is such a well-known observer, researcher and thought leader in the technology arena, being Principal Analyst & Founder of Constellation Research. Ray’s keynote “The secret to the future of planning” is sure to be topical, insightful and one might even hope he’ll throw in a few surprises to really get us thinking. A great reason to get back to the conference center and grab a good seat for this early session on day 2!
  3. Gary Cokins day 1 presentation. I had the pleasure of meeting Gary last year at the EPM Conference in Chicago, when he presented one of the keynotes, and since that time we’ve worked together on a number of projects, mostly related to blogging. An experienced practitioner, consultant, author speaker and prolific blogger, Gary has a vast experience in the area of performance management. I’m always impressed with Gary’s ability to express complex issues in interesting and thought-provoking ways, and the session at this year’s conference towards the end of day 1, where he will examine performance and risk should really get the brain-cells working again. And to top it off, straight after Gary’s session we have a networking reception where Gary along with other conference speakers will be happy to chat with conference attendees in a more relaxing atmosphere.
  4. Bjarte Bogsnes of Statoil day 2…and many other customers too! It’s terrific to see Bjarte on the conference agenda this year, ready to tell the Statoil experience around performance and risk. He’s a great conference speaker, very articulate and engaging and sure to give a great presentation. But of course he’s not the only customer speaker at the conference, and I’m also eager to hear presentations from Sysco, ServiceNow, Maxim Integrated, Southern California Edison as well as SAP over the two days of conference.
  5. Workshops. For those of you who like to dive deep into your solution areas, three workshops topics are on offer at the event this year; FP&A, Integrated Planning and GRC. Led by solution and domain experts, these sessions are intended for attendees who want to absorb a more detailed understanding of solution strengths and capabilities – but be ready to get your thinking caps on as you’re likely to be challenged with practical examples to work through at some point!

And of course many SAP-led sessions and excellent networking opportunities throughout the event and into the evening of the first day of the conference.

I am truly looking forward to the event this year, and to the opportunity to meet and speak with the many people attending the conference. Of course I shall be reporting back to you from the event – so if I don’t see you there, you’ll be sure to hear from me afterwards!


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What Do Personal and Business Planning Have in Common?

By Gary Cokins 

Before we discuss business in this blog let’s start reflecting on our personal lives. I will get straight to the point – how good of a personal planner are you? Once I’ve covered that I’ll then examine parallels between personal and business planning.


Personal planning

There are many types of personal plans ranging from mundane plans to life-impacting serious ones. An example of a mundane plan is, “How should I spend the week-end?” Others are “What should I eat for dinner?” and “What location should be my next vacation?”

Life-impacting serious plans are obviously on a grander scale. “Which university should my child attend?”, and the related question of “How should we plan for that financially?”. And of concern to us all at some point in our lives, “What kind of retirement lifestyle will I be able to afford?”

Regardless of the scope or scale of personal plans, personal plans have this in common: pleasure-seeking preferences and the need for information.

Business planning

The parallels of personal and business planning in today’s high tech lives fall into these three interrelated categories:

  • Destination and purpose – What food for dinner? Where to vacation? In business the primary responsibility of an organization’s C-suite executives is establish strategic direction by answering the question, “Where do we want to go?” Their answer will depend on the mission and vision of the organization. A core planning tool for this is a strategy map with its companion balanced scorecard to report feedback of progress toward accomplishing the strategic plan.
  • Access to information – Do I have the ingredients in my food pantry and refrigerator to prepare my planned dinner? What is the tuition amount for the universities that my child is interested in attending? In business today one cannot be blind to the digital revolution created from the internet, big data, and cloud-based computing power. One must first “collect the dots to connect the dots.”
  • Integration – A vacation plan can involve planes, hotels, and rental cars. In business there are also many interrelated moving parts. The more seamless their integration, the better the organization’s performance. Forecasts that leverage business intelligence (BI) are a primary independent variable for planning operational and financial results. With integration there are many dependent variables (derived from the forecast) such as sales and profit projections. The CFO’s function is like a master architect. Line managers are like the subcontractors who use the strategic plan and forecast to: (1) manage the capacity of required resources; and (2) schedule processes. The CFO’s financial planning and analysis (FP&A) team evaluate the line managers’ plans to determine if the strategic plan is affordable by generating pro forma financial statements including cash flow projections.

