Financial planning and analysis is a challenge to any complex business. Huge amounts of data needs to be gathered, consolidated and manipulated according to current analysis need.

Consider the following business:

  • 1,200 projects and cost centres
  • 100 accounts
  • 20 locations
  • 12 planning periods per year
  • 3 planning years
  • 12 versions (revisions within year)

Each of these elements requires an individual cell within a spreadsheet.

For this example, total cells = 1,200 x 100 x 20 x 12 x 3 x 12 = 1.04bn cells.

This is an enormous amount of data to be handling and processing manually each month.

In a spreadsheet-based world there are myriad ways that calculations can go awry, the key factor being human error. This makes the monthly cycle even harder as finance staff have to trace errors back to source, somewhere within more than one billion cells.

When you consider the construction industry, there are added challenges. Perhaps more than most, the business needs to be in a position to adapt to changing external environments. Although a single organisation, there will be many individual projects, each with their own unique variables in the form of joint ventures and subcontractors; these can also change over the life of the project.

It is generally standard practice to focus management resources – and therefore the shape of management structure – on current problems and challenges that need addressing. The challenge this presents for FP&A is how do you unpick all of your data and reassemble it with a different emphasis each time the management focus shifts within your organisation? Just look at the numbers above, reorganising one billion cells’ worth of information is a huge task and surely nobody’s idea of fun.

We’ve talked previously about Robertson Group’s data ‘islands’, a collection of individual spreadsheets holding all of the organisation’s data. With the implementation of IBM® Planning Analytics, these islands were joined together to create data ‘continents’ to which all elements of the business have access. Through consolidating all of the information held into a fully integrated model, despite all of the complex variables inherent in the business there is now the opportunity to access a single version of the truth.

The finance team don’t have to reverse engineer the data every time an external change has an impact upon the organisation or management focus shifts to a new area; every change in regional, cost centre or project structure can be made with the click of a mouse and the numbers viewed instantly. One billion pain points have now become one billion points of insight for valuable decision making, all thanks to Planning Analytics.

To find out more about how Planning Analytics can erase the pain points within your organisation, contact us today.

Simon Bradshaw

I have worked in finance and business systems development since 2001 and am an associate member of the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants. In 2016 I became a founding member of Spitfire Analytics, a consultancy specialising in IBM Planning Analytics. We are committed to building long-term relationships across all industries. I focus on my CPD through CIMA and IBM badges, ensuring I am always abreast of best practice and developments within the industry.


The great thing about working with Spitfire Analytics is their financial background.  We can just explain what we need in our own terms and they understand exactly what needs to be done.

- Phil Talbot, Finance Director, Robertson Group

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