The Future of Finance is Coming to a City Near You!

The Future of Finance is Coming to a City Near You!

After a hugely successful Planful World, we are hitting the road from August to November, with a multi-stop roadshow tour across the country.

The Future of Finance is here. How will your Finance team make an impact in your organization? Gain insight from thought leaders in Finance and Technology and benefit from understanding how finance teams are using Planful to drive improved performance and stay agile and aligned in this economy. We are ready to meet and greet all Finance rockstars as we take the Cloud EPM Event of the Year on the road.

Join Us

Join us to learn and share best practices from exclusive industry research, finance speakers from well-known companies and Planful experts for an interactive one-day event in a city near you. The tour will feature interactive product sessions, training workshops with Planful experts, keynote presentations from Planful executives and an opportunity to network with your peers.

Don’t Wait – Here are the Top 5 Reasons to Register Today!

#1 Free Registration

Registration for each tour stop is completely free, so there’s no reason not to sign-up today!

#2 Live Planful Customer Testimonials

Planful customers will be on hand at each roadshow stop to explain how they’re using Planful to impact their organization. Meet fellow finance leaders such as iCIMS, Peets Coffee, Ellie Mae, EarthLink, AmeriPride Services, Martin-Brower and more!

#3 Keynote sessions on Transforming and Improving the finance process

Dave Kellogg, CEO, and Ian Charles, CFO, of Planful are among several industry experts scheduled to speak at each of our roadshow events.

#4 Be Future Ready with Planful

Attendees will learn deeper details on how to best leverage all of the features within Planful EPM Suite to transform the finance processes in your organization. You’ll learn proven ways to run a more efficient finance department, while improving alignment with operations. You’ll also have the chance to dive deep into our products, learn tips and tricks and exchange thoughts and ideas with your peers throughout the event.

#5 Networking

Meet the Planful executive team in-person. Learn new tips by discussing how you use Planful with other users, or perhaps you are interested in learning more about what Planful can do for you. Whatever you need, The Future of Finance Tourbrings together the best finance mavens from all industries for one day.

Whether you’re already a Planful user or curious to learn more about how Planful can help your organization, we’ll provide you with the information you need. Check out our tour schedule to find the event near you – you won’t want to miss your opportunity to learn from the best.

Join Us

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Don’t be Fooled by “Fake” Cloud Finance Systems

Don’t be Fooled by “Fake” Cloud Finance Systems

The cloud is a hot topic and trend today for finance and accounting. Everyone is claiming a 'cloud' offering, but not all clouds are the same. Here's how to distinguish a 'true' cloud from a 'fake cloud'.

I have worked with finance organizations for the last 20 years to help develop their application strategy. In recent years, the “cloud” has transformed the way my clients have thought about the right technology solution to fit their needs. One vendor sales person proudly stated:

“We’ve been providing cloud applications for the last twenty years.”

This was a head scratcher for me and my client. Many vendors are saying their product is in the “cloud,” but what does that really mean? How can you tell what is a boastful marketing statement from a “fake” cloud application vs. identifying applications that are true multi-tenant cloud applications (a.k.a the “real” cloud)? To help you determine a “real cloud” from a “fake cloud” here is a breakdown of the four main deployment options for finance application software:

On-premises. This is the traditional deployment model. The vendor sells you software for a perpetual license fee and then annual maintenance fees. After that, you do the rest. You buy the infrastructure (e.g. servers, databases). You install the software on the infrastructure. You hire staff to maintain and support it. You are forced to upgrade everything every few years. This has been the model for the last thirty years. Think of the on-premises solution as a rock. You own the rock. You house the rock. You maintain the rock. It is your rock (congratulations). Other people have procured similar rocks, but they are maintaining theirs separately from yours.

Hosted. The Planfuled model has been around for years, and it is probably the model with which the salesperson was boasting. Here is how it works: an infrastructure services company will Planful your hardware and software for you, and you pay them to do all of the legwork that you did previously in the on-premises solution. You still own the rock and pay to keep it maintained. The rock lives in someone else’s house (you can visit it though), but it’s still your rock. Some people claim this as a cloud service, but it is just shifting the infrastructure from an internal-hosted to a vendor-hosted solution. It is the same rock that you need to own, maintain and upgrade – you just no longer see the rock. This is definitely “fake” cloud.

