Making a plan is all about collecting your own insights and that of your colleagues into something that makes sense. Or at least it should be.
From small to large, simple to complex organizations, every type of enterprise requires planning, reporting, decisions to be taken, comparisons to be made. In every aspect of day-to-day management, a million questions arise, that need insight and answers.
Spreadsheets are a great solution to start tackling some (if not all) of the challenges in reporting and planning. But it is dangerously easy to reach their limitations when you think of how many people need to give their input, how much data you want to process in those lookup tables, what is the complexity of the calculations in the sheet, what graphs you want to add. And let’s not even think about securing who can access which part of the sheet and how many scenarios you’d like to run to cater for all of the potential outcomes your colleagues can think of.
A plan needs to go down to a manageable level of detail. What you want is to take into account relevant drivers. Key people need to contribute and disclose their assumptions. And oh yes, it needs to be easily adjustable, because in a changing reality, we seldom plan in the same way twice.
Some of the planning will be handled in ERP systems, especially when it comes down to recurring transactional processes that are pretty generic. But many planning challenges change over time, and require a customisable flexibility that ERP or MRP systems simply cannot deliver, regardless of what vendors may imply in their marketing materials.
Planning happens all over the company, but it often isn’t shared or done collaboratively across the company. And this is a serious issue.
There is operational planning for everyone involved in the heart of the activities like supply chain, covering merchandise planners, production scheduling, distribution strategies, inventory optimisation, demand forecasting, human resources planning. Planners in the office of finance will be sitting in the middle, collecting the budgets and forecasts of sales people, HR, IT, marketing, operations, supply chain, etc.
Each corner of the company is busy sculpting their vision of reality and outlook of the future in their siloed Excel files and Excel models. With the organisation being a living entity, depending on all its components to co-exist and interact, all these planning models should be logically interlinked and informing each other.
The ultimate planning tool is a unified planning model, across the entire organisation. With this being the end goal, realistically what we aim to achieve is an integration at least of the main flows in the organisational planning. And Excel will very quickly run into limitations.
Love Excel and harness
the power of web interfaces
TM1 owes much of its success to the beloved Excel add-in.
By linking the central cube-based calculation model to users’ local Excel spreadsheets, you can, quite literally, break through the limitations inherent to Excel modelling.
TM1 users love the fact that they can work in Excel, while relying on trusted, centrally stored data and business logic.
Users can also prepare numbers in Excel spreadsheets, and send them automatically to the the TM1 model within the same spreadsheet.
Let there be no mistake:
TM1 is not just a mere Excel-only plug-in.
Over the course of the last years, we’ve seen the arrival of cutting-edge, web-based user interfaces.
These can take people by the hand step-by-step through a forecasting process, making sure the information is collected and displayed in fancy reports and dashboards.
Apliqo UX and Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW) are the weapons of choice in this space and cater for a variety of application flavours, with the ultimate goal of engaging with your end users in the most friendly manner.
Business isn’t simple — it’s complex.
It’s all about addressing, modelling, and engaging with the material complexity of your business.
One of the cornerstones of any decent plan, is the realisation that business reality comes with an inherent “necessary complexity”.
Simplifying and shortcutting a planning exercise is voluntarily turning a blind eye to key aspects that have a real impact in your business, which essentially “dumbs down” your plan.
Forecasting sales without taking into account channel differences, calculating salary costs without country specific variations, choosing not to run more detailed cost models and hiding heavy overhead costs in one of the divisions…
Addressing the real and necessary complexity of your business is the only way come up with a reliable, sustainable plan.
It is a thin line to walk, and yes there is a difference between complexity and things being complicated.
We aim to find ways to automate the complicated activities, like handling big data sets, running lengthy sequential calculations like allocations, or doing top down adjustments across a lot of data points.
At the same time some complications can be avoided like planning on an unnecessarily low level of detail or running cost allocations that nobody will understand.
The key question will always be to understand what drivers, calculations and complexity help steer the business.
Embrace the necessary complexity and cut out or automate the complicated parts.
Having a solid planning system such as TM1, will give people peace of mind because of the transparency it gives.
For every number it is clear who has made the entry or on which underlying drivers it has been based.
The business rules (calculation rules) are centrally stored, apply everywhere and have been validated up front.
There is a single source of truth, and thanks to the immediate processing of all input, everybody is always looking at the latest version of the numbers.
Change is the only constant, and in planning that is equally true.
No two planning exercises are the same. Managers change and have different ideas, clients change, competition turns things around, market conditions shift, a crisis comes along, new product lines are launched, …
Any planning system must have a fundamental flexibility allowing for changes year on year, or really any time of the year.
TM1 consists of building blocks which can easily be taken apart partially or completely, only to be put back together in a form or shape that comes as close to the business reality as possible.
Any planning system will need collaboration. Instead of sending each other tons of spreadsheets, a central system will collect the input of users, through an easy to use interface, guided by a clear workflow.
TM1 is no different, having a sequence of steps to go through, in a secured manner, within a clear framework coming to an end result.
All contributing users can input their data simultaneously, instantly updating the overall consolidated results, while maintaining transparency and high performance calculations. TM1 does this better than any other technology and is the core of it’s long-standing value.
TM1 at its core has one essential characteristic in common with spreadsheets, making it the ideal extension of Excel: the cell focus. Just like in Excel, any cell (or datapoint if you want) can be a function of any other cell. The calculation possibilities of that flexibility are endless and are the reason why TM1 has built up such an enthusiastic and massive fan base globally.