Planful Academy Relaunches with Exciting Improvements

Planful Academy Relaunches with Exciting Improvements

Just last week, Planful announced the availability of the Planful Summer 18 release. With more than 175 enhancements and four new products launched in the past year, we are delivering more power and speed to make life easier for financial teams and budget owners alike.

With such a rapid pace of innovation, our customers need quick and easy access to training materials. To stay ahead of their needs, we have big news:  Planful Academy has been relaunched with exciting improvements.

Craig Willis is the VP, Training & Support at Planful – he is responsible for providing customers with the training they need to have a successful implementation and for providing for their ongoing support needs. Here’s what Craig had to say about these latest improvements to Planful Academy.

Q: What’s new and improved at Planful Academy?

The enhanced user interface is something that Planful customers will notice immediately. Our goal was helping customers have a more efficient learning experience, where they spend more time learning and less time searching for content. The new Planful Academy features a much cleaner user interface, which enables customers to quickly and easily access relevant content.

Beyond the interface, all of the training content and materials on Planful Academy are now categorized in a more logical and streamlined fashion. Customers can easily target the training they need want and quickly find the appropriate content by product, level, user type, and delivery method, and more.

Q: What are the benefits to Planful customers?

It’s all about easy discovery of and fast access to training materials. Those are the biggest benefits customers will realize with the new Planful Academy. Customers also now have access to Planful Academy directly from within Planful applications. That means their credentials will authenticate automatically, with no additional username or password entry required.

Customer response so far has been fantastic, with overwhelming feedback on how easy it is to access Planful Academy trainings and content. The new “Getting Started” course series, which bundles the key training content that new users need, is also getting great reviews from our newest users. And customers are raving about the single sign-on to Planful Academy, since access is now automatically granted via their Planful applications.

Q: Why is it critical for any solution to have a great training resource for customers and their teams?

From the administrative, ROI, and impact perspectives, knowledge is key to making the most of any software investment. Teams gain that knowledge by being immersed in appropriate proper trainings that build understanding and provide insights into how the solution will make their jobs easier.

From the end user’s point of view, many of the tasks they perform are similar, regardless of the customer or the role. So instead of requiring a new customer to build custom training content for their teams, they can take advantage of Planful’s training simulations. This enables users to simulate the tasks they’ll be accomplishing and eliminates the time and tedium of building custom training programs.

Part of any solution rollout is an investment in training. That training content must also be regularly updated and delivered how and where the customers need it. Ultimately, it’s critical that a vendor cares about customer success, and that the commitment follows through in their approach to training.

Q: Does the relaunch include training on the Summer 2018 release?

There is always a spike in training activity when a quarterly release is launched.  The Planful Training product team does a great job of updating existing training content and adding materials around new features that many of our customers are eager to explore, including the recent additions of MyPlan and Dashboards training content.

Q: What’s next for Planful Academy?

Planful is constantly working on updating and adding new content to Planful Academy, but some of the bigger upcoming changes are redesigns of the Virtual Instructor-Led Classes and preparing for PERFORM 2019!

And if any customer has feedback on what they want to see next, we invite them to contact us with any thoughts or ideas. They can contact me directly or email the Planful Training Team.

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Why Semi-Annual Financial Reporting isn’t Going to Work

Planful’ CFO, Ian Charles gives us his perspective on quarterly vs semi-annual financial reporting. What are the different sides of the debate, how a CFO can reduce the reporting burden, and why quarterly reporting is still the way to go.

The administration in Washington recently asked the SEC to study the potential for semi-annual (i.e., six-month) financial reporting for public companies.  As a Chief Financial Officer with both public and private company experience, and as CFO of a company that (among other things) helps customers prepare financial reports, I thought I’d offer my perspective on this proposal. Proponents of this idea typically argue several points.  Let’s examine them, reviewing both the pro and con argument for each.