Planning our week-ends and our business

We rely on weather reports to plan our personal week-ends. We rely on data and integrated business planning systems to improve the managing of our businesses. The better that automation supports the planning’s categories (purpose, information, and integration), then the better will be the enterprise performance.

Over the coming weeks I’ll be writing more on the topics of business planning, performance and risk management, taking a look at the market trends and technology innovations that are driving business behavior and the ways they are using software solutions that address these needs.

Join me at the SAP Conference for Financial Planning, Consolidation and Controls in Las Vegas 10-11 November, where I’ll be delivering a presentation on performance and risk management. I hope to see you there!

SAP Conference for Financial Planning, Consolidation and Controls_Twitter



About the Author: Gary Cokins, CPIM


Gary Cokins (Cornell University BS IE/OR, 1971; Northwestern University Kellogg MBA 1974) is an internationally recognized expert, speaker, and author in enterprise and corporate performance management (EPM/CPM) systems. He is the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management LLC .  He began his career in industry with a Fortune 100 company in CFO and operations roles. Then 15 years in consulting with Deloitte, KPMG, and EDS (now part of HP). From 1997 until 2013 Gary was a Principal Consultant with SAS, a business analytics software vendor. His most recent books are Performance Management: Integrating Strategy Execution, Methods, Risk, and Analytics and Predictive Business Analytics.

Linkedin contact:

What Top Execs Are Saying about Managing Risk in the Age of Complexity

by Babak Ghoreyshi, Global Marketing Program manager at SAP

Finance executives know that risk is inevitable, but there is a significant debate over how an organization can make the best business decisions to seize opportunities while avoiding the risk. Businesses need to be agile enough and proactively deal with external risks as well as potential risks as they develop. Market leaders consistently find a way to contain risk and comply with regulations while leading the organization in identifying more profitable ventures.

In the spring and summer of 2015, a survey of more than 1,000 finance executives with responsibility for governance, risk and compliance (GRC) was conducted by Loudhouse and sponsored by SAP. The resulting report on GRC best practices is titled “Managing risk in the age of complexity.”

This white paper revealed that a combination of increasing risk and regulation complexity comprises the number one largest pressure felt by GRC professionals around the world today. As that pressure grows, these executives have sought to establish reliable methodologies for strategically balancing risk and opportunity.

Key insights

Just 10 percent of the participants of the survey were satisfied with their GRC tools and technologies and were stating that they have adequate GRC tools, technologies, and processes in place. The same goes in terms of keeping pace with future growth. Only 10 percent are fully satisfied these tools, technologies and processes will keep pace with future growth. As a result, companies are leaving themselves open to risk. The report found that the biggest problems arising from GRC failures are loss of business or revenues, business disruption and damage to the company reputation. That means that the companies which are most vulnerable to risk are those where brand value is a central component of the company’s valuation. For all businesses, the core message is that risk has to be contained more quickly than ever before.


The GRC Landscape

Compliance and regulatory requirements have become more complex over the past five years for 81 percent of the respondents. Finance executives participating in the survey identified the top five risk centers as the primary sources that will be growing over the next two years:

  1. Competitive forces (42 percent)
  2. Control failures (41 percent)
  3. Financial and economic issues (36 percent)
  4. Employee performance (36 percent)
  5. Consumer behavior (35 percent)

Another fascinating observation was the emerging split in what GRC experts see as their top concerns. Just over half (57 percent) are more concerned with external risks while 43 percent look into the internal risks as more crucial. Organizations in Europe and the U.S., tend to consider the main risks as external, while South African and Japanese companies expressed a greater concern for internal risks.


GRC Pain points

The main pain points associated with GRC have to do with a fragmented vs. a more unified approach, which leads to a lack of visibility if there is no integration of risk and control, reporting, accessing and using necessary data. Access to a single source of truth can enable enterprises to reach the goal of turning data into knowledge in planning at the highest levels.

