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Exotic Newcastle Disease, one of the best communicable bird diseases in the world, kills so apace that abounding victims die afore any affection appear. Aback it bankrupt out in Southern California two years ago, it could accept spelled adversity for the San Diego Zoo.



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“We accept one of the best admired collections of birds in the world, if not the best valuable,” says Paula Brock, CFO of the Zoological Society of San Diego, which operates the zoo. As accompaniment authorities ordered the annihilation of millions of chickens, and federal agents went door-to-door killing domiciliary parrots and added feathered pets on the spot, befitting the ache out of the zoo and its adjacent Wild Beastly Park became an astronomic unbudgeted expense.

Bird exhibits were shut to the accessible for several months (the disease, which is controllable to humans, can be agitated on clothes and shoes). The tires of accession commitment trucks were sanitized, as were the shoes of anyone visiting the zoo’s nonpublic areas. Zookeeper uniforms had to be afflicted and bankrupt daily. And ultimately, the zoo, with $150 actor in revenues, spent about bisected a actor dollars on apprehension measures in 2003.



It worked: no birds got sick. Bigger yet, the accident to the blow of the zoo’s account was minimized by addition careful measure: the account account reforecast. “When we get a hit like this, we still accept to acquisition a way to accomplish our basal line,” says Brock. Historically, zoo scientists would accept been far added afraid about the disease’s aftereffect on their budgies than their budgets. But acknowledgment to new planning processes Brock had alien a year earlier, the zoo’s scientists were able to accession the banking anxiety as they redirected assets to area off the disease. “Because we had appropriate awareness,” she says, “we were able to accomplish adjustments to acclimate the storm.”



Budget reforecasting is annihilation new. (The San Diego Zoo’s anniversary changeless account was abaft the times afore Brock took over as CFO in 2001.) But the acknowledgment of the zoo’s agents shows the allowances of Brock’s absolute efforts to articulation activity to the process. It’s a move continued accustomed by consultants as a key way to advance people’s captivation in budgeting.

“To accumulate your aggregation on a path, it has to accept some affectionate of map,” says Brock. “The budgeting-and-planning activity is that map. I cannot brainstorm an alignment activity in ascendancy if it didn’t accept that array of discipline.”

A Little Bigger All the Time

When CFO anniversary advised the accompaniment of accumulated allotment and planning (B&P) seven years ago, the alone accepted arena amid accounts and operating units was that they all hated the process. Band managers saw B&P as an extraneous and time-consuming data-entry project. It was appropriately bulky for accounts departments, which distrusted the results. And both abandon abhorred the after numbers negotiations, which tended to accolade the best politically adeptness hagglers.

Back in 1998, the consultants’ accepted decree for acclimation B&P was threefold: abridge it, allotment the advice widely, and articulation it deeply to strategy. Technology helps, but the key to success is authoritative bodies accountable.

Finding a cure hasn’t been easy. But the acceptable news, as the San Diego Zoo demonstrates, is that the decree applies to companies and organizations of all sizes. Seven years ago, alone a scattering of ample companies dared commence on what experts termed “the ultimate reengineering project.” And although the fixes vary, one affair is clear: “Companies of all kinds are accomplishing a bigger job of accepting band managers, whose decisions drive spending and revenue, to participate agreeably in the process,” says The Buttonwood Accumulation LLP’s Lawrence Serven, who wrote CFO’s 1998 assay and helped architecture the accepted one.

That buy-in has had a affecting effect. Today, according to CFO’s assay of 260 accounts executives, about bisected (47 percent) accept best advisers are absolutely annoyed with the B&P process, compared with aloof 16 percent who anticipation so in 1998. And the cardinal who say the bulk of the B&P activity acutely outweighs the bulk in time and accomplishment has additionally increased, from 47 percent to 65 percent.

That’s not to say Accumulated America has beaten the allotment beast. “It’s abundant to see progress, admitting conceivably with the abundance of accessories and seminars and software offerings over the years, we would apprehend to be alike added ahead,” says Serven. For one thing, he warns, “this added favorable appearance of B&P is not necessarily the aftereffect of bigger reliability.” Indeed, perceived believability has collapsed somewhat: on a calibration of 1 to 4 (where 1 is “Not at all” and 4 is “Completely”), CFOs gave the activity a 2.9 for believability in 1998 against aloof 2.5 today.

Moreover, backroom still dog the process. Alike today, a majority of respondents told CFO that appointment backroom had some influence. “The backroom are consistently activity to be there,” says Serven. But as the technology has improved, he adds, it has helped companies accomplish assertive basal best practices, such as anecdotic the key drivers of the business and adhering long- and concise targets to those drivers. “Transparency [on those issues] goes a continued way against abbreviation the politics.”

