Everything You Need to Know About SaaS and Cloud EPM Software

Everything You Need to Know About SaaS and Cloud EPM Software

'Digital Disruption' is everywhere. Technology is changing the way business is done, rendering old legacy software obsolete.

But with the disruption digital brings, there are many distinct advantages, as well. In the realm of finance, digital technologies are used to improve the growth and profitability of the business, moving away from the old batch processing into real-time analytical capabilities. Furthermore, as aspects of finance like forecasting are made easier by new digital technologies, the business can take advantage of more advanced capabilities such as predictive analytics. Then the finance department becomes a truly valuable leader within the business.

EPM in the Cloud

This is the landscape in which enterprise performance managment (EPM) software now resides. Upgrading to new EPM software no longer means long, expensive, disruptive processes of selecting and implementing the product. Cloud, also known as Software as a Service (SaaS), makes EPM software less expensive, faster to implement, and enormously more powerful. Additionally, it eliminates the ongoing maintenance and upgrade efforts and costs.  And with cloud-based products you don’t have to wait 12 – 18 months for new releases, the innovation comes faster, typically in quarterly feature releases.  Cloud-based EPM software also frees the finance team from total dependence on the IT department.

Cloud EPM

To discuss the current climate of SaaS EPM software, Planful recently invited Paul Hamerman of Forrester to speak about what their research has uncovered about this fast-changing field for the webinar Navigating the SaaS EPM Landscape. Hamerman is Vice President and Principal Analyst serving Application Development and Delivery Professionals for Forrester. To discuss the situation from a customer’s perspective, the webinar also included Rick Odom, the Senior Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis for Welch Allyn.

The Three Dimensions EPM Software Needs to Cover

Hamerman opened the presentation by explaining the three dimensions of EPM software. In the digital age, EPM software must operate across all three dimensions in order to serve today’s companies.

  • EPM software must provide strong internal and external reporting capabilities. This is how the software gives the company a valuable historical perspective.
  • EPM software must provide strong enterprise performance analysis. This is how the software gives the business a valuable perspective on the present time.
  • EPM software must provide strong planning, budgeting, and forecasting functionality. This is how the software delivers value to the company for the future.

The Pain Points Driving Demand for EPM Software

According to Forrester’s research, businesses have a number of pain points when it comes to financial and enterprise performance management processes. Hamerman identified these as:

  • Businesses lack the planning accuracy and outcome predictability they need.
  • Businesses are often working with stale or old business intelligence, due to the lag in collecting, analyzing, and reporting on the issues through outdated legacy software systems.
  • Businesses lack the continual, consistent collaboration to act on business intelligence in a timely fashion.
  • Businesses lack a strategic focus, primarily because they lack visibility and a solid means for forecasting.
  • Businesses lack good insight into their revenue and operations.

How EPM Software Should Help Finance and Their Stakeholders

Hamerman explained that the finance department’s traditional priorities have made it difficult to drive growth strategies. There is often an inability to address the needs and concerns of both internal and external stakeholders. CEOs and CFOs are often stuck between internal stakeholders’ priorities (investors, the board, and management) and external stakeholders’ priorities (the customers’ need for a positive experience).

Internal stakeholders are usually concerned with issues like revenue and compliance, as well as the ability to grow. External stakeholders (customers) are usually concerned more with a strongly positive customer experience, gaining access to innovative products, and a simple, straightforward pricing structure and contractual terms.

The right EPM software will allow executives to evaluate and address all the needs of all the stakeholders, because it will drive growth strategy, open up new markets, improve the customer experience, and even help fund mergers and acquisitions as the business grows.

Software Spending is Down, But Spending on SaaS Products is Up

EPM software

The market for business applications as a whole is worth $160 billion for packaged software applications, plus another $90 billion for industry-specific applications. Of these, financial software is the second largest category of business applications, worth $23 billion worldwide. This includes core accounting software packages and EPM software. EPM software alone is a $3 billion per year industry.

Spending on software applications as a whole is down, but spending on SaaS software products is growing by over 20 percent each year. Revenue for traditional software licenses and maintenance is down. Almost all of the growth in the software industry is now in the SaaS market. SaaS product adoption by category looks like this:

  • SaaS CRM software is up by 56%
  • SaaS commerce servers is up by 56%
  • SaaS e-purchasing and business networks is up by 53%
  • SaaS HR management is up by 41%
  • SaaS risk management and payment is up by 38%
  • SaaS supply chain management software is up by 30%
  • SaaS governance, risk, and compliance products is up by 23%
  • SaaS financial management systems is up by 22%
  • SaaS product lifecycle management is up by 10%
  • SaaS call center systems is up by 10%
  • SaaS manufacturing resource management software is up by 7%
  • SaaS electronic design automation is up by 3%

According to Forrester’s research, 19 percent of businesses have already replaced most or all of their finance systems with SaaS, and another 27 percent plan to do so within the next two years. Planned adoption rates for SaaS finance and accounting systems are up from 11 percent to 46 percent in just four years.