Although issues related to GRC are more closely now across all departments, only 10 percent say that GRC practices are embedded throughout the business. The US leads the world in siloed systems for approaching GRC problems, with three out of four companies pursuing a fragmented approach. Japan is close behind at 73 percent of companies and UK is in third place with 72 percent. More intelligent unified platforms are widely accepted in Brazil at 43 of companies and Germany close behind with 42 percent with centralized approach to GRC.

The most surprising statistic of all is that two out of three companies worldwide (65 percent) are not even able to quantify or qualify their current risk exposures. That is a perilous place to operate and the majority of companies are simply unprepared for current risks, let alone what’s coming next.

Moving Forward with GRC

GRC needs to evolve now and add more value to the business. That statement found agreement among three out of four companies in the survey. The way to do that is to standardize processes, reduce costs and bring greater strategic value to the bottom line. Here are the top priorities, fairly evenly split, that companies identified as areas GRC must address over the next twelve months:

  • For 42 percent it’s “improving consistency”
  • For 41 percent it’s “earlier identification and management of risks
  • For 39 percent it’s “improving GRC efficiency”
  • For 37 percent it’s “improving GRC performance and strategic value”


A 5 Point Plan for GRC Practices

Here are the best practices that have emerged as a result of the survey:

Point 1. Make a case for the strategic value of GRC. – Don’t wait for CEOs to see the strategic value of GRC.

Point 2. Make a decision about who’s responsible. – Award ownership of the process and make someone accountable.

Point 3. Seek a holistic, future-proof solution. – Create a scalable architecture for addressing GRC in the future.

Point 4. Drive cultural change. — The entire organization must respect the importance of GRC in commercial success.

Point 5. Do it now – The consequences of delay are too serious to ignore.

Get the Report

The most advanced GRC tools today can deliver confidence, drive better performance and expand accountability within your organization. Download “Managing risk in the age of complexity,” for a detailed analysis of all these issues and assure that your organization is deploying the best practices in managing GRC for the future.


Managing Risk in a Tsunami of Complexity

The uncertain financial times of the past few years have had a major effect on companies operate these days. Companies that used to operate effortlessly with the help of forecasts and projections now resist making business decisions that are set in stone and as a result companies have a new focus: to manage risk.

Managing risk is as important and difficult as it has always been. New Global research commissioned by SAP reveals that today’s complex business environment severely challenges companies.


The survey of 1000+ executives with responsibility for governance, risk and compliance (GRC) in their organizations found increasing risk and regulation complexity is now the biggest pressure on organizations’ GRC functions.

There is no real business opportunity without risk. Yet according to the research, companies are dropping the ball.  In simple terms, the way to balance risk and opportunity is to look at both as two sides of the same coin. Obviously one is looking for the opportunity side to be bigger than the risk side. Great entrepreneurs have learned how to realistically assess and manage both sides of the coin in the following business opportunity and risk categories.

SAP’s research findings reveal that one in ten organizations are fully satisfied that they have adequate GRC tools, technologies and processes in place. Similarly, only one in ten are fully satisfied these tools, technologies and processes will keep pace with future growth. As a result, companies are ill prepared and may get nailed for lax controls.

While the research reveals different levels of preparedness among companies, the message from GRC professionals is clear: companies are not managing risk properly and should prepare for black swans, meaning an incident that occurs randomly and unexpectedly, and has a major effect on operations.  Black swans may be game-changing, but they are not all that rare and businesses can mitigate against them with GRC tools, technologies and processes. The consequences of delay are serious.

GRC specialists face serious internal pressures to cut costs and prove effectiveness. Within, GRC professionals have to stay on top of changing business environments that introduce a range of operational risks such as employees, third party relationships, mergers & acquisitions, processes, strategy, and technology.


At the same time, GRC technology and processes can only work if it is respected within the company. It should become a key part of business processes and thinking, helping the firm achieve its business goals.

Regulatory environments in all industries are a constant shifting sea of requirements at local, regional, and international levels. The turbulence of thousands of changing laws, regulations, enforcement actions, administrative decisions, rule making and more has organizations struggling to stay afloat.  81% of GRC professionals surveyed say risk and regulation has become more complex in the last five years and without the right GRC tools and mythologies, businesses will be inadequately protected from risk. Read the full report here.