4 Ways EPM Software Can Help the CFO Manage Time Wisely

4 Ways EPM Software Can Help the CFO Manage Time Wisely

What does it take for today's CFO to manage their time wisely?

time management

Usually, it is a matter of proper delegation of work and the smart use of technology. Enterprise performance management (EPM) software helps the CFO with the technological aspects of time management. It has powerful features and functionality that allows the CFO to work smarter and faster instead of harder. Here’s how.

1. EPM Software Eliminates Many of the CFO’s Manual Processes

EPM software

The time-consuming manual tasks associated with managing large data sets in spreadsheets can finally end.

Most Finance departments migrate to EPM software directly from a complex, convoluted system of spreadsheets. Sometimes these departments are dealing with hundreds of spreadsheets, and period end close can take weeks upon weeks of overtime for their entire team of finance workers. This makes for some late dinners and cold shoulders from the folks at home. EPM software eliminates the tedious, time-consuming manual processes associated with spreadsheets (or with less well-designed finance software), radically cutting the time for things like budgeting, forecasting and the financial close. The CFO might even make it home in time for an ordinary New Year’s Eve dinner.

2. EPM Software Eliminates Time-Consuming Troubleshooting

Along with spreadsheets and other manual processes come errors. Spreadsheets are dumb and can’t determine when erroneous information is entered into its fields. EPM software is smart; it can tell when a certain field calls for a whole dollar amount and a worker accidentally enters three decimal places. This means that all the time you used to spend hunting down the error that’s causing all the problems can now be spent on more productive tasks. Plus, you don’t have to explain to others why the budget calculations were way off.

3. EPM Software Speeds Up the Processes of Reporting & Analysis

Analysis in Excel is probably an overstatement. Few users actually get into programming Excel’s high-level features, and even the most sophisticated features in Excel pale quickly when compared to that of even a basic EPM system. This means that reporting and analysis goes from slow and arduous to fast and accurate. The CFO will be able to present more and better analysis while spending a fraction of the time they used to spend crunching numbers.

4. EPM Software Consolidates Data From Across the Organization

EPM software

With EPM software, the CFO spends less time getting the info, but is able to deliver more powerful analysis, deeper insight, and more accurate predictions than ever. This makes them a valuable asset to their company.

One of the strongest selling points for EPM software is its ability to consolidate data from disparate systems across the organization. For example, it can be integrated with the software from sales, marketing, operations, and even customer service. This gives the CFO all of the information they need without having to chase down the individual department managers and rely on questionable data from the various departments. The CFO can then conduct high-level analytics and forecasting for the entire organization. This doesn’t just save the CFO time, it also makes them a valuable player in the organization’s overall strategy.

Though EPM is not marketed or sold as a time-management system, the CFO will quickly find that they are spending way less time while delivering far more value to the company which they serve.

Are you the CFO of a growing business, looking for better ways to manage your time, budget, and other resources? Accept this free Whitepaper: Get Out of Excel Hell – Work Smarter With Cloud-based EPM as your gift from Planful.

White Paper – Get Out of Excel Hell

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Planful Employees Take on a New Mission

Planful Employees Take on a New Mission

Is the stress of the holidays or getting ready for year-end 2015 getting you down? While it is a busy time of the year for us, both personally and in business, it’s also a good time to think about those who are less fortunate and who need our help.

With that in mind, while most of us were enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday with our families, Emma Yu and Cecilie Sorenson of Planful participated in a mission trip to Nicaragua with an organization called buildOn. I recently had a chance to interview the duo about their trip, and here’s what they had to say about their experience.

John: Can you tell me about buildOn and how you got connected to them?

Cecilie: BuildOn’s mission is to break the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and low expectations in the world through service and education.  They are breaking the cycle every day through service learning programs in some of the nation’s toughest high schools and by building schools in some of the world’s poorest countries. Emma and I attended their annual fundraising gala in June and were inspired by the speakers, including local students and volunteers.

We have both wanted to get more involved with philanthropy and our local community.  BuildOn is the best of both worlds because it allows you to help locally as well as globally. We decided to start a committee at work to encourage colleagues to help out and introduce them to volunteer opportunities.

Emma: To add to Cecilie’s answer, it has been important for us to volunteer and give our time to efforts outside of ourselves. This seemed like a perfect outlet. Especially living in the Bay Area, it can be easy to “live in a bubble” and be unaware of the rest of the world’s hardships. Our world is so interconnected now in countless ways – so working with an organization that has both local and international initiatives was extremely important.

John: What was the mission of your trip to Nicaragua?

Cecilie: Our primary mission was to start the construction of a primary school in a remote village that would otherwise not have access to a properly built building designated for primary education.  And secondly, while there, to recruit and work with local villagers, who would then continue and complete the project once we departed.

