Enterprise Planning

Enterprise planning is used by large businesses to unify and align planning across all departments. It’s a means to enable planners to see financial performance across the entire organization and gain a holistic view of their planning landscape. In this comprehensive guide, learn how a successful enterprise planning strategy helps your business not only to meet but exceed its company goals.

“Enterprise Planning,” “extended planning and analysis,” “strategic enterprise planning,” “financial planning and analysis,” “business planning software,” and “collaborative enterprise planning.” These are all different names for the same thing: A means to unify and align planning across the enterprise.

What is Enterprise Planning?


Enterprise planning, also known as extended planning and analysis, is a business planning process. It provides organizations with the ability to unify and align planning across all functions of business, including:

  • Finance
  • HR
  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • IT
  • Operations

The goal of enterprise planning is to provide planning teams with a holistic view of the financial performance from all of these lines of business.

Businesses generate a vast amount of planning data, every day, and collecting and managing it all from across several departments is a tremendous task. To make things complicated, this copious amount of financial data is often coming from a wide range of data sources, solutions, and departments. If your business doesn’t have a unified system connecting your lines of business, then that leads to data siloes, which creates a severe lack of transparency and efficiency across the organization.

Data siloes affect your team, your customers, and the value of your data.

An enterprise planning solution breaks down these siloes and merges financial and operational planning processes together, helping your business make confident decisions.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t always the case.


A Brief History of Enterprise Planning


Years ago, it was common for businesses to manually gather information, run analytics, and unearth insights to make decisions for the future.

During this time, manufacturers needed a better way to manage, track, and control their inventory, and used basic software to meet their scheduling, reconciling, and reporting needs. The 1970s and 80s saw those same businesses adopting systems grow more sophisticated, spanning more departments, and collecting even more data.

Three decades later, enterprise planning became a common presence in large companies. By the 1990s, systems were able to expand beyond basic protocols and align processes across all departments by mining a single source of truth, setting the stage for the enterprise resource planning solutions we have come to know today.

Today, businesses can identify insights to inform immediate and accurate decisions using technology like predictive forecasting, machine learning and augmented analytics.

Enterprise planning provides finance with a single source of truth to help finance leaders get a holistic view of organizational performance, such as how you’re projected to do in the new quarter, how your bottom line is doing, and predict trends for the year.

As a result, financial planning and analysis teams can:

  • Work faster,
  • Look forward rather than back,
  • Stay agile,
  • Instantly extract answers from data
  • Help their organization remain competitive


An easy way to do this is through an all-in-one enterprise analytics platform, such as a single cloud solution for business intelligence and enterprise planning. A solution that can connect and consolidate your extensive departmental data into a single source of truth so that everyone in your company bases decisions on the same data. One that helps your teams seamlessly access and share secure information while enabling end-to-end planning and analytics.


What is the Difference between Financial Planning and Analysis and Extended Planning and Analysis?


Extended planning and analysis is an emerging trend, coined by Gartner, that captures how financial planning and analysis processes are extending their scope beyond finance.

Where financial planning and analysis is solely focused on providing finance teams with financial planning tools, such as reporting and forecasting, extended planning and analysis extends the planning and analysis capabilities across the organization. It becomes a business planning tool.

This holistic approach breaks down organizational barriers and helps to standardize, automate, and integrate data. By providing the broader organization with automated planning processes and tools, departments like IT, sales, marketing, and more are better equipped to support enterprise performance.

Moreover, when data is broken out of siloes, teams have better visibility into performance. As data becomes unified, it’s easier to identify opportunities. Teams can look into their data and ask “why” at a more in-depth level. And this the biggest draw for teams: the ability to think proactively.


How enterprise data and analytics is shaping the future of finance.

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Why is Enterprise Planning Important?


Having an enterprise planning platform is important because it joins the planning components of other departments. Having this kind of business planning process provides visibility as well as a sturdy foundation to manage and make sense of financial data.

