People Planning Series: What is Collaborative People Planning?
Warren Wang
Co-Founder & CEO, Doublefin

2022 was a tough year, particularly in the technology industry. Crunchbase reported that more than 52,000 people, in the technology sector alone, have been laid off this year. This past month, companies like Meta, Lyft, and Amazon joined the rest of Big Tech and announced mass layoffs that amount to over 20,000 people. Most of them cited cost cutting and the need to hit their annual revenue growth goals as the reasons behind their radical decisions.

Visualization of tech companies that laid off employees in 2022.
Visualization of tech companies that laid off employees in 2022.

Balancing the supply of talent a company needs to thrive is challenging - especially during challenging economic times. Headcount planning and management has always been a complex problem to solve. I was painfully aware of that during my time at Google. And that was back in 2008!

Fast forward to today and my conversations with customers and leaders routinely reveal that they are still relying on archaic forms of data collection to plan and track their headcount. Some of the most innovative companies still rely on yesterday’s technology (looking at you, spreadsheets) to have a pulse on their people, and to help their senior leaders see the future of their organization.

The disheartening layoffs in recent months are not about tools, but there are certainly technology-based platforms for our organizations to get much smarter at managing what is most often the biggest investment at our companies, people.

We have the data to forecast these market shifts. We have planning tools available to reconcile business needs, growth goals, and budget. We have HR Technology to visualize the state of our organizations. So why are we still relying on inefficient, scattered, headcount planning processes?

We ought to invest in the right tools and enable our People Ops, Finance, Talent Acquisition and business teams to have as much insight and foresight on our organization as possible. To do better we should look to collaborative people planning.

A Broken System: Scattered Data, Inefficient Workflows and a Failure to Communicate

Before we present the solution, it’s important to take time to understand why headcount planning and management is such a complex process to begin with. Simply put, it can be attributed to 3 main factors: Cross-functional collaboration, data, and workflows.

Cross-Functional Tasks Managed with Function-Specific Tools

Headcount planning and management is a cross-functional task by nature. People teams, Finance, Talent Acquisition, and Managers have to collaborate to determine headcount needs, if they fit the annual budget, where to source, and how to onboard and retain talent. More often than not, the various stakeholders involved in strategic headcount planning are approaching the processes from different angles, relying on disparate systems and data sources to plan for the future.

The different stakeholders involved in people planning and management.
The different stakeholders involved in people planning and management.

This becomes even more problematic when the tools each of these teams rely on to conduct headcount planning and management are function-specific. Think about it. HR Tech, FinTech, MarTech. Most of the tools we use day-to-day are designed for one function only - HR Teams, Finance teams, Marketing Teams.

But what happens when a Talent Acquisition manager needs to check if we have the budget to hire 10 new engineers? Take it one step further. Can you imagine your HR team having to use your finance system? Or your finance team having to use your HRIS app?

When you combine all of these factors, the lack of communication and collaborative tools become significant barriers to effective headcount planning and management.

The Endless Data Loop: Collect, Clean, Reconcile, Analyze

The hardest part of headcount planning and management isn’t running the analytics, or interpreting the results - That’s easy. The hard part is reconciling the scattered data you get from all the different stakeholders and the multiple systems they use.

Your HR or People Ops team will usually rely on Human Resources Information Systems (HRIS), Talent Acquisition on Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), Finance on Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Tools and Payroll Systems. And your budget owners? Well, they usually send you their requests by email…or on slack…or ask you directly when they see you walking down a hallway.

The tools different stakeholders use for people planning and management.
The tools different stakeholders use for people planning and management.

I was at Google for over 12 years. And every week, like clockwork, I had to put together a workforce report, manually. The report was meant to answer questions such as:

“What is our current headcount budget?”

“How many offers did we send out?”

“What is our current attrition rate?”

I had to work with multiple teams (Human Resources, People Ops, People analytics, Talent Acquisition, Finance) who then had to export their own individual reports from disparate systems. Once I received all those reports, I had to go through every spreadsheet, every data point to make sense of it all… Every week.

This is a critical pain point because how are we supposed to make data-backed decisions about headcount planning, if we don’t have systems in place to reconcile and clean up the headcount data? There has to be a better way.  

