Quantrix recently unveiled Quantrix 5, an updated version of its financial modeling software designed to fill the gap between spreadsheets and business intelligence (BI) systems. Quantrix provides users with many of the capabilities of an enterprise system and addresses shortcomings of desktop spreadsheet software without requiring extensive training.
Quantrix 5 offers numerous improvements and refinements. For example, it provides easier connectivity to and integration with enterprise databases. Licensed users have been able to share the reports they create with anyone using its Quantrix Qloud web reporting service, but new ease-of-use features such as stored contacts facilitate collaboration, and richer display options offer more useful and attractive charts and canvases. It’s now easier to create reports that present multiple graphical elements, including ones that enable casual users to make adjustments to key assumptions and instantly see the impact on a variety of key performance indicators. Help files are more robust and easier to update. There are more scripting options and significant refinements that give users better control of formatting and presentation.
Quantrix addresses a persistent gap in the software market. The electronic spreadsheet is an extraordinarily versatile tool, but our research shows spreadsheets have numerous shortcomings. People have had to cope with and adapt to spreadsheet issues because practical alternatives have been limited. Those using spreadsheets for planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis, for instance, must deal with limitations and productivity issues whenever they are dealing with multiple participants, products, business units and scenarios (which is to say all of the time). Spreadsheets are simple enough to create, but they quickly become unwieldy as (inevitably) changes occur.
Quantrix allows business analysts to work easily in multiple dimensions. Business is inherently multidimensional since executives and managers need to look at past results or future plans from a number of different perspectives (dimensions) such as by products, organizational structure (sales regions or business units, for instance), currency or slices of time (monthly, quarterly or annually).
Being able to work with dimensions is useful in creating business models because you can change some assumption and have your change quickly, completely and accurately reflected across an entire model. For example, when month-by-month product prices or commodity costs change, it’s possible to make appropriate adjustments once and have them ripple through all aspects of models. Or, when creating multiple scenarios, it becomes possible to look at the results of a specific product in a specific region side by side with others without have to regenerate the model multiple times.
Quantrix also separates business logic from the data itself. Users write formulas outside of the cells, substantially cutting the number of formulas that need to be created, reducing errors and the amount of time needed to check and audit the model. This approach also allows modelers to make changes to the data or add new dimensions without having to laboriously modify the model. Different versions of the plan can be another dimension, allowing executives to quickly compare different plans and zero in on the major sources of those differences. When reorganizations are planned or when they occur, separating logic from data makes it relatively straightforward to see the impact of changes and be able to do apples-to-apples comparisons after the fact. To be sure, other kinds of software can address all of these issues – business intelligence tools and a wide range of applications, for example. Yet almost all require the involvement of IT departments and heavy doses of user training. Quantrix enables finance and business users with computer and spreadsheet skills to achieve significant gains in productivity, agility and insight well beyond the capabilities of the spreadsheet models they now use.
Over the past decade Ventana Research has consistently pointed to solutions that address the inherent shortcomings of electronic spreadsheets. Electronic spreadsheets were a tremendous innovation when they were first introduced in 1979. They are used worldwide by hundreds of millions of skilled users every day for almost every conceivable task. Yet it is precisely this versatility that pushes their use from their sweet spot as an ad-hoc, individual productivity tool into areas where they fall short because of inherent technological limitations.
Quantrix is a modeling and analysis software tool that I believe average businesspersons can quickly pick up and use without extensive training. (Like anything else, though, users will get back the effort they put into developing their skills at using the software.) They can use the software for forecasting, planning, budgeting and modeling in ways that can dramatically improve their productivity, agility and insight compared to performing these sorts of tasks using a spreadsheet. I recommend that anyone in a business planning or forecasting function who is currently using a spreadsheet give Quantrix a try. To make it easy, the company offers a 30-day free trial.
Robert Kugel – SVP Research