Nowadays, businesses are truly swimming in a sea of data—and it’s becoming more apparent than ever that finance and supply chain data makes up a large part of that ocean. With billions of financial transactions occurring daily—from customer transactions to company expenses—businesses are storing new and valuable data at exponential rates.

To make things complicated, this copious amount of financial data is often coming from a wide range of data sources, solutions, and departments, creating data siloes across the organization. More and more, finance teams are struggling to stay afloat as they face the following challenges:

  • Lack of scalability
  • Need for fact-based decision-making
  • Limited self-service usage across your organization
  • High latency to access data


What’s more, when most employees are required to pull data to make a business decision, only 3% are able to do it in seconds. For 60%, it takes hours or days. When businesses need to be able to respond quickly to changes, that time adds up and creates delays in making mission-critical decisions.

Enterprise planning unifies planning processes across your organization in one single solution. It’s a business planning tool that provides decision-makers with the ability to understand:

  • How the business as a whole is operating
  • Redundancies and opportunities
  • Current and future financial outcomes
  • How those drivers impact business operations


For Planning and Analysis teams, an enterprise planning solution links your finance with operations to facilitate collaboration and drive better business results. It also integrates your financial and non-financial information in a single system to provide you and your users with a means to communicate cross functionally.

For businesses, an enterprise planning solution gives the power of proactive thinking by establishing an integrated view of the business, providing a baseline for all decision-making.


Enterprise Planning and Organizational Agility


An enterprise planning strategy also enables the kind of organizational agility that businesses need to make confident decisions, proactively solve problems, and plan for success.

True organizational agility is a combination of two factors: speed and stability. And the latter is incredibly important, especially in times of turbulence.

Typically, any and all businesses can expect a certain amount of change over time. Change is normal, and when it’s somewhat predictable, an organization can adjust their business planning process accordingly.

However, in times of rapid change, businesses need the ability respond quickly.

This is where speed and stability are crucial. If a crisis hits, a business with a strong foundation is better positioned to not just survive, but thrive, because they already have all the necessary pieces to quickly assess, monitor the situation, move forward with decisions, and map of the impact of those decisions.

If that business doesn’t have the agility that their competitors have, they’ll stumble, and risk falling behind.

Enterprise planning isn’t just a strategy – it’s a backbone that provides the organizational agility finance teams need to pivot and adapt, no matter the change. With a single source of truth connecting all lines of business, companies benefit from the stability of a unified planning processes, and teams are equipped with the speed of the latest innovative technology, like predictive analytics, to help you look ahead, and predict future outcomes.


What are the Benefits of Enterprise Planning?


The benefits of an enterprise planning strategy are numerous: acting from one single source of truth, real-time visibility, automated planning, and so much more.

Over time, the benefits of a robust enterprise planning solution can save you time, money, and empower your business to make confident, accurate decisions. Here are some other benefits of enterprise planning:

1. Everyone is on the same page

Say no to silos with integrated planning between all lines of business in your organization. This means that decisions can be made with confidence that you have the whole picture, not just a small part.

2. Finance can be proactive, not reactive

A true enterprise planning strategy includes real-time data access so you can get answers on the fly, not just provide reports of things that already happened. In today’s fast-moving world, it’s integral that your planning strategy prioritizes getting real-time insights and the ability to create viable forecasts at a moment’s notice.

3. Increased efficiency

Enterprise planning solutions facilitate easy collaboration throughout your organization, allowing approvals, contributions, and comments to be done quickly and easily in one place. Additionally, machine learning and automation help you create plans more productively than ever, which leads to faster results.

4. Financial agility

The right data and analytics solution for your business will speed up time to insight as well as minimize ineffective planning cycles that slow down company decision making.


Who Uses Enterprise Planning?


In business, everyone plans. But not everyone is usually on the same page – especially in large organizations, where information can get lost or trapped in silos.

Which is why enterprise planning is so crucial and why a wide array of industries leverage some form of this software; it’s collaborative features link finance with operations to align teams across the organization.

