7 Habits of Highly Effective Planning Implementations (Blog # 3)

This blog-series is an attempt to list the 7 habits (characteristics) of effective and successful planning implementation.  This blog series is based on lessons learned during the planning implementations over last decade in different industries and geographical regions. We will keep our focus on planning solution offered by SAP – SAP BPC (Business Planning and Consolidation).

The blog-series aims at improving the future planning implementation by bringing the best aspects of the successful implementation from the past. This is exclusively based on our observations only, we will be happy to listen from you regarding your experience on this subject.

We have tried to organise the content in the form of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, the book written by Stephen R Covey. This book has transferred millions of lives and is an all-time great motivational book.

The First Habit: Establish Guiding Principles

It may come to you as a surprise that most of the factors that make an implementation effective are nothing to do with technology. It always almost comes down to knowing clearly what are desirable outcomes.

As the first step of the planning process, the business should start with establishing a Guiding Principles for Planning Process. We should avoid the tendency to take this step lightly. Underestimating the importance of this step will land a project in all sorts of trouble.

Key purpose of this step is to resolves the value alignment problem. As part of the implementation, the project team will be forced to take several small but significant decisions – more or less autonomously. Guiding principles make sure that those decisions are kept in-line with the overall value and principles established and agreed upfront.  This will drive the results in the direction of desired outcome.

We should remember that technology is only the means to achieve an end. We should accept the fact that current complexities and challenges are primarily caused by current way of thinking – not due to technology. As part of this process we should challenge and question the current thought process. We should remember, we can’t solve a problem by using the mindset that first created them.

Failing to do so will result in similar but wrong outcomes faster result with different technology. Hence this step becomes very critical for successful outcome.

Below is the list of some of the design principles (for example only):

Single Source of Truth

A single source of truth is a single point of access and modification of the organisation’s data. One of the mandate of the planning process could be to create single source of truth. It requires both a centralised data model and integration across solutions. The producers and consumers of a data must access the same copy.  The aim of adopting this principle is to provide a federated view of data for decision making for all stakeholders.

Driver based planning

It is important to define the level at which manual inputs will be provided to the planning process. A business can determine the right level by finding a balance between efforts involved, planning accuracy and the need for detailed planning. Adopting drive based planning may provide this flexibility.

Organisation may choose driver based planning so that they can focus only on drivers that have material impact. They can choose to manual override in exceptional situation.  The key principles of Driver Based Planning could be

  • the drivers should be tied to strategic plan and should frame the basis of planning process
  • manual exception to driver based planning must be clearly audited
  • process should focus on drivers that have a material impact, instead of focusing on trivial details

Driving Accountability and Ownership

Similarly, the organisation may choose to have a planning process governed by clear and documented accountabilities. An efficient and effective planning process requires clarity on who is responsible for signing off a plan number or driver. This may mandate having a clear RACI matrix for each step of the planning process.

User Interface Principles

There may be specific outcomes from the user interface perspective. To begin with, the planning interface should be simple, clean, easy to use, user-friendly, responsive and intuitive. Finance users love Microsoft Excel, integrating the solution with Excel will be desirable. The requirements around web based planning should also be clearly articulated.

A complex interface can disorient the information and has the potential to alienate them in some cases. It can lead to devastating side effect of performance issues and lack of scalability.

Conclusion

The principles you should adopt in your implementation depends on many factors, including the following:

  • your industry
  • customer needs
  • competition in market place
  • your budget
  • future growth prospects
  • appetite and need to change

Finally, an example from a successful data warehouse project comes to mind. The key goal of the implementation was to reduce the data load which was taking 3 hours to less than 1 minute. This was published so well that everyone in the project knew what they were trying to accomplish.

Everyone repeated “311 below 1 minute” instinctively. Once this end-state was planted in the minds and hearts of the project team, the result virtually took care of itself.

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