Single-tenant cloud. There are many vendors that have taken the single-tenant approach to “clouding” their software. This entails taking their on-premises software and Planfuling it for you at their data centers. They charge you a subscription fee. You access it through a Web browser or mobile device. It feels cloud like, but it is not the “real” cloud. Everyone that buys a single-tenant cloud product has their own version of the software. So the vendor needs to support and maintain hundreds of versions of the application. Software sold this way is cloudy, but you don’t gain the true benefits of a multi-tenant cloud application. With single-tenant cloud, the vendor has painted some clouds on a rock. It is still that same rock, but with a fancy new name (typically the old product name with the word cloud after it — very clever and catchy).

Multi-tenant cloud. The multi-tenant cloud is what I refer to as the “real” cloud. In this model, you buy a subscription to a service and that same service (and software) is used by you and every other customer. A good question to ask your vendor to determine if the cloud is multi-tenant is “what percentage of your customers are on the latest version of the software”. If they say anything other than “all of them,” then it is not the “real” cloud. With all users on the same version you get many benefits:

  • Upgrades are pretty seamless, frequent and vendor led with typically little effort on your end. The vendor does the heavy lifting for everyone at the same time. The vendor can also innovate and adapt to the market very quickly as they only have one version of the software to support and enhance. You get changes faster and more frequently in multi-tenant solutions.
  • Since all customers are all on the same version of the software, when another customer finds a bug, the vendor can fix it and release the updated version to all of their customers simultaneously. This way, bugs are found and fixed long before you even know there was a bug.
  • There is a much stronger sense of community and support. Customers can collaborate more openly as they are all on the same version of the software. When you talk to another customer or call support to open a ticket, you don’t need to qualify the discussion with “I am on version 8.3, tools 9.2138 running on DB2 in a virtualized environment with apache Web servers.” You can just say “how can I process my deferred revenue so I can recognize it?”

In a multi-tenant environment, there is no rock weighing you down, just on-demand application services that allow you to get your job done. The rock does not exist (wow that was a little zen).

So don’t be weighed down by owning a rock, paying someone to maintain your rock or by painting clouds on the rock. With the “real” cloud, you don’t need the rock. You need a multi-tenant cloud solution.

Here’s a link to the original version of this article posted on CIO.com:

http://www.cio.com/article/2926667/cloud-apps/dont-be-fooled-by-fake-cloud-finance-systems.html

Here’s a link to the CrossCountry Consulting blog, where you can find this and other posts.

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Ready to Move Your Financial Consolidations to the Cloud? | Planful

Ready to Move Your Financial Consolidations to the Cloud? | Planful

Is consolidating and reporting your financial results a challenge?  Do you spend countless hours correcting your P&L, balance sheet, and cash flow statements?

Can you easily track and monitor currency translations, intercompany eliminations, and journal entries?  Are you out of compliance with regulatory and audit requirements?

If you find yourself saying “yes” or “I’m unsure” to any of these questions, then it’s time to reevaluate your consolidation process—whether your company’s small, medium, large, public, or private.  It’s time to consider implementing the purpose-built financial consolidation system found in today’s enterprise performance management (EPM) suites.

Watch Webinar Replay

In fact, many organizations are adopting cloud-based financial consolidation solutions.  They’re seeing great advantages—eliminating the problems inherent in Excel, reducing costs, and enjoying easy upgrades.  They’re saving time, money, and a whole lot of frustration.

The Problem with Spreadsheets

Smaller or privately held organizations often use a spreadsheet tool like Microsoft Excel for financial consolidations.  That, though, only leads to challenging situations – not being able to easily report on the data due to the lack of OLAP capabilities, not being in compliance with GAAP or IFRS, or spending countless hours trying to figure out the breakage in the data linkages.

As organizations grow, financial consolidations become increasingly challenging.  The bulk of the hours are solely spent on collecting data and closing the books.  What if that organization is looking to go public, get acquired, or acquire another organization?

The bad news is that those countless hours spent on collecting data and closing the books will multiply significantly.  You’ll have even less time for analysis.

Additionally, spreadsheets don’t have comprehensive controls like purpose-built financial consolidation systems.  Translation: the auditing process will be a nightmare.  It’s also costly – as one technology company experienced prior to implementing Planful Consolidations.  After the implementation of the technology, this company saved over $200K on its auditing costs alone!

