Time-consuming manual data entries. “Final” budget version 59.6-a. Month-long monthly reporting cycles and outdated, unreliable forecasts. If you’re on a finance team that hasn’t embraced automation yet, chances are you’ve run into one (or all) of these issues as you plan for the future of your business.
It can be frustrating—the demand for insight is constant and you’re trying to fulfill your role as a strategic, data-driven business partner. But with no automations in place to help you streamline finance-led processes, you’re wrangling numbers from yesterday instead of analyzing and planning for tomorrow. You know you need to simplify business planning so your stakeholders can make smarter decisions, but you can’t drive the growth journey forward if you’re looking in the rearview mirror.
That’s where Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solutions really come in handy. Powered by our Growth Engine technology, Finance Led-Planning with Vena helps you automate tedious tasks so you can focus on growing your business. It’s the only planning solution out there that gives you the database functionality you need, but without forcing you to abandon the comfort and flexibility of Excel.
In this blog post, we’ll break down the seven main use cases for Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solutions and show you how automation can transform the way you work. Keep on reading to learn more about how Vena can help you streamline:
According to the 2020 Pulse of Performance Management Survey, finance teams who aren’t happy with their budgeting process have three primary complaints:
- It’s labor intensive.
- It takes too long.
- It’s not easy to administrate.
The same poll also found that 82% of teams still use offline spreadsheets for budgeting, even if they already have an existing budgeting software in place. See the pattern here?
Excel might be the universal language of business, but it’s not meant to function like a comprehensive database for budgeting, forecasting or any other finance-led process. Budgeting in Excel alone can lead to version control issues, data integrity problems and critical formula errors caused by keying in numbers manually. If you’re constantly worried about whether your analysts are working from the right template—or if you’re tired of sleepless nights and chasing down colleagues for numbers—Finance-Led Planning with Vena can help.
Vena’s central database integrates with your source systems to bring company-wide budget figures into one secure platform. Data transfers, input assignments and validation checks are all automated so you don’t have to copy and paste or consolidate numbers manually. Vena also uses a native Excel interface, which means you don’t ever have to wrangle with an unfamiliar environment. You can even map your existing Excel budgeting templates back to the cloud—regardless of whether you use a top-down, bottom-up, driver-based or zero-based approach.
“You’re not forecasting once a month or quarterly. It’s all happening in real time.”
That’s an excerpt from a recent Deloitte report predicting the importance of finance automation looking ahead to 2025. It’s easy to see where Deloitte is coming from here, because your business doesn’t operate monthly or quarterly either. Executives need to be able to make informed decisions on the fly and understand how circumstances today will influence the bottom line tomorrow—and that’s why you always need to have reliable forecasts ready at your fingertips.
With Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solutions, you can look beyond your static budget and create rolling forecasts at the touch of a button. With your budget and your actuals in one central location, Vena makes it easy to update your business drivers in real time and then automatically apply the impact of those adjustments to your forecast. Once you’ve actualized a certain period, the forecast just rolls into the next one so you always have a clear vision of what’s coming next. You can also view your budget, actuals and forecast from the same template so you can look ahead on demand and uncover actionable insights with agility.
Budgeting and forecasting are important, but what happens when business conditions change? What if you need to pivot your plans on a dime? How can you predict the impact of best-case, worst-case and other potential outcomes and prepare your business accordingly?
That’s where what-if analysis and scenario modeling come into play. Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solution gives you the freedom to measure how any combination of variables, either internal or external, will affect your bottom-line outlook. All you need to do is input the assumptions you want to test your plans against, then Vena applies that logic across your entire dataset automatically. Once that’s done, you can save each scenario and reference them from within your database—but without compromising the integrity of your actuals or real-time forecasts.
Also, because Vena brings your typically siloed data into one place, you’ll be able to draw on all kinds of information for your models, including:
- Sales data from your CRM
- Engagement insights from your marketing automation system
- Employee and headcount data from your HRIS
- Historical and up-to-date actuals from your ERP or GL
Not only will this save you the hassle of pulling data from your source systems manually, but you’ll also be able to paint a clearer picture of how various potential outcomes will affect every arm of your business—ultimately setting the stage for confident, more data-driven decision making.