John: Wow, sounds challenging.  How did you raise the funds to make the trip/build the school?

Emma: We did a few different things. We had an online auction with items donated by small businesses in SF, as well as from friends and colleagues. We also held a couple of fundraising parties where the venues donated a portion of the drink sales, and we received an overwhelming amount of donations from friends, family, and colleagues. It typically takes 6-12 months to fundraise for a trek. We tried to do it in 3-4 months. Thus, it was a ton of work, but once we arrived in Nicaragua, we knew it was worth all the stress, sweat, and tears.

John: What was life like in Nicaragua?  Where did you stay?

Buildon7.jpgCecilie:  It was pretty exciting.  After arriving in Managua, we drove about 6 hours inland to a remote village in the mountains called Guapinol #2. The village has a population of roughly 300. The houses were usually constructed from wood. Some were better constructed than others – and depending on the family’s wealth, some had cement floors and indoor toilets and baths. And by bath, we mean a tub of cold water where you scoop out the water and pour it over yourself. There wasn’t any running hot water in this village, and toilets were manually flushed by a bucket of water.

To our surprise, the village had some electricity, and some people even had cell phones and TVs with cable. The area we were in was known for its coffee, and the majority of the villagers worked in the coffee plantations. The family we stayed with owned acres of land used to grow coffee. They were well-off compared to the other villagers. For example, they had a cook, an indoor toilet, and a few electrical outlets they used for lights or their TV.

John:  What was your typical day like in Guapinol #2? 

Emma:  Every morning by around 5:30, we would wake up to the sound of tortillas being made – basically, the loud pounding of the dough against the table. And pretty much every meal consisted of Nicaraguan-style rice and beans, or “Gallo Pinto.”  We would meet up with our group every morning at 7 a.m. for breakfast.

After breakfast, we would go to the school construction site and work until lunch. After lunch, we would do a cultural workshop to learn more about the area and people. We toured a coffee plantation for one. For another, we were able to interview separate panels of men and women from the village. The villagers were able to ask us questions in some group meetings. We also milked cows in the morning – it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Buildon1.jpgCecilie: Yeah, Emma actually got knocked over by a cow she was milking due to a competing hungry calf, and we have it on video. In the afternoon, we would hang out with our Planful families. Emma and I would help them cook dinner and play with the children. All the food we had was amazing and so fresh – “farm to table” as they call it in the U.S. Families there don’t have refrigerators.

Our Planful family had kids in the house – two of them were the cook’s children. Despite not having very much materially, compared to our standards, the villagers were some of the most generous, kind, and happy people we have ever met. We believe traveling humbles you. You realize that all of your problems and concerns at home are silly things to stress out about. We live in a culture that never seems to be happy with what we have and that always wants more. This experience was life changing because it puts needs versus wants into perspective.

John:  Wow, you really got a taste for life in that area.  What kind of work did you perform there?

Cecilie: Believe it or not, I worked with rebar a lot. We had to make 16 columns for the school structure. I also dug holes for the rebar, mixed cement with a shovel, and moved bricks on the worksite. Luckily, the weather was perfect for this kind of work. Because we were in the mountains, it wasn’t humid, and the temperature was around 70 F during the day.

Emma: I did the same work as Cecilie.  It was all manual labor since there wasn’t any machinery to mix the cement or build the rebar. It was great to be so physically active all day and work with our hands and the strength of our physical bodies – versus sitting in an office all day. By the time lunch and dinner rolled around, we were so famished that even the simplest of foods, like rice and beans with their local coffee with sugar, tasted amazing!

John:  I’ll bet you slept well at night after all of that hard work.  How were you received by the locals?

Buildon5.jpgCecilie:  It was amazing.  As we pulled up to the village, the whole village had come out to welcome us. We were sat down and greeted by leaders in the village. There were a couple of speeches, and the kids put on a few performances. We ended the welcome ceremony by signing a covenant. Everyone in our group and all the villagers signed it. Those who couldn’t write their own name could use their thumbprints. The covenant was an agreement between us and the village that we would work together on this project and that the school board would have equal representation of women and men.

John: What was the biggest surprise to you on this trip?

Cecilie: I was pretty surprised with how well I adapted to the community. The living conditions didn’t bother me. I was a bit surprised that some of the villagers had cell phones and TV as well.

Emma: I was very impressed by buildOn’s ability to organize and lead this trek. I knew they were supposed to be very good, but I witnessed and experienced first-hand the ability of a well-run NGO. For example, the local Nicaragua buildOn employees were very effective and good at what they do – they really fostered and facilitated the building of a solid relationship with us and the villagers.

John: What were your key learnings from the trip?