Headcount Planning Workflows That Don’t Work

Companies adopt standardized processes and workflows for a reason. Take the PO process as an example; it provides a clear-cut framework to confirm the need for an order, specify its parameters, and get it approved and placed. It outlines the stakeholders involved, their roles, and when they should be involved.  It’s clear. It’s  efficient.

Now think about people planning. Would you be able to tell me that your company’s annual headcount planning process is well defined? That every person involved in this process is aware of the steps and requirements? And most importantly, that it works?

Most companies don’t have a well defined process in place. Most of them have created their own processes for people planning. Processes that have been reinvented and redefined time and time again, but somehow still feel broken.

These same companies will tell you that they have a framework in place for everything else: POs, engineering retros, paid advertising campaigns, even down to their monthly all-hands meetings. Yet, when it comes to headcount planning (A cost center that represents 70% of a company’s OpEx), they rely on spreadsheets, email threads, slack messages and the back of a napkin.

Headcount planning needs to be standardized in a modern and intuitive way. We need to get all the stakeholders in one place, give them access to the same data, so they can plan, make decisions and execute together. The good news? There’s a solution. It’s called Collaborative People Planning.

Collaborative People Planning: Bridging the Gap

Collaborative People Planning is a solution fueled by the knowledge that organizational growth is contingent on cross-departmental collaboration, alignment and one source of truth. Simply put, the goal of collaborative people planning is to bring all stakeholders to the same place and allow them to make intelligent decisions together.

Collaborative People Planning tools enable you to accomplish 3 essential things:

  1. Reconcile all the HR and Finance data necessary for headcount planning and management.
  2. Give stakeholders access to the same real-time insights and people data so they can base their decisions on a single source of truth.
  3. Execute all the key headcount workflow and org charting, in one place.

As a Finance professional myself, I struggled to find a tool that allowed me to do all that and that was cross-functional enough for other teams to use it. I was tired of outdated processes that left room for human error and disparate systems that don’t talk to each other. I was especially tired of using endless spreadsheets to understand and manage such a big part of our operating costs.

That’s why I wanted to build a platform that enables cross-functional strategic workforce planning and headcount management and empowers all the teams involved in the process with accurate data and seamless workflows. Introducing: Doublefin.

Doublefin: The Future is Now

Did you know that the average 200-person company spends well over 280 hours and $21,000 annually on basic planning tasks that could be automated and streamlined?

Doublefin’s automated and collaborative cloud platform was built to not only solve the challenges associated with managing budgets and people planning but also to provide end users with access to the data they want when they need it. Workflows, intuitive dashboards, actionable insights, workforce analytics, and a 360-degree view of your organization unlock the information required for accurate planning.

Transparency and collaborative features means the right questions can be asked at the right time. Simple answers to important planning considerations such as how much budget is left, the status of hiring, where the money is going and the impact of changes to the planning process can stall a company in its tracks. Doublefin’s secure and compliant platform removes the potential roadblocks and ensures that people, talent acquisition and finance teams are aligned with the managers and budget owners from day one.

People and budget planning have been subject to disparate processes for far too long but the good news is that there is light at the end of the tunnel. A recent Gartner Survey of 800 HR leaders has shown that there will be 5 priorities to focus on in 2023 - leaders and management effectiveness, change management, employee experience, recruiting, and the future of work.

According to Gartner’s “Top 5 Priorities for HR leaders in 2022” Report, 45% of HR leaders consider strategic workforce planning a top priority.
According to Gartner’s “Top 5 Priorities for HR leaders in 2022” Report, 45% of HR leaders consider strategic workforce planning a top priority. 

The future of work and strategic workplace planning were key factors - 42% of HR leaders called it a top priority, however 43% went on to say that they don’t actually have an “explicit strategy” for it.

Next generation tech solutions, like Collaborative People Planning, are the precision tools that company leaders need to remove friction and enable faster, smarter decisions and it’s time to embrace them as a significant growth competitive advantage.

To find out more about how Doublefin can provide your company with a 360-degree view of disparate data and powerful collaborative people planning capabilities, reach out to us to get a demo!

About the Author
Warren Wang
Co-Founder & CEO, Doublefin
Warren Wang is an executive with a proven track record of overseeing significant finance and headcount planning operations at leading companies in different industries. His experience as a Finance Director at Google from 2007 to 2019 made him realize that disparate and manual input systems inhibited effective decision making, which led to the creation of Doublefin.
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