Natural or unnatural: the science of planning for any disruption

June 5, 2019

From hurricanes and floods, to earthquakes and tsunamis, the world is experiencing a rapidly increasing number of adverse weather events. The Tohaku earthquake, tsunami and Thailand floods in 2011 are a prime example of how an apparently localised event can bring global supply chains, and ultimately the entire organisation, to their knees.

But it’s not just natural disasters that supply chains have to contend with – businesses also face a plethora of unnatural disruptive forces, from political uncertainty and new regulations, to evolving technologies and a growing cyber-threat landscape.

Planning can be the silver bullet in responding to natural and unnatural threats. It sounds simple, we all do it, sometimes without even thinking about it. But there are a number of building blocks involved, which many businesses often forget about: integrated technology, common data, shared processes, and cross-team collaboration. These form the foundation on which a successful planning strategy is built.

When organisations get this right and achieve true connectivity across the business, the potential benefits are endless. But we need to move beyond traditional approaches in order to plan more effectively for today’s challenges.

Working on a consensus

The most common planning process in industry today, and the one recommended by many leading experts, is the consensus process. Groups, such as demand, sales and marketing teams are kept siloed and create their own plans before they are unified to create one final, or consensus, plan.

The problem with this approach is that it often leads to diluted accountability for the final result because, by definition, no single role, department or business unit can be held 100% accountable for the final plan. The process is also inefficient: by generating three plans that ultimately input into only one, businesses are effectively disregarding 75% of the output from each business units’ provisional proposals. What’s more, the process is slow to respond because, in order to accurately model the impact of unexpected events, you have to rerun it from start to finish.

Collaborating on planning

More and more businesses are beginning to realise that keeping the organisation and its supply chain siloed simply isn’t going to work. Companies need to collaborate across teams and connect every part of the business, from finance and sales, to marketing and the supply chain, because when something changes in one area, it will ripple across the business, and you have to be able to respond at speed.

Collaborative planning helps to solve the problems presented by a consensus strategy by allowing different functions to own different inputs to just one plan. A truly joined up approach.

For example, with a collaborative strategy, one team may input a baseline forecast, followed by a team who input an organic growth uplift, and finally another team who make an input for a promotion. This means that there is only one plan, yet three teams have collaborated to achieve it. As a result, all three teams can be fully accountable for the accuracy of their individual inputs and assumptions because we can individually measure each of their contributions to the plan.

In addition to a 75% reduction in workload and increased response times, a hidden benefit of collaborative planning is that the process is particularly well suited to event-based inputs, which are truly the planning panacea.

Moving beyond traditional budgets: letting events drive the process

Traditionally, when organisations create multiple plans as part of the consensus process, they do so in a budget type format – something that is often remarkably similar to a household budget. But there are many common complaints with entering forecasts (and budgets) in this format. To name a few: there are a lot of input cells to review, there’s sparsity in the plan, granularity is lost, it’s not easy to change or move events and there isn’t a lot of context.

But if we break the plan down into the events that it is built on, rather than entering and analysing hundreds and thousands of cells of information, organisations can just record the key events that generate the output.

In addition to building out a story from the headlines of the overall plan, event-driven planning has additional benefits including workload reduction, the ability to quickly iterate plans just by changing any assumption, increased responsiveness, and the ability to assess scenarios and different options in real-time. In this way, you can create a living plan.

Ultimately, organisations and supply chains that take a collaborative, event driven approach to planning can not only reduce their teams’ workloads, but equally increase the impact of the work they are doing and the efficiency at which it can be done. And that planning has never been more vital to the wider business as unexpected natural and unnatural disasters are thrown at companies from every direction. Planning isn’t about making life harder; it’s about working together to make it easier. Whether businesses decide to exploit the change or avoid it, the key is to be prepared for whatever comes their way.

Antony Lovell

Written by: Antony Lovell

Antony leads the solutions division at Vuealta where he is charged with creating world class industry applications on the Anaplan platform. He has 20 years international experience of supply chain strategy and design spanning multiple industries including CPG and Consumer Electronics as a consultant and industry leader. Antony’s key areas of expertise include supply chain strategy, supply chain segmentation, network design, demand and supply planning, and business process re-engineering.

Uncertainty Can Generate Opportunity – Given the Right Planning and Insight

March 19, 2019

Brexit, regulation and cybersecurity – three words you would not have expected to be headlining a list of major concerns facing financial services companies a decade ago.

Yet, according to our latest research, The Future of Financial Services: Planning for Every Eventuality, these are now expected to be the biggest challenges facing business decision makers in financial services over the next five years.

Regulation and compliance issues continue to be a major disruptor, with the recent implementation of GDPR leading to an increasing number of companies that are struggling to meet requirements. And, with a decision over Brexit looming, the political implications only add to the uncertainty faced by financial services companies. This is supported by our research, which revealed that over half of UK decision makers highlighted the impact of political changes as the biggest challenge that their businesses will face over the next five years. Much of this anxiety is likely to be due to the chaos surrounding Brexit.

When you factor in other challenges highlighted by those UK respondents: namely data management and privacy (30%); planning and uncertainty in the market (18%); as well as disruption from technology (16%), companies are facing a perfect storm of threats to mitigate, external factors to manage and new developments to facilitate. This all adds up to a testing ecosystem – full of economic and political uncertainty – but one that is also brimming with opportunity for those businesses that navigate the period well and understand the environment that surrounds them. Now more than ever, businesses need to face the music with a fluid plan that covers all eventualities and possibilities, so they can manage uncertainty, adapt to change and transform business processes quickly.

Remaining calm in rising uncertainty

The industry is as unsettled as it has been in a decade, with the true implications of our divorce from Europe remaining unclear. As a result, it’s no surprise that UK decision makers see political change as a major challenge, with uncertainty clouding their every move. This hesitation brings its influence to bear right across the sector, from small players to market leaders – potentially impacting every area of business. And while many firms will decide to remain in London post-Brexit, over a third of the UK’s largest financial services firms have announced they will be moving to other European cities, with Paris set to become Europe’s post-Brexit trading hub. Dublin is another popular choice with Barclays recently announcing it’s moving £166bn of assets due to Brexit fears.

It can be hard not to panic against this backdrop. But however disconcerting, it’s crucial to remain calm as customers, employees and trading partners are relying on companies to make the right decisions – preserving as close to ‘business-as-normal’ as possible. That doesn’t mean sitting around and pretending everything is fine, like a 2019 Canute; it means putting in place plans that cover all the possibilities and eventualities. In other words, knowing the ‘what ifs’ and having a measured, effective response for any scenario. Do that, and businesses can steal a march on less organised competitors.

Greater transparency needed for compliance

Regulation and compliance has also taken its toll on the financial services industry and continues to be a struggle for many, despite the risk of heavy penalties. Recently, we saw Google fined £44m by the French data regulator for a breach of the EU’s data protection rules. Our research further demonstrated this struggle with 45% of UK respondents seeing this as the largest potential disruptor to their business over the next five years.

Focusing on greater transparency and data protection, this is exactly where technology and data has the power to transform – helping to tackle much of the complexity involved in achieving compliance whilst delivering instant access to the precise information needed to plan effectively. With the right systems in place, organisations can quickly connect and verify different data sources, whilst breaking down the silos to gain a much clearer view of what lies ahead.

But as emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, big data and digital payments disrupt traditional processes, there’s also a heightened threat from cybercrime to contend with. In fact, our research shows that UK business leaders feel this threat to be their second greatest challenge (44%) and potential disruptor (44%) over the next few years (behind ‘political changes’ and ‘regulation & compliance’ respectively). Business identity theft, for example, was up 46% year on year in 2017, and mobile cyber-attacks grew by 40% in that year alone.

Planning for every eventuality

But it’s not just cybersecurity and regulatory or political uncertainty causing sleepless nights for financial services as lower barriers to entry have given the green light to a host of new upstarts across the industry. From fintech companies providing loans and payments, to completely new high street banks – Atom and Metro are just two examples in the banking sector, plus the tech-behemoths of Amazon and Apple. Everyone fighting for market-share and challenging the long-held stronghold of traditional Industry players.

Confronted by these dynamics, it’s surprising that concern over competition isn’t more acute – with our research finding just 11% of UK business decision makers feel worried about the challenge from start-ups over the next five years. Organisations must ensure they don’t get complacent and take their eyes off the ball. Disruption can come from anywhere and the speed at which new start-ups can grab market share can be disconcerting. Companies need to ensure they are planning for every scenario, with all angles covered. Only then will they be ready to jump on new opportunities and steal a march on rivals.

Organisations should continuously be asking themselves if they’re truly getting the most out of their data. With effective planning and solid forecasting, businesses can unlock opportunities, get closer to customers and inform better decision making – from new appointments to investments. Having a connected approach to planning and forecasting, right across the business, will provide the insight to face the challenges and disruptions that shape the financial services industry.

It’s all about being able to move fast, and having access to critical data will reduce the impact of uncertainty and build realistic, actionable responses to all the ‘what ifs’.

Vuealta is Anaplan’s Channel Partner of the Year for 2019

February 8, 2019

Award presented to the Vuealta team at Anaplan’s 2019 Kick Off Event in San Francisco

We are delighted to announce that Vuealta has been awarded the Channel Partner of the Year Award for 2019.  Vuealta was recognised by Anaplan for leading significant business transactions across European and Asia-Pacific markets, while significantly growing its Anaplan practice, including a launch into the Americas market.

