As Seen in CFO Studio Magazine Q2 2017 Issue
-By Dan Crumb, CFO, Kansas City Chiefs
BUSINESS PLANNING WAS CUMBERSOME BEFORE WE BUILT OUR OWN SYSTEM ON A MICROSOFT PLATFORM
Business planning is at the foundation of executing our corporate strategy. Each department in our organization prepares an annual business plan outlining their objectives and what resources will be needed to accomplish these objectives. Traditionally, the business planning process has been very manual, paper-intensive, and lacked a consistent format across departments. Each department produced a report and delivered it in a three-ring binder. The review process, of approximately 25 binders, was inefficient and time-consuming. To remedy this, we started investigating ways we could improve the process and developed a vision for what our business planning process should become. At the heart of our vision was a conversion to a completely electronic process that utilized a standard platform, eliminating the need to merge information from multiple programs into one document, and then assemble and print copies.
As opposed to most companies’ budgeting and forecasting process, a key difference here is that we have no control over “results,” that is, what happens on the field and how it will impact our actual financial results versus budget. Moreover, we have 25 departments with approximately 200 employees responsible for executing our business strategy. Therefore, we have to have a quick, efficient way to review and gain visibility into each business plan and how we are tracking against accomplishing objectives — something our previous system for business planning made difficult to do.
Executing on the Vision
Equipped with a vision for our new business planning system, we began to evaluate business planning software systems that were available on the market. Within 30 days, we found out that there were not as many options as we’d initially envisioned, and of the options available, none could deliver what we needed without significant modifications.
If an off-the-shelf business planning system wasn’t available, we decided to look within and discuss the problems we were encountering externally with our Information Technology department. We had a programmer in our IT department who was proficient in SharePoint and had experience working with our financial systems. After a few brainstorming sessions and a thorough scoping of the project, we were on our way to developing and implementing a business planning system that would be built on the SharePoint platform, which was already utilized in our organization, and would be customizable to our specifications. We held two group training sessions and a number of individual training sessions with each department head to ensure that everyone involved in the business planning process was comfortable with how the system operates and how to use it most effectively.
We unveiled the business planning system prototype to all department representatives at our annual Business Planning Colloquium. It was well received and seen as a tool that would increase efficiency and consistency across the organization as well as replace a paper-intensive process with a fully automated electronic process. The leaders of the business planning process now had a fully electronic system, complete with dashboards showing progress toward completion of business plans, which strategic goals were being supported by departmental objectives, and ultimate progress toward accomplishing business plan objectives.
The new system increased accountability and provided instant feedback in a consistent and uniform manner across the organization.
It took approximately four months to design and develop the system, and it has been in place for a year. We have benefited from the ease and efficiency of viewing information from each department’s plan to ensure that our strategic goals are being supported by departmental objectives and that there is no duplication of objectives. So, the key takeaway here is not to be afraid of developing your own system internally if you can’t find one that satisfies your needs.