That aforementioned accurateness has additionally accustomed companies to auspiciously accomplish the articulation amid activity and strategy. The result? “People alive on a allotment activity that is acutely guided and focused by cardinal initiatives absorb beneath time arguing about extraneous capacity and added time absorption on being that matters,” says Burke Willis, convenance administrator of banking administration at benchmarking abutting APQC. A contempo APQC abstraction shows that the boilerplate cardinal of canicule it takes to adapt the anniversary account — a aloft antecedent of annoyance for all anxious — is lower for companies that adjust their plan with activity numbers (63 days) than for those that do not (80 days).

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Linking Activity to Budgeting

A case in point is the San Diego Zoo. Aback Brock, a adept of KPMG and ITT, arrived, the cardinal plan had no ascribe from accounts whatsoever. The zoo’s appetite is to become “a apple baton in abutting bodies with wildlife and conservation.” But there was no affiliation amid that appetite and the zoo’s resources, alike admitting the closing were convalescent (revenues accept added from $100 actor to $170 actor over the accomplished 10 years). “There was a 10-year plan in a anecdotal sense, but not in agreement of how we were activity to accomplish it appear financially,” she recalls. In 2002, she revamped the cardinal plan to absorb a banking plan.

Budgeting, meanwhile, was an anniversary low-level administration exercise, with no midyear updates. “That gap [between high-level activity and budgeting] had to be bridged,” she says, a appetite that “had to be accepted at the accomplished levels of the organization, but additionally awash to the everyman levels.”

That appropriate a acute blow with the zoo’s scientists and beastly keepers. “You don’t appetite to afflict your professionals with article they apperceive to be authoritative number-crunching,” she says. “On the added hand, cipher knows that ancillary of the business bigger than they do.” Six months into the job, Brock formed out software by Timeline Inc. to cull abstracts from the accepted ledger, and created templates for 145 departments. She bound the cardinal of account items in anniversary department’s report, however, and offered all-encompassing training. “A babysitter in a abbey display doesn’t accept abounding things on the account — but cipher knows that account better,” says Brock. Bigger yet, she adds, administration active now accept an bigger compassionate of the accumulated appulse of their decisions. A acceptable B&P process, she explains, “by its absolute attributes creates advantageous discussions and buy-in.”

As APQC’s Willis suggests, it additionally speeds the process. Anniversary administration now does a abutting and reforecast aural 7 to 10 canicule of the end of anniversary month, and Brock is now alive on a 13-month rolling anticipation that will abutting the timing gap amid the account and the 10-year cardinal plan, which is active annually.

Making abiding budgets are affiliated to all-embracing activity is essential, whether the alignment is the not-for-profit Zoological Society or the world’s bigger software company. Microsoft Corp., with 60,000 advisers in 99 countries, tackles B&P on a abundant beyond scale. But Marc Chardon, CFO of the company’s Advice Worker business group, says Microsoft additionally has processes to ensure that the budgets of its seven businesses are based not alone on their own product-development strategy, but additionally on accumulated strategy.

At aboriginal blush, that would assume to be an astronomic challenge. Indeed, Microsoft formally adapted its assorted engineering operations into seven audible businesses about two and a bisected years ago, in allotment because absorption had accepted too unwieldy. Addition botheration was that those engineering groups — which produced Microsoft software — had no absolute albatross for sales, and so were “more focused on artefact than revenue,” observes Chardon. Distributing the once-independent acreage sales force into the P&Ls of the groups “made the cast added complex,” he says, “but fabricated the [business group] CEOs added accountable.”

At the time of the reorganization, then-CFO John Connors additionally proposed that anniversary business accumulation accept its own CFO who would be amenable for that group’s strategy, business clay and planning, and assay of bazaar achievement and operating expenses. (CFO duties such as treasury, tax, broker relations, and accumulated acquiescence abide centralized.)

Yet the “paradox” of active a aggregation of Microsoft’s size, says Chardon, is addition out the appropriate antithesis amid businesses that are abiding banknote (such as the Advice Worker business) and those that are advised investments (such as Home and Entertainment). Such trade-offs alike abide aural anniversary business, so that B&P “is appropriate on the cusp” amid absorption and decentralization.

To accommodate the process, anniversary business reviews its strategy, proposed changes, and investments at the end of every additional budgetary analysis with CEO Steven A. Ballmer. The third analysis begins with a “deep midyear review” that examines operational trends by geography, business lines, and channels. And based on this “bottom-up appearance of what the abutting 18 months adeptness attending like,” says Chardon, the accumulated appointment begins ambience targets for anniversary group. That process, he says, “basically culminates in a chat amid [Ballmer] and anniversary business accumulation CEO about the appetite for the abutting year. And that appetite frames the allotment process.” Alone again does the absolute allotment — almost an eight-week accomplishment — activate at anniversary of Microsoft’s businesses.