Cecilie: Good question.  This trip really gave me a greater appreciation for life. I think I speak for both Emma and I when I say the trip humbled us. Every time I’m about to freak out about something at work or in my personal life, I reflect back on the trip and tell myself – my problems aren’t really problems. We traveled with an amazing group of people and have made friends for life. This is by far the best way to make a small difference and travel and learn about new cultures at the same time. I’m already planning my next trip to Nepal for New Year’s 2016/2017. I would recommend this experience to anyone.

Emma: Yes, a trip like this really gives you a greater appreciation for what we already have. It was one of the best experiences I have had in my life – so it reminded me how important it is to make time to volunteer and give time to your community – both locally and globally. I would like to build more schools and plan to volunteer regularly. Also, I’m inspired to bring my son when he is old enough to volunteer. The family we traveled with brought their two young kids, ages 8 and 6.  I was really impressed by the couple’s commitment to this cause by bringing their kids along to contribute and work alongside us at the site.

John: Nice work, ladies.  I’m sure your story will inspire others to consider participating in mission trips like this.  How can people learn more about buildOn and support their mission?

Cecilie:  You can go to http://www.buildon.org/ to learn more about their mission to break the cycle of poverty through education. Half of their effort is spent locally, working with inner-city high school students. The other half is spent internationally building schools in third-world countries. They do a lot of local volunteer work and operate in multiple states. I would encourage you to sign up for their newsletter, so you can get notification about any upcoming events. It is a very transparent organization and ranked highest on charity navigator – one of the reasons we also decided to partner with them.

John:  Awesome. Thanks so much for sharing your experiences and for taking time away from your families at Thanksgiving to do this important work. It is truly inspiring!

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Make Your Year-End Reporting Faster, Easier, and Less Stressful

Make Your Year-End Reporting Faster, Easier, and Less Stressful

Are your stress levels building?  That's understandable as there are only a couple of weeks left in the year.

That means it’s time for CFOs and Controllers to close the books, finalize the financial reporting and prepare for the fiscal year to come. Oh yes, there’s also the annual audit and tax preparation process.

Year-end reporting is a complicated endeavor that relies on the endless accumulation of financial data throughout the year. Fortunately, there are some ways to ease the stress of year-end financial reporting, while reducing human error, so CFOs can submit all reports by the required deadlines and ensure confidence in the numbers they are signing off on.

Year-End Reporting Tips

Here are some tips to ensure your year-end financial reporting runs as smoothly as possible. Some of the tips we found are more applicable to small businesses, but companies of all sizes can benefit from advanced preparation.

  • Start preparing the necessary year-end reports and analysis early. Ask your accountants for a to-do list of documents that he or she needs to get your audit and tax preparation rolling.
  • Request interim testing. Ask your auditor for interim testing to get a head start on your audit. This isn’t something you fully control, but try to arrange this testing as soon as possible.
  • Prepare contact lists for the bank, legal and accounts-receivable confirmations. Organize and prepare the necessary information for all of the confirmations that your auditor will prepare.
  • Check your general ledger and sub-ledger balances. Be sure to prepare monthly balance sheet account reconciliations.
  • Review quarterly tax payments. Your accountant needs to know whether you made quarterly tax payments, when you made them and the amount paid to determine how much you still owe.
  • Update Depreciation Schedules. Update your fixed asset software or excel spreadsheets with all of your current year purchases and asset disposals.
  • Unusual or Non-Recurring Transactions. If your company is entering into some type of transaction that is unusual or non-recurring, proactively reach out to your accountant to properly account for the transaction.
  • Prepare for 1099 Reporting. As part of your vendor set-up process, you should make it a requirement that you have a completed W9 Form from all of your vendors before any payments are issued.

Identify reporting process inefficiencies.

Happy_accountant.jpgWith the year coming to a close quickly, CFOs and Controllers are likely locked into their current reporting processes and systems. However, your team has the potential to perpetually streamline its approach to financial reporting. As you close out the year and start the annual reporting, take note of any time-consuming or inefficient aspects that could be improved in the new year, and outline some goals to optimize efficiency moving forward. If you are currently relying on your ERP, spreadsheets, or legacy EPM applications there’s usually room for improvement.   By implementing cloud-based EPM software in the coming year, you can dramatically reduce manual steps and the potential for human error, improve the accuracy of financial reporting, and streamline the period-end close process..

End-of-year reporting is the bane of many Finance departments, but it needn’t be as stressful and time-consuming as you make it.  With some advance planning and preparation you can get ahead of the process and avoid last-minute fire drills. In addition, having the right software tools in place, can eliminate manual processes and improve the accuracy of your year-end reporting.

To learn more, read our free white paper;From 4 Days to 4 Hours: How to Dramatically Streamline Your Board Reporting Process.

Download the Free White Paper

Best of luck with year-end 2015 and continued success in 2016!