“Anaplan’s world-class partner ecosystem is one of the key driving forces behind the emergence of Connected Planning as an enterprise cloud category,” said David Tharp, Vice President, Global Partner Organization, Anaplan. “I’m thrilled to be with our partners from around the world to celebrate our annual partner award winners and discuss ways to capitalize on joint programs to engage customers, drive growth, and further pioneer the Connected Planning category.”

“The Vuealta team are extremely proud to receive this award in recognition of the new customers we have introduced to Anaplan over the last 12 months and the global support services we offer,” said Ian Stone, CEO, Vuealta.  “As an exclusive Anaplan partner, we are fully committed to our purpose of enabling organisations to accelerate decision making with Connected Planning on both local and international scales. I would like to congratulate the entire Vuealta team whose Anaplan expertise and customer first approach has contributed towards Vuealta achieving this accolade.”

The full press release can be read here

Follow us on Linked In to keep up to date with our new customers success stories and Connected Planning articles.

Financial services businesses are not prepared for technology disruption

January 23, 2019

Leadership teams in financial services organisations “do not appreciate the potential impact of technology disruption” – that’s according to more than half (52%) of the business decision makers in the sector.

New research released today from connected planning specialist, Vuealta – The Future of Financial Services: Planning for Every Eventuality – reveals the array of challenges and disruptors that the industry will face over the next five years.

When asked what the biggest challenges their business would face over the next five years, respondents replied:

  1. Cybersecurity – 42%
  2. Political changes – 39%
  3. Regulation and compliance – 36%
  4. Data management and privacy – 31%
  5. Planning and uncertainty in the market – 20%

Ian Stone, CEO of Vuealta, commented: “Now, more than a decade on from the events of 2008, the finance industry is far from settled. It’s chaos at the speed of the digital era. In fact, the next five years are set to be just as dynamic as the previous ten – filled with challenges and disruption but equally, presenting opportunities for those that navigate the period well. To do so, it is crucial that businesses remain calm, proactive and pragmatic. Control what you can control and make sure you can react quickly to the things you can’t.

Amid the chaos, perhaps the most dynamic event in the industry in recent years has been the FinTech explosion. It saw global investment of $57.9bn in the first half of 2018 – more than it did in the entirety of the year before – and this looks set to continue. When asked what will be most disruptive to their business over the next five years, the respondents focussed on key technologies:

  1. Regulation and compliance – 45%
  2. Cybersecurity – 43%
  3. Artificial intelligence and machine learning – 31%
  4. Payments technology – 27%
  5. Cryptocurrencies – 25%
  6. Blockchain – 18%
  7. Big data – 14%

There are myriad challenges and disruptors for financial services organisations around the world. The key is planning – planning effectively, at speed, and with instant access to the precise information you need. However, The Future of Financial Services: Planning for Every Eventuality report also revealed that a large proportion of organisations are trying to run their business with inadequate planning tools and processes: only 50% of respondents claim to plan with “all departments working from one tool which is updated in real time”; more than a third (35%) keep planning siloed within departments; 38% use multiple documents for different departments which are then used to try and create one plan for the business; nearly a quarter (24%) share one spreadsheet across business units.

Ian Stone, CEO of Vuealta, concluded: “The temptation for many businesses can be to take a wait-and-see approach. Organisations need to understand the environment that surrounds them, have a clear view of what is approaching on the horizon and then connect that to their own business information – enabling them to plot a route to success. Through this connected planning approach, you can reduce the impact of uncertainty and build realistic, actionable responses to all potential ‘what ifs’. Only then can you be armed with the insight you need, at the speed you require to face the challenges and disruptions that will shape the financial services industry in the years to come.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About Vuealta

Vuealta is an international company providing tailored advisory, implementation and ongoing support services exclusively for Anaplan, a leading planning platform provider. A trusted advisor in business process and transformation, we work with global organisations to take a more unified and collaborative approach to planning – connecting people, plans and data to enable faster decision making. Vuealta has offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and the Americas.

NewDay partners with Vuealta

November 30, 2018

NewDay, a leading UK consumer finance provider, has partnered with connected planning specialist, Vuealta to improve its business planning, budgeting and forecasting via the Anaplan platform.

Paul Sheriff, CFO at NewDay, commented, “The business has achieved significant growth in the last few years, whilst also expanding its portfolio of products and partnerships. We needed a planning platform that was more agile, and could connect the dots across the rapidly evolving business.”

“The Vuealta team helped us deliver a solution that maximised the benefits of the technology, with a fully connected financial model of the business. We are delighted with the impact it has had for the most recent budgeting cycle.” Following this success, NewDay is expanding the scope of the Anaplan platform into other areas beyond budgeting and forecasting.

Adam Bimson, Director and Co-founder of Vuealta said, “For NewDay, this was about bringing agility to a business trying to grow at great pace. By connecting their planning in the Anaplan platform and tailoring that solution to NewDay, we have been able to provide the scale and flexibility they need to continue to grow in their challenging industry. We’re looking forward to continuing our relationship with this industry pioneer and working together to achieve its business goals.”

-ENDS-

About NewDay

NewDay is a leading UK consumer finance provider, specialising in the near-prime and co-brands sectors of the UK credit card market. As at 31 December 2017, NewDay had approximately 5.4 million customers. Of these, 4.2 million customers hold co-brand credit and store cards offered in partnership with a number of the UK’s established retailers (including Amazon, Arcadia Group, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Laura Ashley, and TUI).  1.2 million customers hold own-brand credit cards, operating across the aqua, Fluid, marbles and opus brands. NewDay utilises its extensive customer knowledge of the near-prime and co-brand sectors to develop products and services that evolve in line with customers’ needs and promote long-term customer relationships.

About Vuealta

Vuealta is an international company providing tailored advisory, implementation and ongoing support services for Anaplan, a leading planning platform provider. A trusted advisor in business process and transformation, we work with global organisations to take a more unified and collaborative approach to planning – connecting people, plans and data to enable faster decision making. Vuealta has offices in Europe, Asia Pacific and USA. To learn more, visit vuealta.com.

How to go global overnight

October 8, 2018

Ian Stone shares his views on the factors that SME’s and hypergrowth companies need to consider to expand successfully.

Technology allows start-ups to ‘think big’ earlier than ever before and enables global expansion at pace, to rival larger enterprises. As the world becomes more connected and digitised – whether that’s the internet, social media, or big data and the cloud – businesses have access to better intelligence on global events and market opportunities. When harnessed properly, this information allows organisations to make faster and more informed decisions, such as opening an office or making an acquisition in a new territory. That expansion is a significant undertaking for any SME or hypergrowth company, but when armed with this real-time market and economic data, they can take that leap with speed and confidence.

Many of the established players have been taken by surprise at this speed and the rate that their industries are being disrupted by agile upstarts expanding into them – particularly the likes of financial services, FinTech and IT. Companies like Monzo, Airbnb, Coinbase, Darktrace and Uber have all flipped traditional thinking about banking, accommodation and travel, and security on their heads. And there’s no reason why others can’t follow suit.

Taking the first step to going global is not a simple undertaking, and businesses need to ensure that they plan properly. There are a few key factors they need to consider if they want to expand successfully:

  1. Access to capital – to grow quickly into new markets, SMEs and hypergrowth companies need fuel in the form of funding. Thankfully access to that capital is much better now than 10-20 years ago, with more choice than ever before. While traditional lending avenues with the major high street banks has stalled – £165bn lent in 2017, down from £166bn in 2016 – demand for alternative financing has soared. Many of these funding routes saw significant growth from 2016 to 2017 including: equity investment (79%), asset finance (12%), and peer-to-peer lending (51%). Not all of these will be right for every business so, it’s important for organisations to do their due diligence on which route works best for them when expanding into new territories
  2. Local market knowledge – Don’t underestimate local nuances. To succeed in a new territory, businesses need to understand the economic, cultural, governmental, and market conditions of that region. A one-size-fits-all model for a global company doesn’t work. Knowledge of the local language, cultural differences of doing businesses, the regulatory framework, and industry contacts are all invaluable to setting up operations in a new market. This can range from knowing whether to handshake, bow, or use formal titles at a business meeting, through to country specific policies on consumer data protection, or rules around data storage and cybersecurity
  3. Land or Expand? – when expanding into a new territory, SMEs and hypergrowth companies are faced with the decision of whether to acquire a local business or open new owned offices. Both have their merits and draw backs and depend on a huge range of factors – from capital investment to industry and product capability. What is important though is that, when opening a new office, ensure that you hire local talent with regional knowledge. If acquiring, find a business that aligns to your vision and wants to come on that journey with you. That means that you can get up and running fast – crucial for ventures into new territories
  4. Agile connected planning – despite the huge potential rewards, international expansion is not simple. The market and economic volatility that allows SMEs and hypergrowth companies to thrive, is also a danger to new ventures. You have to be able to plan for every scenario, model the potential outcomes and respond quickly. Monitor your key revenue lines and the plans that track them closely, reforecasting in real time based on these. You must continuously test and challenge these numbers to show that they’re robust and to avoid any nasty surprises

At Vuealta we are going through our own exciting expansion, having recently announced the opening of a New York office and the acquisition of Executit, to extend our offering into Northern Europe and Asia Pacific. As with all SMEs and hypergrowth companies looking to expand, we had to make these decisions quickly and decisively, but with complete confidence. By taking a connected planning approach to expansion decisions like this, businesses can have the agility and real-time insight they need. They can produce plans and projections for every aspect of the newly formed business, across cash-flow and revenue streams, through to modelling head count, customer or prospect pipelines, while accurately forecasting to mitigate against external risk factors. That “what-if” analysis shows you how the impact of the expansion could ripple through the wider organisation, now, in a year, in two or five years, and beyond.

