Business planning today is a largely disjointed affair. Most plans are built in relative isolation, with little or no direct input from other parts of the enterprise. Yet organizations that engage in integrated, collaborative business planning tend to produce plans that remain relevant throughout the planning period.

These are some of the intriguing findings in “Next-Generation Business Planning: Utilizing Information and Technology to Improve the Planning Process,” a new benchmark research study from Ventana Research. The report, whose complimentary key insights report is available here, outlines a series of insights culled from surveys of 261 executives and senior managers at companies of all sizes.  Ventana asked respondents to assess how well their organization executes 11 types of business planning across various competencies, including plan accuracy, the ability to drill down to view underlying details, and the use of what-if scenarios. The report also considers how next-generation business planning solutions, including the use of mobile technologies, are impacting corporate planning.

Among the many insights shared in the Ventana report:

  • The most robust plans are produced by organizations whose various planning processes -- such as capital planning, sales forecasting and workforce planning – are linked to one another and to the overall budget.  When plans are linked, changes to one automatically are reflected in others.
  • Plan accuracy is crucial, yet fewer than half of those surveyed say their plans are accurate or very accurate. Accuracy grows when planning processes are managed well; in fact, four out of five respondents who rate their plans as accurate or very accurate report that their organizations carefully and efficiently manage the planning process.
  • Virtually all companies that use advanced analytics extensively throughout the entire organization report they have accurate or very accurate plans.  Even in the face of this success, four out of five companies aren’t using advanced analytics extensively in their planning processes.
  • Most companies use spreadsheets for planning, though half of executives surveyed say spreadsheets make planning more difficult. Even after excluding small businesses, seven of 10 organizations surveyed still use spreadsheets for a wide range of business planning.
  • A variety of process and technology obstacles, including the limitations of traditional planning platforms, are keeping half of all organizations from truly understanding the impact their plans have on the business, with just 14 percent saying they can accurately measure that impact. But two-thirds report that a dedicated planning solution that’s easy to use can help decision-makers throughout the company understand how plans impact their departments.
  • While nearly two-thirds of those surveyed recognize the productivity advantages from using mobile devices to access planning platforms, just as many report they have limited or no mobile planning capabilities.

The Ventana report spotlights another important theme, one that may be familiar to Tidemark customers: Decision-makers recognize how collaboration is necessary for fully identifying risks and developing plans with realistic goals. In fact, 85 percent of respondents who say their organization collaborates effectively also say they do a good job managing the planning process. So it follows that planning collaboratively can produce a competitive advantage. Yet since only half of organizations surveyed say they plan collaboratively, the report should serve as a motivator for business leaders to seek out planning platforms built for collaboration – as an integral feature, not an add-on.

For a glimpse at how one company has transformed its own culture to make planning a participation sport, be sure to check out our complimentary replay of a recent CFO.com webcast sponsored by Tidemark and featuring Kimberly Gerard, senior director of financial planning and analysis at healthcare software innovator Cerner, and Colby Moosman, Tidemark’s vice president of finance and operations.

Meanwhile, you can get a feel for how your planning processes compare to those surveyed by Ventana Research for “Next-Generation Business Planning: Utilizing Information and Technology to Improve the Planning Process.” Download the key insights today, and start planning your next move.