The 1 Thing The Pandemic Taught Us About Business Planning and Forecasting

Back to Blog

The 1 Thing The Pandemic Taught Us About Business Planning and Forecasting

It goes without saying that the pandemic shook the business world. With shelter-in-place orders around the globe, virtual meetings instead of physical visits, and shifting relationships between organizations and their partners, the old way of doing business is gone. But through that event, a fundamental truth has been revealed. Post-pandemic, it has become perhaps the most important aspect for a business to succeed and even thrive in the face of the next global crisis. 

Companies need to improve the way they approach business planning and forecasting.

The Importance of Agility for Business Planning and Forecasting in the Post-Pandemic Business World 

Agility has always been important. Historically, businesses that have been “agile” have been able to pivot quickly in response to changing markets and changing consumer demands. And the business world is littered with companies who weren’t agile enough, such as BlockbusterPolaroid and Nokia, and fell by the wayside as newer companies filled the gap left by their lack of planning. 

Pre- or post-pandemic, planning is critical to business success.  

But would the stories of Polaroid, Blockbuster, and Nokia be different if they had more time? The simple answer is, “no.” Although time provides the impetus for planning, it is also a crutch. Businesses believe they will have plenty of time, using the planning tools they have, to see the upcoming changes in the market and be able to react to it. Only the pandemic demonstrated that time is a luxury we don’t have. Improving the planning process and the tools to do so must be a major priority as we come move forward. 

How To Plan Better and Quicker to Improve Agility Under Any Circumstances 

Agility isn’t an aspect of businesses that just happens. It is cultivated through data. Companies that have embraced the power of data to transform the way they build products, market their services, or even approach new opportunities, and enable tools and systems company-wide for any employee to interact with that data have the capability to analyze the future state of its market to plan better. But there’s a catch. Companies before the pandemic were just as empowered with BI tools and the data behind them. And although that enabled them the opportunity to pivot, it didn’t enable them to do it faster. BI tools allow visualization of the data. They help pull things together so that people can analyze through reports and dashboards. But truly interacting with the data is where agility is built.   

Visualizing Data Is Only Half of the Solution 

Visualization is critical to business planning. That was true pre-pandemic and it is surely true after. But having technologies or tools which help display business data can only take a company so far. In fact, you can bet companies like Polaroid and Nokia utilized BI tools to help them analyze the health of their business. Running reports and analyzing values can help a company get a better bead on what’s happening and what might happen. That’s the power of good visualization: observability. Still, it’s a one-way street.  

To be able to see how those connections and relationships might change with different values, to see how a forecast might be different when the underlying data is changed, users must go back to the source of the data, often times contained a myriad of siloed systems. That’s because BI tools don’t provide the capability to change the data behind the visualization. And that slows planning down because there is really no way to see different scenarios play out without making changes to the source data itself which just isn’t a smart business practice. In fact, that very problem is why CPM (Corporate Performance Management) tools were born. CPM, or commonly known as planning tools, were introduced to satisfy the need to create different versions of the data to capture what-if and other budget, planning, and forecasting scenarios. These different versions enabled business users to input values without jeopardizing the actual source data.  Despite what CPM enables, it’s also just another silo. Many users have even asked, “why can’t I just used my BI tool to create forecasts, to input new values into reports so that I can respond to market forces? Why do I have to use yet another system?”  

Thankfully, Power ON for Microsoft Power BI has made that possible. 

The New Agility is Real-Time Agility 

For a company to really be agile, to be able to turn on a dime in response to changes such as shelter-in-place orders, employees need to input and change data through the visualizations themselves. And adding Power ON to Microsoft Power BI enables you to do just that. With a proprietary write-back capability, users can interact with their Power BI visualizations in an unprecedented way: by allowing them to actually enter and save data in Power BI. With this capability, businesses can leverage their Power BI investment for planning and forecasting across the organization without having to leverage another system or introducing any additional risk. Enhancing an existing Microsoft Power BI environment with write-back capability enables businesses to plan and forecast right where they already analyze their data. Instead of scrambling to react to changes in the market, employees across the company can utilize their Power BI visualizations to run what-if scenarios and forecast on the fly, cutting down the effort to see how the business might be affected from weeks to mere hours. Turning their Power BI environment into a two-way street, companies can move into a more real-time operational mode enabling them to calculate risk, assess opportunities, and capitalize on shifts in the market by using their data as an offensive weapon. The post-pandemic world isn’t about simple analysis, it’s about being able to analyze and make changes to the data in real-time so the business can make informed decisions which will impact its success.  

Power ON: Enabling Businesses to Plan for Tomorrow, Today 

Waiting and watching is no longer going to work. Just visualizing data doesn’t provide the observability companies need to be agile and, more importantly, successful in today’s world. Businesses have learned a valuable lesson following the pandemic: that they can’t wait around for their data to tell them that the market or their customers are changing. Using tools like Microsoft Power BI enhanced with Power ON visualizations and write-back feature enables them to plan, forecast, and innovate in real-time with their data. And, Power ON even offers an Excel add-in, helping Finance teams, who are more comfortable with Excel, to write-back to the company-wide Power BI instance. This allows for both Finance and Operational plans to drive real-time updates across Power BI Dashboards and reports. 

You shouldn’t wait for the next global crisis to improve your business planning and forecasting. You need the ability to look at the impact of market forces or a changing landscape on your business in real-time. This will provide you the agility you’ll need to succeed no matter what’s happening around the world.  

If you are a Microsoft Power BI user, you can supercharge your planning and take an active role in using your business data to model the changing world around you and then adapting to changes even before they happen. Now that’s real-time planning agility. 

Don’t wait for the next global event to shake your business. Implement Power ON Visual Planner today to make sure that your business planning and forecasting is agile enough to carry your company through anything that comes its way.

Until next time…

Keep Powering ON