You’ll find enterprise planning solutions are used by any of the following industries:


Within these organizations, you’ll also find that enterprise planning can be extended and leveraged across multiple departments, such as HR, marketing, operations, finance, IT, and sales.

Connecting planning data from across the enterprise is incredibly important. By providing the broader organization with the kinds of automated planning processes and tools, each department is better equipped to support enterprise performance.

In fact, Gartner estimates that by 2024, over 70% of new financial planning and analysis projects will become extended planning and analysis projects.


Finance Teams and the CFO


The CFO has traditionally been a position of checks and balances: the person at the top making sure the company’s financials work out the right way. They’re the person who sees all the silos of the business. To make strategic decisions that put your company on a path to sustainable growth, CFOs must feel confident in two areas: their team and their solution.

Together, CFOs and the financial planning and analysis team have the power to guide their organization to success, even in the most turbulent of times.

But that’s only if the team is delivering accurate and timely data, analysis, and scenario plans.

No one can control or predict outside events. The best a CFO can do is create flexible business models that can react quickly and decisively should external forces put pressure on their business. But if they are reliant on spreadsheets or legacy systems, time is spent on gathering and verifying all their data, rather than analyzing it and informing decisions.

Financial information is key to making decisions that drive organizational success. To make recommendations that dynamically steer the company, CFOs need to accept their new role as data and finance stewards. More and more, that looks like taking on the role of a storyteller: telling the right story to help stakeholders understand the meaning behind data.

But they can’t do it alone. CFOs need to have the technology that makes this level of storytelling possible. And instrumental in this is a strong, digital foundation that fuels this new age of informed finance.



How Enterprise Planning Looks in Real Life


Finance is one of the few teams in an organization that have a complete insight into the health and well-being of your company, past, present, and future.

Finance teams work to deliver accurate and trusted financial results and operational metrics. This positions finance as the ideal internal champion. They enable governed data and analytics strategies that extend planning and reporting capabilities beyond finance and into sales, marketing, operations, and HR.

However, if there are fragmented lines of business solutions, financial planning and analysis teams struggle to integrate financial operational plans.

And therein lies the challenge: you and your team hold the keys to the city, but you’re often using outdated methods and processes to do your job. This means:

  • Decisions are being made in siloes
  • Outdated processes
  • Teams are stuck reacting to data instead of thinking proactively.


Let’s look at some of these pain points some more and explore how an enterprise planning solution helps to solve them:


Challenge #1: Decision-making in Siloes


Today’s businesses are drowning in data. With billions of financial transactions occurring daily—from customer transactions to company expenses—businesses are storing new and valuable data at exponential rates.

To make things complicated, all that financial data is often coming from a wide range of data sources, solutions, and departments, creating data siloes across the organization.

Trying to make decisions with isolated data is a lot like trying to put together a puzzle without the picture on the box. Without that 360-degree view of your business, your teams are making decisions in siloes.

Finance teams need to be able to ingest a larger volume of real-time information, including crucial data, like interest rates and foreign exchange rates that fluctuate dramatically in the current environment. All of that information needs to be harmonized and reside in one system. This not only removes the labor-intensive work of piecing everything together manually, but it also breaks up siloes and creates a single view of the organization’s activity, providing central access to all information.

Let’s use Finance and HR as an example.

Traditionally, HR and finance execute workforce planning in silos. Although they’re committed to the same end goal—a successful company and a happy workforce—they approach these goals separately, relying on different insights, disparate lines of enterprise data solutions, and as a result, work off disconnected versions of “truth.”

With little collaboration and communication, these distinct approaches can quickly lead to an unaligned and inaccurate representation of the workforce.

HR and finance both have their own expertise, insights, and perspectives that, when combined, can improve a wide variety of workforce functions.

  • HR workforce planners have an in-depth understanding of people and talent that’s essential for designing an effective plan.
  • Your finance department has insight into where employees are adding value and what processes are succeeding. Your financial planners understand your organization’s strategy, historical costs, future plans, and overall financial landscape.