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How the CFO Can Effectively Work with Boards

How the CFO Can Effectively Work with Boards

One of the key roles of the CFO is working with the CEO to support the company’s board of directors – but not all boards are created equal.

The nature and focus of private company boards are much different than in large, publicly held company boards. And this has an impact on the CFO’s role in relation to the board.

The CFO Leadership Council’s NYC chapter recently held a panel discussion on this topic titled “Inside and Outside the Boardroom:  Managing and Working with Boards.” The panel was moderated by   Patricia Lenkov – President, Agility Executive Search.  The panelists included James Green, CEO of Magnetic; William Kraut, Lead Board Director and Audit Committee Chair for InTest; and Ellen McClain, CFO at Year Up.

Here are some of the key points raised during the panel discussion.

Changing Role of the Board

The nature and focus of boards vary depending on the ownership of the company – i.e., public company, venture capital-based, family-owned, or private equity. Boards in small and mid-sized companies are getting more involved in strategy development.  Large company boards tend to read and approve strategy developed by senior management. Risk management is also becoming a big focus for boards, especially IT and information security risk.

Balance Cohesion with Risk Management

A non-cohesive board can be the death of a company. Best practice is to keep the board small, nimble, knowledgeable, and focused on the business. Boards shouldn’t be friends, or too diverse. They need to be well-versed in the industry to be effective. That said, the panelists acknowledged that thought diversification on boards is key. Boards need people with different skill sets, such as understanding overseas operations, or channels of distribution, if those strategies are in focus.  Sometimes industry experience isn’t 100% necessary. Boards also need experts in various aspects of board work, such as audit committees.

CFO Interaction with the Board

For all three panelists, the boards they’re involved with meet 8 times per year, and the audit committees meet as often as 6 times per year. CFOs need skill in presenting to boards, summarizing information. They need confidence in delivering good news as well as bad news.  Establishing credibility and trust is key.

CEOs need their CFOs to have strong relationships with the board members. This helps with transparency. The CEO shouldn’t block the CFO from having a connection with the board. Bad news needs to get communicated quickly to the CEO and the board. CFOs need to back up estimates and valuations with supporting detail. They need to summarize data, focusing on key issues and how they are being addressed.

Should the CFO Focus on Specific Committees?

The panelists agree that the CFO should focus mainly on the audit committee. Separate sessions for the audit committee with the CFO are important to achieve transparency. This provides the opportunity for a deep dive on key issues, such as compliance, IT governance, information security, etc.

Board Communication Between Meetings

Boards should meet more than just 4 times per year. A best practice is 4 quarterly meetings with full reviews of the business. Then 4 additional phone-in meetings each quarter to review results, goals and to discuss specific issues, such as M&A opportunities. Boards should try to rotate the physical meeting location among major business operations.

Interim communication is not needed if the board is meeting on a regular basis – although a crisis could drive more frequent meetings. The size of the company has an impact here. Small, fast-changing companies need frequent communication with the board vs. more stable, larger organizations. In early stages, monthly or even more frequent communication with board members is required, especially if they’re investors.

Public vs. Private Company CFO Interaction, Sharing Negative News

Public company boards need more diversity and independence in board members. Disclosure requirements are much more extensive in a public company. Boards of private companies have fewer pressures and disclosure requirements. This is one of the advantages of staying private for a long period of time.

If there’s bad news to communicate, the CFO should coordinate with the CEO before notifying the board. Together, they should agree on steps to be taken and then quickly communicate to the board. The CEO creates the corporate culture – and as part of that should embrace issues and address them.

Final recommendations for CFOs

The CFO needs to have personal relationships with all board members. That personal connection is needed in case of a crisis. The CFO’s relationship with the CEO should also be strong. Candor and transparency are important to inspiring confidence in the board. Trust is at the center of the relationship.

The panel put forth a great discussion with a lot of good questions from the audience of CFOs. It certainly got me thinking about how EPM solutions can help CFOs with their board interactions. One of the key needs is creating the “board pack” and distributing it prior to each board meeting. Another area is creating forecasts of expected future performance of the company and ensuring the top-line revenue and profit forecasts are backed up by substantial supporting detail./p>

To learn how Planful Cloud EPM Suite can help you with board communication, here’s a link to a white paper on streamlining board reporting.  Also, here’s a link to some information on our website about our reporting capabilities, including Financial Package Publisher for board reporting.

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EPM and Revenue Planning: Modern Budgeting for Modern Businesses

EPM and Revenue Planning: Modern Budgeting for Modern Businesses

If revenue planning is difficult, inefficient, time-consuming, and often inaccurate, then enterprise performance management (EPM) software is for you.

sales-planning-services

EPM software gives you power and flexibility to play around during the revenue planning process to see how the changes you might make could affect your bottom line. It also gives you the ability to be more accurate, because unlike cumbersome and unwieldy spreadsheets, EPM software is smart and easy to use. Here are several ways that EPM software can improve your revenue planning processes.

