Scenario planning and annual budgets

7 01 2010

Did you make a annual budget for 2010?

Bet it wasn’t easy.

Did you think about all the different scenarios that might happen in 2010, and incorporate those variables into several budgets, or was your final product one single annual budget?

I am not a fan of annual budgets unless they are tied into Scenario Planning.

I believe that they are a necessary exercise that helps in anticipating what revenue and resources a company might require in the coming year.  But I truly dislike those who compare real results with a static budget created 6 months or a year prior.

Businesses cannot perform  “as planned” in rapidly changing environments.  Budgets can serve as guides for spending and investment if properly assembled, taking into account internal and external factors of influence.

I am almost sure your budget made in October or November needs to be redone (if you want it to reflect real results) in order to reflect the massive changes that have already occurred in the economy and business environment.

In chaotic times, when uncertainty is the only sure thing, the traditional budget process can be a waste of time for the people making them, and for those “using” them if scenario planning is not taking place.

When the environment is subject to so many significant changes that will affect our suppliers, costs, customers consumption, international competition, etc., it is wiser to make several budget scenarios.

These scenarios will contemplate and plan for possible (or impossible) significant changes in the business environment, and help the organization to quickly take advantage of the situation when and if they occur.

What if oil prices plummet, or skyrocket?

What if inflation takes off, or recession gets worse?

What if there is a massive terrorist attack?

What if there is an economic collapse in Asia?

What if our number one supplier closes their doors?

What if the automobile and construction industries fall deeper into a slump?

What if the USA puts huge import duties on imported products?

It’s not about guessing what will happen (traditional budget).

It’s all about preparing to what MIGHT happen (budget scenarios).

How many scenarios should a company create?   As many as possible in order to analyze the strategic impact on the entire supply chain, cost structure and customers buying patterns.  It’s having a battle plan A, B, C, and D.

This budget scenario exercise is an ongoing process that involves risk assessment, prediction of economic consequences to potential or real events, and should involve the entire management team.  Depending on the actual environment and conditions this assessment might take place several times a year.

The identification of risk areas that will have significant effect on revenue or costs,  and the  acceptance that things will continue to change, will enable your organization to thrive and survive during turbulent times.

Links

How to do Scenario Planning

Scenario Planning

The Secret of Successful Scenario Planning

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Big Important Things – risk and opportunity identification

30 11 2007

“Big Important Things” (BITs),  are local, regional, national or international circumstances or events that cannot be controlled or prevented, that have a significant effect on current and future business practices.

One should always keep in mind the impact of the “Big Important Things” (BITs) on the supply chain, customers, the competition and your industry.

Those involved in strategy and planning must understand how BITs create enormous risks and opportunities.

One can only react to BITs, they cannot be created or eliminated by an organization.

BITs would include, but not be limited to:

  • Natural and man made disasters – hurricanes, fires, earthquakes, explosions, flooding.
  • Massive economic changes – depression, recession, inflation, currency devaluation, massive layoffs
  • War and Terrorism – security measures, logistics, international trade limitations
  • Government policies – trade barriers, laws and regulations, economic sanctions, embargoes
  • New technologies, – trends and tendencies inside and outside of the industry
  • Environmental or health issues – contamination, unsafe products, epidemics
  • Legal issues – pending or current lawsuits, documentation and reporting, legal precedents
  • Significant global changes in demand or supply – shortages, increased demand
  • Energy costs – trends and tendencies

Contingency plans should be created, worst-case and best-case scenarios developed, and efforts made to lower the risk profile or strategically position the company to take advantage of possible changes in the business environment.

How to use BITs to identify areas of risk and opportunity 

  1. Analyze each of the following elements independently;  strategic raw materials, suppliers, logistics, major customers, the competition, your company, and finally your industry (local, national and internationally).
  2. What is the probability that a BIT would affect each element (impossible, low, medium, high, inevitable) and when (short-medium-long term)?  “My supplier is the only manufacturer in North America of the widgets we need, they are located on the western Florida coast and annually are affected to some degree my hurricanes and flooding.  There is a high probability that a major hurricane will hit them in the short to medium term.”
  3. Use a “what if” line of questioning for those high risk or high impact areas.  “What if a major hurricane hit my supplier and disrupted their production?
  4. What are possible scenarios to reduce your risk, or take advantage of the opportunity.  “Do I have alternative suppliers in place, extra inventory, insurance, how can I protect my customers, who else will this affect and how?
  5. Review this process at least twice a year to take into account changes in the probability of the BITs and modify the contingency plans or strategies accordingly.

Related Links

Analyze and Plan Using 7 Simple Questions

How to Systematically Analyze Any Situation for Better Decision Making

9 Steps to Better Decisions