Unit4
Blog

Driver-Based Planning Step 3: Identifying users

Posted by  Michael Coveney

In this series of blogs I am providing a comprehensive approach to the design, construction, roll-out and maintenance of a modern driver-based planning solution.  Past blogs have looked at determining the purpose of the model and the reports that would be required.

If plans are to be accurate and accepted as the way forward, then they need to be integrated across the organisation, with input from multiple people in different departments.  Too often plans are produced that have no rationale to those who are supposed to deliver them, which then gives an excuse to miss goals – “they are not my numbers!”  Similarly, those ‘on the ground’ probably have a better understanding of what is really going on at a micro level and so their involvement is necessary. 

This requires models to present relevant data in a format they understand, and that provides information on the goals to be achieved and timing of what needs to be done.  There should also be a feedback capability where users can ask questions or make comments on what has been submitted. 

Users will typically come in the role of:

  • Administrator – those who are responsible for changes within the model, such as the ‘rules’ that control how drivers calculate results and/or structures that perform the consolidation.  However, these users may not be able to view or change data.
  • Contributor – those who provide data such as operational staff. This ‘contributor’ role is subject to certain ‘rules’.  For example, they may see departmental targets which they cannot change, but are able to enter data into the ‘bottom-up’ drivers of the budget.  But this role will be limited in time and once a deadline has passed, or they have submitted their part of the plan, they will effectively be ‘locked out’ unless given authority by an administrator.
  • Reviewer – those who check that the values entered by Contributors are valid.  Their role will probably be limited to ‘approving’ submissions of the operational units they are responsible for but may not see the consolidated results.  They may also be allowed to ‘unlock’ a users’ submission so that they can be changed.
  • Consumer – those who use results to make decisions on performance.  This role could be restricted to departmental managers of the operational units they control, but with no restriction to senior management who may view the whole organisation.

Of course, some people will perform multiple roles, and at different times depending on the management process being supported.  It may also require a ‘change’ in the way the model rules are processed.  For example, once a plan has been approved, the model will then be used to capture actual results and generate forecasts.  Typically, this will require central finance staff to load detailed operational data directly into the model.  In doing this the only ‘rules’ the model should process are variances, statistical items such as ratios, and to consolidate the results.  In this version, the drivers are not operational. 

Similarly, departmental users on reviewing actual data for the previous period (that they cannot change), may then add projections into the drivers for the next few months which are then used to produce a consolidated forecast.

As a consequence, it’s essential to document each users’ specific role within the different management processes.  This will involve defining the data they can see, review and change within each operational unit as well as the ‘rules’ that will need to be processed.

Michael Coveney

Michael Coveney spent 40+ years in the software analytic business with a focus on transforming the planning, budgeting, forecasting and reporting processes. He has considerable experience in the design and implementation of Business Analytic systems with major organisations throughout the world. He is a gifted conference speaker and author where his latest book ‘Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning In Uncertain Times’is published by J Wiley. His articles have also appeared on www.fpa-trends.com, that encourages innovation in FP&A departments.