 

Allows for Collaboration Among Departments

Man-extending-hand-for-handshake.jpgIs the finance department looking for ways to extend a hand out to other departments so that they can have more of a part in the revenue planning and budgeting processes? EPM software is the ideal way to do just that, while also providing the transparency and accountability to assure that it works.

Can other departments, such as operations or sales and marketing, collaborate with the finance department on revenue planning? After all, their contributions are vital to the company’s revenue. Operations knows what production numbers you can expect. Marketing and sales can give you realistic expectations when it comes to bringing in new business. EPM software makes it easy for everyone to contribute to revenue planning.

Create Alternate Budgets to See How Changes Affect Revenue

What happens if the new marketing campaign really takes off? What will it do to revenue if the workforce goes on strike when the labor contract expires in March? How will the new product line impact revenue? EPM software makes it a cinch to develop alternate budgets to see what changes, decisions, and other factors do to the company’s bottom line.

Plan Revenue According to Different Variables

How easy is it for you to plan revenue according to changes in different variables? With EPM software, you can quickly, easily, and accurately create and compare budgets based on different scenarios for:

  • Prices
  • Units
  • SKUs
  • Products
  • Customers
  • Channels
  • Facilities
  • Territories

Analyze Different Sales Scenarios

Does your sales department need a means for evaluating different scenarios? EPM software gives you the ability to do this. This helps the sales department make their plans according to the facts instead of guesswork. They can see how different scenarios play out and how it affects their ability to meet monthly, quarterly, and annual sales goals.

Include All the Different Stakeholders in the Revenue Planning Process

Revenue planning

Is everyone contributing to your revenue planning and budgeting so that it accurately reflects what’s going on in the entire organization? EPM tools
are easy to use for anyone with Excel knowledge so that all of the stakeholders can participate in the process.

Do other departments and managers complain that they have no say in the budgeting process? With EPM software, the finance department can share the information as well as the ability to make changes and contributions to the budgeting process. EPM software adds transparency and accountability, so that everyone knows ahead of time what is driving, hindering, or otherwise affecting revenue. Everyone can get the reports they need to make sound decisions, and when they don’t understand why something is the way it is, EPM software makes it easy to show them so that there is no doubt what those finance folks are up to.

For even more information on revenue planning and other budgeting techniques and solutions using enterprise performance management software, check out this finance how-to on How to Forecast Sales Revenue.

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How Finance Can Help Drive Company Growth

How Finance Can Help Drive Company Growth

For a company seeking new ways to maximize revenue and establish predictable revenue streams, the Finance team would seem the best place to go for guidance.

But many Finance teams continue to employ approaches to planning, reporting, and analysis that lack the speed, flexibility, and ability to provide insight necessary to support their companies’ growth goals. To help address this challenge, Planful recently sponsored a webcast with CFO Magazine titled  “What Finance Can Do to Help Drive Company Growth.”  The featured speakers were Paul Hamerman, VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research, as well as myself.

Here’s a summary of the key points made during the webcast.

Growth Is Today’s Leading Business Imperative

In the attendee poll taken at the start of the webcast, as well as in some research cited by Paul Hamerman, “revenue growth” is the top initiative for most companies, followed by “improving customer experience.”  But many Finance and performance management systems used by companies aren’t set up to support growth.  They suffer from a range of things:

  • Cumbersome and inflexible planning and budgeting
  • Stale business information
  • Intermittent collaboration
  • Lack of strategic focus
  • Lack of insights into revenue and operations

Mr. Hamerman then went on to highlight how organizations can meet these challenges with 5 technology-driven next practices, including dynamic planning, advanced modeling, predictive analytics, digital collaboration within applications, and aligning key Finance initiatives with growth opportunities.

Adopt a Customer-Centric Approach to Drive Revenue Growth

Finance traditionally focuses on 3 “C’s” – Control, Compliance, and Cost Management.  It must now focus on Customer as well.  To enable growth, finance must do the following:

  • Streamline deal closure and delivery execution
  • Elevate the customer experience in billings and collections
  • Integrate revenue plans and performance measures with sales, operational, and accounting systems
  • Accelerate cash collection and revenue recognition

Mr. Hamerman then went on to highlight Forrester’s view of Business Technology (BT) vs. Information Technology (IT), and how BT helps companies protect and grow their revenues by winning, serving, and retaining customers.  Examples of BT systems include Sales/CRM, Marketing, Customer Service, E-Commerce, Contracts, and EPM.