The Key Benefits of SaaS

What are the driving forces behind SaaS adoption rates? Hamerman says that according to Forrester’s research among companies with 1,000 or more employees, the primary reasons are:

  • To improve agility
  • To accelerate speed of implementation and deployment
  • To focus resources on more important projects
  • To drive down costs
  • To quickly deliver new functionality that isn’t available in traditional packaged software
  • To regulate and automate software upgrades
  • To support the business’ innovations with new capabilities
  • To replace upfront capital expenses with monthly operational expenses

Even though adoption rates for SaaS software are incredibly high, there is still some resistance to cloud-based software. According to Hamerman, the reasons are contrary to what the reality is. Some of the reasons for resisting cloud-based, or SaaS software applications include:

  • Data security
  • Unauthorized access by foreign governments or agencies
  • Challenges with integrating these applications with other business applications
  • The total cost is higher
  • Worries over compliance with local data privacy laws
  • Unauthorized access by the SaaS providers
  • A lack of control over upgrades and release cycles
  • Application performance affected by being offsite
  • SaaS vendor lock in
  • Migration is too complex and risky
  • Pricing structures are unclear or too complicated
  • SaaS applications are not customizable
  • Can’t find the application they need
  • The technology is immature

Hamerman says that SaaS is now mainstream, and is as secure and reliable as most businesses are able to maintain in their onsite data centers. None of these issues should be barriers to SaaS adoption.

Why Businesses Tend to Choose SaaS EPM Software

When it comes specifically to EPM software, Hamerman says that there are a number of reasons why businesses opt for SaaS. Particularly:

  • Business flexibility (less dependence on support from IT)
  • The software is updated regularly and continually
  • The costs of ownership are transparent
  • Improved ability to connect with internal and external systems via data integration technologies
  • Receiving business insight quickly and in context

Tech Trends Driving SaaS in Finance

EPM software

Hamerman listed five tech trends that are driving innovation in finance. These are:

  1. SaaS/The Cloud
  2. Data Integration
  3. Advanced Analytics
  4. User Experience (UX)
  5. Collaboration

SaaS EPM software and other finance applications must support integration. These products need to integrate with data visualization tools, include pre-built connectors for on-premises and cloud applications, and openness by software vendors when it comes to sharing API libraries.

SaaS EPM software and finance applications also need to support advanced analytics. Analytic capabilities need to be in-memory, and offer support for Big Data, NoSQL, machine learning, predictive analytics, and advanced visualization techniques.

When it comes to user experience, today’s users are looking for real-time analytical capabilities, as well as a primarily mobile experience, and user engagement with social collaboration, gamification, and analytics. Over the years, the user experience has evolved from total pragmatism to a transformative experience that involves enhanced business models and is powered by user data (think the Siri experience).

SaaS EPM software and finance applications must also support collaboration. Collaboration support needs to be embedded in business applications natively, so that executives, managers, and finance workers are less dependent on email. Mobile is becoming the preferred platform, so it is essential that EPM software and other finance applications support mobile as a primary platform.

Hamerman recommends looking for a SaaS EPM software solution that:

  • Is fast to implement and is regularly updated
  • Offers advanced real-time analytics and predictive capabilities
  • Provides a simple mobile experience throughout the application
  • Supports real-time collaboration
  • Integrates with all on-premises and cloud-based applications
  • Delivers deep insight into revenue, expenditures, and cash flow

A Customer’s Perspective on SaaS EPM Software

EPM software

Forrester’s research is based on what companies worldwide have to say about EPM software and using the cloud for critical business applications. Sometimes it pays to get input and insight from a specific business that’s gone through the selection and implementation process for themselves. For this purpose, Planful invited their long-time customer from Welch Allyn. Rick Odom is the Senior Manager of Financial Planning and Analysis for Welch Allyn.

Welch Allyn was founded in 1915, and until recently was a family-owned manufacturer of medical diagnostics devices, patient monitoring systems, and miniature precision lamps. The business was purchased by Hill-Rom in 2015, but maintains their headquarters in Upstate New York. Welch Allyn employs 2,500 people across 26 countries around the globe.

Welch Allyn depends almost completely on outside contractors for their IT needs, so when it came time to replace their EPM software about six years ago, it was important to them that the product didn’t require a lot of technical support or additional IT infrastructure. They were looking for simple administration that could be overseen completely by finance, with little administration time. Ideally, they wanted the product to require no dedicated staff.

Initially, Welch Allyn’s finance team wasn’t even looking for a cloud-based solution. They wanted exceptional functionality. After reviewing a number of EPM software products, they decided on the Planful Cloud-Based EPM software. The reasons Odom gave for their decision were:

  • They wanted the very latest technology available
  • They wanted to dedicate a limited number of resources to implementing, deploying, and managing the software
  • They wanted to keep costs manageable

According to Odom, the benefits of SaaS EPM software became clear immediately. Even taking a break to work up the general annual budget, the team was able to implement the Planful EPM software in less than six months. The product streamlined their forecasting and planning, allows them to spend more time analyzing financial data and less time administering a system, and drastically improved their reporting capabilities.

Odom and his team like the fact that they don’t have to do lots of testing every time there is a new feature added to their EPM software. The team gets instant access to quarterly product releases, while incurring absolutely no disruption to their daily workflow. Odom said that he and his finance team would gladly choose Planful’ SaaS EPM software if they had it to do over again.

