Quick Guide to Strategic Workflow Planning Software

insightsoftware -
October 26, 2021

insightsoftware is the global provider of enterprise software solutions for the Office of the CFO to connect to & make sense of data in real time, driving financial intelligence across […]

Quick Guide To Strategic Workflow Planning Software 1110x379

Strategic workflow planning software has emerged to help business leaders develop a structured and intentional approach to the strategic goals that drive business success. This article explores strategic workflow planning software, including what it is, key benefits, and important factors you should consider when selecting the right strategic workflow planning software solution.

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What Is Strategic Workflow Planning Software?

Strategic planning workflow solutions provide a structured framework within which business leaders can:

  • Define strategic objectives.
  • Establish key performance metrics.
  • Aggregate and report on historical business data.
  • Develop predictive analytics to model future performance based on a range of potential scenarios (e.g., different levels of allocation for budgets, capital expenditures, and human resources).

In many respects, strategic workflow planning software is a kind of extension of the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) domain. Like the best FP&A software, it helps companies model multiple scenarios. Strategic workflow planning uses historical performance data to help business leaders arrive at ambitious but realistic target outcomes, informed by as much real-world data as possible. Good strategic workflow planning bridges the gap between finance (which typically owns the budget, as well as monitoring the organization’s inflows and outflows of cash) and operations (which is responsible for execution, and must live within the constraints imposed by the organization’s budget).

Going a step further than many FP&A solutions, strategic planning workflow incorporates extensive collaboration features, with group editing and version control. As the name suggests, it automates the flow of tasks and information such that everyone in the organization can be on the same page, with each party being fully accountable for their part in the process.

What to Look For in a Good Strategic Workflow Planning Solution

A wide range of software solutions lend themselves to the task of scenario planning and analysis, developing strategic goals, and monitoring performance against those objectives. These range from homegrown collections of Microsoft Excel spreadsheets (which can be very labor intensive and difficult to control) to complicated and rigidly structured strategic planning applications.

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Most companies are looking for a combination of power and flexibility. They need integration with enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, strong collaboration and version control features, and good analytics and scenario planning capabilities. As with so many other categories of software, though, most business users also value flexibility. They want solutions that can adapt to the unique requirements and business processes of their own organization, rather than forcing users to change the way they work to fit the software.

Here’s what to look for if your company is considering strategic workflow planning software:

Strong Reporting and Analytics: Although strategic workflow planning extends far beyond reporting and analytics, a good solution simply cannot pass muster if it does not provide a strong foundation in this domain. Strategic planning requires a firm grasp on the numbers. That includes historical performance as well as forward-looking predictions. The ability to filter, organize, and present information in a variety of different formats is essential.

Ease of Use and Maintenance: Users throughout the organization must be able to learn how to use a strategic workflow planning platform quickly and with minimal effort, making ease of use a central tenet of its design. That principle extends to the design and modification of reports, dashboards, and workflows. Users must be able to perform these functions without creating a dependency on the IT department. Finance and operations personnel should be able to make the changes they need without relying on technical experts.

Collaboration Features: Effective strategic planning requires participation from virtually every department within an organization. Participation in the process engenders ownership; it creates a sense of investment in the outcome. In addition, a diversity of voices ensures that people who have a broad range of different functional perspectives are vetting ideas. That ultimately drives more realistic strategic planning, resulting in better business outcomes. Good collaboration features take the friction out of that process, ensuring that more stakeholders are actively involved in it.

Flexible Scenario Planning: In today’s rapidly changing global economy, business leaders are constantly seeking ways to increase agility. That requires a capacity for rapidly ingesting new information, analyzing the potential impact of various options, and informing executives with trustworthy predictions to help guide good business decisions. Scenario planning is an increasingly popular tool, largely due to the wave of unexpected change that has come about since the onset of the pandemic in early 2020. The best strategic workflow planning software provides maximum flexibility to finance users analyzing the impact of each potential business decision.

Integration With ERP: Look for a strategic workflow planning software capable of integrating with your ERP system of choice. By pulling data directly from ERP, you can be assured that historical performance data is always fully up-to-date, reflecting what is happening in your business in real time. Unfortunately, many companies are still using manual spreadsheet-based systems that require a periodic export of data from the ERP, which is subsequently imported into a Microsoft Excel workbook. Not only is this labor-intensive, but it also tends to introduce errors into the process. Since the focus here is on decisions of strategic importance, such errors can potentially lead to significant negative consequences. To achieve maximum business agility, seamless integration with ERP is an absolute requirement.

insightsoftware has been providing strategic planning, reporting, and analytics solutions for over three decades. Our products integrate with 140 different ERP software platforms for maximum flexibility and agility. To learn more about how insightsoftware can help you with your strategic planning process, contact us for a free demo.