Use EPM Technology to Accelerate Growth

In his final comments, Mr. Hamerman highlighted the 5 key technology trends driving innovation – and enabling growth – in Finance.  This includes the following trends:

  • SaaS/Cloud – with 46% of companies recently surveyed saying they had already implemented, or plan to implement, cloud-based Finance applications in the next 2 years
  • User Experience and Social Collaboration – including mobile to drive more engagement of employees and customers
  • Predictive and Real-Time Analytics – surfaced in-context of the applications
  • Integration – to support a continuous flow of information between systems

Adoption of EPM in the Cloud

Following Mr. Hamerman’s comments, I highlighted a few of the key reasons that companies are increasing their adoption of cloud-based Finance and EPM applications.  This includes speed, autonomy from IT, faster innovation, no hardware or software to set up or upgrade, lower total cost of ownership, and increased security.

I then provided my recommendations on what companies should look for as they evaluate cloud-based EPM solutions:

  • Complete Suite – to address current and future needs
  • Comprehensive Reporting – to address the needs of all users
  • Excel Used Intelligently – to ease the transition from Excel
  • Advanced Modeling – to support “what-if” analysis on financial and operational data
  • Multidimensional/OLAP Back-End – to ensure high-performance reporting and analysis
  • Ability to Unite Finance and Operations – with pre-built operational planning solutions

I also highlighted the advantages and benefits of multi-tenant SaaS solutions over single-tenant and Planfuled solutions being positioned as “cloud” applications.  Then I finished up with a couple of examples of the results customers have achieved by deploying our cloud-based EPM suite.

If you would like to listen to a replay of this webcast, here’s a link to the on-demand version. And if you would like to hear more of Paul Hamerman’s view of what’s happening in the EPM market, here’s a link to a recent research report titled “The EPM Market Landscape Responds to the Growth Agenda and Digital Disruption.”

EPM Marketing Landscape White Paper

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We all make mistakes. But the expectation is that we learn from our mistakes and try to avoid repeating them. Of course, that’s not always the reality. So when mistakes tend to pop up again and again it might be time to seek out some help. For those of us in finance, mistakes can result ....

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Why Cash Is Still King

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5 Helpful Hints to Improve Your CapEx Planning Using EPM Software

5 Helpful Hints to Improve Your CapEx Planning Using EPM Software

Capital depreciation expenses are among the most favorable deductions come tax time.

Capital investments are also a sure sign that your company is growing and prospering, which in this iffy global economic situation is a good thing. What are the best tips and tricks when it comes to CAPEX planning?

1. Ditch the Spreadsheets

EPM software

Spreadsheets take an enormous amount of time and labor, and are usually prone to lots of human errors. EPM software is quick and easy, eliminating days or weeks out of the planning and budgeting processes.

If you’re still using Excel spreadsheets, your CAPEX planning is likely full of errors you’re not aware of. You are, however, aware of the excruciating weeks it takes to put together your annual budget and operating plans. EPM software allows you to drill deeply into your data, create far superior reports, and best of all, it eliminates the costly mistakes that Excel spreadsheets have unfortunately, become notorious for. Planful Cloud EPM Suite allows you to transport the data directly from Excel, and it works like Excel, so there is virtually no learning curve for Finance users.

2. Make Sure OPEX Items Don’t Get Misplaced in the CAPEX Budget

It can be easier than you think to leave OPEX items in the CAPEX budget. For example, if you originally planned to purchase a new facility, but later decided to lease instead, that expense sometimes doesn’t make its way out of the CAPEX budget into the OPEX budget. On the other hand, many capital projects have OPEX impacts such as staffing and maintenance of a new facility.  Before you wrap up the planning process, make sure you’ve got all of your costs in the right bucket.

3. Learn the Smart Reporting Practices EPM Software is Capable of

When you first switch from Excel spreadsheets to EPM software, you’ll have to learn about all of the new drilling and reporting capabilities. For example, you can run different scenarios to see what would happen if you choose this capital investment versus that one. It will also allow you to engage in long-term modeling to see how different capital investment options play out over time.

4. Be Sure the Right Data is Available

Often, projections based on educated guesses get entered into the CAPEX budget, but no one remembers to go back and change that when the actual numbers are in. Be sure that all of the data relative to a capital investment is entered in.

5. Actively Control Spending

EPM software

Set up a plan to assure that someone goes back periodically to see that actual capital expenditures are on par with the plans and make adjustments when and where necessary.

Setting a budget for capital expenditures is only half the game. You have to actively monitor those expenses over time so that you stick within the projected numbers. If one investment goes over budget, another needs to be canceled or renegotiated in order to make the projections work right. EPM software makes it far easier to make these adjustments, play around and see what different scenarios look like, and stick within the confines of the CAPEX plans you’ve developed.

