Last week, I was very pleased to be able to attend the latest meeting of the London FP&A Board, the exclusive forum for Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) practitioners at large organisations. The topic of the evening’s discussion was driver-based planning, a subject that ensured a lively debate, and a wide range of opinions around the table.
Metapraxis is a sponsor of the London FP&A Board initiative and, as driver-based planning is a fundamental aspect of our capabilities, we were invited to give a presentation on the practical applications of the technique. This focused on the work we completed with our client CSR (now Qualcomm Technologies International), which combined an automated reporting framework with a scenario planning tool, both underpinned by the same driver-based model.
This contributed to some absorbing conversation around the correct approach to driver-based planning, and even on what the correct uses of driver-based planning are. At Metapraxis, we’ve always maintained that, while driver-based planning must be done properly to be effective, it is a powerful means of building consensus amongst a senior team, particularly when it comes to defining the true drivers of value in the business.
That is especially true where the driver-based framework is represented graphically. Creating a simple visualisation of how financial and non-financial factors contribute to the strategic objectives of the business may not tell senior leaders anything they did not know before – but it will spark dialogue, helping build agreement and deepen understanding of how the various activities of the company contribute to its objectives.
Outside of the senior and finance teams, visual driver-based models offer a powerful means of communicating how operational targets will contribute to the strategic targets of the business. This is key to driving the actions that make improved performance possible. Drawing a simple picture of the dynamics of the business is a basic tactic, but it is highly effective.
Of course, this visual model should be the means, and not the end, of a driver-based planning process, but it lays a much stronger foundation than a mathematical model on its own. It also establishes a good principle by which to continue: the output of the planning process should also be visual. If we set out to assess potential scenarios, and settle on an achievable, effective plan for the business, then that is much easier to achieve if we use visual outputs that make all aspects of the process clear to the team involved.
Our work with CSR is very good example of this. We worked with managers across the business to create a simple driver model, captured that electronically, and then used it as the basis for an interactive visual planning tool, which allows managers to define the operational performance needed to achieve a specific goal or, alternatively, to model the outcomes of changing performance in various parts of the business.
Driver-based planning is not new but, like many techniques used by FP&A professionals, recent advances in technology, in analytic techniques, and in the way that businesses are run, are opening up new possibilities for how it can be applied.
You can read more about CSR and Metapraxis here.