Beneath Is Consistently More

Of course, the simpler the budget, the easier it is to tie to strategy. Companies accept had a decidedly difficult time accepting that beneath is more, but those that do generally see affecting results. Such was the case at Erickson Retirement Communities. “We’d try to bulk the abstracts into our ERP, and a third of the spreadsheets would get kicked out because article was wrong,” recalls Craig Erickson, carnality admiral of banking planning and assay at the private, family-controlled company.

But aback new, Web-based allotment software was alien in 2002 (in this case, Hyperion Planning and Essbase XTD), the activity administrator resisted the allurement to artlessly carbon the absolute spreadsheets. Instead, the account itself was revamped to abduction beneath detail.

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“That was a affecting activity change,” says Erickson. About 90 percent of the participants at 11 altered retirement communities now use the aforementioned basal 15 accounts. “Before, our dining departments would apparently account 50 altered accounts — bulk of arctic fish, beginning fish, broiled goods, and so on,” he says. “All we absolutely affliction about is what the aliment bulk per meal.”

Likewise, the aggregation replaced added than 20 position types in the dining department’s activity account with aloof four categories: a low-paid and high-paid class for both alternate and salaried workers. Instead of attractive at 20 specific positions, says Erickson, the aggregation now measures the cardinal of full-time advisers (FTEs) bare to abutment 100 residents. “A metrics focus is now active the budgets: aback you accept 900 residents, you should accept X cardinal of FTEs,” he says.

In both cases, the aftereffect was beneath assignment and bigger metrics for comparing communities. (It takes an boilerplate of seven years for anniversary retirement association to adeptness a complete akin of 2,500 residents.) Once the new arrangement was in place, says Erickson, it bound became credible that one campus with 900 association was advantageous 25 percent added per meal than addition of the aforementioned size. “Our use of metrics accustomed us to see that this was absolutely due to staffing ratios. The way we were allotment before, we couldn’t see that, because everyone’s arch was in the details,” he says. “Our budgets were absolute precise. But that didn’t beggarly they were accurate.”

Authoritative Managers Accountable

“Simplification additionally leads to greater accountability,” observes Serven, abacus that “there are beneath places to hide.” Indeed, achievement reviews at Erickson Retirement Communities await heavily on whether managers exceeded the boilerplate achievement metrics for their admeasurement facility, admitting according weight is additionally accustomed to resident- and employee-satisfaction surveys. “In the past, managers had a addiction to pad their budgets a bit so they would be acceptable to appear in beneath budget,” says Erickson. “With a metrics-based allusive approach, addition who tries to pad their account is about saying, ‘I cannot accomplish at the aforementioned boilerplate akin as my peers.’”

Consultants accept been suggesting for years that greater accountability can advance the capability of the B&P process. In 1998, alone one-third of respondents told CFO that arch and mid-level managers were captivated visibly answerable for accomplishing the plan. Today, 60 percent say that is the case.

“The absolute availability of accepted abstracts drives greater accountability throughout the organization,” observes Greg Bozigian, administrator of banking planning for Carnival Corp.’s Princess Cruises and Cunard brands, apropos to the company’s Web-based Cognos planning tool. “All arch admiral accept admission to their managers’ abstracts and can appearance their subordinates’ latest forecasts and submissions at the blow of a button.”

During assay meetings, says Bozigian, aback admiral and managers accumulate together, affairs can be projected assimilate a screen, accouterment far added than aloof visibility. “If an operator’s [forecast] numbers are not in band with absolute trends, or the abettor cannot accommodate able absolution for the accepted projection,” he says, “senior admiral can change the numbers on the spot. On abounding occasions, we’ve afflicted budgets and forecasts in assay meetings.”

Accountability can additionally be tailored to reflect accumulated priorities. Two years ago, Hudson Advisors, a Dallas-based bartering mortgage servicer and real-estate asset-management firm, absitively that IT costs were so cogent that anniversary department’s IT account and expenditures would be tracked by a appropriate sub-budget in the firm’s Hyperion Planning system. While banking after-effects are reforecast quarterly, IT spending is tracked, reforecast, and appear account by department, says arch advice administrator Janis O’Bryan. “Now anybody alone feels empowered by their forecast,” she says.

Software Helps

As the adventures of these companies suggest, new software systems can abutment an bigger allotment process, decidedly by administration constant information. For example, enterprisewide software helps ensure that every division’s account is based on the aforementioned assumptions. Princess Cruises uses its software to cycle out connected assumptions for absorption rates, adopted exchange, ammunition costs, and so on.

But the greatest addition of software bales is their automation capabilities — the adeptness to chargeless up added time for banking assay by dispatch data-collection efforts, and affective the administration of that abstracts out of about controlled spreadsheet environments (though abounding still strive to attending like spreadsheets). According to an APQC benchmarking survey, companies that await heavily on spreadsheets about booty 30 canicule best to complete their budgets than those that don’t.

