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Tidemark Systems offers a suite of business planning applications that enable corporations to plan more effectively. The software facilitates rapid creation and frequent updating of integrated company plans by making it easy for individual business functions to create their own plans while allowing headquarters to connect them to create a unified view. I coined the term “integrated business planning” a decade ago to highlight the potential for technology to substantially improve the effectiveness of planning and budgeting in corporations, and it remains true that integrating business planning can produce superior results. Companies that maintain direct links between functional or departmental plans more often have a planning process that works well than others. Our next-generation business planning benchmark research shows that two-thirds (66%) of those that maintain such links have a planning process that works well or very well, compared to 40 percent that copy information from individual plans into an overall plan and just 25 percent in which plans have little or no connection.
Businesses commonly do a lot of planning within individual silos: There are sales plans, marketing plans, manufacturing plans, R&D plans and various others. However, in most companies the only unified plan is the corporate budget, which is a financial plan used mainly for allocating resources and controlling spending. Because they are focused almost exclusively on monetary consequences, budgets are not especially useful for planning the operations of a company, which requires attention to the things of a business (such as head count, numbers of purchased parts and tons of materials).
Tidemark has made significant progress with its software that I have previously assessed with how it unifies business planning and the company’s Fall 2015 release includes a new feature, Tidemark Complete, that enables companies to benchmark their performance against that of competitors. In almost all organizations, performance reviews compare results against the current plan or the previous quarter or year. While this is essential, it’s insufficient because business is not an “us-vs.-us” game; it’s an us-vs.-them competition. Even so, most companies don’t assess their results against the market because they find it too difficult and time-consuming to assemble the data. Tidemark Complete addresses this issue. The latest release also adds packaged configurations and metrics tailored for the insurance, hospitality and retail industries that enable such companies to accelerate their implementation of Tidemark. In the Spring 2015 release the company introduced packages for higher education and subscription commerce. The subscription commerce app is especially useful for companies with recurring revenue businesses for two reasons. One is that managing these types of businesses requires using metrics that are not directly available from the accounting process. These include the annual recurring revenue (ARR) and annual and total contract value (ACV and TCV). Typically, the finance staff assembles data from one or more sources in desktop spreadsheets to do the calculations, analyze the results and create reports. As well as time-consuming, this method is prone to errors and incompleteness in the data. The second reason is that revenue recognition in subscription businesses is often complex. For planning purposes, it’s useful to be able to automate the translation of booking events into reported revenue because it saves time and results in more accurate projections of future financial statements.
Ventana Research rated Tidemark a Hot Vendor in our 2015 Business Planning Value Index. Tidemark’s software offers all of the capabilities necessary to support state-of-the-art planning. That is, it offers engaging visualization and reporting functionality that enhances understanding and insight in developing plans as well as communicating results. It has workflows to manage plan creation and periodic updates that cut the time and effort required to supervise the process and thus shorten planning cycles. It offers integrated analytics to support the planning and review phases of the process as well as Storylines and Playbooks, methods that present an organization’s performance in narrative form with engaging data visualizations. An important reason why companies invest time in creating plans is to set objectives so they can periodically review their performance to those objectives. By organizing all business planning on a single platform, Tidemark allows each planning unit to review its results faster and headquarters to review the overall financial and operational performance sooner. Our research finds that companies that use a dedicated third-party planning application such as Tidemark are more able to uncover details during a review meeting because they can drill down to uncover underlying details while the meeting is under way. This enables managers and executives to get to information that can promote agility and provides an environment that encourages action in the whole organization.
Tidemark also offers built-in social collaboration capabilities in context. Collaboration is essential in the process of planning in corporations because it helps ensure that activities are coordinated. Companies have multiple objectives for their planning processes. Chief among these is accuracy. But since things don’t always go to plan, companies need agility in responding to changes in a timely and coordinated fashion, and collaboration facilitates this also. In a small business, planning can be informal because of the ease of communications between all members and the ease with which plans can be modified in response to changing conditions. In larger organizations the planning process becomes increasingly difficult because communications become compartmentalized locally and diffused across the enterprise. Facilitating collaboration across geographies or business silos addresses the communications issues. Tidemark’s collaboration capabilities address this issue more readily and completely than email or instant messaging. Setting and changing the company’s course require coordination to ensure that the actions of one part of the organization complement (or at least don’t impede) the actions of others. Better communication across the organization promotes coordination because it enables better understanding of the impact of policies and actions in one part of the company on the rest of it. Yet only 14 percent of companies are able to accurately measure that impact, and fewer than half (47%) have even a general idea. Integrated business planning coupled with a collaboration capabilities addresses that issue.
