Enterprise Excel Blog

How to “Sell” Agile Financial Modeling to Your Executive Team

As humans, we’re hardwired to favour the status quo. 

In one eye-catching study, a group of people were shown a painting that they were told dated from 1905. A second group were shown the exact same artwork, but were told it had been painted 100 years later. The first group declared it to be much more aesthetically pleasing than the second.

This isn’t just down to petty snobbery. We like things that have been around for a long time, and are naturally distrustful toward anything new.

Unsurprisingly, this has ramifications that extend far beyond the world of art. Our fear of the unknown can make it extremely challenging to bring about workplace change.

One of the biggest difficulties can be in convincing your executive team that a change of strategic approach or process methodology is necessary – especially if they lack day-to-day visibility over the relevant business functions. The benefits of switching to a new working model – such as Agile Financial Modeling – may be apparent to you and your FP&A team, but you still need management buy-in to make it happen.

Sure, it can be difficult. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be done…

Understanding the ‘pain points’ you’re seeking to address

“Selling” a new system of working is very much like selling anything else – a second-hand car, a smartphone, or a house. You need to drill down into what would motivate your potential customer – in this case, your executive team – to make a purchase. What problems are you solving? What will it cost, and why is it worth the money? What’s in it for them?

While some of these pain points will naturally differ from one company to another, there are plenty of common challenges that could be faced by any leadership team, such as:

  • Desire to speed up decision-making processes
  • Struggle to find a “single version of the truth”
  • Heat-of-the-moment decision-making, causing burnout and loss of focus
  • Employees aren’t bought into the company’s vision
  • Lack of alignment between senior management and board
  • Poor accountability damaging productivity and motivation
  • Key leaders have opposing views and aren’t prepared to compromise

Once you’ve taken the time to understand the biggest concerns of your executive team, you can begin to position Agile Financial Modeling as a potential solution, concentrating on the key benefits of agile working for FP&A teams:

Flipping the productivity ratio

Traditionally, FP&A teams have spent the bulk of their time – as much as 90% – on spreadsheet maintenance, leaving only 10% for adding genuine value through what-if analysis. Agile Financial Modeling flips the ratio to 90% analysis, 10% spreadsheet maintenance. That means faster decision-making and greater accountability over how FP&A are spending their time.

Bringing Excel modelers closer to the action

FP&A specialists have typically been kept at arm’s length from the customer. With Agile Financial Modeling, they’re effectively given an instant promotion and a seat at the decision-making table, where they can provide the data required to make key strategic decisions.

Executive decisions will be faster and better informed

By spending more time running the numbers and attending more business-critical meetings, your finance team are ideally positioned to run analysis in real time. The result: faster decisions backed by hard-and-fast data rather than gut feeling.

Common arguments against transitioning to Agile Financial Modeling

Given our traditional reluctance to embrace change, you should always anticipate a degree of pushback from your executive team when it comes to pitching a new process or product. Agile Financial Modeling is no different. 

Again, some of the arguments against adoption will be specific to your organization, but others will be common concerns that could be shared by any leadership team. Here, we set out some of those objections and detail how to overcome them.

It will take too long / cost too much

Unsurprisingly, cost (whether in terms of human resource or capital expenditure) is often the primary cause of concern for executive teams. This is a particular challenge when it comes to introducing a new system of working, because the alternative – continuing with the status quo – may not cost anything.

How to overcome it

Demonstrating that the upfront cost will be recouped several times over. 

For instance, let’s say your finance team are currently spending three-quarters of their time on spreadsheet maintenance – a pretty conservative estimate. Across a ten-person team working 40-hour weeks, that adds up to 300 hours of tedious Excel maintenance every week. 

From our experience, Agile Financial Modeling reduces time spent on maintaining spreadsheets to just 10% of your team’s capacity. For the team we’ve detailed in this example, that’s an efficiency saving of 260 hours.

Desktop Excel has always worked fine for us

Often the simplest argument against change, and one of the most compelling. 

Excel has a global user base of more than 750 million people, and a recent Robert Half report discovered that 63% of US executives say their organization still relies on Excel as the primary tool for budgeting and planning. How can all those people be wrong?

How to overcome it

It’s not about arguing that desktop Excel is useless, and more about noting that its much-publicized shortfallings can be eradicated. 

Excel is still a fantastic tool, allowing modelers to work with complete creative freedom – but it simply doesn’t scale. Agile Financial Modeling eradicates this problem altogether, plugging Excel into the Cloud to create the CPM tool that your finance team have been dreaming of.

Shouldn’t we go with a bigger vendor?

We’ve all heard the phrase “nobody gets fired for buying IBM”. Granted, in today’s startup-friendly environment, this is an attitude that’s rapidly being phased out – but it still exists. Getting around it can be difficult.

How to overcome it

As a small vendor, this is something we hear all the time. The likes of Adaptive Insights, Anaplan and Vena Solutions are multimillion-dollar operations; they have vast teams and huge development budgets. 

What they don’t have is the agility or attention to detail of a smaller challenger. We have an extensive track record of delivering results for Fortune 500 companies, and without the same overheads as our larger rivals, we can do it cheaper – much cheaper. Choosing a big vendor could end up being much more of a risk down the line.

Wouldn’t a CPM solution be better?

CPM is trendy. Whether they’ve been targeted by a LinkedIn ad, given a recommendation from a peer, or read an article, your executive team will be aware of its existence. And if you’re proposing a move away from Excel, they’ll be wondering whether you’ve considered CPM as an option.

How to overcome it

They might be our rivals, but we have to admit that the big CPM providers have developed excellent products. For large, process-oriented teams, CPM is often the perfect solution.

But it falls down on creativity. Your team will be forced to work within a restrictive platform, shorn of the flexibility offered by Excel and lacking some of its core functionality. And they’ll be left disempowered, with control of their platform handed over to consultants and the IT department.

Of course, we have a vested interest in you convincing your executive team that Agile Financial Modeling is the right solution for your organization. Request your free, bespoke demo and let us put in the hard yards.

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