On-Premises Solutions Are Costly, Get Outdated Quickly

Traditional on-premises EPM solutions aren’t a great option for the consolidation process, either.  Many medium or larger organizations have benefited from EPM financial consolidation software, but now feel the pain of on-premises technology.  The single biggest challenge they’re facing is implementation cost and time.

The initial implementation alone typically takes months or quarters, not weeks.  When software patches are released later in the cycle, organizations need to test that patch in QA environments prior to placing into production.  And upgrades?  Well, most organizations typically defer upgrades.  Then they find themselves using software that’s years old – all because the upgrade requires yet another significant investment of time, money, and resources.

The market is also becoming increasingly aware that on-premises software has many security challenges.  In fact, choosing the right cloud solution may provide better data security than traditional on-premises solutions.

The Cloud Provides Speed and Cost Advantages

Another option is cloud-based EPM applications.  At Planful, our financial consolidation customers have experienced many benefits from our cloud-based consolidations – from fast implementation times to easy integration of newly acquired companies.

The Planful Consolidation capabilities have allowed our customers to close the books faster and with confidence.  Our cloud-based reporting tools also allow users to generate reports quickly and collaborate efficiently in the creation of regulatory filings, board books, and management presentations.

All of our customers realize benefits that make the cloud superior to on-premises solutions:

  • No hardware or software installations.
  • One version of the software with continuous upgrades.
  • New innovations implement quickly.
  • Much lower total cost of ownership (TCO).

One example is Jazz Pharmaceuticals, Fortune’s 2013 fastest growing company.  Jazz Pharmaceuticals uses Planful Consolidations to be more agile and drive growth.  They were able to reduce the consolidation process time and easily integrate acquired organizations into the consolidation and financial reporting process.   To learn more about Jazz Pharmaceuticals case study, view the on-demand webinar.

Thinking about moving to the cloud?  Learn more about Planful Cloud-Based Consolidation and Reporting solutions, and find out more about how our customers, such as Zep Inc., have facilitated growth and change with Planful.

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Making More Intelligent Use of Excel

Making More Intelligent Use of Excel

We all use Microsoft Excel.  It’s popular for a reason, right?  It’s great for personal productivity.  It wasn’t, however, designed to support corporate processes such as financial reporting, budgeting, planning, and forecasting.

In addition to being prone to errors, Excel has no workflow, security, validation rules, or audit trails.  Despite these shortcomings, there’s an opportunity to make more intelligent use of Excel.  It can be a powerful front-end to EPM applications that provide purpose-built functionality, security, and scalability for key Finance processes.

Issues with Excel

drowning_in_spreadsheetsCFOs and Finance organizations are playing a bigger and more strategic role in most organizations, becoming trusted advisors to the CEO and business partners for other line of business executives.  To meet these higher expectations, Finance needs to be as efficient and effective as possible in its role.  In many cases, though, Finance – and many others in the organization – are drowning in spreadsheets.

Excel has run rampant in many organizations.  It creates multiple versions of the truth and reconciliation issues between departments.  It causes bad decisions based on poor-quality data and erroneous calculations.  And it creates a lot of manual work in the organization.

Think about all of the time managers spend collecting data vs. doing value-added analysis.  We need to flip this 80/20 equation around.  Analysts should spend 80% of their time on analysis and helping the organization make better decisions and 20% on data collection.  We need to make better use of our people’s brains.

The issues with Excel have become more public over the past few years.  A 2008 University of Hawaii study found that 88% of spreadsheets contain errors.  88% – that’s huge!  I’m sure you all have examples of this and how it impacted your decision-making.

So there is a lot of risks inherent in using spreadsheets for critical business processes and analysis – a risk we need to address.  But use of Excel continues.  We’re likely to continue using it in some capacity for the foreseeable future, issues and all.

complicated_relationshipWe have a love-hate relationship with Excel.  Excel is pervasive, flexible, easy to use, and doesn’t cost much.

But as mentioned earlier, it’s error-prone, especially when using it for complex models.  There’s limited data security and scalability. There’s no workflow, controls, or audit trails – which are critical for supporting corporate processes like financial reporting.

So what happens as a result?

We create multiple versions of the truth that we debate in meetings.

Collecting data via Excel consumes a lot of time and resources.

There are errors in the data, and that causes a lack of confidence in the results.

