When athletes step into a competitive arena, they all understand how best to work with one another to emerge victoriously. The best sports teams in history worked together seamlessly, almost as though they were telepathically connected.
Although far removed from the world of professional sport, today’s largest organizations are under significant pressure to be brought into the same playbook. However, performing efficiently in a context of unprecedented market uncertainty is a challenge currently facing most leaders. In such a competitive environment, one player falling out of sync might not de-rail a team completely, but it is likely they won’t come out on top.
Despite these difficulties, there are growth opportunities for those keeping their squad on the same page. Whether due to political upheaval or yo-yo-ing exchange rates, businesses are realizing that plans are amended more regularly than they are drawn up and that it pays to be prepared and adaptable.
What is connected planning?
Connected planning is transforming the way enterprises work, allowing them to make more informed decisions using data accrued from every corner of the business. This does not just allow for real-time co-ordination but aggregates an ever-growing volume of data to create detailed simulations that qualify leaders’ assumptions and explore possible futures. After all, the secret to almost every sports legend’s success has come down to practice, practice, practice. In the same way, the ability to project scenarios and prepare an action for every eventuality means an organization will be prepared to perform in high-pressure situations when victory is on the line.
What makes a planning function truly connected, however, is its ability to react to market fluctuations and adapt accordingly. After all, the teams that win most often are those able to bounce back against adversity or a react to a new strategy from an opponent. The most agile can ‘course correct,’ effortlessly, communicating strategic changes to keep themselves on track. These attributes can be particularly useful for businesses with rigidly defined departments, as well as those with geographically spread teams.
Breaking down barriers
For the planning process to be truly ‘connected,’ it needs to understand the full downstream impact of an action in one department on another. For example, companies that bridge the gap between finance and HR, will instantly be able to see the impact of changes to the workforce on the profit and loss account. Alternatively, if sales of a certain product are on an upward trajectory, this needs to be communicated to the supply chain quickly so that manufacturing levels can be increased. By doing so, an open conversation is started, allowing information to flow freely across a business and enabling the agility which is now so symptomatic of success.
The challenge of keeping a team on the same page is made much more difficult as it grows and explores new markets. An increasing reliance on technology and the implementation of BYOD strategies has made the workplace very disparate, placing a greater emphasis on being aware of your colleague’s successes and failures, no matter where they are. Keeping employees well-connected amid this expansion is vital to maintaining speed and flexibility, but simple factors such as time difference and currency rate fluctuations can sometimes be enough to knock businesses off course.
Leading from the top
This all sounds great, but how can it be achieved? Essentially, creating a truly connected workforce comes down to empowering employees with the appropriate culture and tools to work in a collaborative way. For large businesses with defined processes in place, this by no means requires a complete IT overhaul. However, such a cultural shift does require comprehensive buy-in from company leadership to be successful. After all, the beauty of connected planning is that those at the top have access to transparent information and can see how all the cogs of their business work together.
A team needs a captain that can lead by example and engage teammates, giving them incentives to work together. Those that only focus on their own performance and ignore how their actions impact others will not set an appropriate platform for success. As the incoming generation of professionals increasingly expect this flexible, ‘cross-pollination’ style of working, adopting this type of culture will also be integral in recruiting the best talent.
Digital that fits
As digital transformation gathers pace across various sectors and the volume of data increases, connecting data sets to coordinate planning processes becomes possible. The maturity of cloud technology has been key to the rise of connected planning strategies, allowing employees to access company data regardless of location. This also means that introducing connected planning doesn’t mean a complete systems overhaul.
Bringing in new tools doesn't mean blindly equipping employees with new technology purely because it's a digital way of doing things, but doing so in a tailored way that integrates well with existing systems and enables them to work more efficiently. You wouldn’t appoint a new coach just for the sake it but because they will bring the best out of your players.
Installing a truly connected planning culture takes the tools and leadership to give all stakeholders the ability to coordinate across time zones, territories and departments as if they are sitting side by side. This means using a company’s greatest asset, its data, to support broader strategy rather than dictate it. In the current context of political and economic upheaval, rigid planning processes are insufficient. Eradicating siloed planning will be the key for organizations that are going for gold.