The CFO sits opposite me in the boardroom. Long shards of light slice through a bank of tall windows, illuminating half of his chiseled features and leaving the other half in darkness. He’s talking about the pain of old-school financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and he’s just getting to the good stuff.
“FP&A is a discipline for masochists.”
Oh my. Can I get a glass of water over here?
Of course, he’s right. There’s something uniquely torturous about the old way—even the not-so-old way—of planning, budgeting and forecasting. The CFO enumerates them and I listen because I can tell he’s been around.
This is what he says.
“Closings are painful and our old systems and disconnected Excel spreadsheets are cumbersome at best, and that’s what most companies are living with. The whole process takes way too long, leaving you with no time to take care of your own needs. It’s a form of abuse that finance folks sign up for every 90 days.”
Makes sense. Tell me more.
“In most organizations, the factors that really drive a company’s business remain a mystery to the people in charge. It’s as if they’re wearing blindfolds and have to make decisions based on what they’re told. Can they trust that information? Are they just guessing? What happens to them if they guess wrong?”
I know, right? It’s enough to make you sweat.
“Traditional plans are largely built on backward-looking data, and because information always has a freshness date, that means much of your plan is built around obsolete information. So you set yourself up for some nasty surprises that sting the bottom line.”
Holy cow. I could listen to this guy all day.
“Some companies got themselves free from spreadsheets and they adopted actual FP&A platforms, but by now most of those are outdated and inflexible. They’re not designed to operate the way modern businesses do. So you have thousands of companies out there, bound by these old legacy platforms, struggling to get free. I’d like to help them.”
Beautiful. So do I.
At this point the CFO starts talking about the real freedom of planning the way today’s businesses work, about collaborating and using real-time data to succeed in a real-time world. It all makes perfect sense and it’s exciting, and I find myself consumed with one thought only: Geez, if this is what the first Fifty Shades is like, how soon can I get my hands on the next Fifty?