To hear the entirety of the webinar with Forrester’s Paul Hamerman and Welch Allyn’s Rick Odom, check out the webinar Navigating the SaaS EPM Landscape.

Watch the Webinar Replay

Related Posts

All Posts
Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World: COVID-19 Resources for FP&A Professionals - Part 41 I Planful...

Read More
All Posts
Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources

Being Planful: Helpful FP&A Resources to Navigate an Uncertain World: COVID-19 Resources for FP&A Professionals - Part 41 I Planful...

Read More
All Posts
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 ....

Read More
Planful Fall16 Release Improves User Productivity and Support

Planful Fall16 Release Improves User Productivity and Support

While many of our customers have been busy developing their budgets and plans for 2017, the Planful engineering team has been busy adding new features and functions to our Enterprise Performance Platform. 

We recently delivered our Fall16 release.  This release includes enhancements in several areas, including user experience, user productivity, and reporting.

Improved User Experience

This release includes additional features available in all supported browsers. Features newly added include the Block and Actual Data Templates in the Planning module, as well as Employee Export and Compensation Add/Edit functions in Workforce Planning.  The main benefit here is improved flexibility and more options for users. 

Improved User Security

data-security_2283310b.jpgThe Fall16 release also includes several user security updates, including time-limited access to external user accounts.  What this means is that when any external user, such as an auditor, is added to a tenant, the access is provided with limited time duration, such as a maximum of 30 days or another specified time period.   

Enhanced User Productivity

The Fall16 release includes a number of enhancements designed to improve user productivity across all modules. 

Within our Cloud Scheduler, users will now have the option to process Workforce Planning scenarios and delete scheduled, queued, and completed jobs.  These new features will improve accuracy, flexibility, and productivity of users.

Alternate hierarchies offer a powerful capability that enables our customers to consolidate and report on their data under different organizational structures – e.g., legal, management, statutory, etc. With this release we are now able to support a larger number of alternate hierarchies across multiple dimensions. 

GoogleDrive-big.pngBuilding on our existing Google for Work integration, which enables users to export reports and templates directly to Google Drive, users can now load data into their application from Google Drive.   This enables users to schedule data loads without the need for Data Integrations.

Enhancements to the


module include easier model administration and maintenance, improved reporting and data suppression, and a new data export API for sharing data with other applications.

Improved Reporting

This release includes a number of enhancements in Reporting, such as a conversion tool that converts Report Books to Report Collections.  Report Collections offers enhanced bursting, distribution, and scheduling capabilities for delivering period-end reports to large groups of users across the enterprise.

The Fall16 release also includes a number of usability enhancements to Dynamic Reports, as well as drill-through reporting improvements.  This enables users to drill-through to transaction details with more control and precision in terms of time periods that are in focus.

Improved End-User Support

CFL Central Integration – This provides one-stop shopping and a single point for customers to search for and access information about training, support, user help, release notes, and the customer community.

Integration with Zendesk – This allows the Planful CFL team to directly message users logged in to Planful and eliminates the need to send emails to users.  With the Zendesk integration the CFL team is able to notify users about upcoming maintenance, new releases, and help links.  It also provides visibility into which users have viewed the messages.

Learn More

As you can see, the Fall16 release builds on the innovations and new features we delivered in the Spring16 and Summer16 releases, enhancing the user experience and providing improved user productivity, as well as more powerful reporting and end-user support capabilities.

If you’re an existing customer and want to find out more, you can view the full release notes in our online help and discuss these new enhancements via our Customer Community.  You can also attend the Fall16 new feature release training on Monday, November 21st to get more information.

Related Posts

All Posts
Leading with Customer Success: Why Nucleus Research Named Planful a Value Matrix Leader

Planful’s continuing product innovations and resulting customer success keep us in the Leader quadrant for the eighth year in a row. Learn why our customers have such fast time to value....

Read More
All Posts
Fall20 Gives You More of What You Need Most

%%excerpt%% Advanced Workforce Planning features, enhanced Dynamic Planning, and more. See what else you can expect in Planful’s Fall20 release....

Read More
All Posts
Dynamic Collaboration: Changing How FP&A Works

We update our products each month to ensure that our customers are always benefiting from the latest features. In each release we enhance existing capabilities, add new features, and make upgrades behind the scenes to improve speed and performance. But before these upgrades hit your application, we talk with customers and use that feedback in ....

Read More
What Are the Advantages of Moving FP&A to the Cloud?

What Are the Advantages of Moving FP&A to the Cloud?

Budgeting, planning, and forecasting in today’s volatile business environment is a challenging task.  Trying to manage these processes using spreadsheets in a dynamic and growing enterprise makes the process even harder.

Organizations that adopt packaged applications for these tasks are able to streamline FP&A processes and improve accuracy.  But a recent survey and report by Aberdeen Research found that organizations that adopt cloud-based FP&A applications are able to achieve even more gains than those using on-premises applications.

Download the Research Report

Meeting Today’s Planning Challenges

In the February 2016 Aberdeen Research Report titled “Deploy Your FP&A Solution in the Cloud to Keep Your Budgets and Forecasts Grounded in Reality,” the #1 planning challenge cited by respondents was market volatility – 49% of respondents cited this, which creates the need to dynamically account for change.  The next highest response (29%) was poor communication, coordination, and collaboration.

