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Agile Financial Planning and Reforecasting in a Fast-Changing World


By David Webster, President of Asia Pacific and Japan, Workday

The global spread of COVID-19 has led to enormous disruption for all industries and organisations, which now face a myriad of challenges as borders and economies gradually reopen – and some even tighten restrictions again. Amid this volatile environment, many financial professionals from companies big and small will undoubtedly be having their feet held to the flames to remodel their financial plans given the different scenarios that are playing out.

Meticulous cashflow forecasts and budgets will be thrown out the window, carefully considered management plans will be ripped up and even customary financial events such as audits or AGMs will be scrutinised.

Like the fable of the frog in the gradually boiling pot, those who refuse to recognise that we are at the precipice of change may suffer for their hubris.

It is certainly true to say that financial planning and analysis for this year has not gone as any organisation would have anticipated it to, so now is the time for new strategies and reforecasting to hopefully emerge from this pandemic in a position of strength.

Illustrating this, in a recent webinar run by Workday, we asked finance professionals where they intended to focus their attention this year. More than one third (34%) said they would focus on planning for the top line to accommodate unexpected changes in sales or demand. Nearly one in three (31%) wanted to better understand and game out their cash position. Almost a quarter (22%) said they would focus on how to plan for workforce factors like headcount, hiring, capacity, and utilisation.

These findings highlight the key areas that companies need to focus their attention on in a bid to survive, and hopefully thrive. Many financial professionals within companies are working hard to anticipate what the future holds – which is a challenging task when almost all of their prior assumptions no longer apply.

So what is the way forward?

Like the aforementioned frog, it is not enough to be cognisant of the dangers, finance professionals must also take concrete steps in addressing the challenges. Notwithstanding what has been echoed by many other business and political leaders, digital cloud technologies and services have and will prove to be a key differentiator.

Navigating the current volatility and unforeseen challenges, especially for CFOs and their teams, will require top-line modelling, continuous real-time and data-driven forecasting and reforecasting, and the ability to react quickly in order to make the right decisions in the moment.

Another key element required is adopting a robust and integrated approach to financial planning. For instance, having an automated platform facilitates finance teams in better integrating data with ERP and HCM and other corporate functions holistically. This in turn helps companies and their leaders to free up more time to focus on things that are more important. In this environment of continuous planning and reforecasting, companies can then adjust and shift with changes happening in the market.

It may sound like a complex undertaking, but it is actually quite simple. With the right tools and technology in place, companies can make better and faster business decisions to adapt to change and drive growth. They can become more agile in times of disruption with the ability to forecast multiple scenarios based on a range of disaster variables.

Across Asia Pacific and Japan, many regional business leaders who I work with have the added challenge of also needing to do this across multiple and varied markets with different commercial, cultural and regulatory considerations.

Workday has a cloud-based, employee-first and customer-centric approach, collating planning data within one system. We believe companies’ needs, in APJ and globally, are better served to plan, execute and analyse data across the business using one cloud platform that provides a single source of truth to drive performance. This common data model for planning is crucial to being able to explore and understand the data, identify opportunities, and to react swiftly.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, we have seen our customers leveraging this common cloud data model to forecast quickly, adjust variables in real time, and identify the right moment for taking specific action. This includes active financial planning with accurate intelligence and analytics that supports a dynamic workforce strategy and optimised sales capacity enabling companies to be agile in this changing world.

These customers have included businesses in industries facing some of the greatest challenges and set of unknowns right now.

In these uncertain times we see business leaders everywhere looking to build greater cohesion and collaboration within their companies around planning and reforecasting. With the right systems and collaborative processes in place, finance professionals and their businesses can have the confidence to make critical decisions with confidence, so they can recover and hopefully emerge stronger.

David Webster

Workday Asia Pacific & Japan

David Webster is the President of Asia Pacific and Japan at Workday. Based in Sydney, David oversees Workday’s business across the region.

David has more than a decade of experience in the region’s enterprise technology sector. Prior to joining Workday, David spent 14 years with Dell EMC where he helped to drive EMC’s growth and build its service offerings. He was the President of EMC for Asia Pacific and Japan in 2012 and subsequently became the President for the combined entity following Dell’s acquisition of EMC in 2016. 

David was the Vice President and Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand at PeopleSoft prior to Dell EMC, and he was also the national board director for the Australian Information Industry Association.