No plan survives contact with the enemy



In this blog, Mike Weeks, an expert in SAP BPC at itelligence, says that SAP BPC users should look to the great Generals of history for inspiration.

Readers who would normally expect to read a blog on business or technology issues on the itelligence blog could be forgiven for being a tad confused with the above headline. No, you haven’t inadvertently stumbled into the blog for Sandhurst or West Point Military Academy, you are still at the itelligence blog and there is a reason why I have gone all militaristic on you – apart from having spent 5 years at The Duke of York’s Royal Military School as the son of a former serving soldier.

Business leaders have long looked to the great Generals of history for inspiration, from Sun Tzu to Helmut Von Moltke and Eisenhower, but too often their central message has been lost when transferred to the corporate world. The virtue that many of these leaders stressed is flexibility or the ability to improvise on the battlefield. In other words, have a plan but don’t stick rigidly to it. If field commanders see an opportunity, which would enable them to achieve the desired objective quicker, or with fewer casualties, their training encourages them to seize it. In fact, their training enables them to accept the ‘chaos’ of the battlefield, and the impact it will have on even the best laid plans, accept it and look for the opportunities that will, inevitably, be revealed. However, in the corporate world of budgeting and planning, the output from these activities are too often regarded as sacrosanct.

Setting corporate plans, objectives and resources torturously time consuming

Every company wants to be able to set plans, understand new objectives and the resources required to deliver them as well as measure performance against them. But for many companies the process of creating forecasts and plans, and measuring performance against them, is often torturously time consuming. The result is that those plans become set in stone, with no deviation tolerated in the main because it is not possible to reforecast as frequently as the ever changing business world we live in throws new challenges and opportunities at us.

I am not for a moment suggesting that robust, long-term planning has no place in the modern organisation, but what I am saying is that there is a need for balance between long term plans and tactical implementation, which offers the flexibility to quickly take advantage of those changing market conditions. How does this rigidity manifest itself? In finance, executives often spend too much time on the mechanics of compiling and checking numbers rather than using the numbers to get insights into how the business is operating. All-too-often there is no flexibility in company financial planning models so business units surround the corporate template with spreadsheet models of their own to try and map corporate requirements to operational tactical plans and budgets. This lower level of business pain is too often not seen by corporate and the impact on overheads in the business units is not directly felt. By the time the operational units have completed their budgeting or planning process and this has been consolidated at group level there is an argument to suggest it might even be out of date.

More agile management

Of course there are solutions out there which can be deployed to assist in managing the actual process but these can become cottage industries in themselves to deploy and maintain for each departmental model required across the enterprise. So what can be done?

In the perfect world, as discussed above, companies need to be able to integrate corporate and departmental planning, model cost scenarios and performance analysis, in the determination of operational budgets based on strategic plans. Each slice of the plan needs to done at a level and frequency that is relevant to that corporate unit whether that is at Group or cost centre level. Crucially, this sort of process along with improving the relevancy can immeasurably improve data quality and analytics, which can, in turn, lead to more agile management.

SAP BPC – a single solution supporting planning, budgeting and forecasting

Sounds like hard work? It isn’t, not if you have the right technology. An SAP BPC application deployed for corporate requirements around consolidation, budgeting and planning at a level of granularity that is relevant to them, combined with SAP BusinessObjects Cloud for Planning can provide organisations with a single solution that supports all the planning, budgeting and forecasting capabilities a company needs. This solution enables the rapid turnaround of business plans, improves the levels of governance and control through planning cycles, in a process controlled environment at a level of granularity and frequency relevant to each business unit. What’s more, it’s easy to use, with web-based cockpits and the familiar Microsoft Office tools to update and interact with plans, forecasts and actual reporting.

The benefits can be enormous. Centralised and streamlined financial management will help prepare organisations for growth and enable organisations to adjust plans and forecasts, shorten budget cycle times, close the books more quickly and get the necessary information to those who need it in time for them to make the critical decisions.

The modern military has embraced the flexibility that technology can bring, to such an extent that military tough iPad cases, designed for use on the battlefield, are now freely available from Army Surplus. If they can do it, so can you.

Join our SAP BPC Webinar

For further information please join the webinar on 28th June at 12.30pm, Sales & Margin Planning – How the latest developments in SAP BPC add insight. Please go to

Banner image of tank courtesy of The National Archives (Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0).

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