Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting in Uncertain Times

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Budgeting, planning and forecasting are critical management tasks that not only impact the future success of an organisation, but can threaten its very survival if done badly.

Yet in spite of their importance, the speed and complexity of today’s business environment has caused a rapid decrease in the planning time horizon. As a consequence the traditional planning processes have become unsuitable for most organisation’s needs.

In this book readers will find new, original insights, including:

  • 7 planning models that every organisation needs to plan and manage performance
  • 6 ways in which performance can be viewed
  • A planning framework based on best management practices that can cope with an unpredictable business environment
  • The application of technology to planning and latest developments in systems
  • Results of the survey conducted for the book on the state of planning in organisations

Praise for Budgeting, Planning, and Forecasting in Uncertain Times

“This book will be a significant contribution to the body of knowledge for organizational financial planning and the role that software technology will have in improving an organization’s performance. It is written with a comfortable style and does an excellent job of explaining the nuances of modern financial planning tools.” – Malcolm Furber, FCMA CGMA FInstD CCMI MSAIM, Principal consultant, Ethoss consultant; and President of CIMA

“Coveney and Cokins’ book helps managers examine the way they plan and the types of planning models they use to rethink if there are better and more effective ways to plan. It is a must read especially for those beginning to question the value of the annual budgeting process.” – John Antos, President, Value Creation Group, Inc. Author of Rolling Forecasts Replace Budget

"Managers budget. Leaders plan. This book shows current and aspiring leaders new and improved techniques to create plans that include strategy improvement and activity management." – Tom Pryor, Founder, ICMS, Inc.; advisors to family-owned businesses 

“This book not only provides an overview of the rise of management methodologies that shape an organization’s financial planning, but it goes deep in a way that anyone can understand the emerging technologies that enable faster and more useful plans.” – Vince Shunsky, Principal, Corporate Planning & Consulting LLC

"Want to boost your knowledge about business planning? This is the book you need. Highly recommended" – Jeroen De Flander, bestselling author, Strategy Execution Heroes

“Gary Cokins and Michael Coveney build a compelling argument that yesterday’s planning methods are quickly becoming outdated in today’s hyper-active business environment. They have set forth a series of planning principles oriented to today’s business that demands that planning processes must provide a rapidity of response that is essential to competitive survival. These principles are supplemented by tools and management surveys to add an additional element of practicality.

Throughout the book, they offer clear and understandable examples to emphasize key thoughts, and illustrates to the reader their relevance to effective planning in our modern economy.” – Lawrence Maisel, Internationally recognized practioner and thought leader in Performance Management

“Although financial planning and analysis has been practiced for decades, managers continue to be challenged with doing it properly, and especially more frequently revising their plans and their resulting financial projections. Coveney and Cokins describe the recipe for resolving these issues. A great read with excellent exhibits and illustrations.” – Michael Browne MSA, CPA, CGMA, CMA, CFM, ABV, President, Advanced Financial”

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Pulled from final MS chapter 1, p 5-6

The Increasing Speed of Business and Globalisation

Perhaps the biggest challenge is the speed of business. In the 1980s it was difficult for an organisation to enter a market, introduce a new product or service, or to make a major change to its business model. The problem was primarily one of communication.

To reach potential customers, there must be a reliable method to contact them, to explain how the product or service can help them, and for them to be able to respond and ask questions. Before the era of the Internet these methods (for example, direct mail, television, or newspaper advertising) were slow, and difficult to target ideal customers. It also required a local presence to handle any responses, which is expensive in time, effort, and the resources required to recruit and train sales staff.

As mentioned in the introduction to this book, the Internet and the advent of e-commerce has totally changed this. To start with, geographic boundaries are removed, and the technology allows both real and virtual companies to be established and effectively communicate to customers in a fraction of the time of previous years. Not only can the medium use a combination of text, sound, pictures, and video, but it can also be interactive and made to automatically respond to specific customer enquiries.

Today, the reach of the Internet is far more advanced than previous marketing channels and is more adaptable, targeted, and substantially cheaper. Organisations no longer need to have a local presence, product promotion is global 24/7, and social media sites mean that others can promote products at no involvement or cost to the supplier.

This capability has transformed the speed at which new entrants can come to market, from years to months and even weeks. To combat this threat, existing suppliers have responded by changing their business model. Again, Internet-based technologies have allowed them to do this at unprecedented speed. Organisations like Dell can introduce changes to product specifications and pricing scenarios in minutes in response to a competitor, where in previous times, months of planning were required together with the expense of reprinting product literature and re-training staff.

The Internet has totally changed the business environment by making it inordinately faster than in times past. To survive organisations must now plan and adapt at the speed of the Internet.

The Increasing Complexity of Business

The second challenge facing organisations is the complexity of business that has been caused by technology. Twenty years ago organisations were typically aligned with defined markets where they offered mass-produced products and services. There was little scope for collecting feedback other than by conducting manually intensive surveys. With better communication, organisations today can gain competitive advantage by marketing specific products directly to individuals. Similarly, better and faster information has allowed more agile production techniques and ‘just in time’ inventory management systems that reduce stock levels and the associated costs involved.

The Internet has also made it possible for intermediaries to operate and tailor products for individual needs. In doing so they do not need much in the way of capital for the business to operate, and yet they can still give the appearance of being a large, stable organisation. Insurance, utilities, and some forms of banking are prime examples of industries that have been transformed in this way.

Another phenomena affecting companies is ‘people power’ in the form of criticisms or endorsements on social networks that has significant influence on customer purchases. These kinds of comments, which often have nothing to do with the product or service being offered, are more to do with social attitudes to corporate responsibility, but they can be just as devastating as not keeping up with fast changing fashions.

Nike found this to their detriment when it was revealed that their shoes were manufactured by sweatshops in South Korea, China, and Taiwan. The resultant bad publicity greatly affected sales and Nike was forced to ensure those working for them were treated and paid better. Similarly, when it was reported that Starbucks had not paid any corporation tax between 2009 and 2012 on its UK sales of around £1 billion in the same period, a large number of customers boycotted the coffee chain and chose competitors who were seen to be more socially responsible. Of course Nike and Starbucks are by no means the only companies to be affected in this way, and the chances are that social pressure will increasingly affect organisational behaviour in the future.

At no other time in history has the business environment been so complex.

System Requirements

About the Authors

Gary Cokins

Michael Coveney

About the Publisher

American Institute of CPAs

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) is the world’s largest member association representing the CPA profession, with more than 418,000 members in 143 countries, and a history of serving the public interest since 1887. AICPA members represent many areas of practice, including business and industry, public practice, government, education and consulting.

The AICPA sets ethical standards for the profession and U.S. auditing standards for private companies, nonprofit organizations, federal, state and local governments. It develops and grades the Uniform CPA Examination, and offers specialized credentials for qualified professionals who concentrate on personal financial planning; forensic accounting; business valuation; and information management and technology assurance. With The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA), it offers the Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) designation, which sets the global benchmark for quality and recognition in management accounting.

The AICPA and CIMA also make up the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), which represents public and management accounting globally, advocating on behalf the public interest and advancing the quality, competency and employability of CPAs, CGMAs and other accounting and finance professionals worldwide.

The AICPA maintains offices in New York, Washington, DC, Durham, NC, and Ewing, NJ.