Are you still stuck with labor-intensive, cumbersome Excel spreadsheets? Take advantage of our whitepaper: No More Spreadsheets: Top 5 Reasons to STOP using Excel for Planning and Performance Management to see how Planful can free you from spreadsheet hassles forever.

Download the Whitepaper

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Want to learn something new?

Wise Up Wednesdays is a weekly 30-minute how-to live tutorial session presented by top finance practitioners and thought leaders in the EPM space. Each week, we’ll Planful a different speaker and topic to present best practices, tips, and a live demo on a specific topic....

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Building the Business Case for Cloud-Based Reporting

Building the Business Case for Cloud-Based Reporting

Have you “hit the wall” in using spreadsheets for financial consolidation and reporting? Are you ready to make the move to a cloud-based EPM solution that can help you spend more time on value-added analysis and less time on drudgery?

Do you know how to make the business case to your company for investing in a cloud-based EPM solution? This article provides some guidance and tips on where to look for the savings and benefits your company can achieve by kicking the spreadsheet habit and moving to the cloud.

Reducing Reliance on Spreadsheets for Financial Reporting

Despite all of the noise in the market about the challenges of using spreadsheets for corporate financial processes, many organizations continue to use spreadsheets for reporting.  In fact, in the 2015 BPM Pulse survey by BPM Partners, 22% of respondents indicated they were using spreadsheets as the primary solution for financial reporting.  In the same survey, 12% indicated they were using spreadsheets as the primary solution for financial consolidation.

In a prior blog article, we highlighted the key challenges in using spreadsheets for financial consolidation and reporting:

  • Too much time spent on data collection

  • Challenges in consolidating multiple spreadsheets and correcting errors

  • Limited reporting and analysis capabilities, and too much manual effort

  • Not being compliant with US GAAP or IFRS

  • Lack of controls and audit trails

  • Lack of security

  • Time-consuming and costly audit process

All of these issues only get magnified as an organization expands and grows in complexity. The next logical step is to replace a spreadsheet-based financial consolidation and reporting process with a purpose-built enterprise performance management (EPM) application designed to streamline these processes.

Managing Financial Consolidation and Reporting in the Cloud

Historically, most organizations have deployed financial consolidation and reporting applications on-premises. But many are now finding that this approach can be time-consuming and costly, especially for small and mid-sized organizations.  This is fueling increasing interest and demand for cloud-based financial consolidation and reporting applications.

The good news here is that cloud-based solutions have been available for a number of years, and many now offer the same capabilities as on-premises solutions. They also provide a number of advantages over on-premises solutions:

  • Speed of deployment

  • Reduced reliance on IT

  • Faster innovation

  • No hardware or software to set up or maintain and upgrade over time

  • Reduced up-front costs and lower ongoing cost of ownership

  • Better security

These benefits are well-documented in a number of our published blog articles, white papers, customer videos, and case studies. But to acquire and implement a cloud-based financial consolidation and reporting system, you’ll still need to get budget approval for the annual subscription, as well as the implementation and training costs.

So how do you make the business case for investing in cloud-based EPM applications to your senior management? Based on the work we’ve done with many other customers, here are some suggested areas to focus on and ranges of potential savings.

Making the Business Case for Cloud-Based Reporting

Reduce manual data collection and consolidation – With automated data collection and cloud-based consolidation of data, you can reduce the time and effort here by up to 75% per month/quarter.

Streamline adjustments and intercompany reconciliations – A purpose-built financial consolidation application makes the journal entry adjustment process much easier and can automate much of the intercompany reconciliation process.  This can save a number of days in the financial close process, reducing it by 50-80% per month/quarter.

Automated and timelier reporting – A purpose-built application with integrated reporting tools will make the creation and distribution of financial statements much easier and faster.  Again, here you can expect time-savings of 50% or more each month/quarter.

Improved audit trails, reduced audit costs – Another advantage of purpose-built financial consolidation and reporting applications is the built-in audit trails they provide.  This feature makes it much easier for both internal and external auditors to trace every line item of the balance sheet or income statement back to its origins.  This can lead to substantial savings in both internal and external audit costs.

Finance time shifts to value-added analysis – One of the key benefits of all of the time savings covered above is that the Finance staff can close the books and deliver the results much faster to internal and external stakeholders.  This often means that the days or weeks shaved off the financial close process allow Finance to spend more time on value-added analysis of the business and providing decision support to line of business managers.  This benefit is tough to quantify, but it can reduce the need to hire financial or operations analysts across the business.

Platform to support future needs – Finally, a key benefit of implementing a cloud-based solution for financial consolidation and reporting is that it provides a platform that can support other needs or future requirements. Most cloud-based applications are part of an integrated suite that also supports financial and operational budgeting, planning, forecasting, modeling, and analysis of the business. The solution can benefit not only the Controller’s office, but also the guys in FP&A who are also struggling with spreadsheets. So there’s plenty of upside benefit here as well by replacing other spreadsheet processes with the same platform.