There are many factors to consider and hurdles to jump when SMEs and hypergrowth companies look to expand into new markets. Five years ago, we couldn’t have taken these steps, but when you have a better understanding and visibility of the potential outcomes, you can be sure that you have the ability to do it at speed, successfully. The concept of “going global” is more achievable now than ever before.

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone

Vuealta expands into Americas with New York office and Managing Director hire

September 25, 2018

Irfan Ozaltin joins the international advisory partner to further its global connected planning proposition

Connected planning specialist, Vuealta, has today announced that it has opened a New York office – it’s first in the Americas. In conjunction with this, the business has hired Irfan Ozaltin as Managing Director & GM of Americas, to spearhead its operations and expansion in the continent.

Over two thirds of Vuealta’s existing client base has global operations and this latest expansion comes in response to the demand from its customers for global support from one connected partner. This new USA presence builds on the recent acquisition of Executit in May 2018 which brought the business’ capabilities to the wider European and Asia Pacific markets. Vuealta’s strong pedigree in financial services will be an excellent spring board into this latest financial hub – New York.

Ozaltin commented “Given the maturity curve in cloud innovation and scalability, the world of finance and technology is going through a rapid and turbulent transformation. True connected planning has never been more important to survival. I am thrilled to be joining the Vuealta family, to build our brand in the Americas, and explore the market opportunity of helping businesses navigate this data revolution. As a global consulting firm, we will be well positioned to deliver real change and best-in-breed advisory services for our clients worldwide.”

“As with any venture into a new market our primary tasks will be talent acquisition and market penetration. I look forward to sharing Vuealta’s unique proposition with our prospects and building a talented team of consultants to continue the business’ pedigree and success, in this new market,” Ozaltin continued.

Prior to joining Vuealta, Ozaltin held roles including Managing Director with Impetus Consulting Group, leading the firm’s strategic direction and business within the USA-East region, as well as Director at Peloton Group, overseeing client services and go-to-market strategy for the New York and Mid-Atlantic markets.

Ian Stone, CEO of Vuealta added, “We’re delighted to welcome Irfan Ozaltin to Vuealta as we embark on this next exciting step in our company’s journey. Expanding into the Americas will cement our global offering and New York is the perfect base from which to launch this. With the right consultancy partner in place, businesses can realise the true power of connected planning.”

Why your tech capability should be on a job spec

August 29, 2018

Generation Z – those born after 1995 –are starting to enter the workforce at pace. Growing up with ubiquitous connectivity and evolving mobile technology has shaped Gen Z’s priorities for the workplace. 91% of this group say that technological sophistication impacts their interest in working at a company. This is hardly surprising, as they are now often described as the “ultimate technology natives”. Businesses need to not only deploy the technology that this new generation craves, but shout that capability from the rooftops, if they are to recruit the talent they need to succeed.

SMEs in particular – accounting for 99.9% of businesses and 60% of the workforce in the UK private sector – will become increasingly dependant on this demographic to drive growth. They are the latest group to enter the workforce, but also hold many skills and qualities – creativity and innovation the most highly prized – that will be important to these agile organisations. But competition for this new talent pool is fierce and this highly skilled younger generation places huge demands on their prospective employers.

Agile tech and working practices

Much of the discussion when millennials joined the workforce, positioned them as being “tech-savvy”. With Gen Z, this goes much further. We now have the first generation born into a world of social media, online gaming, and a smartphone in every pocket. Snapchat; Instagram; WhatsApp; even more so than the millennial generation (who’s key influences included Myspace and Facebook), Gen Z expect, receive and digest information instantly.

This demand doesn’t change when they walk into their place of work. Gen Z employees want the latest technology at their fingertips and to be just as connected – in the technology sense – at work as they are in their day-to-day lives. This manifests itself in several guises. Gen Z have always had access to any information or contact, from any location in the world – provided there is 4G or wireless. Increasingly, the same can be said for work – younger generations want the flexibility to be able to work from anywhere in a connected and agile way. Businesses need to make sure that they have the technology in place to facilitate this, as well as exploring more cultural initiatives, like the design of “third spaces” that encourage interactions outside of any rigid departmental boundaries or formalised meeting rooms.

Harnessing the potential of Gen Z

Their highly networked and tech-driven upbringing has fostered a more entrepreneurial generation in Gen Z. In fact, 72% want to start a business of their own in the future. SMEs can harness that motivated and strategic outlook within their organisation if they give them a chance. Where possible, promote the freedom to be autonomous while still having the appropriate checks and balances needed. Flattening organisational charts and concepts of hierarchy – as well as providing constant opportunities to learn and develop – will all be important to attracting Gen Z. Many organisations are looking into concepts like “scrums” – agile breakout groups and teams – rather than rigid hierarchies.

This equally feeds into the work itself. When it comes to Gen Z, it’s not just about how they work, but what the work actually is. Using technology has placed a premium on their key skills like creativity, innovative thinking and the ability to understand and process information quickly. Organisations that can use technology effectively, automating laborious tasks like data entry, will better attract and unleash the potential of this new generation in the workforce.

Learning and development

Having grown up during the 2008 recessionGen Z are also naturally more pragmatic than their millennial predecessors, particularly appreciating the value and efficiencies that technology brings to the workplace. The influence of these more risk-averse times and familiarity with the rise of new technologies, has also made Gen Z much more conscious of the need to learn new skills to stay relevant and compete.

Gen Z have grown up with the world’s largest ever on-demand how-to video library – YouTube. With that bank of learning just a few clicks away in their personal lives, this new section of the labour force wants equally innovative solutions to appease that thirst for knowledge and development. Organisations are responding. The NHS, for example, has begun to train their doctors and nurses with the help of virtual realities. Instead of learning their trade in real-life operations and emergencies, VR technology enables them to acquire and train their skills safely. While not applicable to every business, it does highlight the need for organisations to better embrace new technologies and change workforce practices, when looking to attract and engage younger generations.

SME leaders must ensure that they have the technology and organisational flexibility that this new Gen Z workforce craves – and it’s not just about having an iPad on every desk. They want to be able to work from anywhere with agility and access to instant information, while being given the freedom to think creatively, learn and have a real impact on the organisation. Having the right business technology in place sits at the heart of delivering on this and organisations need to take heed of those demands if they are to attract and retain Gen Z talent. In fact, that technology capability is so important, it should sit on top of every job spec.

Ricky Parkash

Written by: Ricky Parkash

Ricky is a Head of Enablement with over 10 years experience in Performance Management, Business Planning and Modelling. Previous roles include an Internal Consultant for Nestle, a System Accountant for Thomson-Reuters and a Consultant for IBM. In addition, Ricky is a published author and part-time lecturer in Business and Finance. Specialising in Financial Performance Management and a graduate of IBM's Top Talent programme class of 2011, Ricky is now heading up Customer Enablement at Vuealta and is fully certified to deliver Anaplan’s official training courses.

The fight for equality now – not in 2047

August 10, 2018

The fight for equality in the UK approached a turning point on 4th April 2018 when companies were forced to reveal their gender pay gap. The results were as expected – almost eight in ten companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than women. But what did these results actually reveal? The figures and the quality of the data are far from perfect. For example, high-level executives including partners and non-employed, low-paid workers are not included. We cannot therefore confidently say that the results are representative of the reality of the gender pay gap within companies – or equality in general. It could be much wider or indeed narrower than we think.

We’re now three months on and despite the promise of change, official forecasts predict that the gender pay gap will persist until at least 2047. Which begs the questions – is it going to be worth the wait? And will it lead to fairer pay within companies?

The truth is that equality within business, particularly around pay, is so much more than the pure gender debate. We need to consider what it means in terms of ethnicity, age and ability as well. In October 2017, the Parker Review published its first report on ethnic diversity in the boardrooms of UK companies. The report revealed that only 8% of 1,050 director positions are directors of colour and more than half of FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minorities on their board. It’s clear that the problem of equality is much more than the pay gap between genders.

That said, the gender pay gap reporting is starting to increase the visibility and importance of all equal pay legislation with employees and wider stakeholders. This greater attention is starting to shine the spotlight on pay inequity and raises significant financial and reputational risks for companies who are not in compliance with the regulations. Birmingham City Council is one of the more famous cases of the financial risk associated with equal pay. Losing its fight against thousands of women it underpaid for years cost the Council an estimated £1.1 billion. That’s not the sort of bill any company wants to foot.

So how do they go about putting in practical steps to start making progress towards greater equality now? Firstly, companies must take a good look at how they currently fair from an equality perspective. Having an understanding of the problem will make finding a solution much easier. From there, they can then develop a plan of action for the next three to five years because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to change everyone’s pay overnight.