Short-term Thinking and Quarterly Pressures

“Quarterly reports are said to push management to forgo attractive long-term projects to meet the expectations of investors and traders who want smooth, rising earnings from quarter to quarter… But while quarterly reporting has drawbacks, the costs of going to semiannual reporting clearly outweigh any claimed benefits.” Robert C Pozen and Mark J Roe, Those Short-Sighted Attacks on Quarterly Earnings

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Moreover, those who feel strongly that public market pressure and/or non-understanding of public market strategies, can always go private – the latest example being Tesla CEO Elon Musk’s recent tweet about taking the company private to get away from short-term earnings pressures. Given that as an alternative – which in some cases is valid – companies do have the choice to either remain public and be subject to quarterly pressures or go private and make bigger, more structural long-term changes.  But changing from quarterly to semi-annual reporting isn’t going to enable such dramatic changes anyway so it’s kind of a neither fish nor fowl solution.  Either stay public, report quarterly, and be subject to those pressure or go private and avoid them.  But semi-annual reporting is a No Person’s Land in between.

Transparency with Investors and Analysts

Quarterly earnings reports are the bread and butter of information for stockholders and analysts that want the most up to date information, and are also regarded as a way to maintain transparency with companies they invest in. The longer six-month vs three-month period also creates more potential for a gap between insider and public information – and could possibly increase the likelihood of insider trading.

A study published in the Kelley School of Business Research actually found that with the reduction in transparency and lack of information from semi-annual earnings announcements, investors would tend to over-react to news from competitors or other information about the industry in the news. This indicates that even if companies choose to go to semi-annual reporting cadence, that investors will invariably seek other sources of information to make their investment decisions.

The Reduction of Burden for Financial Reporting

Financial reporting is tedious work in many public companies, and much of this work is low value-add ticking and tying out of the numbers to eliminate mistakes.  But remember that most private companies, following the public company lead, also produce quarterly reports and in addition do at least monthly management and board reporting.  The public financial reporting burden typically represents a relatively small increment of work to what the company would be producing anyway.  So, while it could reduce the strain on producing the “last mile” of those public financial reports, the burden does not change that much, as the last mile is only a fraction of the total cost  The real solution here is to attack the underlying problem – the labor it takes to consolidate, close, and reporting – and to do so via automation.

While the stress of reporting quarterly is undeniable, the benefits of less frequent semi-annual reporting are not.  The modernization of Finance and the role EPM plays in today’s world aim to make the process of disclosure more transparent, not less. As we see in these studies, semi-annual reporting doesn’t achieve that goal.  However, the onus of monthly/quarterly reporting lies in the capabilities of the systems, technology, and process you deploy.

The correct answer is to keep the quarterly reporting and reduce the production burden, which is exactly what we do at Planful. If you want to reduce the drag on the team and continue to meet investor expectations of a public entity—look at the technology you deploy. And given the ways things are going, given our current state of reporting and disclosing technologies, I’m surprised we haven’t moved to a monthly cadence, but I’ll save that debate for another blog post.

What do you think?

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For two years running, Planful has been named a Leader in two Gartner reports: the 2018 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Close Solutions and the 2018 Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.

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Dresner Advisory Services’ Wisdom of Crowds Enterprise Planning Market Study, “recognized Planful as an Experience Leader and a Trust Leader and maintains a perfect recommended score.”

Customers continue to find value in our offerings and reward us through their loyalty. In the first half of 2018, the company saw record results in new customer and renewal sales. And that’s just one way they’ve expressed their satisfaction. Our customers also shared their positive experiences with G2Crowd, which solicits and compiles customer sentiment feedback and placed Planful at the top of their Leaders board for its Enterprise Grid report for summer 2018.

To hear what more of our customers have to say about our leadership, visit hostanalytics.com/takemetotheleader.

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“When spreadsheets arrived from all our regional offices, standardizing and compiling them into a single master was time-consuming. We wanted to spend less time on this, and more time on analysis,” said Michael Lynch, Global Director of FP&A. “We also wanted to streamline our reporting, which involved dumping data from our ERP system into spreadsheets. We needed a solution that would give us control from a centralized location and aggregate data quickly.”

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Dorel Sports selected Planful and went from an inconsistent, time-consuming, spreadsheet-based process to a transformative template-based system that more easily generated rich, detail-laden reports to better support decision making.

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With Planful, the removal of manual work cut an entire month from its budget cycle.  In turn, they had more free time for strategic analysis. Modeling plans and standardizing budgeting across their global regions became a breeze.

“Planful is absolutely driving new insights. When the month closes we have reports in the hands of our CEO and CFO the next day which they can take action on immediately,” added Lynch.

Having these new insights helped the team create a 15% inventory cost reduction.

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