The best sports teams in history worked together seamlessly, almost as though telepathy joined their constituent parts. When athletes step into a competitive arena, they understand how best to work with one another. However, not all teams can take a quick time out to get everyone up to speed or spend hours running practice drills – and that’s where connected planning helps.
Although far removed from the world of professional sport, today’s organisations are under significant pressure to be bought into the same playbook. Performing efficiently in a context of unprecedented market uncertainty is a challenge facing most leaders. In such a competitive environment, one player falling out of sync might not de-rail a team completely, but it is likely they won’t come out on top.
Despite these difficulties, there are growth opportunities for those keeping their squad on the same page. Whether due to political upheaval or yo-yoing exchange rates, businesses are realising that plans are amended more regularly than they are drawn up and that it pays to be prepared and adaptable.
What is connected planning?
Connected planning is transforming the way enterprises work, allowing for more informed decisions using data accrued from every corner of the business. This does not just allow real-time co-ordination, but aggregates an ever-growing volume of data to create detailed simulations that qualify leaders’ assumptions and explore possible futures.
After all, the secret to almost every sports legend’s success has come down to practice, practice, practice. In the same way, the ability to project scenarios and prepare an action for every eventuality means an organisation will be prepared to perform in high-pressure situations.
What makes a planning function truly connected is its ability to react to market fluctuations and adapt accordingly. The teams that win most often bounce back against adversity or react well to a new strategy from an opponent. The agile can “course correct,” communicating strategic changes to keep on track. These attributes are useful for businesses with rigidly defined departments, as well as those with geographically spread teams.
Breaking down barriers
For the planning process to be truly “connected,” it needs to understand the downstream impact of an action in one department on another. For example, companies that bridge the gap between finance and HR, will see the impact of changes to the workforce on the profit and loss account.
Alternatively, if sales of a certain product are on an upward trajectory, this needs to be communicated to the supply chain so that manufacturing levels can be increased. By doing so, an open conversation is started, allowing information to flow freely and enabling the agility that is now symptomatic of success.
The challenge of keeping a team on the same page is made more difficult as it grows and explores new markets. An increasing reliance on technology and the implementation of BYOD has made the workplace disparate, placing greater emphasis on being aware of your colleague’s successes and failures, no matter where they are.
Keeping employees well-connected amid this expansion is vital to maintain speed and flexibility, but simple factors such as time difference and currency rate fluctuations can bump businesses off course.
Leading from the top
This all sounds great, but how can it be achieved? It comes down to empowering employees with the appropriate culture and tools to work in a collaborative way. And a cultural shift requires comprehensive buy-in from company leadership to be successful. After all, the beauty of connected planning is that those at the top have access to transparent information and can see how all the cogs of their business work together.
A team needs a captain that can lead by example and engage team mates, giving them incentives to work together. Those that only focus on their own performance and ignore how their actions impact others will not set an appropriate platform for success. As the incoming generation of professionals expect this flexible, “cross-pollination” style of working, adopting this type of culture will also be integral to recruitment.
Digital that fits
As digital transformation gathers pace and the volume of data increases, connecting data sets to co-ordinate planning processes becomes possible. The maturity of cloud technology has been key to the rise of connected planning strategies, allowing employees to access company data regardless of location. So introducing connected planning doesn’t mean a complete systems overhaul.
Bringing in new tools doesn’t mean blindly equipping employees with new technology purely because it’s a digital way of doing things, but doing it in a tailored way that integrates well with existing systems and enables them to work more efficiently. You wouldn’t appoint a new coach for the sake of it.
In the current context of political and economic upheaval, rigid planning processes are insufficient. Eradicating siloed planning will be the key for organisations that are going for gold.
Karen Clarke is managing director, Northern Europe, at Anaplan