Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to update your forecasts on a quarterly basis rather than annually? Budgeting, planning and forecasting has typically been an annual process because of the time, effort and money involved. Collecting data from multiple sources, consolidating it, checking it, refining it, checking the numbers again can definitely take weeks if not months. Who wants to do it all over again a few weeks later for the next quarter? But the business drivers might have changed and without updating the forecast the current plan is no longer relevant. Companies tend to argue that they are using excel because it is in an inexpensive tool that everyone understands. Considering the time and effort involved in making sense of a mass of spreadsheets and pulling them altogether into one budget, it should no longer be considered “inexpensive”. That is not even accounting for the financial implications of an error made in one calculation or one number keyed in incorrectly.
Implementing a planning tool can dramatically reduce the time involved in the planning process and significantly increase the accuracy. They are directly connected to the source data and have built in security, workflow and audit trails. Smart organizations who have these tools are using quarterly rolling planning and are able to forecast with greater confidence and more accuracy. Organizations plan for the next 18 months, with the focus on the next quarter but still keep in mind the bigger picture of the next 6 quarters. The result is an annual forecast, but one that is updated regularly with a lot less effort. It has been estimated that most organizations can get the time involved in 4 quarterly forecasts down to 5 weeks in a year. Read more about this in David Parameter’s whitepaper titled “How to Implement a planning tool and get it right the first time”.