How long do you take to make up your mind about something? It often depends on what you are doing or buying. A 2015 survey of 2,000 people in the U.K. conducted by the Skipton Building Society found that the typical time for deciding on a restaurant drink order was only about 1 minute and 53 seconds. However, the same respondents took an average of more than 10 days to pick out a birthday or Christmas gift for their significant others.
Professional services organizations struggle to make timely decisions
When it comes to making decisions for your professional services firm, you do not want to move so quickly that you overlook something. But you also do not want to waste time on drawn-out manual processes (e.g., reconciling a bunch of Excel sheets) that make timely decision-making virtually impossible.
Almost two-thirds of Skipton's survey takers said that they had missed out on an opportunity because they took too long to decide on something. Similar problems grip many of today's professional services organizations:
- According to MarketingProfs, Hinge Research Institute polled 500 such companies in 2015 and found that about 27 percent of them identified "strategy/planning issues" as an obstacle.
- Ensuring quality and efficiency was nearly as widespread a hurdle, being cited by 24.7 percent of all firms. Budget pressures and other financial matters clocked in at 20.3 percent.
- These individual issues both contribute to larger challenges, such as developing and maintaining new business, which more than 72 percent of respondents attested to (by far the most common problem identified in the survey).
Digging deeper: What leads to delayed decisions?
Imagine you work for a financial services provider and you have taken on a huge client project. Midway through, you realize that you do not have any efficient way to generate the forecasts and reports you will need. There are plenty of reasons why you might find yourself in this position:
1) Relying on legacy software
Excel is probably the best-known culprit here. Managing your core processes predominantly within spreadsheets can be time-consuming, as well as potentially daunting to anyone who may not have a background steeped in finance or tech. Other tools such as Oracle Hyperion Planning can compound the issue, making it increasingly difficult to identify errors and eliminate data inconsistencies.
"Managing your core processes within Excel is time-consuming."
2) Having no integrations between systems
At many organizations, there is no single platform that can handle all the information needed during budgeting and forecasting. Sales data and financials often exist in separate systems. This separation means that data gets moved around a lot, which increases the chances of something being entered wrong or becoming stale.
3) Being unable to evolve or scale your processes
When you work with older tools and isolated systems, it can become increasingly tough to keep up as your own business requirements - not to mention external standards for practices such as revenue recognition - keep shifting. You may end up having to rely on the IT department to provide timely data, fix various technical issues or use complex workarounds to connect one app to another. Basic operations such as reporting can also be difficult to scale, especially if they are being conducted exclusively from within Excel.
Making better decisions with cloud budgeting and forecasting software
Many professional services organizations have successfully moved on from relying so much on spreadsheets, aging software and isolated systems. What was their secret? For a lot of them, switching to cloud financial software such as Adaptive Insight was the difference-maker.
Manual processes often dominate legacy approaches to budgeting, forecasting and reporting.
Adaptive Insights has been ranked by IT research firm Gartner in the prestigious "Leaders" quadrant of its Magic Quadrant for corporate performance management solutions, indicating its high level of customer satisfaction and prominent position in the Software-as-a-Service market. By replacing their legacy tools with this solution, professional services organizations can:
- Dramatically reduce the time needed to validate and consolidate data during decision-making.
- Trim cycles times and ensure that balance sheets, cash flow, etc. are all automatically reported.
- Create a common platform for tracking key performance indicators, with straightforward segmentation and representation of the data.
- Get easy access to all of this information from any location or device, thanks to the cloud-based architecture of the software.
- Receive regular updates to the application's functionality and stability, such as its planning features, from the service provider.
"[Adaptive Insights'] Data Designer offering now enables the linking of planning dimensions across multiple applications, and there is now also the ability to apply dimension attributes (virtual attributes)," explained a Gartner document detailing the May 2016 updates to the Magic Quadrant categorizations. "These new features allow for more complex planning models."
Compared with the status quo, cloud software is easier to use, more affordable and much more scalable and flexible. It provides a single platform to handle your most important planning, budgeting and forecasting tasks, allowing your organization to make smart decisions at a faster pace.