What is financial planning and analysis software?

By Sigma Conso, a Prophix Company

Businessman analyzing company financial report with augmented reality graphics 34141 360

What we’re going to talk about:

  • Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) software frees up time by automating routine tasks and data collection
  • It reduces the risk of costly spreadsheet errors and provides a clear audit trail
  • Standard packages should include FP&A tools such as financial analysis, modelling, data visualisation, report generation and data integration from other platforms
  • Every company will have different needs, so ensure you think carefully about your specific requirements when choosing software
  • FP&A software enables your FP&A analysts to make data-driven business decisions and think strategically to meet future challenges

In an unpredictable global financial landscape, having the right financial planning and analysis (FP&A) software is key to navigating whatever lies ahead. The software addresses the pain points of spreadsheets, such as manual data entry and incorrect formulas. It enables all key data – both financial and non-financial – to be stored in one place, analysed, crunched, shared, and visualised.
This means your FP&A teams will spend less time on routine tasks such as data collection, recurring reporting tasks such as monthly cash flow forecasts. A study from Ventana Research found that 77% of planning processes within a typical organisation depend on access to timely and accurate data from other departments.

However, along with the automation of routine tasks and data collection, FP&A software also allows analysts to take a wider view, helping companies reach their strategic goals. It gives FP&A teams, Chief Financial Officers, and finance professionals the tools they need to dig down into the financial data, historical data, results, and numbers: to spot patterns and business trends, plan for worst-case scenarios, challenges, and threats, and identify new opportunities.

Are you interested in discovering more about financial planning and analysis (FP&A) software? If so, please get in touch. We have a team of experts who will be happy to discuss your specific needs and what our FP&A software can do for you.

What is financial planning and analysis software?

FP&A software is a broad definition: everything from a traditional spreadsheet-based package such as Excel or Google Sheets to the most sophisticated system can be classed as FP&A software. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, as companies will have very different financial modeling and business intelligence needs depending on users, size, structure, and sector.

However, the term most commonly covers SaaS (software as a service) software packages. These are subscription-based, and cloud-based, allowing your team to access the system wherever they are working. Most will also integrate with existing systems such as ERPs.

Benefits

Choosing to switch to FP&A software can have huge benefits to your organisation.

  • An intuitive system which draws in and crunches data centrally will save time and allow for much more efficient real-time collaboration between team members, operations, and departments.
  • It enables companies to forecast more accurately and plan for a multitude of different scenarios, giving them access to different kinds of data in one interface – for example, projected salary spends, sales or expenses.
  • It is less prone to error: while traditional spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel do have some advantages – they are familiar and cheap - they are also hugely error-prone. Users can easily make mistakes when inputting and manipulating the data and using formulas which may have been changed without your knowledge. It is hard to track changes made on them, and they are insecure, particularly when sent via email.
  • It provides a clear audit trail, enabling stakeholders to see exactly who has done what and when. This level of transparency allows for best practices in financial processes.

Types of financial planning and analysis software and tools

Most SaaS systems offer similar functionality and features, including:

  • Audit and approval trails
  • Automated workflowData integration from other platforms (such as ERP systems)
  • Modelling and adjusting a range of financial scenarios
  • Visualising data
  • Generating and sharing reports
  • Automating collection of data from across the organisation
  • Analysing data down to the most granular level
  • Advanced scenario planning

A package is likely to come with different modules from which users can choose according to their company’s requirements – for example, revenue management, cashflow forecasting, HR forecasting, sales forecasting, industry content (construction, etc).

For those who are more comfortable working with a spreadsheet, many packages offer spreadsheet-based interfaces. Many also offer dashboards and the ability to generate visualisations of both financial and non-financial data side by side.

What to look for in FP&A software

Carefully consider your company’s particular requirements when you are choosing your software, as choosing the wrong package will be expensive.

Flexibility and implementation


A good FP&A platform should have the flexibility to enable any team member to use it without help from technical experts and with minimal training. It should be easy to understand, intuitive and user-friendly, so consider user testing as part of the implementation process. Also consider how implementation will be achieved, how long it will take, and which package will ensure the smoothest transition in terms of tools, delivery methods, data migration and configuration.

Automation and other functionalities


Automation is a key functionality for any company wanting to save time and reduce the risk of error. A good FP&A package will use automation for multiple processes including tasks, requests, report creation and sending, and workflows – all with a complete audit trail.

Integration and data collection


Data collection is a huge challenge which is only likely to get bigger: the total volume of enterprise data is estimated to double from one petabyte in 2020 to 2.02 petabytes in 2022. That data is immensely valuable to companies, who therefore need to ensure their software can collect, analyze, and integrate it onto a single platform, where all relevant stakeholders can access it. This also enables transparency and accuracy.

Reporting


A good system should make the reporting process far simpler and more efficient in terms of data collection and analysis. But it also allows for far more effective communication and information sharing, allowing FP&A teams to share their reports and insights via dashboards, and drill down into the granularities of the data.

Real-time data

Responding quickly in today’s rapid global marketplace is key. FP&A software harnesses the power of real-time data, enabling managers to track exactly what’s happening on the ground and respond accordingly.

Scalability


When looking for an FP&A system, companies should consider their plans for growth. Ensure the platform is the most advanced available today and that it has the capabilities and tools to grow and flex with the company's  activities both today and in the future.

Security


Data leaks
 are hugely damaging to a company’s reputation and value. While FP&A software is always going to be more secure than sending data sets in spreadsheets over email, look for a system which keeps security front of mind and enables teams to keep a tight hold on user access.

Transforming your FP&A process

Financial information is the lifeblood of your company. It runs through everything the company does. All too often, however, the process of gathering and analysing this vital information is highly inefficient.

Skilled and experienced FP&A team members find themselves spending their time chasing up queries or triple-checking error-prone spreadsheets. Information sent by email can be lost or leaked. The time lag caused by a lack of real-time data and efficient financial planning software means CFOs and finance leaders can’t make the right strategic decisions at the right time.

The right FP&A software doesn’t just smooth over this friction – it can also actively make a difference to a company’s bottom line. It automates collection and analysis, freeing up the finance team’s time to engage in more strategic thinking.

By reducing the risk of costly spreadsheet errors and enabling rapid and easy data sharing, FP&A software solutions enable finance teams and FP&A professionals to plan for the future and make data-driven decisions. This will benefit business strategy and, in turn, the entire organization.

Are you interested in discovering more about financial planning and analysis (FP&A) software? If so, please get in touch. We have a team of experts who will be happy to discuss your specific needs and what our FP&A software can do for you.