Is your FP&A team using the equivalent of Google Maps or Paper Maps

November 7, 2022

Too many, it would be unthinkable to navigate a single day without the modern cloud services, apps, and smartphones we have become accustomed to. In a not-too-distant era before map services like Google Maps and Apple Maps existed in their current form today, motorists struggled to find their way when facing new and unfamiliar driving routes.

Today, many people would get lost going to the local gym or grocery store without the guidance of Google Maps or Apple Maps directly on their smartphones or integrated into their vehicles. These map apps are not only user-friendly and modern, but they also come loaded with predictive analytics and constantly monitor the fastest route for your trip based on changing traffic conditions.

If you start a voyage going backward into the past, you would encounter several waves of tools, technologies, and tricks the average person relied on to get around before modern GPS. 

Some may remember the clunky Garmin devices attached to their dashboard. Others may have relied on GPS services once offered by Verizon or other carriers as part of their mobile services. Those maps predated smartphones. You could get them on your flip phones. The early adopters of the Blackberry were using cutting-edge GPS technology back then.

Going farther back but staying within the internet era you had MapQuest and other similar services. The process here was to map your trip route on your computer at home, then print out the step-by-step directions to take with you on the road. Yes, any wrong turn could derail the entire strategy.

Prior to the internet, you had the fold-out paper maps every vehicle came equipped with. You would not dare rent a car without one of these nearby. Then there was always the human-to-human strategy of relying on the kindness of strangers. This involved pulling over to chat with pedestrians or other motorists waiting at a red light next to you. Taxi cab drivers were usually a great target for this. Don’t forget the strategy of pulling into a gas station, parking your vehicle, and going inside to ask the attendant for directions. You usually would be required to repeat this several times before reaching your destination. If your trip was mostly dependent on interstate highways, the numbering system of highways to indicate East, West, South, and North directions also made things easier without maps.

Somehow all of these systems worked, insofar as nearly everyone seemed to always arrive at their destination more or less going back more than a century when the first mass production automobiles were popularized.

It turns out the point of technology is not just to get the process completed. It's really about efficiency as well as improving the user experience. The process was always getting completed one way or another even with older and inferior tools and processes. People completed their routes even with the Ford Model T.

Now that we have taken our own trip down memory lane to the tools supporting the commuter, let's pivot to the corporate processes managed by the office of the CFO. These can include building financial plans, budgets, reports, and forecasts by the finance team. It can also include closing the month for the accounting department.

These processes have always been completed one way or another. We assume even Henry Ford had to rely on a level of financial planning to equip his factories and employees to conquer the year ahead and financial reports to understand his past performance.

CFOs don’t need modern tools to get the job done. Ford was getting the equivalent of FP&A done in his era nearly a century before the internet. Before you think the point of the article is that you can save a bundle by getting rid of all software and asking your team to return to pen and paper, remember it's not about just completing the process. It’s about efficiency. How can modern tools optimize the time spent by humans on business processes? Efficiency includes removing errors. Let’s get to the finish line always using the fastest route and avoid wasting precious time correcting wrong turns.

The point of investing in modern tools is to adopt modern platforms able to elevate efficiency and the user experience to new heights. If your finance and accounting teams continue to manually extract data from your General Ledger to update a myriad of spreadsheet versions to complete their FP&A activities, this is the equivalent of using a folded map on your trip. 

Some may even find the manual process fun and conventional, including users that love Excel. If your competition is being routed to the fastest route with Google Maps, what chance do you really stand out in the marketplace?

Modern Financial Planning and Accounting Automation platforms like can help you get to your destination faster.