IBM – Planning and Navigating Through an Economic Recession

January 31, 2023
Season 4, Episode 6

Adrian Cadman, Enterprise Performance Management Leader for IBM’s consulting practice in the UK and Ireland, discusses how FP&A teams can more effectively respond to the challenge of the pandemic and ongoing economic instability.

More information about IBM’s offerings and approach is available at

Show Notes

Welcome to The Hackett Group’s “Business Excelleration Podcast,” where week after week we hear from experts on how to avoid obstacles, manage detours and celebrate milestones on the journey to world-class performance. This episode is hosted by Gary Baker, Global Communications director for The Hackett Group. Today’s episode will discuss planning and navigating through an economic recession. Gary is joined by Adrian Cadman, Enterprise Performance Management leader for IBM’s Consulting practice throughout the United Kingdom and Ireland.

To begin, Adrian discusses what clients are wrestling with currently in the FP&A space. He talks about Brexit, the global pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. All of these created consequences, including instability in the financial market and escalated costs for the energy market. These were all shocks in the system, and all clients reacted differently. Organizations are supposed to be agile, but creating a budget and forecast can take weeks or months to deliver, and a lot can change in a short amount of time. The second element that clients are challenged with right now is visibility. We build everything in a world of Excel and study that, but we need to start to execute against the data and stop spending so much time looking at the data. He also says organizations need to put plans together and make sure they are aligned across the organization. There should also be a degree of contingency in plans where everyone is aligned to the plan and thinks it’s credible.

Next, Adrian talks about the pain points for clients. He starts off by discussing the data visibility, and how long it takes to analyze and run situations around the data, but it takes too much time to respond. He states that companies need to put the plan to bed and start executing against the plan. What companies do with the plan is where the real value is. He also talks about what the value drivers are, how to create visibility, and what levers can the company pull and push to make sure the data is planned at the right level. He also discusses the need to have the right planning application at the correct level and elevate where the challenges are.

In addition, Adrian addresses the effort of the CFO and finance FP&A team. He says there is a huge amount of time in creating data, but no value in correcting plans. Companies need to execute the plan. He said the teams on average spend 85%-90% of time on creating and consolidating data, which only leaves a small amount of time to look at risks. The CFO and finance teams need to focus on value drivers, and spend more time and effort on the plan – not on the data.

Adrian also addresses that clients need to be focused on the true pain points and where the holdups are. He said there needs to be a focus on how the whole organization comes together and how the plan is governed. For IBM, the Experience Lextron Transformation assesses quickly all the challenges clients face and how clients can approach them. Then, they can form a transformation plan with the correct objectives to help clients today. He states that you need to focus on the big picture in to come up with a road map on how to get to the end state.

In addition, clients need to understand what the true challenges are for the individuals and what can we do differently. They can use the IBM business model and the benchmarking business institute to determine what costs should be. They are not just producing a plan, but determining how we will drive that plan as well. The latest approaches include a focus on planning data to deliver an efficient plan that is universal across the entire organization. The last thing he talks about is recognizing the talent that exists already within your team. He discusses reengineering your team to become fit to be commercial analysts and giving them greater time and space to analyze those skills. 

In conclusion, Adrian talks about the challenge within FP&A practice right now on how to get your people motivated again. He says companies need to think about the way they are going to deliver the FP&A approach in the future. There also needs to be a degree of compromise to help them along that journey. The FP&A team can use their knowledge to create a better place by helping digital transformation and the organization get the value. The approach that IBM will use depends on the client and what their agenda is. They don’t want to just look at technology, data and process in isolation, but really take a step back and look at the whole picture.

Time stamps:

  • 0:54 – Welcome to this episode hosted by Gary Baker.
  • 1:51 – What clients are wrestling with in FP&A.
  • 7:36 – Pain points clients are facing.
  • 10:53 – Efforts of the CFO and finance team.
  • 14:42  – What clients should be focused on.
  • 16:34 – The best way for clients to know the steps they need to take.
  • 18:24 – Latest approaches within FP&A.
  • 21:41 – Greatest challenge for FP&A teams in embracing new ways of work.
  • 24:05 – The approach that IBM utilizes to support clients with their transformation effort.
  • 26:10 – Thanks to Adrian for joining and sharing his insights today!