Typically, these types of pay and diversity analyses are done in Excel. There are also some HR platforms that can do elements of this; they can help develop a hiring plan but won’t provide a long term overview and model different scenarios showing how the hiring plan will help address the balance of equality over time. For example, what if you find a group that’s sitting outside of the pay structure? You need to get them back in and track the progress on a rolling basis.

The only way to do this is by using a more modern, connected approach to planning. By using a joined up platform to capture, monitor and analyse how your company is performing against any equality goals you set, you can make changes much more quickly. You’ll also have real-time updates easily accessible. We’ve recently launched a new app, based on connected planning. It helps businesses analyse their current equal pay gaps based on previously defined pay components (salary, bonus etc.) and forecast what those pay gaps could look like in the future, if certain changes are implemented. The app will then create a report which shows how a business’ current pay gap differs from the forecast, demonstrating the impact of the changes you are introducing in real time.

Most companies do this type of analysis on an ad hoc basis, particularly those with large, complex workforces. That’s where more modern planning comes into its own. Local councils are a good candidate for example; they have complicated terms and conditions around hiring and contracts and within one pay grade could have multiple different roles, some of which might be unionised, or they’ve been transferred from a different organisation.

Businesses need to start getting a handle on what equality within their organisation looks like and plan to bring about change now. The momentum around equality is gaining and businesses that don’t show that they’re making steps in the right direction to address the balance could face massive financial and reputation risk. It’s impractical to suggest we can solve all pay gaps tomorrow, but surely we can do better than 2047?

For more information on Vuealta’s equal pay app, contact us.

Sean Culligan

Written by: Sean Culligan

Head of Services Vuealta. Master Anaplanner and Global Expert

The future of Fintech is a connected one

July 18, 2018

Between 2010 and 2015, the financial services industry changed drastically. In just those five years, four of today’s most successful fintech companies were launched; namely Stripe, Revolut, Starling Bank and Monzo. These launches all had one thing in common; putting the customer at the centre of the operation, untied to legacy or history. Fast forward and the fintech industry is coming of age, with the UK’s fintech sector alone attracting £1.34 billion of venture capital funding in 2017, and new companies launching into market every day.

This success means that the challenge these companies now face is one of scale. To keep moving forward, they need to be able to expand and scale up quickly and easily to support their growing customer bases. They need to do this at the same time as maintaining the flawless, fully-digitised customer service that they have become synonymous for. No easy feat.

How they play this growth period is therefore vital. They need to be fast in making decisions and flexible enough to adapt to the constant changes that are now part and parcel of today’s market. That means arming themselves with the tools and information that will help them achieve that.

The key is in the planning. As digital companies, fintechs already benefit from high levels of flexibility and adaptability. These traits must also be reflected in how they approach their business planning if they stand a chance of still being relevant five years down the road. A recent survey by Ernst & Young revealed that a third of UK fintech companies believe that they’re likely to IPO in that timeframe – a clear demonstration of the rewards that can be reaped from staying successful. What will set the successes apart from the failures is connectivity. A more connected company with a more connected approach to how it plans will be more successful.

By connecting their people, processes and data, fintech companies will be able to more accurately forecast their revenue, costs and liquidity on a monthly if not weekly or daily basis. They’ll be able to model and digest significant variations in activity and resources, as well as changes in operating models and growth scenarios. For those looking to scale up their operations, both from a size and geography point of view, these insights are invaluable. Expansion is an expensive business, so using the company’s data and connecting it to make more informed, accurate decisions will help ensure that they don’t burn through valuable capital.

It will also help them stay nimble. This is a period of significant change, with new regulations, political fluctuations affecting currency rates, access to skills and trade deals, amongst other things. The future is unclear so staying nimble means having a clear view and plan for what multiple futures could look like. That is only possible with a real-time overview of the business and the ability to quickly understand the impact of any market changes.

This is a critical point for fintech companies. The competition is growing and although the larger banks will never be able to match them in terms of agility, they have experience, big customer bases and money on their side. Taking a more connected approach to how they plan will be key to success. Only with a clear view of how the business is performing and scenarios for when that performance is jeopardised, will fintech companies cement their place in the future of finance.

Vuealta acquires Executit, building on its global Anaplan offering

May 15, 2018

Vuealta extends offering in Northern Europe and the Asia Pacific region, sponsors Connected Planning industry event

Connected planning specialist, Vuealta, has today announced the acquisition of Executit. This is the company’s first acquisition, since its founding in 2017 by former-Anaplan employees, Ian Stone and Adam Bimson. The acquisition will further extend Vuealta’s Anaplan practice into Northern Europe and the Asia Pacific region.

Both companies work exclusively with Anaplan, the leader in Connected Planning, that provides software and services to create the connected plans essential for businesses competing today. Vuealta and Executit were both recently recognized with Anaplan Partner Awards for driving successful adoption, expansion, and return on investment for customers. Jointly, the two companies have an impressive customer portfolio and a huge range of experience across a variety of different use cases and many years of collective Anaplan expertise.

Ian Stone, CEO of Vuealta, said, “Technology has allowed businesses of all sizes to more easily establish a global footprint and they need an international partner to work with them to connect planning processes across their network. Bringing Executit, a highly respected and experienced partner that specializes in Anaplan services, into the Vuealta fold will allow us to expand our offering into Europe as well as gain a crucial foothold in the booming Asian marketplace. We deliver a global service to Anaplan’s international customers and this acquisition puts us in an even better position to do that at scale.

Jonas Nordquist, Founder of Executit commented, “We are excited to be joining forces with Vuealta, furthering our work with customers to realise the best of the Anaplan Connected Planning platform. Drawing on Vuealta’s additional capabilities, we will continue on our mission to tackle business challenges and transform uncertainties into opportunities.

Anaplan is committed to delivering success for our customers, and our partner ecosystem is critical to achieving this,” said David Tharp, Anaplan Vice President of Global Alliances. “Vuelta and Executit are valued members of the Anaplan partner community, and their alignment will create a multi-regional approach important to many of our global customers.

Vuealta is a gold sponsor at Anaplan’s Hub Comes to You, a Connected Planning industry conference, taking place on May 15 at 8:00 AM at the Central Hall Westminster Storey’s Gate, Westminster London SW1H 9NH, UK. To learn more about the event, visit https://www.hubcomestoyou.com/london/.

About Vuealta

Vuealta is an international company providing tailored advisory, implementation and ongoing support services for Anaplan, a leading planning platform provider. A trusted advisor in business process and transformation, we work with global organisations to take a more unified and colloborative approach to planning – connecting people, plans and data to enable faster decision making. Vuealta has offices in Europe and Asia Pacific.

Vuealta partners with Lloyds of London to modernise its Finance function

May 6, 2018

A more connected approach to planning at Lloyd’s of London puts the finance team at the strategic heart of the business

When Jim Islam, Head of Group Finance at Lloyd’s of London joined the Corporation, he inherited a traditional accounting function. He saw an opportunity to modernise and change the perception and role that the finance team played within the wider organisation, putting it at the heart of strategic decision making.

Specifically, he realised that by streamlining and connecting the Corporation’s budgeting and planning processes, he could make the finance function an effective and strategic business partner, whilst also improving and accelerating the organisation’s ability to make better decisions. To do that, he chose to partner with Vuealta to introduce the Anaplan platform; replacing Lloyd’s of London’s numerous, processes and approaches with one consistent plan.

This couldn’t have come at a better time. Lloyd’s is introducing a number of modernisation programmes to enhance efficiency and provide better value for money services. To do that, it needs a clear, accurate and real-time view of financial performance and the ability to forecast for future scenarios.

Jim Islam explains: “We were good at reporting the numbers but not exploring them to provide actionable insights to the business. We needed to put finance at the heart of strategic decision making by introducing a standardised approach. That meant getting rid of the disparate system applications that we were relying on and introducing a consistent global template.

The change needed to happen quickly. Working with Vuealta, Jim and his team implemented the Anaplan platform across all of their business regions in just four months – endlessly flexible and scalable, it can be used across the business to connect data, processes and people. The platform gives the finance team and others within the business a much bigger picture view of its finances.

Jim continues: “The Anaplan platform provides us with a clear view on targets, data, any changes that have been made and how they’re being managed, which is indispensable for our audit trails and risk monitoring. This is particularly important considering increasing demands on the finance team to be agile and provide insightful information with a single version of the truth for financial data. It has enabled us to focus on developing talent and enhancing management information to drive decision-making.

The shift from processing numbers to spending more time on analysis and value-added work has also made the finance team’s jobs much more interesting and they have become true partners to the business. To support them in this new role, Lloyd’s has spent a lot of time on training and re-designing the team, putting in place a new organisational structure and creating centres of excellence. “

Ian Stone, CEO of Vuealta: “Fast and agile decision making is what sets successful companies apart. By renewing its approach to planning in the finance department, Lloyd’s of London has put itself on the front foot when dealing with changes in the market, whether that’s regulations, market pressures or competition from FinTech. Other parts of the business have been impressed with the benefits of the new planning approach and are also now engaging in further rollouts of the Anaplan platform.

Karen Clarke, Vice President, Northern Europe at Anaplan: “Collaboration and alignment will be key to companies as they navigate today’s turbulent economic and political landscape. A more connected approach to planning allows information to flow more freely across a business to provide increased agility and better insights. The finance team is a hugely important driver of this change – using data and information to help the business make more informed and quicker decisions. Lloyd’s of London is a fantastic example of how this new approach can have a real difference to the organisation as a whole in just a short space of time.