Using the most capable technology also helps. Using limited tools is a major barrier preventing companies from integrating their planning efforts; spreadsheets in particular are a major culprit. Our research reveals that across the spectrum of corporate planning activities, seven out of 10 organizations use spreadsheets to manage their planning processes. Tidemark’s common planning platform for individual departmental and functional plans, plus built-in analytics and reporting and its focus on ease of use, provides a compelling reason to switch from spreadsheets. Also, compared to using spreadsheets, Tidemark’s applications can make the planning process far more interactive by utilizing in-memory processing to speed calculations. When even complex planning models with large data sets can be run in seconds or less, senior executives and managers can quickly assess the impact of alternative courses of action in terms of their impacts on key operating metrics, not just revenue and income. Furthermore, having the means to engage in a structured conversation with direct reports can help executives implement strategy and manage their organization more effectively.
Integrated business planning applications are changing the conversation from a finance-centric approach to one that supports planning operations and finance in parallel. Companies that are dissatisfied with their current approach to business planning and are looking to improve important aspects of it including accuracy, insight, speed and alignment should consider dedicated business planning tools. When they do that, they should consider the kind of software that will enable them to support a better process. We recommend that they include Tidemark in their evaluation.
Robert Kugel – SVP Research
Tagetik is a long-established vendor of financial performance management (FPM) software. Its full-featured suite includes planning, budgeting, consolidation, close management, disclosure management, analysis, dashboards and reporting. The software can be deployed on premises or in the cloud as multitenant software as a service or in a private cloud. Tagetik also offers pre-built integration with SAP and SAP HANA, Microsoft SharePoint and Qlik to best support a range of financial management needs.
The current release, Tagetik 5, has a pleasing and productive consumer-style interface. Its design approach aims at enhancing the user experience and making it easier and less time-consuming to perform common tasks in finance and accounting departments. FPM is a mature software category that generally deals with the full cycle of finance department activities as well as the underlying information technology systems that support them. Thus there are limited differences between vendors’ suites in the required features and functions. We find that buyers often select products by how they execute particular tasks and especially how easy it is to perform them. In response FPM vendors have been putting greater emphasis in the design of their software to enhance the user experience, often through a consumer-style interface.
Tagetik addresses the ease-of-use issue in its current release, Tagetik 5, by making it easier for business analysts to create and update basic dashboards without the need for IT department involvement or coding. This facilitates communication and performance monitoring. Users can work in Microsoft Excel, but behind this interface are all of the capabilities of a well-developed software application and database, which eliminate issues that occur when desktop spreadsheets are used in any repetitive collaborative enterprise process such as financial planning and closing. Unlike in desktop spreadsheets, rolling up and consolidating data submissions of any number of participants in a process is almost instantaneous in Tagetik 5. Moreover, unlike desktop spreadsheets, it stores the data with important attributes such as the time period, corporate structure (division or regions, for example), product (anywhere from families down to specific stock keeping units – SKUs – if desired) and currency.
The software also offers comprehensive and easy-to-use administrationcapabilities, especially in creating and modifying business processes for the full range of financial performance management activities. This capability is more than just a convenience for a few people in the finance department. It can make it easier for whole companies to accelerate planning cycles and facilitates high-participation planning and budgeting processes. Modifying processes also enables companies to tightly manage their accounting close process. Our benchmark research on the fast, clean close shows that companies that successfully shorten their close most often (in 71%) attributed their success to being able to manage the process effectively and consistently. With a limited amount of training and no coding, finance department users of Tagetik can define and manage every step of the close process. It supports a continuous improvement approach to managing the close by making it straightforward for the department to modify these individual processes and subprocesses as they assess sources of delay and inefficiency in their close.
Tagetik also supports more strategic finance processes. For example, it provides a platform that enables all parts of the business to plan in ways that conform to their needs and preferences and while still combining these plans into an integrated view as our next generation business planning research found makes planning processes to work better. For another, it facilitates the integration of long-term and strategic plans and company budgets. Our research in strategic and long-range planning finds that two-thirds of those that have fully or mostly integrated the two types can respond to changes immediately or soon enough, compared to just 22 percent of companies that have little or no integration.
The suite’s Disclosure Management offering was designed to help corporations manage the creation, editing and publication of external disclosure documents such as those required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission or other regulatory bodies such as bank regulators in European countries for their Common Reporting (COREP)requirements. However, this capability is also useful for automating a range of report creation functions, especially documents for internal or external use that combine text and data. For instance, users can create Microsoft PowerPoint and Word templates with text, numbers and graphics that can be automatically updated with the latest period’s data. Using this capability accelerates production of reports while cutting the staff time required to produce them. It’s easy to achieve bullet-proof accuracy since the numbers in the tables are assembled from a single authoritative source, and references in the text to a specific item in a table (an absolute amount or a percentage change, for example) are always in agreement, even when there are last-minute changes. Thus it is relatively easy to put together a periodic PowerPoint presentation for the senior leadership team or board of directors. It’s especially handy for creating monthly, quarterly and annual reports because once designed, the numbers can be quickly updated to the latest period.
I recommend that companies looking for a financial performance management suite – especially those that are replacing a point solution (such as obsolete financial consolidation software) or those moving away from spreadsheets – add Tagetik to their list of vendors to consider.
Robert Kugel – SVP Research