When HR and finance work as a team, they can leverage each other’s strengths and expertise to create a holistic workforce plan that brings together the right talent at the right time and the right cost.

This holistic approach ensures your people are set up for success and feel empowered.

It’s Time for Finance and HR to be on the Same Page.

When HR and finance work as a team, they can leverage each other’s strengths and expertise to create a holistic workforce plan that brings together the right talent at the right time and the right cost.

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Challenge #2: Outdated Processes


Modern finance teams have moved beyond basic number crunching and reporting. And as a result, they’ve become strategic partners. They’re leaders charged with creating financial agility and innovation, to help businesses adapt to perennial change.

Despite being holding the metaphorical keys to the city, finance teams often don’t feel very empowered. And that’s because they don’t have the right resources.

Historically, finance and IT have a had a tight-working relationship. They must be in sync at all times to get mission critical data in the right hands at the right time.

And while the advancements in technology mean that analysts have more data about their operations than ever before, if there’s no cross-enterprise collaboration tool, IT sees increased ad hoc requests for that data.

This increases the burden for IT, while also increasing the bottleneck for getting mission-critical information. All of this impacts an enterprise’s ability to plan.

At the same time, finance traditionally has an abundance of processes and data that’s locked in spreadsheets. Which means highly valuable finance employees, with MBAs graduating from top of their class, join innovative companies, only to find that their talents are being applied to old processes or Excel spreadsheets.

What companies should be doing is actively developing their finance talent with a data-first culture that uses analytics to build insight into their business and markets. And the first step towards a data-first culture is through an integrated connectivity.

For example, at SAP, we have tight integration between our enterprise data and analytics solutions: SAP Data Warehouse Cloud and SAP Analytics Cloud.

With central access to all financial and industry data, an organization has one source of truth, with one robust high-performing data layer that span multiple data sources.

Then, to further analyze and pull insights from your data, SAP Analytics Cloud can be used to visualize information and tell the real story behind finance data, enabling businesses to:

  • Understand their top and bottom-line performance
  • Forecast future outcomes
  • Identify key trends
  • Lead strategic decision-making


With integrated connectivity between lines of business solutions throughout the whole organization., everyone has the same vision.


Challenge #3: Reacting Versus Thinking Proactively


Ask anyone who works in finance and they’d tell you it’s better to be proactive than reactive. Who wouldn’t want to look at real-time data and anticipate needs before they become problems? It’s far better to predict a fire than to put out one.

But the reality is that many finance teams are stuck in a cycle of reacting to problems after they’ve occurred. And that’s because they’re busy gathering data due to a lack of transparency and tools that integrates their systems. They also are often using outdated processes to analyze that data, which creates even more bottlenecks.

And, even if finance has time, if they don’t have access to real-time data, they aren’t able to proactively problem solve.

Enterprise planning solves this by seamlessly working together to provide one source of truth but should also easily integrate with your finance and other lines of business solutions.

With all that data in one place, finance teams can leverage innovative tools like predictive analytics.

Predictive features allow you to simulate and identify or analyze future trends using your existing finance data by connecting to your relevant data sources. When looking for your solution, make sure you have basic capabilities, such as automated forecasting, or more advanced features like predicting future outcomes to identify the probability of specific scenarios.

Additionally, you can gain quick insights via natural language processing to easily ask questions and surface immediate results.

Architecture for an Enterprise Planning Solution


Choosing an enterprise planning solution is no easy task, with so many options on the market, it can be hard to narrow down what you should really be looking for. Not only is it important to find a solution that will work for your business’ current needs, but you also need a solution that’s future proof.


Cloud vs. On-Premise vs. Hybrid



There are many fantastic planning solutions on the market often going by the acronym ERP – or Enterprise Resource Planning solutions. Traditionally, these have been large on-premise investments for enterprise level companies.