Custom fit: getting the most out of your tech

March 26, 2018

The rate of innovation taking place today is enough to make any business feel permanently caught in a hamster wheel; trying to keep up with the latest trends to stay relevant. From small businesses to large enterprises, introducing anything new into a company can be a painful process. But if done right, it’s highly rewarding.

The problem is, the hamster wheel means that businesses feel constantly under pressure to move onto the next “big thing. There is a tendency for them to implement new technology and then quickly move on to the next project. Often, they’re then left feeling disappointed with the impact of that new piece of technology because just winding it up and expecting it to deliver isn’t enough. Businesses need to ensure that there is a dedicated team focusing on getting the most out of what is probably quite a significant investment. They need to consider the wider implications and success factors, such as people and processes.

Business need to look at how the technology will impact and benefit everyone, not just the IT team. It also needs to consider how it will integrate with existing workflows and procedures that are currently in place. Time is a luxury for today’s businesses so doing all of that whilst continuing with the day to day jobs can be difficult. Which is why working with a partner who can manage a project from start to finish and ensure that it delivers can be a game changer.

A new technology implementation is like a cycle race. Racing cyclists are decked out head to toe in the latest gear, accompanied by a highly technologically-advanced, custom-built bicycle built for precision and speed. The cyclist themselves are passionate and highly trained, knowledgeable about the course and the competition. They work together to be the best that they can be and to win the race. But without the rider, the bike is just a bike.

It’s the same in business. A company must be in the best shape possible, adapting processes and training people where needed to ensure that they can use new technology to its full advantage. Without that, the technology will sit there, having only the most basic impact or even no impact at all. For many businesses today, what they lack is time and skills – neither of which are easy to come by within existing internal teams.

In the pro peloton, the rider is supported by a group of team-mates and a huge support team, working tirelessly throughout the races to help achieve the best result possible. Building a long-term, working relationship with a partner, who has the skills and time to help the business through the entire journey of a new technology implementation is highly rewarding. By providing ongoing support, the partner can help the business start small, delivering immediate benefits, and then over time expanding the reach and impact of the investment to benefit other areas of the business. They are there to help figure out where to start, carrying out pilots to get an idea of any issues or unexpected benefits, from what the design and build should look like through to carrying out regular health-checks to ensure everything is working well.

It’s hard enough wading through all the technology solutions out there to find the best one, let alone achieving the promised benefits of the technology once you’ve invested in it. Businesses need to surround themselves with the best technology implementation partner possible to ensure that they’re reaping the rewards from their technology investments. As we know, in today’s digital age, technology can be the game changer for businesses looking to come out on top and win the race.

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone

Planning is a relay race: here’s how to get ahead of the competition

February 8, 2018

“Connected Planning” is a term that has come to prominence in recent years, but as a philosophy it’s nothing new. James McKinsey’s 1922 breakthrough book ‘Budgetary Control’ effectively set out the connected planning roadmap used today. It focused on learnings for the future rather than simply reviewing the past and placed great importance on allowing managers to take control of their future business. All organisations try to join up their planning activity, and the role of connected planning is to manage this process and make these links as seamless as possible. I’ve come to see planning as a relay race with multiple handoffs – working as a team and smooth exchanges are vital to success. But problems surface when businesses use siloed systems which slow down this process and cause a breakdown in communication.

When implemented properly at both a technological and an organisational level, connected planning provides an intuitive map of how decisions ripple through an entire organisation. Streamlining this process can lead to significant competitive advantages. Of course, each business and sector will face its own challenges. On one hand, consider a fintech startup that’s moving and developing at pace. It almost needs to reinvent its planning process at every new cycle. On the other hand, think of some of the world’s largest companies where planning processes are more firmly entrenched. The sheer scale of their operations and the swathes of data and activity streams involved can make it very difficult to implement this intelligence.

I’d like to address the practical steps that businesses of all shapes and sizes can take, to build a workable framework. So, here are my top tips for how every business, big and small, can succeed in connected planning:

Get to the spine of the planning process

Connected planning can seem complex in the beginning. From inception to completion there will be many moving parts along the way. Like the relay, every section of the process is important. However, trying to do everything at once may cloud your view of the real backbone running through the process. Working out the path of least resistance will be critical. A great place to start is to ask yourself: What are my business objectives? Some will prioritise revenue management, for example, while others will look at workforce planning. Start from your ultimate goals and work backward to find out what really drives the process.

Think big, but make it manageable

You’re only going to realise the full potential of connected planning if you have that vision in the first place. Set a roadmap for how you’re going to get there in manageable steps, otherwise you will overwhelm yourself. Don’t try to do it all at once. Begin by focusing on the smaller challenges which would release the greatest immediate benefit and start there. Continually build, test and adjust as you go and progressively integrate connected planning into your business.

Put the tech into perspective

Technology is a wonderful tool, and is for the most part the reason why connected planning has become a reality. But technology on its own isn’t the answer: it’s only as good as the craftsman wielding it. Connected planning is all about the interaction between people and teams, without user buy-in and understanding, it simply won’t work. Focus on the people and the overarching governance of the process. Without proper care and attention, it will lie dormant and fail to deliver value.

Never stop improving

Planning isn’t a static process, with a simple beginning and end. If you’re starting out from a disjointed and siloed process, be prepared to go through some level of trial and error initially. It will take time and multiple iterations to get right. The important thing here is to keep an eye out for where you can make improvements.

Connected planning is about achieving Olympic level smoothness through the baton changes. But the benefits of planning really come to life once the race is over and leaders can take a step back, analyse the results and find out which part of the process made all the difference. Relish that winning feeling, but learn how to improve and replicate it over and over again.

Adam Bimson

Written by: Adam Bimson

With over 15 years’ in the Financial Performance Management space gained through his time at Metapraxis, PA Consulting, Mckinsey and Anaplan, Adam is a well-respected thought leader and is currently helping organisations to thrive in a new age of connected planning in his role as Director of Customer Success at Anaplan partner, Vuealta.

More data is a good thing, so let’s share

January 31, 2018

‍The growth in data has become an asset for teams working in the Business Intelligence and analytics space. However, the full benefits that data can bring have all too often failed to make their way across the entire organisation.

Telling the data story

The importance of data is rooted in its ability to tell a story. Whether this is explaining customer shopping habitssales channel performance, or any number of other variables, the art lies in transforming this vast amount of data into a simple to use, easily interpreted flow of information. The capacity to identify new opportunities is amplified when this raw information is made available to a variety of teams, each with the freedom to explore it in their own way. By locking data for the exclusive use of those in highly analytical roles, you are restricting the entire organisation’s capacity for creativity and potential new perspectives. Often the best data discoveries come when you don’t even know what you are looking for, until you find it. This is where planning and forecasting in cloud platforms really comes into its own, allowing businesses the flexibility to securely provide easy access to vital data, across the organisation.

Data’s only half the story

Data is great but it’s what you do with it that really counts. The cloud gives organisations the flexibility to drill down and interrogate data and answer the questions that matter the most. For example, imagine a company that sells a wide range of products, to different target markets, across several regions. Cloud platforms allow you to build a tailored solution whereby sales managers can view data for their specific region, identify which products are selling the best, and compare their performance to that of their peers. They can then pivot this data to understand if this performance difference is because of their ability to over or under penetrate certain customer types.

From this raw data of sales figures, team members on the ground can extrapolate real business intelligence to improve performance. While this example is relatively simplistic, the impact of using data in this way only becomes more powerful as you add layers of complexity across the organisation. By using the cloud, businesses can ensure that no matter how complex the data is, it can be controlled by the end user, in real-time. The right data, in the right hands, at the right time, is an incredibly powerful tool.

We know what we are selling but what does that mean for our business?

Through the application of connected planning it is now possible for teams to share their strategies with the collective and allow for a joined-up planning process. For example, a marketing team plan a summer campaign that they know will resonate well with a particular demographic of their customer base. The marketing team can flag this campaign to the salesforce via their connected planning tool. This update instantly filters through to the demand planning team who can model to understand the territories where they see greater concentrations of these customer types. They can then apply an adjustment to their forecast to account for the change in the market. This connected approach means that the process can be run in real-time anywhere in the world and the organisation is better prepared to take advantage of gaps in the market quicker.

Business leaders must ensure that they are arming their sales and planning teams with the best possible tools to deliver results on the frontline. The benefits of connected planning are significant in the sales domain. By removing time-lags between decision making, planning teams are able to respond quicker to the demands of their industry. Accounting within demand plans for the actions of others, forecasting teams are able to resource to the correct levels and ensure demand is met. Using data in this way and connecting that planning process across the organisation is the future of sales.

Lloyd Rayner

Written by: Lloyd Rayner

I have spent several years working in BI / analytical roles supporting with sales optimisation. More specifically assisting parts of British Gas to understand the potential of their franchise network, providing these SME’s with information on the potential of their businesses and more recently helping Virgin Media understand and define its regional sales strategy.

Five big tests facing your supply chain this year

January 25, 2018

We are living in interesting times. Europe seems to have turned a corner on the prevailing malaise and financial shocks of recent years. The emergence of Emmanuel Macron in France, who is once again championing a liberal and globalising attitude in Europe and the stability of Angela Merkel, suggests that this trend will continue.