Customer Examples

Planful has worked with over 500 companies to help them improve budgeting, planning, financial and management reporting, and analytic processes. These companies replaced either spreadsheets or legacy on-premises applications with our cloud-based EPM suite. Here are some examples of the types of improvements and benefits customers achieved with our solution in the financial reporting area.

  • iCIMS

    reduced board reporting from 4 days to 4 hours

  • Axioma

    reduced its close process from 16 days to 4 days and time spent correcting spreadsheets from 20 hours monthly to zero.

  • Physio Control

    reduced the monthly close by 2 weeks

  • Groupon

    reduced the monthly consolidation from 3 days to 1 hour

To learn more about the benefits your organization can achieve by replacing spreadsheets with Planful Cloud EPM Suite, check out our customer videos and case studies. Also, here’s a free white paper that should help you develop the business case as well. Best of luck!

Download the Whitepaper

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Constellation ShortList™: Planful Named for Ninth Consecutive Year

Planful has been named—for the ninth consecutive year—to the prestigious Constellation ShortList™ for Cloud-Based Planning Platforms in Q1 2021. This report identifies the top planning platform vendors based on technology investment, use cases, strategic vision, customer value, executive leadership and price.  Download the Constellation Shortlist™ to see why Planful made the list. We’re incredibly excited ....

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The 4 Top Budgeting & Planning Issues Facing CFOs in 2016

The 4 Top Budgeting & Planning Issues Facing CFOs in 2016

As you prepare for year-end close and try to figure out what to bring to the office Dirty Santa gift swap, what do you need to be preparing for to stay ahead of the game next year?

Will 2016 finally be the year that the economy breaks out and sprints toward health, or will it be more of the same struggles with only the modest gains we’ve seen during 2014 and 2015? Polish off that crystal ball and let’s see what’s in store.

1. Dealing with a Slow, Slow, Slow Economic Recovery

CFOs

Though more gains are expected next year than this year, don’t expect the economy to take off with strong growth just yet. Interest rates might climb, but only slightly and not too quickly.

The Federal Reserve keeps saying that the economy is recovering enough that they can soon begin raising interest rates. But that keeps not happening. Though some experts believe an interest rate hike could come along in early December of this year, most are convinced it won’t happen until well into next year. While the economy is gaining momentum, the gains are incredibly modest and infuriatingly slow. Expect gains next year to surpass 2015, but not by any impressive margin. In other words, plan for growth but do it modestly, conservatively, and with one finger crossed behind your back.

2. Leveraging Technology to Increase Agility

While economic growth may be slow, technology continues to advance rapidly.  And smart CFOs are leveraging new technology to increase efficiency, and improve business agility.  Adoption of cloud-based ERP and EPM solutions has accelerated in 2015. Not just for small and mid-sized organizations but also for large enterprises. A recent Forrester Research report highlights the impact of digital disruption on Finance and how cloud, mobile and other technologies can help Finance organizations become more flexible and efficient. In your 2016 planning, make sure to factor in how you can leverage these technologies to move your organization forward.

3. Attracting and Retaining Top Talent

Attracting and retaining talent

When hunting for talent, it’s important to remember that Millennials aren’t looking for the same things their parents and grandparents were. Today’s talent wants flexible workso that they can pursue goals outside the office.

While there is no shortage of workers looking for jobs, there is definitely a shortage of top talent available, so companies able to get them must devise ways to keep them. Good salaries are a start, but Millennials are looking for more than just a paycheck. To attract and retain the cream of the crop, consider perks like flexible work hours, generous leave plans, employee development programs, opportunities for higher education and self-improvement, and other benefits that give workers a sense of self outside the office. And making the latest technology available to finance staff vs. making them struggle with spreadsheets can also be a great way to attract and retain talent.

4. Balancing Risk with Profitability

In an age where innovation is the hallmark between companies that thrive and the ones that don’t, learning to find that ideal balance between taking on enough risk to succeed – but not putting the company in financial jeopardy while those brilliant innovations are incubating – is critical. The best bet for the CFO is to continue to automate, streamline operations, and control waste so that the company is lean enough to afford the risk inherent in innovation. Keeping the modest economic gains in mind, budget for some risks and failures. The companies that risk enough to score a win will be the ones around to read the predictions for 2017 and beyond.

Are you still struggling with a long annual budgeting process? Are you ready to adopt a more dynamic planning process in 2016? Take advantage of this helpful whitepaper: Financial Planning and Forecasting Best Practices. It’s your free gift from Planful.

Get the Best Practices Guide

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