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        Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

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        insightsoftware’s Portfolio Boosts Office of Finance Productivity

        insightsoftware offers a portfolio of software designed mainly for the office of finance to handle reporting, budgeting and planning, consolidation and close management, business intelligence (BI) and analytics, as well as compliance. The company’s applications directly address a core issue confronting many finance department executives today: Productivity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics reported that 17% of accountants retired or resigned in the 2020-22 period, cutting the available workforce, and the decline in college students choosing an accounting major suggests it will be some time before that drop will be addressed by fresh talent. In the past, executives could deal with their workload requirements by hiring more people or engaging temporary workers. With talent less available and increasingly expensive, this has become the wrong strategy for most organizations. The focus must shift to process efficiency to squeeze more output from the resources available. 

        There are many relatively simple and inconsequential activities that currently sap productivity, raise costs and prevent individuals from having the time to focus attention onVentana_Research_BR_AD_Q24-Q33_Majority_of_Time_Spent_Analyzing_Data_2023 more difficult issues that require training, skill and experience. Reporting is one area in which departments can boost productivity by streamlining the acquisition and management of data that goes into periodic and ad hoc reports, facilitating their design and layout and enabling self-service reporting by non-analysts, especially those outside of the finance department. Our Analytics and Data Benchmark Research found that analysts spend the majority of their time on data preparation, leaving much less time for them to do more useful work. Here, too, the increasing availability of dedicated data stores will substantially cut the time analysts spend on purely mechanical work.  

        To this end, insightsoftware offers a range of analysis and reporting applications tailored to the specific needs of different sets of users. Jet Reports works with Microsoft Dynamics, connecting application data to Excel to create highly flexible financial and management reports that require limited training. Periodic reports can be assembled quickly using data sourced directly from Dynamics and distributed to those that need and have permission to view the information. Jet Forms has a pre-built data warehouse and analysis cubes that enable a consistent, controlled and accurate set of data usable by Power BI users in the organization. Similarly, Hubble is designed for users of JD Edwards (JDE) and Oracle EBS ERP. The software pulls data directly from those two ERP systems to produce reports and dashboards without requiring IT involvement. Users can drill down from reports into the underlying transactions to get to the numbers behind the numbers. For security and auditability, enterprises can apply access controls using Oracle EBS and JDE security, apply identity management governing access to data and functionality, limit reports to read-only data and use workflows to ensure compliance with reviews and approvals with signoffs.   Spreadsheet Server makes analysis and reporting easier by connecting Excel to any of more than 140 ERP systems. The software makes it possible to export data into a spreadsheet from one or more applications with a single click, which ensures that the data accurately reflects what’s in the source system. Doing so automates data preparation and formatting, substantially enhancing productivity.   

        In planning and budgeting, insightsoftware has applications designed for a range of users and use cases. One of these applications is Longview. For larger organizations, LongviewVentana_Research_2023_Assertion_BusPlanning_IBP_FPandA_12_S supports integrated business planning (IBP), a term we coined in 2007 to describe a high-participation, collaborative, action-oriented approach to the processes built on frequent, short planning sprints. Short planning cycles enable companies to achieve greater agility in responding to market or competitive changes. Adoption of IBP is growing because organizations are finding it necessary to have software that gives them the ability to respond in a coordinated fashion in today’s rapidly changing conditions. Ventana Research asserts that by 2026, one-fourth of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) organizations will have implemented IBP, bringing together operational and financial planning on a single platform to improve the business value of planning and budgeting.  

        Longview has additional uses. Financial consolidation software assists companies in executing their accounting close process — especially those that use multiple ERP systems or have multiple legal entities — and with other characteristics that can complicate the process such as keeping books in multiple currencies. For handling the accounting close to disclose functions, Longview manages the statutory consolidation for enterprises with multiple ERP systems.  

        Managing corporate income taxes is a challenge for chief financial officers and their tax department professionals. Tax codes are often complex, so tax accounting as well as the data required for tax provisions and tax compliance are different enough from statutory accounting to create significant workloads for the tax department. The provision for income tax expense and, for public companies, the assembly of information related to tax-related disclosures, can be a factor holding up the completion of the accounting close. Longview streamlines tax provisioning and governs the related task of managing transfer pricing to optimize tax exposure. 

        For organizations that simply want to address the shortcomings of spreadsheet budgeting, insightsoftware’s Power ON is designed to streamline planning and budgeting in a way that enables agile and connected planning. It provides a familiar Excel environment and user interface supported by a controlled database and process administration that allows for real-time consolidation of budgets and plans. It empowers executives and managers to work interactively with their planning models while examining and analyzing historical financial and operational data to better inform their planning decisions. Moreover, for organizations that are skilled in using PowerBI, Power ON also provides the ability to comment on data within visualizations and save changes to data (write-back) as it is being created. This capability facilitates collaboration in a context that is necessary for effective coordination across business units.  

        In addition, its Bizview application handles budgeting, planning and forecasting for midsize businesses, while IDL Forecast does consolidated financial planning and forecasting expressly designed for organizations in German-speaking countries in Europe.  

        In compliance, insightsoftware’s Certent applications handle equity accounting and disclosure management, including disclosure research. The software enables enterprises to streamline the administration of equity compensation, including the documentation, accounting and reporting. Disclosure Management facilitates the creation of highly formatted reports that combine text, numbers, charts, tables and exhibits for regulatory compliance, especially periodic public company disclosure filings, and for internal purposes such as board books.  

        The company’s software portfolio also concentrates on business intelligence and analytic applications designed to facilitate the use of these tools by those in finance and business roles, not just IT professionals. As my colleague David Menninger points out, embedding analytics and business intelligence enables organizations to quickly interpret data and convert it into actionable insights, extracting information in real time to address a broad assortment of business issues. Embedding analytics helps tackle the issue of extracting information from data, which is a time-consuming process, especially since organizations are increasingly adding more data sources and information systems which, in turn, introduce more complexity. insightsoftware’s Logi Analytics offers embedded BI and analytics. 

        The market segments in which insightsoftware competes are dynamic and highly competitive with many vendors offering the same features and functionality. Demand in these areas has been high for the past three years as the need grows to boost productivity, attract and retain finance and accounting talent by cutting time spent on dull, repetitive tasks, and support the needs of hybrid and remote working environments.  

        Having assembled a portfolio of multiple software vendors’ products, insightsoftware will need to invest in achieving a more consistent look and feel, and some of the overlapping functionality begs rationalization. And because AI-enabled capabilities will be an increasingly important source of differentiation, the company will need to successfully invest in developing these tools to remain competitive.  

        That noted, the company’s software can address the needs of a range of organizations. I recommend that finance and accounting executives actively investigate ways to use software to improve their performance and to serve as a more strategic, forward-looking partner to the rest of their organization. As part of that effort, I recommend that they investigate what insightsoftware has to offer. 

        Regards,

        Robert Kugel

        Authors:

        Robert Kugel
        Executive Director, Business Research

        Robert Kugel leads business software research for Ventana Research, now part of ISG. His team covers technology and applications spanning front- and back-office enterprise functions, and he personally runs the Office of Finance area of expertise. Rob is a CFA charter holder and a published author and thought leader on integrated business planning (IBP).

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