If you have been following along with this series, you resonate with the key underlying message that the office of finance has a major challenge; needing to evolve roles, processes and tech platforms to keep up with the ever-changing world.  

Excel underpins many of the challenges finance face. It is an amazing tool and is great for transactional activities, but in order to create real change and allow finance to become stewards of strategy for the organizations they partner with, it is not the right solution for true transformation.

Alongside reducing reliance on Excel, it is crucial to incorporate operational KPIs and financial data, combining them with strategic frameworks like Integrated Business Planning to drive real performance (I explore this in more detail in Assessing Your Reliance on Excel, click here for that article). 

In addition, for these strategic frameworks to work, there must be a Single Source of Truth. 

A Single Source of Truth in today’s business world is not clearly defined and we often find key information missing from most organizations’ interpretations.

Generally, companies do a great job at pulling information from source systems (Payroll, ERP, CRM, and Project Management) to capture historical transactions and actuals but miss the critical data that can help predict what will happen in the future.  

Ensuring planning and operational activity data like weekly sales and operating forecasts and their drivers are incorporated, expands visibility of performance and enables finance leaders to unlock their company’s hidden profit potential and actions to make it happen.  

From our experience, the Single Source of Truth should always include:  

  • Forecast versions, outputs, and targets from the Economic Profit Model. 
  • Weekly snapshots or versions of the flash reports or weekly operational forecasts. 
  • Underlying assumptions, business drivers, and variance commentary.  

The challenge is how to pull all this information together into one single platform that doesn’t burden the organization. And brings the lens of financial performance to all facets of the organization. The right planning platform must deliver a single platform that:

  • Breaks down siloed planning.
  • Reduces unnecessary manual efforts.
  • Eradicates costly errors.
  • Increases collaboration with key stakeholders.
  • Develops scenarios and operational plans.
  • Delivers real financial outcomes.

However, a planning product alone does not deliver the entire solution.  An architecture that the planning solution sits within and the right role to implement this are key. 

Profit Insight Architecture 

In a nutshell, this Architecture delivers a long-range plan, integrated with an Economic Profit Model and Performance-Based Reporting, underpinned by a centralized platform enabling Integrated Business Planning and Finance Business Partnering frameworks. 

The Economic Profit Model goes beyond EBITDA by factoring in the utilization of assets and investments and their capital costs. Providing a more comprehensive view of the key levers to pull to drive performance because it focuses on business and operations drivers, as well as financial metrics.  

Performance Based Reporting is a catalogue of focused reports that strategically align with the Economic Profit Models metrics and drivers, that specifically influence performance.  

Profitability Architects 

Integrated Business Planning requires the skills of a Finance professional, with a deep understanding of the common finance challenges, the ability to navigate data complexity and the knowledge to design processes that move beyond them. This ideology reinforces the need for a whole new skill set, forcing FP&A professionals and Finance Business Partners to rise to the challenge. We term this new breed of financial professionals “Profitability Architects”. 

A Profitability Architect is someone who understands the true drivers of organizational performance and can translate complex data structures, processes, and strategies into tangible KPIs. Their ability to manipulate and incorporate every business unit’s driver and tie in financial data into readily available Performance-Based Reports, dashboards and forecasts bring focus to an organization’s direction.  

What makes the role of the Profitability Architect truly special is their skillset to not only manipulate the data but to clearly communicate the actions needed to take in a common language and formulate a concise effective plan to key stakeholders. 

These individuals need to have a forward-looking commercial mindset, develop a deeper understanding of their business and what truly drives value, and be able to serve up information in order to collaborate, influence, and drive profitable decision-making across business units. These roles in a business drive more profitability, agility, and efficiency to deal with the increasingly changing business world. 

In summary, if you have the right planning tool, systems, strategic frameworks, architecture (Profit Insight Architecture), and the right people (Profitability Architects), then you are in great shape to avoid becoming another static in a PWC or Deloitte survey. 

How do you get there? Enrolling in ActionKPI’s Integrated Profitability Program, which entirely covers the steps to achieving this. Get in touch if you wish to find out more.  

Written By Lance Tylor 

Lance is a business finance professional with a passion for helping businesses grow. He is a Charted Management Accountant (CMA) within Canada and in the UK and has had several roles within the Office of Finance. His experience has always been focused on business strategy, performance management and business process improvement (leveraging the latest technologies).