Man, it seems like everyone has an opinion these days, especially when it comes to money! Where did the money come from? Where did the money go? Where was it supposed to go? These are all questions I hear over and over again in meetings with budgeting execs, as well as from my significant other. (We won’t get into the latter. Nope, not right now.)
Most of the time it goes without saying that, when money is involved, everyone is involved.
It's perplexing that what I've found too often, is that when it comes to corporate planning and budgeting, those who have a say don’t matter and those who do aren’t often even involved in the planning process. Baffling.
Recently, I was at a prospect's office discussing the "Art of the Possible" in terms of a new FP&A solution as well as methodology. This brainstorming session was part of the team's pre-planning process. The dialogue was very lively between the ten key stakeholders. As things came to an end, everyone seemed to feel fairly confident that they were heard and the planning framework could begin. I, too, felt really great about where things were going and that everyone in the room was engaged and contributing.
Then, something odd happened.
The room emptied. It was just me, two FP&A folks, and my scattered (but very detailed) notes. Despite my great note-taking abilities, I did not feel confident in the next step in this scenario. Something was undeniably wrong with this picture and it wasn’t just my handwriting.
Planning is a company-wide exercise; not the total responsibility of one or two employees in an organization.
Unfortunately, this common scenario is what plays out across the globe. Everyone comes together to give their two cents and make sure their requirements are known. Then they vanish and eagerly wait for the results. This is a major cause of systematic failure in the budgeting process for many companies, and for many reasons.
Tasking only a couple people with the bulk of the planning and budgeting process is by no means the right way to do things. I am not saying everyone and their brother needs to be present. This isn’t the baby’s first birthday. But, there are definite stakeholders that need to be in the room and contributing to the process when planning begins. I’ve put together a fun-filled list (mildly based off of the board game, Clue) of who these people are and why you need them.
Without further adieu, let’s meet your planning and budgeting players.
- Mr. Green, formerly known as Reverend and otherwise known as your Budget Analyst, is your first player. As a slick business man, Mr. Green is always giving necessary insights. Keep him close at all times as he should be overseeing each move that is made and set the bar for success. Though he is undeniably in tune with all moving parts, he should not be moving your numbers for other players or gathering data. These tasks should be completed by the systems directly, so that Mr. Green can keep everything else neat and clean. If you want to read more about the day-to-day of Mr. Green, you can do that here.
- Professor Plum is also known as the Controller, in this situation. Aside from rolling last, Professor Plum serves as the central point of all things accounting. His smarts and systematic methodologies should be applied to the checks and balances of the process. He and his team should contribute to multiple functions in the planning process. Guidance in terms of expense controls, key variance validation, and cash flow analysis are all parts his oversight. Populating budget on behalf of the user community is not.
- Mrs. Peacockwith her bright brain and wise business acumen holds down the fort as the Business Department Head. She plays hard-ball with it comes to the planning process and is ultimately responsible for the budget, forecast, etc. She absolutely needs to own the numbers for her area as well as ensure she gains value from the end-result of the process. Her involvement in the setup is critical to ensure all drivers, KPIs, and variables are captured and utilized. Your planning process becomes all the more accurate when the business drives the input.
- Mrs. White may not seem like she has a lot of purpose here but don’t let her informal title fool you. Mrs. White may not be high up in the rank of players, but she definitely shouldn't be forgotten. As a direct report to Mrs. Peacock, Mrs. White is a soldier on the front of the business line. She works first hand with customers and is making those very important sales. Because of this proximity to the business and those relationships, it's absolutely imperative to integrate Mrs. White into the planning process. She's not an accountant so don’t expect her to pump out perfect reports. While a driver-based planning process produces the most accurate information, Mrs. White provides the credible insight.
- Colonel Mustard as Chief Operating Officer is much more than a saucy suit and slight temper. Mustard oversees most daily aspects of the business. And since, by nature, his role oversees all the various departments, he's the perfect choice for a project champion. Why the COO and not the CFO? Either can be a logical choice but the COO effectively can have more leverage in a politically-charged environment. But again, either may have to ensure the operational plan fits into the strategic direction of the organization.
The main takeaway here is that the more involvement from multiple people in the business, the more they will own the process and the numbers. Having these key players involved is critically important to the process and methodology that you implement. Best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favor.