The volatility challenge cited in the survey highlights the need for instant access to relevant data in the planning and forecasting process.  Without access to timely data, plans and forecasts can quickly become irrelevant.  Improved communication and collaboration are necessary because of the differing views of the business that exist in corporate functions vs. departments and lines of business.  In order to reconcile these views, collaboration must be improved.

Leaders Are Adopting Cloud-Based FP&A Solutions

Cloud-Accounting.jpgIn its research report, Aberdeen groups respondents into two classes.  This includes Leaders, which are the top 35% based on their performance, and Followers, which are the bottom 65%.  What Aberdeen found is that Leaders are 61% more likely to have deployed packaged CPM/EPM solutions for budgeting, planning, and forecasting.  Moreover, Leaders are 53% more likely to have adopted cloud-based CPM/EPM applications for budgeting, planning, and forecasting.

Those respondents who adopted cloud-based solutions were able to achieve additional benefits vs. those using on-premises solutions:

  • Real-time updates to financial metrics
  • Improved monitoring of business milestone achievement
  • Self-service reporting by business users
  • Enterprise-wide collaboration across departments
  • Improved communication with stakeholders and more accountability

Real-World Business Results

In conclusion, Aberdeen Research found that organizations that adopted cloud-based solutions for FP&A achieved significant business benefits over those with on-premises solutions.  These include more accurately informed and faster decisions, faster budgeting and forecasting cycles, and more accurate plans and forecasts.

To dig into the details and learn more about these survey results, download the free Aberdeen Research report titled “Deploy Your FP&A Solution in the Cloud to Keep Your Budgets and Forecasts Grounded in Reality.”

Download the Research Report

Related Posts

All Posts
Continuous Planning for Business Advantage: Rob Kugel of Ventana Research on the Being Planful Podcast

Ventana Research analyst Robert Kugel talks about leveraging the power of Continuous Planning for a business advantage....

Read More
All Posts
Make Cash Management a Competitive Advantage

When FP&A increases speed, flexibility, and visibility into cash flow, every corner of the business is better positioned to win....

Read More
All Posts
What Every Human Resources and FP&A Department Can Do To Strengthen Their Working Relationship

Melissa Dreuth, Senior Vice President of People and Culture at Planful, talks to her counterparts in the Finance team every day… and looks forward to it.  “Human Resources – also referred to as People Operations – tends to either love or hate the Finance department. Personally, I absolutely love my Finance colleagues.” And while the ....

Read More
Why Robust Data Integration is Critical to Effective EPM Processes

Why Robust Data Integration is Critical to Effective EPM Processes

Enterprise performance management (EPM) is a process and software system designed to help organizations link strategies to plans and execution.

Key EPM processes include modeling, planning, financial consolidation, reporting, and analytics that are linked in a continuous, repeatable management cycle.

As organizations move from spreadsheets and legacy EPM applications to cloud-based EPM platforms, robust data integration capabilities are essential to ensuring smooth-running EPM processes, accelerating planning and reporting, and providing actionable insights to managers across the enterprise.

Download the Free White Paper

Data Integration Requirements in EPM Processes and Software

One of the most critical requirements of an EPM platform is the ability to integrate financial and non-financial data from multiple sources.  For example, the integration of financial data from general ledgers (GLs) and operational data from human capital management (HCM) and other sources is required to support the financial consolidation and reporting process.

In budgeting and planning, the integration of prior-year actuals from GLs may be required to “seed” the annual budget process.  Many organizations need to import historical information about their employees from HCM applications to perform headcount and compensation planning, or sales forecasts from CRM applications.  Data integration is also required to perform budget vs. actual analysis of financial or operational results.  Historic financial results are also required to support periodic forecasting, as well as rolling forecasts.

cloud_EPM.jpgAs organizations look to move their EPM processes and systems to cloud-based platforms, having the ability to integrate data from both on-premises and cloud-based GL, HCM, and CRM systems is critical to streamlining planning and reporting processes.


What Data Integration Features to Look for in EPM Software

When evaluating and selecting EPM software, there are tons of features and functions to look for, but among those, the most important just may be  robust data integration capabilities.  An EPM platform needs to support the integration of a wide variety of data sources and types:

  • Trial balance summaries
  • Transaction detail
  • Statistical/non-financial data
  • Employees, jobs, and positions
  • Leads, opportunities
  • Users and user security
  • Chart of accounts
  • Operational metrics
  • Currency rates
  • And more

This data may reside in on-premises or cloud-based GL, ERP, HCM, or CRM systems, as well as in data warehouses and spreadsheets.  In order to accommodate the variety of systems and data types that EPM applications need to integrate with, here are some key capabilities to look for in EPM data integration:

  • Provides the ability to import flat files and spreadsheets without a lot of manual effort
  • Delivers API-level integration and the ability to customize data integration
  • Offers ETL and pre-built connectors to a variety of data sources
  • Has the ability to automate and schedule the integration processes
  • Features the ability for the Finance department to support data integration with minimal support from the IT department.

