November 12, 2014
By Dallas Moody
You have gone through another painful budget cycle and made the decision that spreadsheets just aren’t cutting it. It’s probably a realization you made a long time ago but now you are ready to evaluate new options. You put in a lot of effort but recognize your 2015 budget is already bordering on obsolescence, and it’s still only Q4, 2014. Now there’s more time and effort to update it again plus you are being asked to create more reports. Wouldn’t it be great to focus on more value-added strategic financial planning? After all, that would be a much better use of your skills and experience. It’s time to start looking around for a corporate performance management solution that frees you and your team from drudgery. Once you’ve made this important decision, it’s time to consider some of the key factors that will guide your goals and short list of vendor solutions.
Cloud or On-Premise
For a long time, CFOs and CIOs insisted that all financial data needed to reside behind the corporate firewall. In the past, that probably made sense. However, Cloud solution providers have invested tremendously in security, availability, and redundancy. Indeed, their systems have evolved to the point that they are likely more secure than your own. In addition to security, Cloud systems have other benefits such as significantly reducing IT overhead costs, allowing access with just a web-browser on a variety of devices, and a rolling update schedule that eliminates your IT team’s involvement. Indeed Cloud-based corporate performance management (CPM) solutions are the fastest growing segment in this market. While some providers claim to offer Cloud solutions, beware those that have merely taken legacy technology and ported to the Web. Here’s a link to an Adaptive Insights blog that addresses the risks of the “Fake Cloud”.
Usability often means the difference between a successful implementation and a failed one. It’s human nature to be resistant to change, particularly when people have been using spreadsheets for their entire career. For that reason, consider solutions that offer a familiar user interface (UI). If it’s intuitive and looks like what people are used to, the likelihood of frictionless adoption is going to be that much greater. Indeed, end users will get the best of both worlds – a spreadsheet-type UI with the benefits of a much more robust Cloud budgeting and planning solution.
Implementing new software should always present an opportunity for business process improvement. Many finance professionals spend inordinate amounts of time copying and pasting data into and out of spreadsheets and other applications. In addition to the time drain, it’s also one of those steps that inadvertently introduce errors into the system. In order to mitigate those risks and add efficiencies to the workflow, integration with other systems is key. Bi-directional integration among systems also ensures that everyone is working from the same data.
Spreadsheet-based budgeting and planning breaks down as companies grow. Processes that were barely manageable in the past are no longer sustainable due to expansion. One of the key benefits of Cloud solutions is the ability to scale on demand. It doesn’t require extra servers or other hardware. Simply add licenses and training and you are ready to go (and grow).
Great advances have been made in the area of data visualization, which presents information in a more digestible format. Who hasn’t heard the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words”? The same is true for numbers. Visualization has made inroads into just about every data-centric application, including CPM. Make sure any solution you evaluate not only has meaningful visualizations such as dashboards and charts, but also has interactivity for “what if” scenario analysis and self-service reporting.
Corporate performance management is a “hot” market these days with many new entrants. This is an important investment so you need to make sure the company is going to be around for a long time. Take the time to check their funding levels if it is a relatively new company. Does the vendor get high rankings from analyst firms such as Gartner? Find out who their customers are and see if you can speak with several of them. Do they have customers in your industry? Are their customers well-known and respected. Great companies use great vendors so you will want to perform your due diligence.
Leading companies in just about every domain attract a large partner ecosystem. Check to see what partners are out there whether they are technology (an indication of the systems they integrate with), reseller/implementation, or other. Some vendors may have internal professional services while others rely on their implementation partners. Many vendors have partner tiers (e.g. Platinum, Gold, and Bronze) based on their success and performance. If you are going to use an implementation partner, it is always a good idea to use a firm in the highest tier as that usually indicates a track record of successful implementations.
Systems selection is an important strategic process that will play an important part in your company’s ability to grow. Carlson Management Consulting works with companies to identify the most suitable solutions in the areas of CPM, ERP, and CRM. We have a proven systems selection process that guides our customers through this process. Please contact us today for more information.