Why Your Next Hire Should Be A Planner

The world is a chaotic place for businesses: planners to the rescue.

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The world is a chaotic place for businesses: planners to the rescue.


Why Your Next Hire Should Be A Planner

The world is a chaotic place for businesses: planners to the rescue.

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Organisations in today’s digital era are in the midst of a war for talent. A PWC survey found that the availability of key skills is a top three concern for CEOs around the world. Why? Because talent is a finite resource.

As McKinsey global managing partner Dominic Barton put it in a recent podcast ‘The most scarce resource is talent. We are awash in capital. It’s talent that you need to drive it’.

But what role does this talent need to occupy, what abilities do they need to possess? Digital transformation specialists, data scientists, people with soft leadership skills, collaborative skills, greater levels of empathy – rarely a day goes by without a new skill or type of experience becoming vital to an organisation’s ambitions.

There’s no denying that the ability to analyse and draw insights from data is critical in business today; or that the talent to empathise with a variety of demographics is hugely relevant as digital technologies remove barriers.

Yet in the rush to tie workforces to the next big trend, is there a danger that businesses may overlook a function which has long existed in companies, without giving it the recognition or awareness it rightfully deserves?

The hidden power of planning

The phrase ‘proper planning prevents poor performance’ might sound like a gimmick, but its sentiment couldn’t be truer. Planning is the bedrock on which organisations operate, and everyone working in a business of any reasonable size should be familiar with planning cycles.

While business planning has been around in some form for many years, it is only now that organisations are broadly waking up to the value of a dedicated planning team.

Our benchmarking report, The State of Connected Planning, found that the more successful a company, the more advanced its planning.

According to 77 per cent of respondents who put all their plans into action, they use enterprise-level planning technology to enable them to do so. Worrying though, just 15 per cent of companies execute on all of their plans. Why the wastage?

Why a lack of ownership could be holding back your ability to plan or even execute

Across sectors and regions, a lack of ownership over planning was often highlighted as a barrier to developing effective plans. At least a quarter of respondents in our survey felt it was a significant obstacle in EMEA, rising to over a third (34 per cent) in Japan, and 38 per cent across the whole of the Asia Pacific region.

It was also a significant issue in retail – close to a third of retail respondents struggled with a lack of ownership of the process.

That lack of ownership isn’t symptomatic of a lack of interest – indeed, there was similar consistency in the appreciation of planning across both functions and regions.

Manufacturing, supply chain, retail and sales professionals all had over three quarters believing planning to be critical in enhancing revenues, while at a national or continental level that became 77 per cent of UK respondents, 90 per cent of those in Asia Pacific and 98 per cent of Japanese businesses.

Yet there remains a gap between theory and execution. To hammer home the issue, a struggle to incorporate market changes into plans keeps cropping up: almost half of respondents in our survey indicated that it takes them weeks or longer to update plans with market changes.

Why is that? One challenge is the people who do the planning – if not in a dedicated planning role but having to incorporate it into a day-job, there will be a constant conflict between reacting to changes and doing the day-to-day work.

A dedicated planning team can work alongside functions to take that stress away – not by removing the people who execute the plans from the process but by allowing them to focus on the part they are employed to do: execution.

Another issue was the tools they use. In our survey, 92 per cent of companies believe that better planning technology produces better business outcomes. At the same time, legacy challenges, whether IT, structural or cultural hamper the process - 86 per cent face limitations to collaboration.

What makes a good planner?

Having a dedicated planning function, equipped with the right tools, would help greatly in solving these issues.

By focusing on the business’ plans, you can build a team of specialists which, when equipped with effective planning technology, can draw upon data available in different silos, whether internal or external, to rapidly analyse, devise and model next steps.

Imagine you’re a global manufacturer that wants to be able to procure more materials externally because you think it would be more cost-effective than creating everything internally. Yet critical data is spread across multiple sources, many of which might be hosted locally.

A dedicated planning team, backed by the right technology, could consolidate, process and analyse that data, linking purchasing, sales and operations to provide a single view of where it was more efficient to bring material in. That’s one of the achievements attained by the planning team at Tata Steel.

Or perhaps you’re an industry-leading games developer handicapped by a siloed retail execution and promotions process, hampering your ability to spend and price effectively in line with the market.

The right team and technology could connect previously separate pools of data and information to provide relevant stakeholders across the company with real-time, transparent information.

This in turn would allow for faster, more accurate analysis and forecasts across the company and better insight into where to commit invaluable resources, much like Activision have done.

Your new hire – a planning team

Many companies are still using static, infrequent and often hated planning processes that leave the business in siloes. As such, bringing in a planning team is critical for organisations to be able to gather, consolidate and analyse all of its data and ultimately make it available for the business to do what it does best, execute.

Organisations that choose to remain ahead of the competition are using more sophisticated planning technology in order to plan for its what-ifs, and rely on planning platforms to be prepared for anything.

As a result, it seems no company can truly operate effectively in an uncertain marketplace without clear plans, based on data. With that in mind, just as you are likely have dedicated sales, finance, marketing and customer service functions, so planning needs to be an integral part of the leadership team.

To ensure that this is the case, organisations should consider the need for a new planning leader, one that spans the organisation and is the champion for all things planning, analytics and decision-making - the Chief Planning Officer (CPO).

In this volatile world, rapid, accurate decision-making is no longer a luxury item: it’s a must-have and it must have its champion to be effective.

Ultimately, those with dedicated planning teams, supported by the right technology and the right CPO, deliver better business performance time and time again. We may be in a war for talent, but identifying and building your own planning function will give you an invaluable head start on the competition.

Simon Tucker is Chief Planning Officer at Anaplan.

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Why Your Next Hire Should Be A Planner

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