A Cloud-Based EPM Platform with Robust Data Integration

Data integration is a critical capability for EPM processes, and in today’s world of heterogeneous systems, a modern EPM platform needs to be able to integrate data from a wide variety of systems, whether on-premises or in the cloud.

data_integration_bloor.jpgRobust data integration is a key advantage of the Planful Enterprise Performance Platform.  Planful supports the integration of data from a wide variety of sources and data types, and offers several different methods – including flat files, API integration, and the more direct and automated approach using our embedded ETL tool and pre-built connectors to over 100 source systems.

Hundreds of customers are using the Planful data integration capabilities to load summary data, as well as detailed transactions and other non-financial data, into their planning, consolidation, and modeling applications on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis.  With our cloud-based platform, you can be assured that your data integration processes are repeatable, automated, and secure while providing the robust audit trails required by internal and external auditors.

How to Learn More

To learn more, check out Planful newly released whitepaper, “Data Integration: A Critical Component of an EPM Platform,” which fully explains why data integration is such a critical function of EPM software and highlights the advantages Planful provides in this area.

Download the Free White Paper

Related Posts

All Posts
Leveraging FP&A for Growth: Carl Seidman of Seidman Financial on the Being Planful Podcast

Carl Seidman of Seidman Financial discusses FP&A maturity, process vs tech, preparing FP&A today for what’s coming tomorrow, upskilling, and more....

Read More
All Posts
How to Create All the Scenarios You Need. Fast, Accurate and Actionable.

Scenario analysis has taken on a whole new meaning these days. COVID-19 pushed companies into chaos, and the continuing uncertainty makes planning especially difficult. In the process, the playbook we’ve all used over the past decade or two has been rendered virtually useless. The impact of the pandemic, along with the transition to working from ....

Read More
FP&A Platforms
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....

Read More
The New Game Plan for Finance and Accounting

The New Game Plan for Finance and Accounting

The Bob Dylan song “The Times They Are a Changin’


” certainly rings true for what’s happening in the world of Accounting and Finance these days. 

In addition to new regulatory guidelines impacting areas, such as revenue recognition and lease accounting, the digital economy is creating new challenges and opportunities for Accounting and Finance professionals. 

At the recent Planful Future of Finance Tour events, industry guru Brian Sommer highlighted the impact of the digital economy on Accounting and Finance and “the new game plan” that’s needed to fully leverage these changes.  I recently connected with Brian to capture his point of view, and here’s what he had to say. 

John:  Brian, in your address at the Future of Finance events, you highlighted a number of structural changes you see impacting Finance and Accounting professionals.  Can you elaborate on those?

Brian:  Sure, John.  While there are many new technologies like big data analytics and visualization that are interesting, the bigger impact comes from the collision of these technologies, or what I call “trinities.”  One example is the combination of cloud, mobile, and social technologies.  Another is the combination of big data, analytics, and in-memory technologies.  The power of these combinations is that they re-write the rules of competition and have the potential to cause major disruptions across industries.  The upside of this is that it represents a new, more strategic role for Accounting and Finance with the potential for competitive insights, not just financial insights. 

Robotic process automation.jpgFor example, advancements in the area of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will put a lot of pressure on accounting jobs that involve procedural, rote activities.  Already, large numbers of Accounts Payable clerk positions are being replaced with RPA bots.  While that’s depressing, there will be significant growth in analyzing all-new sources of information.  Accountants will need to collect, analyze, and make determinations around all new classes of data from social sentiment data, dark data, big data, and operational data (e.g., sensors).  The future will be increasingly shaped by how well accountants can find, visualize, synthesize, and make sense of vast amounts of new information.  Careers in accounting will have to broaden beyond just internal transaction processing.

John:  Wow, I don’t think accountants ever thought their jobs would be replaced by robots.  What’s the broader impact of the Digital Economy on Accounting and Finance?

Brian:  This is huge as most firms are already transitioning from being Industrial Age to Digital Age entities.  Businesses have no choice but to embrace new methods of communicating with buyers, employees, job seekers, suppliers, etc., and the preferred medium for all of this will be via digital means. Smart phones, machine sensors, social media, and more create record amounts of “digital exhaust” daily.  There’s so much digital data being produced and too few business systems designed to handle it.

Specific to Accounting and Finance, new data presents the opportunity for these groups to re-write the value contribution they can make to their organizations. With improved tools (e.g., in-memory, scalable cloud technologies), Finance professionals can identify previously unavailable insights that can dramatically change the fortunes and/or the course of their organizations.

John:  That’s certainly exciting and could represent new career opportunities for Accounting and Finance professionals.  How do you see Finance systems evolving to support the Digital Economy?

hadoop_full.jpgBrian:  A number of changes are already underway.  Newer systems are now built with Hadoop, in-memory databases, and other tools to support a multitude of new data types (e.g., video, email, tweets).   Sub-ledgers are starting to disappear as modern technology is no longer constrained and this design artifact is no longer relevant.  The data model for a financial accounting system is greatly in flux as all of these new data types bring massive amounts of new fields into the view of Finance people.  Everything is moving to the cloud as businesses want IT and Finance focused on added major strategic value and not wasting energy patching/maintaining on-premises systems.