In the UK and the US, however,  economic uncertainty as a result of the political climate  continues. Sterling in the UK has taken a knock and is driving inflation; in turn putting the breaks on consumer growth and squeezing spending. However, it is also driving the FTSE to new highs and could prove lucrative for UK manufacturers.

China is moving down the path of development and is more inward-looking.  As the US takes a more domestic-focused position, politically, China may step in to the breach and look to drive a more global agenda in areas such as climate change.

This context is highlighting some key challenges for functions across all sectors but in particular it raises some interesting considerations for supply and operations planning. The five big challenges for 2018 are:

1. External shocks from across the globe

Modern supply chains are increasingly global and involve chains of supply spanning multiple and disparate countries, as well as complex suppliers. More involvement means that organisations are exposed to a wider range of risks and external factors than before.

Large scale disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes or geo-political instability in key supply markets will require significant mitigation efforts.

2. A squeeze on efficiency

Organisations will continue to face pressure to find efficiencies in supply chain costs. The move to online channels and new approaches to supply, along with recent low fuel prices, have provided opportunities for some organisations to significantly reduce costs. Even so, supply chain managers will remain under continued pressure to find cost savings. Once the big ticket items are gone it will be down to continued incremental cost reductions.

3. Speed to market

Uncertainty and the increasing pace of change means that companies need to have a real-time view of demand and a good understanding of the future direction of demand for their market. They then need to react quickly to these changes and pivot to meet the changing circumstances. At the same time, they are under pressure to communicate and obtain consensus from senior management and the market on the direction of travel, and they have to consider and manage logistics and inventory constraints.

The work to bring the demand and supply problem closer means integrating inputs across functions and developing an integrated planning process which can model the impact of changes across the related areas.

4. The exponential pace of change

As companies diversify and globalise their manufacturing base there is an increasing complexity in optimising the production process. The answers may vary not just by location but by time too. It’s important to consider that new product introductions could also mean moving into new markets, necessitating a new mix of production allocation across sites.

5. Customer expectations

For retailers, technology-led companies like Amazon and Uber, have shown the possibilities of true on-demand, seamless services. An Uber is a click away and in most cases you can expect next day delivery as standard. Other companies are having to respond and we have seen a rapid shift to next day or same day service.

This shift in expectations means companies will need to consider their markets and may need a fundamental change in their operating models.

From a planning perspective this means that we can expect to see continued improvements and collaboration between functions, with more real-time connected plans. Companies with siloed processes are not able to adjust quickly enough to capture the market opportunities.

In summary, what we are seeing is that the supply and operations planning processes will continue to integrate more closely across the business and become more integral to the overall strategy and direction of organisations. Companies who wish to remain nimble and efficient will move to a more frequent planning cycle and have the ability to model and report on changing market conditions and other external factors. At the same time, other functions like marketing, sales and logistics will provide regular inputs to ensure greater alignment and get closer to the customer.

Increasing scrutinity and reporting will be required from senior leadership and analysts to ensure effective communication and expectations setting externally, while also providing inputs to the continually moving strategy.

Sean Culligan

Written by: Sean Culligan

Head of Services Vuealta. Master Anaplanner and Global Expert

Vuealta and Reportwise announce partnership to deliver IFRS16 Compliant Lease Contracts Management Solution

January 1, 2018

As of January 2019, the IFRS16 Standard imposes a single lessee accounting model; requiring lessees to ensure a permanent lease inventory, recognise assets and liabilities in their balance sheet and publish additional disclosures.

Addressing this statutory requirement, Reportwise Consulting, a specialist performance management company, have created an IFRS16 compliant solution powered by Anaplan, for data collection, calculations, reporting and disclosures of lease contracts.

Forming a new partnership, Reportwise and Vuealta are committed to helping UK businesses meet the needs of the requirements of IFRS16, through the deployment of the new App.

The clock is ticking for these organisations, who need to have a solution in place by 1 January 2019,” said Ian Stone, CEO, Vuealta. “We are delighted to announce our new partnership with Reportwise whose Anaplan App we can deliver to companies across the UK in a short amount of time, carrying out implementations during the first half of 2018 in order to meet the statutory deadline.

The team at Vuealta are in a prime position to take our solution to market,” said Michel Morel, Anaplan Practice Lead at Reportwise. “Their Anaplan expertise and skills, combined with their existing customer relationships, means that we can expect to see successful deployments across relevant organisations, supporting this element of their IFRS16 compliancy.

12 Hints & Tips on Using Anaplan for Management Information (MI)

October 24, 2017

Read our round-up of best practice Hints and Tips for preparing and presenting Management Information.

1) Deliver the basics at the front of the pack/series of dashboards

Whilst there can be a temptation to run away with a variety of information, there should always be a place for core management schedules at the forefront of the MI.  A P&L showing (1) ‘Actual vs PYr/Bud’ for the month and YTD, and (2) ‘Forecast vs PYr/Bud’ for the full year must be front and centre with no over complication.  Management have spent their career with these types of reports coming across their desk, so have muscle memory in consuming the messages.

2) Draw out the ‘what’s changed?’ message

A monthly pack needs to highlight new news.  There is clearly a place for replaying those things which are already known, but not at the expense of hiding new developments.  For instance, if a particular cost line is known to be running above budget for the YTD, and the reason for this is understood, then there isn’t necessarily merit in continuing to focus narrative on this issue if this means that other, more recent trends are lost.

3) Capture and present the data which allows the causes to be understood

The MI needs to help identify the upstream cause of performance and often this involves collecting data which is not in the finance systems.  In other cases, it may simply require correlated metrics to be presented together.  Ultimately, the aim is to understand – for instance – not just that a cost is above budget, but instead if it is due to a greater consumption than anticipated or more of a unit cost issue, or if it is driven by increased business volumes, or a timing consideration etc.  Having users tag/categorise variances can support this sort of analysis.

4) Don’t overcomplicate the charting

Simple charts can strongly amplify a message, particularly in drawing out trends which are less apparent in the data.  On the flip side, overly complex charts can be a distraction, and as such, we recommend sticking to simple standard charts. A simple test should always be ‘can the user tell what the chart is trying to present to them if they look at it for less than ten seconds?’

5) Focus on the forward implications

The core financials will give a view of ‘what has happened’, and there is clear merit in understanding that position.  However, the real benefit of the MI should be to understand what that means for future performance, year-end out turn etc.  Some of this will be driven by primary forecasting activity where the business is actively reviewing assumptions, buying into a forecast etc.  Additionally, it can be supported by simple modelling, using techniques such as run rate projections.

6) Exploit the modelling and data capture abilities of Anaplan

Taking GL data, aggregating it and presenting it only gets you so far.  Usually there is an opportunity to enhance the data by using the modelling/calculation capabilities.  This may be by processing recharges and/or allocations, by mapping data to produce alternative roll-ups and views or by managing exchange rates so that the impact of currency movements on variances is clear.  Invariably, this needs not only the calculation engine, but also user inputs to control the calculation behaviours.

7) Include specific reference/content to forecast accuracy

In the spirit of continual improvement, and ever better forecasting and predictability, an MI pack should include a view on forecast accuracy.  This needn’t be ‘naming and shaming’, but should be granular enough to understand which areas of the forecast are more or less accurate.  This can be particularly important when dealing with driver-based forecasting, as it can help understand where the forecast approach needs recalibration, alternative drivers identified etc.

8) Place emphasis on the trends

The strongest message in MI is often in the trends, and simple line and bar charting of these is highly effective.  In particular, using techniques such as rolling 12-month averages allows a focus on the underlying trend rather than the monthly fluctuations.  Sharp turns in direction in a forecast rolling average can be suspicious.

9) Maintain a rolling view

Notwithstanding that there is always a need for a YTD/FY view, we recommend that there is also content to capture a rolling view.  This can often just be ensuring that a ‘last 12 months’ / ‘next 12 months’ view is available.

10) Keep the commentary insightful

Too often commentary can just be a repeat in words of what the data shows, i.e. ‘costs for the YTD are £0.2mn above budget’, which does not add much value.  Commentary should focus instead on the why as well as what can done about it? Commentary should have that ‘call-to-action’ feeling to it.

11) Select the appropriate delivery mechanism

Broadly speaking, there are three options for delivering reports to users, namely (1) direct access through Anaplan, (2) preparation of traditional Excel/PowerPoint based packs, and (3) integration with a Business Intelligence tool. It may be that some of the user community uses Anaplan to ‘self-serve’ access to data as well as navigate around this data etc.  However, when it comes to senior management/executive reporting, PowerPoint often remains the most effective delivery mechanism.  The implication of this is that there will still be effort within Finance to prepare these packs.  However, the upside should be in ensuring that Anaplan does the heavy lifting on preparing the data, without too much Excel manipulation and manual steps.

12) When building MI, step back from the detail

A project team building dashboards and reports can often get very close to the detail.  In doing so, complex dashboards can be created whereby every element is very well thought out and understood, but by people who have lived and breathed the content.  Stepping back and thinking ‘will the end user know the purpose of each component?’ is important to avoid the trap.

Adam Bimson

Written by: Adam Bimson

With over 15 years’ in the Financial Performance Management space gained through his time at Metapraxis, PA Consulting, Mckinsey and Anaplan, Adam is a well-respected thought leader and is currently helping organisations to thrive in a new age of connected planning in his role as Director of Customer Success at Anaplan partner, Vuealta.

