Modernizing financial planning :

The role of Workday Adaptive Planning, AI, and ML

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  • Blog
  • 6 minute read

In the evolving world of finance, a unique and pivotal moment has arrived. With financial planning garnering special emphasis, the spotlight is on finance teams—and the opportunity for them to expand their role. In short, the door is opening for them to step up and function as strategic and integrated players within the business. To do this effectively, they need to be both agile and proactive. In part, this means expanding the definition of what finance teams look like: it’s not just accountants anymore, but also data analysts, strategic business partners and project managers. 

Along with expanding the breadth of the finance workforce, adopting sophisticated tools like Workday Adaptive Planning will prove crucial for empowering and integrating these roles. With the right tools, finance teams can adopt a human-led, tech-powered approach that both manages risks and uncovers opportunities for disruption.

Financial planning is an increasingly strategic function

Finance teams used to report on the past, taking a granular (and time-intensive) approach to reviewing what had happened within the organization. Then, their work evolved to predicting what was going to happen next—and planning accordingly. To accomplish this, they relied on a very distributed approach. With multiple data sources (spreadsheets) and different teams reporting on different data in different ways, it was challenging to harness all the details to support informed decisions. Unfortunately, some finance teams still perform much of their data collection and calculation manually, and they risk lagging behind the longer they avoid change. 

In contrast, future-forward finance teams are implementing continuous planning processes and technology powered by artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML) and data analytics to better understand what could happen and how it might impact the business in real-time throughout the year. This supports leaders in making data-informed decisions with increased certainty, empowering them to make agile adjustments to their plans in response to unforeseen economic and societal factors, ensuring adaptability and resilience in a dynamic business environment.

Empowered by the skillful use of AI, ML and data analytics technology, organizational planning, including that of the finance function, is becoming an integrated function within the business, one that embraces contributions from multiple business departments. In fact, it’s moving into the position of a core strategic function—a business partner to the enterprise that helps guide decision-making.

With this modern and centralized approach to financial planning, businesses will be better able to navigate uncertainties on both a micro and macro level.

For instance, financial planning technologies can use AI and ML to map out multiple scenarios, answering questions such as:

  • What happens if demand goes down by 20%? 
  • How sensitive is the business to price changes?
  • What will a reduction in the workforce mean for the business? 

They can then determine how to respond by using data from within and outside the organization. Reporting also becomes much easier when you have an integrated system that can easily connect the dots between different data sources. 

As finance teams continue to change the ways they think and work, they need a financial planning solution to support their efforts and free them up to look forward and guide the business. This is where Workday Adaptive Planning comes in.

Redefining financial planning with Workday Adaptive Planning

Workday Adaptive Planning is a powerful planning and analytics solution that provides budgeting, forecasting, reporting, and analytics for organizations of all sizes with industry-leading usability and the security, scalability and flexibility required for complex planning. Its end-to-end enterprise planning capabilities are powered by Elastic Hypercube Technology, which lets customers build and maintain large and complex multidimensional models through a drag-and-drop user interface and human-readable formulas that don’t require coding. 

Workday Adaptive Planning facilitates thorough what-if planning that spans the various facets of the organization. Its ease of use makes it easy to roll out to various teams so that they can collaborate on business planning, and its ability to consolidate all data into a central location enables real-time projections. This means FP&A can decentralize some tasks while still remaining the guardians of the financial planning function.

The solution also allows for the rapid creation of multiple scenarios, using both internal and external data sources. For example, depending on the industry, companies could quickly assess how factors like the price of gas or the weather might impact their business. This way, companies can take a more proactive approach, while also creating informed contingency plans in response to specific scenarios.

Perhaps most importantly, Workday Adaptive Planning helps to expand the focus of planning beyond just finance: it can extend to workforce planning, operational planning, sales planning and more. It helps to place finance as a core contributor across various other departments, integrating the business in a cohesive and data-driven manner.

Adaptive planning in action

As PwC has helped roll out Workday Adaptive Planning in various business settings, our teams have seen it introduce unprecedented flexibility and adaptability at various organizations. For instance, we helped a leading Canadian insurance company deploy Workday Adaptive Planning as it was going through a merger of equals. Such a significant business transformation required revisiting processes and procedures across the board. Workday Adaptive Planning had the flexibility to support this transformation and help the teams build new processes that would set the foundation for successful HR and financial planning.

In helping clients implement Workday Adaptive Planning, PwC teams have developed a unique, end-to-end understanding of how the solution works. We pair that with our strong finance and HR perspective to enable organizations to obtain high value from this powerful technology.

In helping clients implement Workday Adaptive Planning, PwC teams have developed a unique, end-to-end understanding of how the solution works.

We pair that with our strong finance and HR perspective to enable organizations to obtain high value from this powerful technology.

How AI and ML will continue to transform financial planning

As finance teams continue to redefine what financial planning looks like and the role it plays in their organization, they need to consider AI- and ML-powered solutions. These technologies will help take financial planning further, making it more predictive and allowing for more creative modeling. For instance, insurance companies could assess the impact of potential geopolitical or climate events to determine their rates. 

The wealth of data that teams have available to them will continue to grow, and that requires robust tools that can sort through it and gather actionable insights. Solutions that leverage AI and ML effectively for this purpose will help expand how far teams can look ahead—as well as the level of accuracy of their predictions. 

That said, there is a pressing need for organizations to make responsible use of these technologies. Companies will need a foundational digital core from which to pull data, and will use that to determine the best application of AI and ML. 

This is an issue to which PwC is acutely attuned. Our teams look at the different AI and ML use cases within Workday Adaptive Planning to enable our clients to leverage them without compromising the integrity of the business. We guide our clients and introduce them to parameters they may not be thinking about, so they can get even more creative in their planning.

Shaping the future of financial planning

Finance teams are becoming increasingly strategic and impactful within their organizations, and they need the tools to support them in their efforts. Looking ahead, technologies like Workday Adaptive Planning will be vital in shaping how the finance team operates collaboratively with the rest of the business while also setting the direction for multiple functions in the organization. The teams that succeed will be the ones that leverage these tools and apply them to new and innovative use cases.

Are you ready to modernize your planning process?

Reach out to learn more about the Workday Adaptive Planning solution and how PwC can help introduce it to your business.

Contact us

Eduardo Barredo

Eduardo Barredo

Managing Director, Enterprise Performance Management, PwC Canada

Jérôme Parize

Jérôme Parize

Partner, Workday practice, PwC Canada

Tel: +1 514 210 8794