John:  To take that a step further, what’s the impact of these changes to Finance processes and systems? 

Brian:  The latency in many old Finance systems is a luxury of a bygone era and must go.  Old processes and systems that only posted data at month-end are simply irrelevant and counter to the always changing, 24/7 world of business today.  Worse, islands of automation (e.g., where pockets of financial processing occur in spreadsheets or manual steps) are equally out-of-sort with the Digital Age.

Processes and systems that contain lots of manual steps, paper, untimely integrations, etc., are leftovers of a bygone era when the speed of business was slow and systems were slow, too.  Now, business moves fast, and organizations need processes and systems that move fast, too (not glacial).

John:  Well, if we can automate out the drudgery of Finance and Accounting, that certainly creates the opportunity to focus on more value-added activities.  What’s the impact of these changes on Finance talent management?

data-scientist-graphic.jpgBrian:  We’ll soon see people entering into Finance organizations with math/quant skills, social science backgrounds, statistics backgrounds, and other disciplines as the new data that Finance must parse will require more than Accounting knowledge.  Already businesses are using big data to plan & forecast almost every line of the P&L.  But to do so well, they have to really understand what’s in this big data and how should it be used.  For example, if an organization is using social sentiment data, it can monitor what people are saying about its products (or competitors’ products) in the market.  If customers report product quality or usage issues in social media, the company may need to increase its reserves for warranty expense or recall costs.

But not all posts in social media are exactly what they appear to be.  Some posts could be written by shills for the competition.  If someone writes, “I LOVE product XYZ,” are they really positive about the product or being sarcastic?  This is why new skills will appear in Finance as the team will need to examine these imperfect data types and make value judgments on them.

The toughest job near term might be for a CFO who must hire these new and quite different people.  What does a CFO know when it comes to hiring a data scientist?  Probably not enough.

John:  Great points – there are certainly challenges here in attracting new talent in Finance.  How do you see EPM/CPM software evolving to address the new requirements?

game_plan_01.jpgBrian:  As you know, the EPM/CPM space is already evolving.  In fact, it may be making more of the Digital Age changes and making them faster than many ERP systems and vendors.  Specifically, EPM/CPM tools have, for the most part, moved to the cloud.  That’s good. Some have alliances or other capabilities to bring in-memory processing to their suites.  That’s better.  That capability alone allows organizations to smash large amounts of transactional and operational data together.

Longer term, these tools will need to use financial and non-financial data to anticipate (not just report) business results.  Big data will undoubtedly play a role here, but so will algorithms, machine learning, and more.  We’ll know the evolution has arrived when systems produce continuous planning forecasts without any human involvement or worksheets.

John:  I agree, the cloud has become the dominant deployment model for EPM/CPM solutions, but there’s more to do.  Given all of these changes, what should be the new game plan for Finance and Accounting professionals?

Brian:  Finance and Accounting professionals need to be way more cosmopolitan (i.e., to be aware of one’s own environment).  While constancy has been a hallmark of the industry, the amount of business and technology change underfoot will cause many changes to this profession.  Your to-do is to become one of the people who is keenly aware of and anticipating these changes.  For if you do so, your career (and the fortunes of your employer) will soar.

John:  The times certainly are changing for Accounting and Finance.  Where can readers go for more information?

Brian:  I love to hear from businesses, especially those making bold moves. Please contact me at Brian@VitalAnalysis.com or follow me on Twitter at @BrianSSommer.  And if readers are considering anything new in the software space, definitely get in touch with me if you need assistance.

To learn more about the advantages of cloud-based EPM, check out this recent white paper.

Download the White Paper

Related Posts

Why Cash Is Still King

Cash flow reporting is an essential piece for any business. Planful Automated Cash Flow Reporting automates this complex process for you....

Read More
Are You Ready for New Revenue Recognition Disclosure Requirements?

The FASB’s new revenue recognition guidelines will impact revenue accounting and budgeting, but will also have an impact on reporting disclosures....

Read More
Can Audits Help Improve Business Performance?

A recent Deloitte survey highlights how the information gathered through audits can be used to improve business performance....

Read More
Planful Cloud EPM Customers Are Everywhere

Planful Cloud EPM Customers Are Everywhere

You can’t avoid them.  Everywhere you go, everything you do.  They are there, looming large on the consumer and B2B landscape.

Of course, I’m talking about Planful cloud-based EPM customers.  Just look at how many of them I bumped into last weekend.

Saturday Errands

On Saturday, I headed over to Aspen Dental for my 6-month checkup.  While I was waiting, I perused the latest issue of my favorite magazine, Highlights.  Luckily, my checkup went well, and I had no cavities so was released within 30 minutes.  In the same shopping center, I noticed a Vitamin Shoppe. I stopped in to load up on Vitamin C and other immunity boosters to help me get ready for winter.

Peets.jpgAfter loading up on vitamins, I swung by Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a caffeine boost.  While there, I plugged in my Bose headphones to listen to some music while I checked email and surfed the web on my NEC laptop.  After checking my EarthLink email account, I did a little surfing, checking Pinterest for some Christmas gift ideas. Then I hit Angie’s List to look for a highly rated contractor for some home improvements I’ve been thinking about.

