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The Planning Cycle: implementing strategy & budget planning

Published on 27 April 2020

The Planning Cycle: implementing strategy & budget planning

The Planning Cycle, our best practice framework at The Forum, is the basis for successful planning teams. In Standards Benchmarking, the best get better every year, by learning and sharing the latest thinking as best practice evolves. When we launched the new framework last year, Strategic and Budget Planning came to the fore, with the most pioneering teams actively raising their game and a more prominent place in the planning cycle. When the target operating model and budget is set up well, benefits flow downstream through the planning cycle. Key to this is regular & frequent review of variances to budget, forecasting predicted impacts (‘predictive analysis’). Here, in the awards chapter and in our online videos, we can learn from some brilliant teams how they have put these ideas into practice.  

Implementing strategy 
A key step for resource planning teams is to be involved in the strategy process early, with a seat at the decision-making table, so you can help shape outcomes at this point, to avoid downstream problems. Just as important, you can understand strategic imperatives at any early stage and feed this through the planning cycle. The very best teams are driving the process, an integral part of the organisation’s broader strategy, taking a collaborative approach to their work. Other support areas are partners in the process and the team look to involve them in all decisions. 

Strategic planning is going to be complex in a large business, because of the many diverse drivers & functions. But, like others below, the planning team LV= (pg 26), stripped back their model so it’s really quick and easy to use with stakeholders. This work to simplify and automate, with help from a dedicated data analyst, means that just two analysts can support strategic planning across the whole business. At Sky (pg 30), a strong commercial intellect coupled with a thirst for innovation has made the team pivotal to the success of the business. This team is helping to shape the future strategy of the business and run many concurrent change projects within planning. Focus has shifted away from tactical repairing to strategic planning, 12+ months out.

Best in class 
The best-in-class teams in this area are often in demand; they are central players, never side-lined or circumvented. They are externally referenced, looking outside for inspiration and best practice. Flexible models blend mathematics, business intuition and wider knowledge – and these organisations actively look to the planning team to provide guidance and support. Such teams include Cooperative Insurance, with Santander Operations and Cooperative Bank, whose great innovation case studies in 2016 demonstrate their long-established expertise in this area. In our 2020 awards, RSA (pg 28), showed the value of building strategic resource models in the system used by Finance (Anaplan), ‘baked in’ to business reviews. Analysis can be turned around instantly or in hours, not weeks. It works so well because the key data is always there with one single model framework and robust governance. The team now has a key role in driving continuous improvement across the business. At L&G (pg 38), a collaboration between planning, business transformation and operations teams (the ‘customer service triangle’) in Group Protection has delivered powerful results that are changing perceptions of the business among key customers area. 

Planning the budget 
In budget planning, the best teams see conversations changing as more senior stakeholders engage, often in new ways. Teams simplify complex operating models, the budget process flows seamlessly and predicative analysis means people can act to resolve issues before something even happens. There are excellent handovers, data governance and change management ensuring a clear data journey and a smooth transition into operation. For instance, at RSA (pg 28), the planning model is a key tool in company-wide budget planning, with frequent reviews in place. They turn around multiple budget scenarios at an astonishing speed and give visibility to the impacts of different resource drivers, at a remarkably detailed level. At Yorkshire Ambulance Service (pg 22), planning insight is now valued for emergency planning. Forecast accuracy was key to buy-in and planning for The Tour of Yorkshire was a turning point, consolidating their place at regular decision-making meetings. Planning is a key capability for YAS now, given impacts of the Covid-19 virus.

This article was first published in the 2020 Best Practice Guide - 2020 Vision: Crystallising your knowledge

To download a full digital copy of the Best Practice Guide, click here

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Author: Leanne McNamee

Categories: Library, Planning & Resourcing

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