When the pandemic hit in March 2020, Chuy’s, a Texas-based chain that owns and operates more than 90 Tex-Mex restaurants in 17 states, faced the same uncertainties as every other business in its industry. Offsite sales increased. Restaurant sales plummeted. Long-term plans have gone out the window.

Yet unlike many of its competitors, Chuy has thrived. During the third quarter of 2021, the chain increased its overall operating margin at the restaurant level by 8.8%.

The steps Chuy took before the pandemic helped her respond quickly and effectively to rapid change. Most importantly, the company has implemented automated cloud-based tools for adaptive planning that have helped its financial planning and analysis (FP&A) teams optimize budgeting and improve decision-making in response to the pandemic and an ever-changing business environment .

One platform to rule them all

In times of market uncertainty, agility is key. Yet too many FP&A teams still rely on disconnected spreadsheets and legacy scheduling systems for planning and decision making. This structure puts strategy and operational execution at risk: fragmented data, manual scheduling and static reporting can lead to untimely reporting and incomplete and narrow analyses.

An uncertain world requires the ability to quickly and easily generate scenario versions, gain real-time insights, and access richer analytics. Aligning all teams on a single planning platform can help organizations address this growing complexity and help FP&A teams improve planning, budgeting and forecasting processes to increase performance, efficiency and growth.

As a healthcare company working on the front lines of the Covid pandemic, Delaware-based ChristianaCare had to make quick decisions early in the outbreak on everything from ventilator supplies to healthcare workers concerned about their safety and well-being personal.

In response, the organization quickly replaced the annual budgeting process with a monthly forecast. He started tracking all of his Covid-related expenses. And he prepared for multiple scenarios, from best to worst.

This was a huge undertaking that could have taken months. However, ChristianaCare was already using a suite of financial products based on a single, modern scheduling platform, which greatly simplified and accelerated its planning and modeling, so it took the company just four days to implement these dramatic operational changes. .

From two days to 30 seconds

Years before the pandemic, The EW Scripps Co. already faced a different kind of disruption: the decline of the newspaper business. Scripps responded to industry trends in the mid-2010s by moving away from print, once its core business, to focus on local TV and national media. This move resulted in multiple mergers and acquisitions and increased its financial complexity.

Leaving behind its print heritage, Scripps realized their business would benefit from a digital makeover. The company has begun digitizing its operations into practices that include HR, financial management, and analytics, and has rolled out its multiple new solutions on a common platform.

The change provided Scripps with a unified source of enterprise-wide financial and HR data, as well as a framework for integrating operations and financial data from its acquisitions. The company also significantly reduced time and effort, cutting the monthly reporting process from two days to about 30 seconds.

Information is power

Another reason spreadsheets are no longer a sufficient tool for FP&A is the emergence of big data. Images, documents, and audio and video input don’t fit neatly into spreadsheets the way numbers in cells do.

Organizations that can access this semi- and unstructured data can better shape their business models. Top performing finance functions spend 75% of their time analyzing and digging into data. However, 48% of finance executives report difficulty working with multiple data sources and complex integrations.

The right modern scheduling solution can process complex data with machine learning to deliver richer insights and greater speed and accuracy. They can produce easy-to-use reports that clearly illustrate comparisons, trends and metrics. And they can produce virtually unlimited scenarios for planning. These capabilities can help FP&A teams become more agile, adaptable, and strategic during times of uncertainty.

Executives are inherently aware of the importance of agility and the ability to work with big data. Approximately 88% of executives surveyed recently say flexible and adaptive planning tools are “very” or “extremely” important to planning. And 91% agree that modern planning tools can help organizations become more flexible and adaptive in their planning.

But there is a gap between understanding and action: Only 40% of executives surveyed say their planning is very flexible and adaptable.

Herein lies the opportunity. By closing this gap and implementing modern planning tools on a cloud platform with a single source of truth, organizations can position themselves not only to survive, but to seize the new opportunities they discover in a rapidly changing world.

Read the HBR Analytic Services Impulse Survey Report to learn more Organizational agility requires modern planning tools.

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