Every organization has high-level targets they’re trying to hit, but aligning the entire business toward those targets is no simple task. If budgeting isn’t accessible, forecasting isn’t reliable and “what-if” business questions aren’t easy to answer quickly, it’s tough to involve non-finance stakeholders in the overall strategic planning process.
Strategic planning as a team means ensuring that every cross-functional leader understands how they’re moving the needle. If you don’t make this a priority, you might miss out on opportunities to gather feedback on the financial targets you’re setting—and that’s not very strategic at all.
But with Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solutions, shaping your high-level strategy will always feel collaborative. Our native Excel interface makes planning a lot more approachable, because even your non-finance colleagues are familiar with the world’s leading grid. Also, because your forecasts and scenario models update automatically in Vena, they act as an early warning system so you can keep your company-wide growth journey on track. Vena helps you stay in the know and prepare your business for anything—whether it’s five weeks, five months or five years into the future.
Preparing income statements, balance sheets and cash flow statements is still a monthly cycle for many finance teams today. But to quote that same Deloitte report from earlier, “Finance goes real time. Periodic reporting will no longer drive operations ...” by the time 2025 rolls around. That means you’ll always need to have real-time actuals available for reporting—because monthly financial statements might be irrelevant as soon as they’re released.
The problem with financial reporting, though, is that it’s often a time-consuming manual process. Once you’ve gathered the numbers you need via emails and source system data dumps, you still have to copy it all to your Excel template, verify the correct calculations, validate that everything is correct and then deliver a consolidated report. With no automations to help you, that process could take days or even weeks—especially for regulatory reports or if you rely on other stakeholders for inputs.
Finance-Led Planning in Vena takes the stress out of financial reporting. Our source system integrations pull real-time GL numbers into your reporting templates, while our central database lets you slice and dice reports and drill down into the details. Workflows make it easy to assign tasks to each contributor, while audit trails and validation rules ensure your numbers are always correct.
In order to make well-informed business decisions, your board and management team will always need to know:
- How are we doing right now?
- How does that compare to how we were doing before?
- How are we expected to perform moving forward?
- What can we do to make sure we get there?
If you can’t help your leaders answer those questions easily, they won’t be able to guide the business forward with confidence. Instinct can only get you so far—you have to base your decisions off of insight.
Finance-Led Planning with Vena tells the story behind your numbers so you can empower leadership with the data-driven insights they need. Variance reporting is instant because historical performance is automatically compared to your budget, actuals and forecast. Also, because our Excel interface is so easy to use, your leaders can even pull their own custom reports on their own.
When they hit you with the tough questions—in the boardroom, on a Zoom call or in the middle of your executive presentation—you’ll always be ready to answer them.
Business-Wide Reporting and Analysis
Management reports are one thing, but data storytelling is a lot more powerful if you visualize your numbers with dashboards. If you don’t include dashboards in your finance-led planning ecosystem, you might find it difficult to hone in on emerging trends or gauge the impact of specific KPIs. If you can actually see how your business is evolving over time, it’s easier to show your stakeholders exactly what they should focus on.
According to the 2020 Pulse of Performance Management survey, more than half of today’s finance professionals prefer Power BI as their solution of choice. That’s why we created the Vena Power BI Connector. With Finance-Led Planning in Vena, you can instantly visualize any aspect of your dataset and share those insights across your business. And instead of trying to build and analyze your dashboards from scratch, you’ll always have the support of Microsoft's industry-leading BI tool.
Bringing It All Together
Vena’s Finance-Led Planning solutions do more than just save you time. They empower you with the freedom to transform the way you do business.
Your finance team will become more strategic business partners. Instead of spending your time just organizing numbers, you’ll drive growth across the business through strategic, data-driven analysis. Your tedious offline spreadsheet nightmares will feel like ancient history. Automations make everything simple. The Excel interface keeps everyone comfortable. And you’ll have time to focus on what really matters—helping you business plan for a profitable future.