Need training on a new finance system? Go back to the classroom for a richer and more successful experience

September 12, 2017

Have you ever hit a stumbling block whilst working through a self-paced online course? Maybe you’ve been working through the instructions and guidelines and then suddenly, something just doesn’t look right. Did you miss a step somewhere? What will happen if you go back to previous steps to try and figure out the problem? Will you lose the work you have completed so far?

Or maybe you are just curious to find out what happens if you click a certain button that’s not featured in the pre-planned training course?

My name is Ricky Parkash. I am a qualified accountant and have been a consultant and trainer of finance systems for over 15 years, including SAP, IBM Cognos and Anaplan. I have a particularly keen interest in developing simple and clear methods to deliver complex scenarios to training delegates that attend my classroom based courses.

The purpose of this blog is to provide food for thought to anyone considering an online course versus a classroom based training course on the same subject.

Training and learning goes back centuries and comprises of a pupil having a teacher, master, mentor or a guide telling, explaining and showing how something is done and providing immediate feedback when it’s the students turn.

When it comes to learning a new finance system, classroom training has this same compound effect, with the trainer having the ability to assess the delegate in real time. Where online training may have the advantages of availability, it lacks the interaction, focus and most importantly eliminates the ‘human touch’.

I’ve spent many times in a classroom ‘watching the penny drop’ with a delegate when something is explained. It gives me great satisfaction to see a delegate who doesn’t know anything about the new finance system on the morning of day one, go on to build a multi-dimensional use case model by the afternoon of day three. To me, this is just further evidence of the speed at which learning can take place in the classroom.

As we all know, the goal of training is to educate the delegate, enabling them to perform their role and subsequently enhance their career. Classroom training provides a safe space, where delegates won’t feel intimidated by mistakes or lack of knowledge. When a delegate leaves a classroom course to return to work after passing the accreditation exam, it is with pride that he or she delivers the news to their colleagues and employer. They haven’t spent a few lonely days fixed to their computer screens whilst working independently through an online course, so they usually return to the office with a spring in their step and a new certification!

Classroom training can also be fun! If the trainer has a string of jokes, acronyms, memory aides or amusing war stories, this can all add to having a longer term understanding of the topic at hand. For example, I often liken the process of loading data into a multi-dimensional module to playing 3D Battleships; it requires all the co-ordinates to fire a numeric or text value in the correct cell. And all accountants will recognise their difficulty in tearing themselves away from spreadsheets and that’s supported by the fitting alternative description for the Institute of Chartered Accountants In England and Wales (ICAEW); the Institute of Calculator Addicts and Excel Worshipers.

To summarise my thoughts on why classroom training is more productive and delivers better all round results:

A Sense Of Completion

Unlike online self-paced courses, classroom courses won’t stop halfway through. The ultimate objective is to wave a congratulatory goodbye to delegates at the end of the course whilst handing them their certificate of completion. There are no distractions (the day job being the most common!) and delegates don’t need to worry about time management whilst in attendance. Instead they can focus fully on the task at hand.

Practice

Ample opportunity is provided for each delegate to build and rebuild or test a changed scenario with verification from the instructor on the merits of an alternative option. And if you’ve nailed it before the others on the course, you might even have time for a quick coffee before moving onto the next challenge.

Better Return On Investment

Studies show that through a continuous flow of learning, delegates retain and apply their new knowledge much quicker than a ‘stop-start’ experience.

Learning From Other Participants

Even the instructor can benefit here!! Sharing experiences amongst the group, tips and tricks, positive or indeed negative experiences all leads to a richer overall experience. Plus of course, it’s yet another excellent opportunity to build your network of like minded peers.

Interested in an Anaplan Classroom Based Training Course?

Learn more about our training courses and book yourself onto our Introduction to Model Building Course or our Intermediate Model Building Course today!

Ricky Parkash

Written by: Ricky Parkash

Ricky is a Head of Enablement with over 10 years experience in Performance Management, Business Planning and Modelling. Previous roles include an Internal Consultant for Nestle, a System Accountant for Thomson-Reuters and a Consultant for IBM. In addition, Ricky is a published author and part-time lecturer in Business and Finance. Specialising in Financial Performance Management and a graduate of IBM's Top Talent programme class of 2011, Ricky is now heading up Customer Enablement at Vuealta and is fully certified to deliver Anaplan’s official training courses.

Vuealta launches in Asia Pacific region with new office in Sydney

September 11, 2017

Vuealta, a leading European-based Anaplan partner, announced its launch in the Asia Pacific region today, with the opening of an office in Sydney, Australia.  Led by Jason Crage, formerly of Solution Minds, the Vuealta APAC team brings to the region over 20 years of experience within Enterprise Performance Management sales and consultancy services.

With global demand for Anaplan continuing to grow, aligning our business to support multi-national customers based within regional offices with a localised service is an important priority for us,” says Ian Stone, CEO at Vuealta. “We are pleased to be able to strengthen our relationship with Anaplan by continuing to support its growing customer base with this new office opening.

Jason Crage, Managing Director at Vuealta APAC, comments “We are looking forward to delivering our best-in-class consultancy services to organisations across the APAC region.  Our team has deep product expertise and knowledge and this is a logical step to strengthen Vuealta’s position amongst the Anaplan partner ecosystem.

Get in touch with the Vuealta APAC Team:

40 Mount Street Level 17.
North Sydney NSW 20160.
Australia

E: hello@vuealta.com
T: 00 61 405 709 351

Budgeting 3.0: New Technology? Don’t sleepwalk into recreating the same old process – it’s time to create a new one!

May 12, 2017

Budgeting is budgeting, right?  A critical component of managing business performance, but invariably one where everyone breathes a sigh of relief once complete. “Phew! That’s that done for another year!  OK, well, maybe for another nine months as it takes three months to complete it each time.”  It’s a process which is annual, homogenous across the organisation, time-consuming and dare I say, a distraction from the day job.

But is there really much that can or should be done to revitalise the process?  Organisations already have a range of different methods they can deploy to make it work for them.  They can choose zero-based or incremental, top-down or bottom-up and maybe even throw in some drivers.

Now, I’m not here to debate the relative merits of these concepts.  In fact part of my take on the subject is that these methods all invariably manifest themselves in the same type of process anyway.  Instead, I’m curious about whether people are really making the most of the technology they have at their disposal.  This is all prompted by the number of times I’ve seen people sleep-walking into recreating an old process in a new tool, under the illusion that it will all suddenly come good.

If you’re going to rethink elements of the process, then a good place to start is with clarity on what that process needs to achieve.  Ultimately it is there to set the baseline on which resources the organisation wants to deploy over the near future, who has responsibility for these resources and what the organisation hopes to achieve with them.  With that in mind, here are a couple of good process characteristics:

  • Robust: Not the most exciting of characteristics, but vital that the process delivers a result which is robust, comprehensive and trusted.
  • Agile: The process has to align with what the business needs out of it.  These demands can change over time or vary across the business, so the process needs to bend to fit accordingly.
  •  Owned: How you get to the answer can be as important as the answer itself.  If people are going to manage their element of performance within a budget, then they need to feel the ownership which comes from having created the budget in the first place.
  •  Tangible: Knowing, for example, that Cost Centre A is budgeting to spend £100k against Account Y, doesn’t give much insight.  Instead, the budget needs to capture exactly what that money is going to be spent on so that informed trade-offs can be made.
  • Integrated: The various pieces of the jigsaw really need to come together in a joined up effort.  Revenue/Margin, Staff Costs, Overheads, Capex, Project Budgets etc are all inter-related so can’t be developed in isolation.

Turning to how technology can help deliver on these characteristics, let’s first recap on the tools.  Without getting into a nostalgic review of what’s come and gone over the years, the recent story is actually quite straightforward.  There were the budgeting/forecasting tools of the early noughties, which one by one, were absorbed into mega-vendors and then put into stasis.  More recently an array of cloud-based technologies has been brought to market, each with their own value proposition. And then there is the ever-present Excel spreadsheet.  I’ve seen all of these deliver a similar process.  And I’ve lost count of the times I’ve come across the scenario where at face value the organisation has a budgeting/forecasting tool, but in reality it is the place where the results get captured, once the offline working has been complete.

Amongst this mix of technologies, I don’t need to hide my affinity to Anaplan, which is a full modelling and connected planning platform in which many different data intensive processes can be realised, including budgeting, which is just one of them.  When it comes to budgeting though, Anaplan really can unlock new options for the process.  Here are some examples:

  • Keep it rolling: Doing a bottom up budget and then revisiting things during the year with a rolling forecast, isn’t a new idea.  But I like to turn it on its head, using Anaplan to deliver a rolling forecast into the hands of the business, which at the right time, gets baselined and used as an ‘envelope’ for the budget.
  • Cut to fit: Having a single homogenous approach to all elements of the cost base isn’t going to work.  Instead the process and the method should be tailored to each area of spend.  This isn’t just about more detail for bigger costs. Instead Anaplan enables different approaches for costs depending on whether the costs are centralised or federated, whether they are discretionary or committed, or whether they serve to ‘run-the-business’ or ‘grow-the-business’.
  • Understand consumption: Budgets are typically developed from the perspective of the area of the business where the resource sits; the ‘supply-side’.  A true understanding of the budget comes from understanding what is consuming the resources (projects, activities etc); the ‘demand-side’.  The most elegant approach is where an understanding of the consumption can tie back to business volumetrics which in turn can form the drivers of a rolling forecast.
  • Dust-off and go: The reality is that if you want a tangible budget where the consumption is understood, then things are going to have to get pretty detailed in parts.  You’ll be looking at line itemisation of some costs.  But this doesn’t have to be painful if you avoid starting afresh each time.  Building an Anaplan model which retains the catalogue of budget lines from one year to the next will help to achieve this.  It’s not about presenting to a cost centre manager, a view of ‘you budgeted for £50k in x last year’, but instead ‘you identified last year that your cost centre does these things and therefore needs these resources.’

