By Rachel Burger   March 15, 2024

What is Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A)? At its core, FP&A is a holistic approach to strategic financial management. The approach includes planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis to secure a company's health and growth trajectory. FP&A combines financial data, operational data and market insights to provide a systematic view of the company's current and future financial health.

FP&A requires a deep understanding of the operational dynamics of the business, relevant industry trends and the broader economic landscape. Serving as the architects of financial strategy, FP&A professionals craft detailed plans aligned with the company's long-term goals and objectives. How? By providing a bridge between the raw data of day-to-day business operations and the strategic insights needed by senior management to make pivotal decisions.

The FP&A team typically reports to the CFO. In turn, the CFO seeks to better understand the current state of the company's financial position and predict future revenue, expenses, profits and cash flows through data. CFOs therefore often invest in dedicated FP&A software to aid in FP&A analysis.

Why is FP&A so important? What does process entail, and how does it work in action? Keep reading to find out (and to check out some of our industry examples).

The Strategic Importance of FP&A

FP&A's strategic importance cannot be overstated. In today's volatile and competitive business environment, the ability to plan effectively, anticipate future financial challenges and navigate strategic decisions with confidence is critical. FP&A provides the foundation for this capability; it offers a comprehensive and forward-looking view of the company's financial health. Ultimately, FP&A enables businesses to be proactive rather than reactive, positioning them for sustainable growth and success.

What Is the FP&A Process?

FP&A aims to answer important financial business questions. Below are just some of the key questions FP&A teams seek to answer throughout the process:

  • What is our breakeven point?
  • If revenue declines by 10%, will the company still be profitable?
  • What are the financial forecasts for the next year/quarter, and how do they align with strategic goals?
  • How do currency fluctuations, interest rate changes and other external economic factors affect financial performance?
  • What impact will an acquisition or divestiture have on the bottom line?
  • Should we raise debt or equity financing?
  • What is the path forward for AI/ML Finance Transformation?

To address these complicated, organization-defining questions, FP&A uses 5 core steps to create comprehensive financial plans and analyses. Typically, these steps come after the long-range planning (LRP) and the annual operating plan (AOP) process.

1. Strategic Planning

The journey of FP&A begins with strategic planning, through which the overarching organizational goals and ambitions are set. As a crucial first step, this stage defines the direction and scope of all subsequent financial planning and analysis efforts. Strategic planning thus involves high-level collaboration with various departments to ensure the financial strategy aligns with operational capabilities and market realities.

2. Budgeting and Forecasting

Central to FP&A is the dual process of budgeting and forecasting. Budgeting involves tactically allocating resources based on the strategic plan to set financial targets for revenues, expenses and capital expenditures. Acting as a financial blueprint, budgeting guides spending and investment decisions over a specific period. Forecasting, on the other hand, extends the vision further into the future using historical data, market analysis and economic indicators to predict financial outcomes. Providing a dynamic view of the company's financial trajectory, forecasting allows for adjustments in strategy in response to changing market conditions or internal factors.

3. Financial Modeling and Analysis

Financial modeling is another cornerstone of FP&A, providing a framework for analyzing the financial implications of various strategic decisions and scenarios. Through models, FP&A professionals can simulate the impact of different strategies, market conditions and operational changes on the company's financial performance. This analysis supports risk assessment and thus helps companies mitigate potential financial setbacks and capitalize on opportunities.

4. Variance Analysis and Performance Measurement

An essential aspect of FP&A is the ongoing analysis of the company's financial performance against organizational plans and forecasts. Through identifying discrepancies between actual results and budgeted or forecasted figures, variance analysis offers insights into why these discrepancies occurred. This continuous evaluation process helps companies refine financial strategies, optimize performance and achieve strategic goals more effectively.

5. Reporting and Decision Support

FP&A culminates in the synthesis and presentation of financial insights to senior management and stakeholders. This stage involves the preparation of detailed reports, dashboards and presentations that highlight key financial metrics, trends and analysis. By providing a concise view of the company's financial status and outlook, this step supports strategic decision-making and ensures all stakeholders are aligned with the financial objectives.

Examples of Financial Planning & Analysis in Action

To illustrate the real-world application and importance of FP&A, let's explore a few examples across different industries:

  • Technology Startup: For a fast-growing tech startup, FP&A might focus on cash flow forecasting and burn rate analysis. FP&A essentially predicts when the company will need additional funding. By doing so, the process helps the startup plan for capital raising activities and strategically manage its growth trajectory.
  • Manufacturing Company: For a manufacturing company, FP&A plays a critical role in capital budgeting and cost control. FP&A essentially analyzes the financial viability of investing in new machinery or entering a new market. By doing so, the process helps the company efficiently allocate resources and maximize ROI.
  • Retail Chain: For a retail chain, FP&A is crucial in inventory management and sales forecasting. FP&A essentially analyzes sales trends and market demand. By doing so, the process enables the company to optimize inventory levels, reduce holding costs and plan for seasonal fluctuations.
  • Healthcare Provider: For the healthcare sector, FP&A might focus on revenue cycle management and profitability analysis by service line. This process helps the provider understand where to focus efforts to improve financial performance and patient care.


What is Financial Planning & Analysis? As the post above establishes, FP&A is an indispensable business partner and function that helps organizations navigate uncertainty, capitalize on opportunities and mitigate risks. FP&A combines strategic insight with financial acumen, giving FP&A professionals a way to empower companies to make informed decisions and drive sustainable growth. As businesses continue to operate in increasingly complex and volatile environments, the role of FP&A will only grow in importance.

Learn More

Looking to get started with FP&A? Check out our ebook called "Budgeting, Planning and Forecasting." No form fill required!