The coffee shop started getting crowded, so I shut down my laptop, put on my Boston Red Sox hat, and headed out.  While listening to a little NPR in my car, I started getting hungry, so I headed over to Five Guys for a double cheeseburger and fries.  Right across the street was a Bob’s Discount Furniture store, so I stopped in there to look at some furniture for my son’s apartment.  Some of the couches were really comfortable, and they had a Sharp flat-screen TV close by. I watched a little of the University of Notre Dame football game.

skygolf.jpgAfter about 30 minutes, the salesman realized I wasn’t going to buy and booted me out.  It was pretty nice weather for late October, so I decided to get in a quick 9 holes of golf in before heading home.  Thanks to my SkyGolf rangefinder, I had my irons dialed in pretty good that day and shot a solid 42.  As the sun started going down, so did the temperature.  It reminded me I needed a new winter coat.

Sunday – Not My Day of Rest

After getting some True Religion at church on Sunday,  I decided to get my car washed on the way home.  Luckily, there was a Mister Car Wash close by, so I stopped in there for a quick exterior wash.  It was still early in the afternoon, so I decided to go for a fall bike ride.  I drove home, put my Thule bike rack into the trailer hitch on my SUV, and strapped on my mountain bike to head over to some local bike trails.

With my GoPro camera mounted solidly to my helmet, I set out on a former railroad bed turned into a bike trail through the woods.  The foliage was spectacular, and the video came out great.  All of the bouncing around on the trails fooled my Fitbit, and it was soon buzzing as I crossed the 10,000 step mark for the day!

When I wrapped up my ride, it was getting late in the afternoon.  I felt a little guilty having so much fun and not spending much time with my wife.  So on my way home I bought her some Lindt chocolates and offered to take her out to Hakkasan for dinner.  I had to wait as she finished practicing on our Steinway piano, which I’m still paying for thanks to a loan from Lending Club.   While I waited for her, I decided to pay some bills, making donations to the International Association of Firefighters (IAFF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

What a weekend – I can’t wait for the next one!

To learn more about how Planful is helping customers take on the complexity of today’s market via our scalable cloud platform, check out our customer videos and case studies.

Check Out the Case Studies

Related Posts

All Posts
3 Tips to Help Leaders Take Care of Their People

We’re all looking forward to a brighter 2021, but we still have a few months to go before we’re there. For many, the combination of work, social, family, and political stressors can make these days feel heavy.  For most leaders, a big question on our minds is “how on earth do we keep this ship ....

Read More
All Posts
Analyst Perspectives on Planful

We’re always excited when Planful is recognized by leading analysts for the hard work we put into our solutions and the value our customers receive.  But what should these reports mean to you?  I’m going to pull back the curtain a bit and highlight the differences in how all of the various analyst firms view ....

Read More
All Posts
Summer20 Speeds Continuous Planning for Every Corner of the Business

We believe that FP&A is the strategic core of every modern business. When they work faster and more efficiently, they have more time to raise the financial IQ in every corner of the business.  Helping FP&A connect and collaborate with the business is one of the many powerful and transformational benefits of Continuous Planning. Now, ....

Read More
How EPM Solutions Support Finance Transformation

How EPM Solutions Support Finance Transformation

Finance transformation is an elusive topic that the industry has been talking about for years.  But what does it really mean?  Transformation from what to what?  And how do EPM solutions help support Finance transformation?

finance transformation

Planful recently sponsored a webinar on this topic featuring two industry experts:  Chris Iervolino, Research Director at Gartner, and John O’Rourke, VP of Product Marketing at Planful.  In the webinar, Mr. Iervolino provided Gartner’s perspective on corporate performance management (CPM) solutions, how they support finance transformation, and some of the key market trends influencing CPM. 

Watch the Webinar Replay

Mr. O’Rourke followed with his perspective on how the role of Finance and EPM/CPM has evolved over the past 10 years, and how Planful has been innovating to help Finance departments move from counting and scorekeeping – to considering the possibilities and being a better business partner.  Here are some of the highlights of the webinar.

Gartner’s View on Finance Transformation and CPM Software

Corporate performance management (CPM) solutions can support both financial and strategic processes.  Financial CPM solutions are focused on Finance processes and mainly benefit the office of Finance.  Financial CPM solutions address the following business challenges:

  • Financial consolidation and close management
  • Management and external reporting
  • Enhanced financial control and automation:
    • Account reconciliations
    • Disclosure management
    • Intercompany transaction management

From a Finance transformation standpoint, financial CPM solutions enable organizations to streamline financial close and reporting processes, ensure compliance with regulations, reduce the financial risks to the organization, and improve flexibility to support initiatives, such as mergers and acquisitions.

Strategic CPM solutions benefit the office of Finance, as well as the broader organization.  Strategic CPM solutions address various business challenges:

  • Financial budgeting and planning
  • Integrated financial planning
  • Financial modeling, such as profitability modeling
  • Strategy management
  • Performance reporting

From a Finance transformation standpoint, strategic CPM solutions benefit both Finance and the broader organization by reducing planning and forecasting cycles, ensuring better alignment of financial and operating plans, and providing better insights into the profitability of products, services, and customers.

