I am happy to share insights gleaned from our latest Value Index research, an assessment of how well vendors’ offerings meet buyers’ requirements. The Ventana Research Value Index: Business Planning 2022 is the distillation of a year of market and product research. Drawing on our Benchmark Research, we apply a structured methodology built on evaluation categories that reflect real-world criteria incorporated in a request for proposal to business planning vendors supporting the spectrum of planning. Using this methodology, we evaluated vendor submissions in seven categories: five relevant to the product experience ﹘ Adaptability, Capability, Manageability, Reliability and Usability ﹘ and two related to the customer experience ﹘ Total Cost of Ownership/Return on Investment and Vendor Validation.
Having just completed the 2022 Ventana Research Value Index for Business Planning, I want to share some of my observations about the business planning software market and how it has advanced as an important part of our market coverage for almost two decades. Dedicated applications for planning and budgeting have been around since the 1980s and are, therefore, quite mature, with robust features and functionality as well as continual refinements in usability and performance. Outwardly, the specifications for offerings in this category appear very similar, but how the software works is at least as important to buyers’ preferences. Moreover, planning is not a mechanical process, so despite limited differentiation at the surface, an organization can find that one vendor’s offering is a better fit for its individual approach to planning than others.
Ventana Research recently announced its 2022 Market Agenda for the Office of Finance, continuing the guidance we have offered since 2003 on the practical use of technology for the finance and accounting department. Our insights and best practices aim to enable organizations to operate with agility and resiliency, improving performance and delivering greater value as a strategic partner.
Topics: Office of Finance, Business Intelligence, Collaboration, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, ERP and Continuous Accounting, Revenue, blockchain, robotic finance, Predictive Planning, AI and Machine Learning, lease and tax accounting, profitability management
Several years ago, I noted the importance of gaining resilience in managing supply chains. The world had entered a new era of trade following the financial crisis of 2007, as multilateral relationships were steadily fragmenting. For decades, sourcing and supply chain management was focused almost exclusively on achieving the lowest cost, and the world’s trade environment supported this approach. However, I observed that the new era of trade, supply chain planning and execution, would be more complex, and organizations needed to shift focus to emphasize business continuity and sustainability, accommodating change with the least disruption at the lowest cost. Sourcing decisions, logistics and product design would be crafted with an eye to a far-from-perfect and changeable world. Higher costs would be balanced against necessary resilience and sustainability, supported by the ability to make changes rapidly with assurance and limited risk.
Over the past decade, how organizations manage processes and record data related to transactional events captured by an enterprise resource planning system has undergone a significant evolution. Some of the more recent changes have been the result of a steady migration to the cloud, since these systems are typically updated frequently, require less maintenance, have better performance and are more readily available than those operating on-premises.
A looming challenge for companies in the developed world is price inflation, an issue periodically fretted over – but not experienced at a macroeconomic level in most developed economies – over the past four decades. Price inflation has been a frequent bugaboo that never emerged because of persistent disinflationary forces in the world economy over the past forty years. It remains to be seen to what extent recent price rises are persistent or transitory but “what if?” was the most important phrase organizations used in 2020. What if this time it really is different?
A year of business uncertainty, lockdowns and operational disruptions forced finance and accounting organizations to adapt and change in many ways that are proving to be permanent. The need to operate virtually resulted in some organizations accelerating their adoption of technology, bringing them closer to achieving a transformation of the finance and accounting function: reshaping the department into an organization that is more forward-looking and strategic. Strategic in the sense of providing greater visibility into how the company and each of its business units is performing and insight into how to achieve better results going forward. Its focus is on what is happening next and not merely on what just happened. It does not only explain past results but uses that context to provide guidance about the choices executives and managers have, and the likely impact of those choices. To truly achieve this degree of transformation requires a different departmental structure, one that incorporates a Finance IT capability.
Topics: Office of Finance, Business Intelligence, Data Governance, Data Preparation, Business Planning, Financial Performance Management, ERP and Continuous Accounting, blockchain, robotic finance, Predictive Planning, AI and Machine Learning
These days it strikes me that the motto of successful salespeople – "ABC: Always Be Closing!" – should apply equally to corporate controllers, albeit in the accounting sense. This is a reference to an approach to managing the finance department that I have been advocating, which I call "continuous accounting." It is a holistic way of managing the accounting function that, in large part, emphasizes using technology to distribute workloads more evenly over an accounting period, spreading closing activities as evenly as possible over time rather than waiting until the end of the month or quarter. Continuous accounting also stresses improving staff efficiency by automating repetitive processes as well as enhancing organizational effectiveness by improving data integrity in finance processes.
Business process reengineering (BPR) was a consulting fashion in the early 1990s that spurred many companies to purchase their first ERP systems. BPR proposes a fundamental redesign of core business processes to achieve substantial improvements in market and customer responsiveness, productivity, cycle times and quality. Those early ERP systems provided a platform to manage cross-functional business processes with much greater flexibility and efficiency than had been possible in the past, partly because it took advantage of the commercialization of relational database technology, the graphical user interface, client-server networks and event-driven programming. ERP and other digital systems support business process reengineering by guiding the step-by-step execution of the redesigned process to ensure that it is performed consistently. They also automate the handoffs between individuals and departments as well as manage approvals and exceptions to accelerate completion of that process and permit supervisory personnel to spend more time focusing on matters that require their judgement and experience and less time on administrivia.
Ventana Research defines intercompany financial management as a discipline for structuring and handling transactions within a corporation and between its legal entities. IFM is designed to maximize staff efficiency and accounting accuracy while optimizing tax exposure, minimizing tax leakage and ensuring consistent tax and regulatory compliance. Today, IFM is an obscure topic, but I assert that by 2025, one-half of organizations with 10,000 or more employees will have implemented intercompany financial management to achieve tax, risk-management and financial close benefits.