I could identify more and more examples of new ways of working the process in Anaplan, but the point is probably made.  I should also suggest that it doesn’t have to be a case of ripping up and throwing away the current process.  There will be good practices which need to be retained, and perhaps also a phased introduction of new ideas rather than a big bang.

In conclusion, the next time you find yourself thinking ‘I would be great if we could do things differently, but there isn’t much room to move,’ then think again.  Likewise, if the thinking is ‘We’re going to buy and implement some new technology but not really revisit the underlying process,’ then again, challenge that notion!

Adam Bimson

Written by: Adam Bimson

With over 15 years’ in the Financial Performance Management space gained through his time at Metapraxis, PA Consulting, Mckinsey and Anaplan, Adam is a well-respected thought leader and is currently helping organisations to thrive in a new age of connected planning in his role as Director of Customer Success at Anaplan partner, Vuealta.

Vuealta joins the Anaplan Partner Network in EMEA

February 7, 2017

San Francisco, February 7, 2017 – Anaplan, a leading planning and performance management platform, today announced that London-based Vuealta will join the Anaplan partner network in EMEA. Led by Ian Stone, formerly of Anaplan, Vuealta will bolster the Anaplan channel program.

We’re thrilled to have a fast-growing global community of best-in- class consulting partners,” said Paul Melchiorre, Anaplan’s Chief Revenue Officer. “We are excited to welcome Vuealta into our ecosystem of partners who continually innovate to enable smart planning for our diverse customer base.

Stone has worked closely with Anaplan since 2011, when he launched Vue Analytics as the first Anaplan partner in the UK. Since then, Stone has been at the heart of Anaplan’s growth in EMEA as the Anaplan UK Managing Director before moving on as Managing Director at Vuealta.

There’s a huge opportunity for Anaplan business partners in EMEA to complement phenomenal software with advisory, implementation, and managed services,” said Stone. “I’m looking forward to working closely with customers to implement solutions that solve their business challenges and to continue supporting Anaplan’s growth in EMEA.

About Anaplan

Anaplan is a leading planning and performance management platform for smart businesses. Anaplan combines an unrivaled planning and modeling engine, predictive analytics, and cloud collaboration into one simple interface for business users. Anaplan is a privately held company based in San Francisco with 16 offices worldwide. To learn more, visit anaplan.com.

Press Contact
Anaplan – Pascal Boulard, Head of PR, EMEA
Cel : +336 14 16 80 17
pascal.boulard@anaplan.com

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone

Vuealta: Our Ambition

February 1, 2017

Having launched Anaplan to the UK market in 2011, it’s still amazing to see the phenomenal growth the business has had.  There is no question that the Anaplan technology is amazing and best-in-class, but the fast and global widespread adoption that we have seen is simply unprecedented.  I know I am biased, but having led the Anaplan UK organisation for the last six years, and witnessing the demand out there at all levels in the market, I had no choice but to form Vuealta and strive for Anaplan Excellence!

One thing that has remained constant over recent years is that you don’t necessarily have to start big with Anaplan.  Many customers start with a small pre-defined use case or business planning problem.  Our mantra has very much been to get you up and running, adding value to your process in days and weeks, not months and years.  This is as true today as it was six years ago, but what has amazed me, is the reach and growth within organisations once they start to understand the power of a connected enterprise planning environment.

Understanding the impact of sales, marketing, product, human capital and operational decisions in real-time, is game changing for organisations.  The ability to crystal ball gaze and understand outcomes in the decision-making process directly effects the bottom line and confidence in which businesses operate.  I recall running companies in the past and only discovering issues once the FD had produced the monthly accounts. With Anaplan and its integrated financial planning capabilities, I know what’s going on in real time and can course correct ‘on the fly’.  If I have revenue targets around my Professional Services function but my Recruitment Planning model tells me we are behind on our recruitment funnel, I can instantly make changes.  If I am looking at making an acquisition, I can load the target’s data into my operating model and see what the combined business looks like across a range of scenarios.  If I want to know the impact of launching a new product or service I can test the scenario and visualise the impact.   It is literally possible to run any business planning scenario and you can head into a decision with absolute confidence of the outcome.

Vuealta can not only help you start your Anaplan journey, but we can grow with you as a true business partner and take the solution wherever you would like to go.  Whether you are a small team in a departmental area of your organisation or you are mature in your use of Anaplan and want to ‘industrialise’ it by building a Centre of Excellence, we can help.

Vuealta has the best and brightest talent and we would love to work with you to embrace the amazing opportunity that Anaplan can bring your organisations.  Get in touch today!

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone

Broaden your Knowledge with Anaplan Resources

January 31, 2017

Take time to visit the content rich Resources page at Anaplan.  Learn of customer successes by reading cases studies and watching testimonial videos, download informative whitepapers and analysts reports from the likes of Forrester and Gartner.

Anaplan Datasheets, Product Demos and access to Events and Webinars are listed in the resources section too – it’s a plethora of useful information!

Visit the Resources library now and don’t forget to let us know when you are ready to take your Anaplan project forward – we are here to provide you with all the expert and tailored advice you need to be successful!

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone

Why the Customer is King in Strategic Planning

January 31, 2017

Companies are faced with a future that would appear to be both unknowable and uncontrollable. Some appear to have slipped into the false comfort that it is best not to make too many firm choices, and instead let strategy emerge as events unfold to make the future clearer. Back in the 1970’s, Henry Mintzberg —still lecturing, writing and tweeting at the age of 75 —made the distinction between deliberate strategy that resulted from systematic business planning, and emergent strategy, which he saw as a wait-and-see approach that came about as a company responded to a variety of unanticipated and unconsidered events.

Beware of Extremes in Strategic Planning

Mintzberg recognized that most companies pursue strategies that lay somewhere on a continuum between the extremes of completely deliberate and completely emergent, which he saw as ideal types. He wanted managers to develop a strategy but at the same time he wanted them to carefully monitor for changes in their environment and constantly make course corrections to their strategy.

If scenario analysis is concerned with identifying plausible futures, then strategic planning is concerned with moving the company to a sustainable position in the most likely future — all the time monitoring critical events and technologies that will lead to that future and being ready to re-orientate as necessary.

Those companies that spend little time on strategic planning leave themselves exposed to the whims of an emergent strategy. Many believe that their markets are large enough to accommodate their growth aspirations without too much planning; or that they are a “fast-follower” and can rapidly adapt to changes in their markets. Adopting an emergent approach to strategy is clearly risky for a large company with a high level of fixed assets. However it may be entirely the right approach to strategic planning for a start-up technology company exploring which vertical markets to double down on or an entrepreneurial business unit of a large organisation.

Follow the Money

At the same time, being over-zealous in adopting a deliberate approach to strategy formulation can be risky too. This is because companies can easily immerse themselves in the detailed planning of revenue, operating expenses, and capital expenditure, and quickly delude themselves that they now know and can control the future. They clearly cannot. They might be able to control costs in the future, but only customers create revenue. That is why strategic planning should always focus on the changing needs of customers and how anticipated changes in market size and market share combine to generate future revenue streams.

Ultimately, the customer plays the decisive role and every strategy for a business is a mix between responding to market demands and creating them. Businesses need agility and flexibility to walk the precarious line between each of these options – too far over to either side can have disastrous consequences, potentially leaving the organisation trailing key trends or else going off in the wrong direction altogether.

Planning for Spontaneity

When it comes to adding agility, cloud computing now offers the most compelling argument. Facilitating real-time updates allows the entire team to be involved in collaborating on the best approach, whilst sharing accountability for the results as they are realised. The on-demand resources of the cloud provide businesses with unprecedented scale and the ability to cost-effectively manage and process data volumes that were previously unthinkable – crucial when it comes to analysing and predicting customer buying habits.

As strange as it sounds, organisations must try and plan for the unexpected trends. Simply put, your organisation must be agile and flexible enough to keep the pace with rivals. Adhering to old-processes and clunky legacy software leaves a business at risk of being left behind as the market continues to embrace the cloud operation model and increase the speed of change within their organisations. Organisational flexibility doesn’t come solely from mobile working or a scalable cloud infrastructure but also from empowering business users to find the technologies and processes which best enable them to work most effectively. So find out from your staff what they need to be more agile.

Mixing emergent and deliberate approaches is the best way of making decisions. There is a risk of waiting and seeing what comes up. But if you only have one ambition in life, failure can mean overwhelming disappointment, and by that time, your singular focus may have led you to close down too many other options. 

Ian Stone

Written by: Ian Stone