While on-premise solutions operating alone have worked well in the past, there are some issues with a this approach. Limitations can include lack of access to real-time data and analytics, costly implementation and upkeep, and lack of mobile support.

However, there are pros to on-premise solutions as well, such as ability to implement complex customizations to exactly match your business’ needs. Some companies also prefer to manage security themselves with on-premise enterprise planning solutions rather than trust cloud vendor managed security.

Not to mention, a lot of companies don’t want to give up on their infrastructure investments.

That puts businesses in a tricky position: how do they tap into the technology they need to thrive, not just survive, without abandoning their historical data, investments, and internal processes?

This is why a hybrid approach is so appealing.


Hybrid solutions are now widely available for those who already have on-premise investments but also want the flexibility of the cloud, or for those that need heavy customization. These solutions combine on-premise with cloud solutions to accommodate customers that are looking to future proof their planning operations without giving up on their investments.

This mobility between cloud environments gives businesses greater flexibility and agility in data deployment options, allowing businesses to innovate, scale, and protect their assets and their customers. An integrated approach helps solve some of the key concerns that businesses have about the future of analytics and BI.

For example, many SAP S/4HANA customers are considering, or have already moved, part of their planning processes over to SAP Analytics Cloud. Customers that have already tried out a hybrid solution of an on-premise ERP solution and a cloud planning solution have reported increased speed and greater availability of data, as well as better control and flexibility.


Cloud based enterprise planning solutions provide flexibility and accessibility to organizations. Generally, they have lower upfront costs with an annual or monthly subscription, with cloud vendors taking care of storage and security.

The biggest benefits of cloud solutions are the ability to access planning data and analytics from anywhere, making collaboration extremely easy, and the ease of access to real-time data within planning forecasts and analytics.

Access plan data from anywhere (yes, anywhere).

Cloud solutions offer easy collaboration and access to real-time planning data and analytics. Just ask real SAP S/4HANA customers, Taronga. Whether behind a desk or in the company of a four-legged friend, their employees needed fast access to information, and achieved operational efficiencies and empowered decision making with SAP Analytics Cloud.

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What Features to Look for in Your Enterprise Planning Solution


In enterprise planning solutions, ML and AI can be particularly helpful in forecasting and predictive scenarios, as well as running what-if simulations on the fly. By working from past data, solutions with ML and AI capabilities can give accurate forecasts without the need for complex calculations on the user’s end.

No planning expert needs to be convinced of the value of running multiple what-if simulations before making large decisions for their company. But wouldn’t it be better if your planning solution could do it for you?

To maximize planning efficiency, look for an enterprise planning solution that uses ML and AI capabilities to your advantage. A good planning solution should simplify your planning process by automating the tedious or slow tasks that had to be done manually in the past.

For example, SAP Analytics Cloud for planning provides in-depth ML driven forecasting with the feature Smart Predict, as well as provides many options for quick scenario planning with Version Management, Value Driver Trees and more.

Having some or all elements of your planning solution in the cloud is likely a wise move, with more and more buyers moving towards the cloud. This means companies will continue to allocate resources towards improving cloud solutions.

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning


When it comes to enterprise planning, you want a solution that’s going to make your life easier and speed up processes. Machine learning, artificial intelligence, and augmented analytics are here to help improve your planning operations.

Machine Learning
If you’re not familiar, machine learning (ML) refers to technology that is able to learn and adapt using algorithms and statistical models to analyze and draw inferences from patterns of data.

Artificial intelligence
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is similar but refers more to technology that is able to perform tasks that normally require human intelligence like decision making or translation.

Augmented Analytics
Finally, augmented analytics is essentially using technologies such as AI and ML to assist with insight generation, data preparation and exploration, and more with the goal of analyzing data in analytics and planning platforms.


Free Ready-to-Use Templates


For beginners who aren’t sure where to start with transforming their enterprise planning data into models, reports, and visualizations, or even more advanced users that don’t want to start from scratch, having ready-made templates undoubtedly comes in handy.

