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Ask the Experts: Relax, It's Just Planning Season

Sam Harris - Educating the business on annual planning builds the muscle for continuous planning.

Ask the Experts: Relax, It's Just Planning Season

Recently, Vareto and Trace hosted Gainsight CFO Alka Tandan, Abnormal Security Head of Finance Sam Harris, and Health Gorilla SVP of Finance Sun Choi in a conversation with Operators Guild co-founder and CFO Casey Woo on best practices for making the annual planning process less painful.

Watch now:

Key takeaways:

  • Continuous planning starts with education. Build the planning muscle across teams by coaching them on what's needed to do annual planning effectively and efficiently. Eventually, rigorous and consistent exercise of the planning process will strengthen your company's ability to adapt to the ever-changing economic climate.
  • Empathy can go a long way in managing stakeholders with competing priorities. Department heads speak a different language around the numbers they care about. Finance leaders can bridge the gap by translating those numbers to ensure the organization is aligned on strategic goals.
  • Roadmap discussions should happen year-round. Connect with R&D and your CRO once a quarter so you're looking at investments with some modeling behind them (at least 1-2 years, and beyond if possible). Additionally, understand how a product is built and the inputs that drive that execution.
  • One plan to rule them all? You can reforecast but generally don't change the original plan's budget unless there is an event, such as M&A. Start with an annual plan and include a forecast every quarter.
  • Comps can be a helpful friend when trying to align with department leaders. Benchmark against companies of similar growth rates, (e.g. revenue sizing and their trajectory_and make the conversation less about you and more about what's realistic.
  • Leverage your community. Things change fast, stay close to other finance leaders and see how they're staying agile.
  • Really stress test your company's annual plans. Grill your CMO, CRO and other leaders on the concrete and actionable plans they have to meet strategic goals.
  • Plan for the plan. Be proactive and set yourself up for success so that you can anticipate and calibrate quickly.

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