Nonetheless, spreadsheet use charcoal widespread. Some 67 percent of respondents to CFO’s assay say that, afar from spreadsheets, their companies do not use any activity or allotment software. Relying on spreadsheets, however, agency that on average, CFOs absorb a third of their time inputting, validating, and acclimation plan or account data, while those with activity B&P systems absorb a analysis of their time on such tasks.

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At AAA Life Insurance Co., the allotment was alike worse. Says CFO Jay DuBose, “We were spending 80 to 85 percent of our time authoritative abiding the spreadsheets were in accompany and 15 to 20 percent allegory the data.” DuBose is set to cycle out a new Cognos arrangement abutting ages to fix the problem. And again you accept to add in the ashen adaptation time, says Clint Allen, Princess Cruises’s administrator of banking planning. “You’d accelerate your files out, delay to get your abstracts back, and again lose a anniversary or two aloof to accumulated it in a anatomy that was useful.”

That time is now spent added productively back the aggregation replaced spreadsheets with a new B&P system. Says Bozigian, “What has afflicted is the time we can absorb on analysis. Qualitative assay has absolutely increased.”

The Tie that Binds

The abutting goal: to admission companies’ abundance with their B&P improvements, says Serven. Alone again will they be able to tie advantage to the process, the ultimate analysis of accountability. “That was the final mile seven years ago, and it still is,” he says. Companies appetite affirmation that they accept articular the appropriate drivers, the targets they accept set are attainable, and the projects they accept developed to hit those targets will do so. Little wonder, he says, that attached B&P to advantage will booty “a brace added years.”

That’s not to say no one has attempted it. John McMahan, who leads The Hackett Group’s Accounts Executive Advisory Program, credibility out that some 13 percent of companies accept angry allotment accurateness to compensation, and addition 25 percent are either in the activity of accomplishing so or are planning to do so. This huge admission from years accomplished doesn’t abruptness him. “Everyone is aggravating to accommodate and adjust their goals,” he says. “Tying B&P to advantage is aloof the abutting analytic footfall in the process.”

Still, authoritative that articulation to pay or instituting any added activity advance requires firms to abide flexible. “Budgeting and planning can never be stagnant,” says McMahan. “Because of the amount of aggressive and all-around change, the activity can no best be angry to the calendar. It has to be continuous, iterative, and evidently focused.”

After all, he says, allotment and planning “by analogue is inaccurate.”

Tim Reason is a arch biographer at CFO. Analysis was provided by CFO analysis editor Don Durfee.

Spreadsheet Nation

Love ’em, abhorrence ’em, spreadsheets will never go away. Some 67 percent of those surveyed by CFO magazine, apery companies of all sizes, use alone spreadsheets for allotment and planning (B&P). But in this post-Sarbanes-Oxley era, that could be advised chancy behavior.

“The congenital adaptability that has fabricated Excel a admirable banking apparatus is absolutely at allowance with the Sarbanes-Oxley ‘command-and-control’ requirements,” says Jim Winett, managing administrator of IC Consulting Services LLC. “Change in controls causes the best havoc,” he says, acquainted that in approach any change in blueprint or alike cardinal of rows care to be documented. So admitting their affection for them, one-third of CFO’s assay respondents say Sarbanes-Oxley has fabricated it harder to await on spreadsheets as allotment of the business planning process.

Marc Chardon, CFO of Microsoft’s Advice Worker analysis (which is amenable for Microsoft Appointment and, therefore, for the Excel spreadsheet application), candidly admits that business users attempt with alliance and admission ascendancy in Excel. He attributes their adversity to the application’s change from a apparatus for individuals to a apparatus that is added acclimated collaboratively on top of business applications alignment from ERP systems to accepted ledgers to revenue-planning tools.

“There’s an inherent astriction amid the ‘power-to-the-people’ origins of Excel and the role it is added alleged on to play,” he says. “We’re acutely acquainted of that.” Microsoft, says Chardon, is alive to accomplish Excel “a bigger aborigine in the front-end activity and a bigger apparatus for collaborative work.”

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Not surprisingly, Microsoft itself uses Excel and SQL Server for B&P, admitting the actuality that as abounding as 3,000 bodies are complex in the accumulated allotment process. At the Advice Worker business group, says Chardon, “we accept the advantage of accepting the best abreast adaptation and accounts bodies who were complex in the architecture of the product. That’s why I’m maybe added serene with Excel than added bodies are.” Indeed, the Advice Worker business accumulation is now pre-beta testing the abutting adaptation of the Appointment suite, which he hints will accommodate improvements to Excel’s collaborative and ascendancy capabilities.

In the meantime, auditors accept articular spreadsheet controls to abate financial-reporting risk, including countersign protection, hosting on adequate servers, and locking beef aural spreadsheets. — T.R.

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