For instance, at SAP, SAP Analytics Cloud contains a vast content network. This network includes pre-built end-to-end dashboard, plans and reports for, all tailor-made for your various planning scenarios. One of our popular content packages is SAP Best Practices for HR Analytics with SAP Analytics Cloud, which was built to unite Finance and HR teams and data to elevate the workforce planning process. The business content package includes:

Workforce Overview and Workforce Diversity
This dashboard visualizes key measures based on data from SAP SuccessFactors. Prebuilt charts provide insights into headcount and FTE trends, staff in management, turnover rates and the diversity of workforce in terms of gender, tenure and generations, as well as contract types and span of control.


Workforce Performance
This dashboard visualizes key measures based on data from SAP S/4HANA Cloud and SAP SuccessFactors. KPIs for Total Workforce Ratio, Financial Expenses per FTE, Financial Actual and Plan data by Cost Center are brought together with HR-related measures such as Headcount and Positions by Cost Center.


Finance Overview
This dashboard visualizes key measures based on data from SAP S/4HANA Cloud. Prebuilt charts show Balance Sheet, Net Income and Cash Flow data, as well as a Financial Statement table.


Want to learn more about our Finance Business Content Packages?

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Self Service and Collaboration


Planning solutions should ensure that all relevant stakeholders can participate in the planning process in the software. Unfortunately, a lot of the time this is challenging, with complicated planning software that requires lots of IT assistance to work with.

Self-service software
Of course, initial set up and data connections will usually require IT assistance with any new planning solution. However, creating reports, running simulations, and creating forecasts for example, should be intuitive enough for planning professionals to use unassisted. This means the software should include no-coding required features but ideally also have the option for users familiar with coding to work that way as well. The solution should be flexible.

Features like the SAP Analytics Cloud planning panel are great examples of easy-to-use intuitive tools for efficient planning. Providing smart suggestions, elevated data-entry, and keyboard shortcuts the planning panel makes financial planning accessible to all kinds of users.

Empower everyone to participate
It’s also absolutely integral that enterprise planning solutions help eliminate planning silos. In practice, this means excellent enterprise planning solutions must include comprehensive collaboration features.

Look for features such as in-app commenting, discussion, version management, and task management to ensure the enterprise planning solution you are evaluating will support your organization’s collaborative planning efforts.

For instance, SAP Analytics Cloud’s calendar feature, helps organize enterprise planning with task management, scheduling and more.

Collaborative features are so important as it ensures that stakeholders from all different parts of the organization contribute to the plan – and therefore are bought-in. Additionally, having a single source of truth for the whole organization to refer to empowers everyone to have correct up to date information and therefore make informed decisions.



Anytime Access and Real-time Results


Mobile and More
Professionals are often on the go without access to a traditional computer but will have their smartphones or tablets available. Make sure your planning solution takes mobile users into account and ensures that dashboards and plans are accessible on multiple devices.

With SAP Analytics Cloud, users can access stories from anywhere with responsive stories that fit on any size of device.

Real-time insights
Planners need to be able to rely on data in their planning solution as accurate and up to date. That’s why looking for real-time data connectivity options is paramount when evaluating different solutions. The days where planning reports were due on a set schedule only are in the past, with stakeholders often asking for forecasts on the fly. Providing those forecasts and getting a bigger seat at the company strategy table rely heavily on access to real-time data.

For example, SAP Analytics Cloud provides data connectivity to both SAP and non-SAP sources with a variety of live and import connection options. This can be used to connect all data sources to one single source of truth for analytics.



To win in fast-moving markets, you need rapid access to information that enables you to take decisive action and adapt quickly to rapid change.
But if you’re relying on outdated financial planning and analysis solutions and disconnected spreadsheets, you can’t maintain the agility you need to make confident decisions.

To become an intelligent enterprise, you need immediate access to live data and the ability to translate that data into meaningful insights help you make the right decisions and make your business more intelligent.

See how others are leveraging an enterprise planning strategy.

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