Forecasting is the process of making predictions based on past and present data. Meteorologists probably do the most well-known forecasting type, although some individuals would argue that they’re not very good at it!
The business world also employs forecasting for numerous reasons, from predicting future revenue to anticipating marketplace trends. The process enables them to be proactive instead of reactive, which is especially important to sustainable financial and operational success.
Mitigating Manual Workflows
Forecasting is one of the primary job responsibilities of the associate director of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) for a Massachusetts-based pharmaceutical business that develops medicines that control the expression of genes. Their team was tasked with forecasting and budgeting for various clinical programs within the company and the different departments that contribute to them.
Initially, this budgeting and forecasting process included manually entering data into a spreadsheet, which was time-consuming and prone to errors. Plus, it didn’t allow the FP&A professionals to plan or create reports on a granular level.
To address these issues, the pharmaceutical entity enlisted the assistance and expertise of Stratos Consulting, who previously had customized the Oracle Planning and Budgeting Cloud Services (PBCS) module for the company. The new goal was two-fold: to enable the associate director and their team to quickly enter Supporting Detail Expense Activity into PBCS and configure drill-through functionality in the module to view Actuals Transactions.
“Before we brought Stratos on board, every time we had a budget or forecast update, each line within the spreadsheet had to be refreshed,” explained the FP&A professional. “Once those numbers were loaded, we had to run the rules, all of which made for a very tedious process. It was also hard to make changes on short notice, which is a capability we certainly needed.”
The customized Oracle EPM Cloud Planning module enables the pharmaceutical company to easily plan the budget and forecast using forms in Microsoft Excel. Those forms connect directly to the Excel Smart View plugin source application. The result? The FP&A team can now plan at a much more detailed level — whether it’s by vendor, purchase order, project, or another category — and visualize actuals spend in the same view.
Integrating Scalable System Solutions
In the newest collaboration, the Stratos Consulting team members facilitated workshops with the pharmaceutical leader’s FP&A associate director and their team. This allowed them to acquire the business requirements and technical design feedback for the custom Supporting Detail solution.
Once the consultants had that information, they implemented a custom and user-friendly PBCS Supporting Detail solution that is both flexible and scalable. Additionally, the team configured Data Management to load and provide drill-through functionality in the solution.
As part of their iterative approach, the Stratos Consulting team facilitated working sessions with the pharmaceutical business’s FP&A professionals throughout the development phase. The purpose of these sessions was to ensure the team was comfortable with the solution as it was being implemented for them while allowing them to provide timely feedback to be incorporated.
According to the FP&A associate director, “We now have different templates for our various programs and functions, and they’re all linked to the same system. Once we enter line-level detail and simply hit a button, that data is immediately inputted into the system. No more cutting and pasting – or lag time – necessary!”
No more manual processes that required considerable resources, either. Now, the pharmaceutical provider’s FP&A staff can easily create multiple detailed reports and share them with the necessary employees and departments.
“All these things used to be very hard to achieve, but working with the Stratos team has been amazing,” remarked the associate director. “The new processes have made our lives so much easier. Plus, anytime I have a question for them, I get an immediate response, literally any time of the day. They’re candid about what it’s possible for specific tools to achieve — or not — and get the job done better than companies that are much bigger in size.”