Recent Technology Trends Impacting CPM Processes and Software

Mr. Iervolino highlighted three technology drivers impacting today’s CPM software solutions:  the cloud, in-memory computing, and analytics.

EPM in the cloudOf these, perhaps the most impactful is the cloud.  The cloud allows an organization to quickly adopt and implement critical new software for a fraction of the cost of traditional on-premises software.  SaaS or cloud-based solutions reduce the Finance department’s dependence on the IT department and allow non-techies and those without accounting degrees and experience to leverage the software because it’s intuitive and easy to learn and use.  This delivers another advantage: it is useful across the organization, not just within the confines of accounting/finance.

The value of in-memory computing is that CPM software is faster.  It’s also able to manage larger volumes of more detailed data for analysis and modeling, on a more real-time basis.

Analytics itself is evolving rapidly.  But there are also opportunities to embed analytics within business processes, to provide real-time insights and better decision-making.  Organizations can also take advantage of predictive capabilities to drive more accurate forecasts.

Planful:  Helping Finance Move From Counting to Considering

According to John O’Rourke, Planful has been driving innovation in CPM (a.k.a. EPM) since 2008, and a core value of the company is on ensuring customer success.  In fact, Planful is the only pure-play cloud vendor who provides solutions for both financial and strategic CPM, as described earlier in the webinar by Gartner’s Chris Iervolino.  This means Planful can support a broad range of requirements, both short term and longer term, as organizations grow and evolve.

Mr. O’Rourke reviewed the evolution of Finance and EPM over the past 10 years, commenting on EPM software prior to 2007:

  • The focus was on automating budgeting and reporting
  • Vendors provided disconnected point solutions
  • Software that was on-premises, expensive, and dependent on support from the IT department
  • Reporting and analytics was mostly an afterthought
  • EPM was mostly confined to use in the Finance department

Fast forward to today, and both Finance and EPM have evolved.  In the world of EPM 2.0, EPM solutions:

  • Still automate processes, but are more focused on driving strategic value
  • Feature unified platforms that connect modeling, planning, consolidation, reporting, and analytics
  • Are being deployed in the cloud, with faster delivery and lower costs, and can be owned by the Finance department, without limited IT oversight
  • Are moving beyond Finance with integrated reporting and analytics to support enterprise-wide decision-making.

This evolution of EPM is helping move Finance out of the realm of merely “counting” and into the arena of “considering” the possibilities and providing more value-added analysis to line-of-business managers.  This puts the CFO and Finance in a better position as a business partner to the CEO and the rest of the organization.

How to Learn More

To learn more about how EPM/CPM solutions help support Finance transformation, you can watch a replay of this informative, 30-minute webinar.

To learn more about how Planful supports strategic and financial CPM for various use cases, check out the Gartner Critical Capabilities reports.

Watch the Webinar Replay

Related Posts

All Posts
From the Classroom to Any Room: 4 Ways to Reimagine Training

When the pandemic forced us to rethink our in-person trainings, we also made them better. Here’s how we did it, and how you can get your certification remotely....

Read More
All Posts
How the Boston Red Sox Modernized Finance with Planful: Tim Zue, Boston Red Sox CFO, on the Being Planful Podcast

%%excerpt%% Learn how the Boston Red Sox hit a homerun with Planful and transformed Finance into a modern, efficient team....

Read More
All Posts
How the Pandemic has Changed Everything—and Nothing—for the Office of Finance

If you would have asked me six months ago what the biggest challenge facing finance is, the answer would have been easy: disruption. Market volatility, changing regulations, evolving business models, emerging competitors — you name it, finance has to deal with it.  Then along came COVID-19, and to say it took the meaning of disruption ....

Read More
What’s New in FP&A – Part 2

What’s New in FP&A – Part 2

This is a busy time of year for FP&A professionals, with planning and budgeting for 2017 well under way in most organizations.  In a recent blog post

, I called out FP&A as the “cool” department in Finance that is attracting the interest of many Finance professionals. 

I also interviewed Nilly Essaides, the Director and Practice Lead, Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) at the Association for Financial Professionals to get her perspective on what’s attracting people to careers in FP&A.   Since then, Nilly has been busy collecting survey data and the AFP recently published their 2016 FP&A Benchmarking survey.  In reviewing the survey results, I found this to be a comprehensive body of work and was able to reconnect with Nilly to get her perspective on the survey results.  Here’s what she had to say.

Continue reading “What’s New in FP&A – Part 2”

Related Posts

Office of Finance
Culture and Technology – Top 5 Reasons To Rethink Your Mix

We’re a technology company, obviously. Getting customers excited about our technology and how it can transform finance and evolve their business is something we love to do. In conversations with thousands of organizations over many years, we’ve noticed some clear signs indicating when a finance team needs to first focus their efforts on how their ....

Read More
Office of Finance
Top 5 Career-limiting Mistakes Everyone in Finance Should Avoid

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 ....

Read More
Why Cash Is Still King

Cash flow reporting is an essential piece for any business. Planful Automated Cash Flow Reporting automates this complex process for you....

Read More