Is it really a stretch to compare World Cup competition and outcomes to modern financial planning and analytics?

Maybe.  But I’m doing it anyway.

Hear me out because as someone working in the world of enterprise performance management (EPM) and as a soccer fan (and parent of young soccer stars in the making), my comparisons will make complete sense.

Like enterprises, soccer teams are made of a lot of moving parts (though a soccer team’s parts are actually moving). Like enterprises, they’re judged not by their intentions but by their results. And customers can be a lot like soccer fans – happy one day, not so happy the next.

So in rooting for Team USA in the Group Stage of the 2014 World Cup, I started thinking about the ways in which the World Cup experience mirrors how a company might approach visibility, planning, collaboration – all key parts, or players, of modern EPM.

Even Team USA’s first match, a nail-biting 2-1 victory over Ghana, served up some solid examples of where the World Cup and EPM sides match up. Let’s go to the highlights.

Visibility:

  • World Cup View

Watch Clint Dempsey’s epic goal in the first minute of play against Ghana. Barely a second after some masterful dribbling past a Ghana defender, Dempsey gets a clear – if threadneedle – line of sight at a chance on the far edge of the goal.

  • EPM View

It’s hard to imagine a better example of visibility. Like Dempsey, companies today have no choice but to take action at pivotal moments. Modern EPM gives them Dempsey-like real-time insights  so they can see how a price change or updated growth assumption could impact results.

Planning:

  • World Cup View

USA reserve defender John Brooks was a relative unknown to fans until the moment he delivered The Header Heard ‘Round the World against Ghana. Now he’s a legend. A well-placed corner kick from teammate Graham Zusi put Brooks in contention to get his head in the game (literally!) and Brooks executed to planby achieving more altitude than the two Ghana players vying for control. Even better: Brooks dreamed of scoring that very goal two days earlier. So in a way, this was his plan all along.

  • EPM View

I love it when a plan comes together. And today, more and more businesses need to engage the entire team in a continuous planning process that doesn’t imprison them in a static plan based on data that’s at least three months old. Imagine if Brooks wasn’t able to react to what was happening on the field, but instead stuck to whatever game plan may have been sketched out before the coin toss. He’d still be an unproven sub, and Team USA wouldn’t be ranked No. 2 in Group G when it meets Portugal on Sunday.

Collaboration:

  • World Cup View

Soccer has its stars, but they don’t play alone. Witness Ghana’s Asamoah Gyan, who backheeled a pass to Andrew Ayew, who then waited for USA goalkeeper Tim Howard to hit the ground before putting one high into the net. It’s calledcollaboration, and it’s the stuff of magic.

  • EPM View

The power of collaboration isn’t lost on financial planners responsible for preparing consolidated statements. That’s always been an involved process – with long conversations needed to reconcile intercompany variances, explain differences and justify adjustments. While collaborative, this approach was slow and cumbersome – hardly a recipe for winning. Enter time-saving innovations like Tidemark’s Financial Consolidation App, and collaboration becomes efficient, automated, and even downright competitive.

Performance:

  • World Cup View

Team USA has a 69 percent chance of making it to the knockout stage (not bad!) but only a 4 percent chance of making it to the final (ouch). Before you mistake me for any kind of expert, you should know this comes from fivethirtyeight.com’sexcellent interactive infographic, which predicts the most likely outcomes based on more than 10,000 simulations. The intuitive presentation of data allows every fan to immediately see what World Cup long shots the Americans really are.

  • EPM View

If only companies had the same kind of capability as World Cup fans – to be able to instantly grasp crucial performance indicators like profitability, headcount planning, risk, expense projects and more. Well, now they do. Next-generation EPM innovations like Tidemark Storylines tell the story of a company using interactive, actionable infographics so anyone can grasp key information about the company’s financial health, possible growth scenarios, the impact of potential decisions on business drivers, and more.

I’m sure I’ll spot even more examples when USA meets Portugal in America’s next Group Stage match. Team USA’s odds look pretty good for now. And one thing’s for sure: With all those moving parts, anything can happen.