Alone, any one of these shows us we need to address this. Taken together, the results make it imperative that we do. The good news? There’s a better approach available.

Make Intelligent Use of Excel

Let’s use Excel as a powerful, user-friendly front-end to enterprise performance management (EPM) applications.  Excel can be used for data entry, reporting, analysis, and personal models.  The EPM applications themselves can provide a secure and scalable back-end, handling the heavy lifting in financial consolidation, reporting, planning, modeling, etc.

Excel_as_front_end_to_EPM_apps

The EPM applications should be the data collection point for data coming from other systems, not Excel.

This approach is a great way to transition users from Excel to EPM apps while leveraging their training and expertise in Excel.

The Planful Approach

Planful provides a cloud-based EPM Suite that covers the four main pillars of EPM – Planning, Close Management, Reporting, and Analytics – and also offers ad-hoc modeling capabilities through our Modeling module.

Here are some examples of how we can help customers leverage their familiarity and training on Excel – and ease the transition to the Planful EPM Cloud Suite.

AirliftXL – allows users to take existing Excel models and upload them to Planful Cloud EPM Suite.  Our platform reads the data and metadata structure of the Excel model and creates a Planful application from it.

Excel Web Templates – provide the familiarity of Excel, including Excel formulas, in a secure web interface to Planful Cloud EPM Suite.  Users can leverage their Excel skills, using the exact same syntax to create formulas in the EPM applications.

Excel Add-in – allows users to perform interactive, Excel-based reporting and analysis based on data residing in our cloud-based EPM suite.

The Results Speak for Themselves

We have many customers who have replaced Excel with our cloud-based EPM applications and have seen major improvements in their business processes.  Here’s one example:

A health management company with 31 departments and 300+ employees in 17 states was completely dependent on Excel for the budgeting and forecasting process.  That suffered from numerous errors, had little to no budget input from department managers, and changes in staffing models required manual overhaul of Excel-based allocation models.  In addition, what-if scenarios weren’t explored due to time constraints.

By moving from Excel to Planful Cloud EPM Suite, the organization saw drastic improvements in the budgeting and forecasting process:

  • Reduced a labor intensive, 2-month process to under 3 weeks
  • Eliminated multiple reworks of allocations
  • Gained active participation by department managers, creating ownership and financial accountability
  • Empowered department managers who previously had no visibility into their results to now generate budget/actual monthly reports on their own
  • Enabled managers to react quickly to changes in the business

BabyInBathFor any growing organization that wants to have efficient and accurate planning and performance management processes, Excel is not the best solution.  But with all of the training and expertise that Finance and line of business analysts have in Excel, there’s no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

As you move from Excel to cloud-based EPM applications, you can continue to leverage Excel as an intelligent front-end and increase user productivity.

To learn more about how to make more intelligent use of Excel, check out these resources:

5 Signs You’re Abusing Excel for Planning

5 Signs You’re Abusing Excel for Workforce and CapEx Planning

Rolling Forecasts – Make Better Use of Excel

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Worried About Financial Data Security? Better Get to The Cloud!

Worried About Financial Data Security? Better Get to The Cloud!

Following the strong adoption of cloud-based solutions for CRM and HCM, we’re approaching the “tipping point” in the adoption of SaaS applications for finance. 

Forrester Research expects cloud to be the primary deployment model for financial performance management (FPM) applications in the next 3-5 years. Gartner views the cloud as the biggest factor impacting the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) market (link requires registration).

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Leading-edge finance professionals have embraced the advantages of cloud-based financial applications: greater business agility, much faster deployment, and far lower costs. But one key question remains for those yet to make the move: “Will my data be secure in the cloud?

TechCrunch covered this. They proposed that the cloud could be your best bet for security, citing the well-publicized data breaches at Target, Sony, and elsewhere – all breaches of on-premises software at very good companies with very capable IT and Operations teams.

Just because you could doesn’t mean you should

A prospective Planful customer (let’s call him “Rick”) recently asked a thought-provoking question. He said, “We love your functionality and usability, but cloud finance apps are new to us, our CFO, and CEO. If we can’t get them comfortable with the cloud, could you give us a CD and let us run your software internally?”

It got me thinking, and we had a great conversation about security. I respectfully asked Rick a few questions to help them understand the investment we make in security and what it would take to replicate that in house.

