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6 Reasons CFOs Will Want to Modernize Sales Planning

Time-consuming. Error-prone. Impossible to scale.

Imagine those words anchoring an ad for a planning platform. Would you use it? No, thanks.

And yet, those are the complaints of many still using Excel-based planning processes in spreadsheets today. But if you’re growing rapidly and trying to build an organization that can scale, spreadsheets won’t take you very far, and certainly not where you want to go.

At least, that was our experience at Winshuttle. We’re based in Seattle but operate globally, with 300 employees and offices in five countries. We provide a data management and workflow solution that serves more than 2,000 customers running SAP and other large enterprise resource planning systems.

Our original epiphany came in 2011, with Adaptive Insights landing first in finance, not sales. At the time, we were experiencing exponential growth, and the spreadsheets we relied on for financial forecasting and budgeting couldn’t keep pace.

After evaluating several cloud-based platforms, we chose Adaptive Insights, believing it would be a platform that would scale with us. We started with financial forecasting and budgeting. Then, when we expanded internationally, we deployed consolidation to help us with intercompany eliminations. Both these implementations were successful, helping us to modernize the way we planned, forecast, budgeted, and consolidated results.

Sales planning still stuck on Excel

The shortcomings of spreadsheet-based sales planning were bad enough when viewed on their own. But they looked even worse when compared to what we were doing with Adaptive Insights on the finance side of the house. Traditionally, sales planning was all done on spreadsheets. This led to a long list of predictable problems: Changes or updates required our analysts to manually update multiple spreadsheets in multiple workbooks across numerous territories and countries. Monitoring sales performance was a painful and time-consuming process, making it a chore to measure how well we were executing against the plan. These manual processes delayed our ability to make decisions and limited our flexibility.

As an enterprise software company, our top-line bookings are heavily driven by sales capacity and sales productivity planning. So, when Adaptive Insights approached us about working together to develop a solution for sales planning, given our experience with Adaptive we leaped at the opportunity to leverage the same efficiencies we experienced in finance for sales operations.

We appreciated that the team at Adaptive Insights sought out our input to build a solution that works for both sales and finance. The result, Adaptive Insights for Sales, has brought a greater level of discipline to the planning process in our sales organization, which translates into more accurate, timely, and detailed plans. And because they’re integrated with Adaptive Insights for Finance, we can easily see how changes to those sales plans impact the overall business.

For CFOs wondering how they can modernize their sales planning environment, our own hands-on experience with both the sales and finance solutions from Adaptive Insights may offer a glimpse at six outcomes you likely can expect:

1. Sales finally gets to drive sales planning (but finance still orchestrates it)

In our spreadsheet days, finance mostly drove planning. Both parties wanted sales to have more autonomy and flexibility in planning, but the lion’s share of modeling, analytics, and other tasks flowed from finance. Now that we can have both the financial model and the sales planning tool on one integrated platform, we’re able to ensure that the discipline we have on the finance side is shared on the sales planning side.

2. We’re collaborating with sales more closely

We can work with our sales teams to come up with far richer, more detailed plans, appropriate quotas, and balanced territory assignments.

3. Sales has more time for strategic planning

Manual, spreadsheet-driven tasks left little time for the strategic thinking that can really impact the business. Sales is now able to do a lot of the qualitative analysis that we do on the finance side. People like Scott Spilker, who manages sales operations at Winshuttle, can now work with our vice president of sales for both North America and EMEA to help them think more strategically and be more data-driven about how they assign sales targets, quotas, and territories.

4. Sales establishes and tracks KPIs that are meaningful to them

This new planning solution enables the sales operations team to create KPIs and analytical metrics that are relevant to sales management and the people running that business, rather than having KPIs dictated to them by finance.

5. Planning is faster on both sides

Our business evolves very quickly, so we need to respond with agility when market conditions change or the competitive landscape shifts. Using the same cloud-based platform for both finance and sales planning allows us to achieve a rolling forecasting and budgeting process. We can change key variables and see the impact these changes have in the forecast down the road.

6. Everybody works from a unified plan and one version of the truth

Our organization is now more tightly integrated and aligned. Our executives now speak one language—a language based on one version of the truth. A unified view of the plan scaled across finance and sales. A shared ability to see where we stand against the plan at the corporate and sales levels, and to visualize the impact of changes on budgets, forecasts, territories, capacity, and more.

There are a lot of synergies to be gained—in time, reliability, and scalability—in adapting a modern planning solution that leverages best practices across both the finance and sales function.

Learn more about Adaptive Insights for Sales.

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