  • Do you have security guards at your facility 24X7?
  • Do you have silent and audible alarms and cameras at all entrance and access points?
  • Do you have a retina or fingerprint scanner and badge reader on your server room so that unauthorized people can’t steal a badge and access your server?
  • Do you pay third-party “white hat” hackers to regularly attempt to hack your application?
  • Are you planning to pay for regular SSAE audits to ensure your team has the proper controls in place and rigorously and continuously adheres to them?

Rick started to “get it,” realizing that security is a core competency for us and an essential ingredient if we want to continue to have a viable SaaS business. As a finance professional, he started to consider the cost, complexity, and risk of that security burden.

World-class IT isn’t enough

Even if you have a world-class IT team and security capabilities, on-prem vendors don’t –  and by nature of their delivery model, can’t – make it easy for you.

Consider this example* to understand what maintaining security means in an on-premises deployment.  This recent patch release fixes 98 security vulnerabilities, including at least one to Oracle’s Hyperion EPM products, classified as “remotely exploitable without authentication.” You don’t need to be a Chief Security Officer to know that’s very bad news.

Oracle is a good company. It regularly puts out patches, but it’s worth considering what’s involved in implementing those patches. Hyperion EPM patches regularly require multiple installations – sometimes 10 separate server installs (!) and multiple client-side installs. Even if you have the capacity to apply and validate patches, they’re often delivered at the worst possible time. For example, one Hyperion patch was delivered on January 9, 2015.

hyperion-patch-january-2015

In early January, most senior finance professionals were either closing the 2014 books or putting the finishing touches on the 2015 plan. Imagine their unhappiness at the dilemma. Do they 1) pause the close and/or planning process to patch software, or 2) finish the close and/or plan and knowingly operate with an unsecure configuration?

Why would anyone accept that risk, cost, and complexity if they didn’t have to?

Thanks to the cloud, they don’t have to – which is good news for finance. Make sure your financial data is secure, and get it to the cloud!

To learn more about Planful approach to cloud security, check out our Security and Availability datasheet, review our realtime application status on our Trust site, or read about cloud security at Skyhigh Networks news.

*Disclaimer: The point here isn’t to pick on Oracle. Oracle is one of the greatest technology companies in history and was my first employer after college back in 1993.

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The Transformational CFO

The Transformational CFO

Argyle Executive Forum recently surveyed finance executives in their membership about the role of Finance and how it’s evolving. 

In the survey sample, 79% of respondents had titles of VP or higher and 68% were from organizations with $1B or more in revenue.  The survey results validated our view that Finance is becoming the “information hub” of the organization. 

Finance regularly collects data from every business unit and consolidates that information to drive financial and management reporting.  The results of the Argyle survey highlight the fact that Finance is a powerful change agent that helps line of business managers do the following

  • Achieve goals
  • Avert problems
  • Make decisions

Here are a few key survey points highlighting the expanding role of Finance and its influence on line of business operations

  • Over 70% of CFOs think their Finance team has a collaborative relationship with operational teams
  • 54% of organizations use sales pipeline data to drive Finance decisions
  • 45% of business managers take a forward-looking approach in quarterly planning – using leading indicators or predictive analytics

The survey also highlighted the continued reliance on Excel in Finance and throughout the organization. Excel is the most commonly used tool within the Finance department for almost 65% of organizations.  In addition, 57% admit to using Excel for operational planning at the departmental level. 

Based on this, 56% of respondents don’t feel that existing financial systems will meet future business and reporting requirements.  However, more than half of those with inadequate systems have a clear roadmap to improve.

When asked about the role of Finance and its impact on the organization, 62% have seen the CFO’s influence increase.  Further, 64% expect the CFO’s impact on business transformation to grow.

A key part of the survey focused on the skill sets that Finance executives feel are most important to their department’s success going forward.  The results indicate that technology skills are becoming less important to Finance executives, while analytical skills and industry knowledge are becoming more critical.

  • Less than 25% rank technology knowledge as a crucial skill
  • More than 50% consider market, operational, and analytical knowledge to be important

The responses to these questions tie in well with the points raised earlier.  As Finance executives become more influential and look to drive organizational transformation, analytical and industry skills are becoming more important and highly valued. 

As cloud computing gains more traction in Finance, this puts less pressure on the Finance team to have deep technical skills and dedicated financial systems support staff. 

To learn more about the expanding role of Finance check out the CFO Playbook on Technology

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