Digging into Spring19: Faster and Easier Data Integrations

Digging into Spring19: Faster and Easier Data Integrations

This is the last in a four-part series digging deeper into our Spring19 product release. The series helps illustrate how finance teams can use these new features and capabilities to accelerate, streamline, or otherwise improve their daily and periodic activities.

We’ve packed hundreds of changes into Spring19, but we’ve distilled them down to four areas of impact. Here’s where our customers will see the most value from Spring19:

Every aspect of business is becoming more data driven. If you’re not capturing and analyzing more data from more areas, you’re missing out on insights and opportunities. Most organizations get this, so more applications are being deployed and connected in order to collect more data.

Where data truly becomes transformational is when it’s joined with data from other systems to provide broader and deeper insights, and to also automate and streamline data sharing so more people (and other applications) can use the data. That’s where integration comes into play, and Spring19 brings some great news in this area.

Native integration with Workiva

We partnered with Workiva a couple of years ago to connect their productivity solutions to our EPM platform. The outcome allowed organizations to use both company’s solutions together to streamline performance management and financial and management reporting, and further allowed them to upload detailed financial data and reports to Workiva Wdesk.

Now we’ve expanded that relationship with Workiva in Spring19 to extend native integration and better enable performance management that cuts the time, effort, and costs of regulatory reporting. This “last mile of finance” is where your day-to-day finance effort hits the external world, and as we all know, it’s not always the most pleasant or efficient of processes. This integration makes it easier for our joint customers to connect our two solutions and make performance management and reporting easier and faster.

Enhancements to NetSuite integration

Spring19 includes new integration capabilities for our customers using NetSuite and our NetSuite Connect integration. Now we support the loading of data from formulas fields, multi-select fields, and summary fields in NetSuite. Saved searches can now be Public, Private, or Shared. This gives business users the ability to capture more diverse data sets more quickly and more easily. Also included in Spring19 is the new ability to change the Netsuite Data Load Rule type to either a file load, a copy and paste, or web service.

Now, instead of recreating data load rules in their entirety, you can just edit them to change the load type. So you’re not only eliminating the chance of manual errors in recreating the rule, you’re getting more consistency when loading data across different types because you’re starting with the same rule. It lets you confidently and quickly change types with almost no effort.

Automatically loading missing segment members

Your business is always changing. You are expanding into new markets, launching new products, acquiring new customers, and broadening the org structure. Your performance management application has to keep up if it’s going to be your single source of performance insights. So, it’s critical that your application can quickly and easily absorb these new additions to your business.

With Spring19, missing segment members are now automatically loaded by default, removing a few of the administrative clicks from the process. The result is faster data loads made easier, and with fewer of the annoying disruptions. Now, when a data load has a missing segment member, instead of stopping the load, the missing segment is automatically added to the Planful application and the load continues uninterrupted. This means that it’s easier than ever to ensure that your Planful application is always in sync with your ever-evolving business landscape.

Maintain fidelity across data load rules

Spring19 makes it easy to maintain data structure as you create new data load rules. Instead of recreating rules from scratch, you can now quickly copy the data structure of an existing rule over to a new rule. This saves obvious time, but also eliminates the possibility of errors and omissions.

Going further, Spring19 also allows you to copy data integration services processes. Now you can duplicate existing data integration processes, giving you a quick way to create new versions by just changing aspects of an existing version.

What’s next?

We’re already half-way through summer, which means Summer19 is well on its way through our development cycle. We’re not going to give you any spoilers here (sorry!) but if you were at Perform 2019, you might have some ideas of what’s coming next… It’s obviously all great and we know you’re going to love it.

In the meantime, feel free to reach out to the Planful team if you’d like more details on any of the new Spring19 enhancements and capabilities.

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Digging into Spring19: Greater Control Over Consolidation and Reporting

Digging into Spring19: Greater Control Over Consolidation and Reporting

This is the third in a four-part series digging deeper into our Spring19 product release. The series helps illustrate how finance teams can use these new features and capabilities to accelerate, streamline, or otherwise improve their daily and periodic activities.

We’ve packed hundreds of changes into Spring19, but we’ve distilled them down to four areas of impact. Here’s where our customers will see the most value from Spring19:

  1. Enhanced Workflows
  2. Modern User Experience
  3. Greater Control
  4. Extended Data Integrations

The periodic consolidation cycle always comes with a sense of urgency. Finance has a short window of time to get every piece of the process gathered, assembled, buttoned-up, and closed, and then manage the distribution of the appropriate reports. Only then can the finance team get back to work on more strategic projects. Spring19 offers plenty of new and enhanced features to help finance, and even those outside of finance, better manage and contribute to this process.

Consolidation Status for Insights and Control

Effectively managing the month-end financial close process is critically important to delivering trusted financial results in a timely manner. It is a process that just can’t be wrong. There needs to be confidence among all internal and external stakeholders in not only the reported financial results, but in the process itself. There’s a tight window of just a week or so for closing the books. Everyone involved has to be aligned, working quickly to accomplish tasks, and staying focused on key deadlines. Compliance is also relevant here since the accounting team is required to conform to regulatory laws and standards. To add to the pressure, business users outside of finance are impatiently waiting for the books to be closed so they can start their own analysis of the business performance.

Managing the financial close process well is all about control and transparency so that the accounting team knows what’s happening, what needs to happen next, and where the bottlenecks are. Spring19 helps in this management effort by offering an all new Consolidation Status feature to give newfound insights into close cycles. It provides an “at a glance” dashboard view of the process for each period and entity, and allows for deeper and more granular control so everyone can stay on track—and you can nudge those who aren’t. These enhancements accelerate the entire monthly close process so that all key stakeholders in the business can get on with the important work of analyzing that financial data to make better, more strategic decisions.

See the Story Behind the Numbers with the Flow Dimension

Understanding the financial reporting output from the close process helps those across the organization better plan, forecast, and make decisions. Frequently people need to see the full story behind those actual results to better understand where they came from and how they can best be interpreted. This also helps finance and the business build their own compelling story about the business performance in that period, using the financial data to effectively understand what happened in the past, and then using those insights to make better decisions about the future.

Spring19 offers enhancements to a relatively new feature, the Flow Dimension. The Flow dimension allows for the tracking of Movement and FX Impact at a more granular level, which facilitates easier cash flow reporting and provides more detailed data for analysis. Movements related to Cash, Operations, Investments, Financing can all be tracked at an account level to enhance cash flow reporting.

Customize Your Close

One thing that’s common to every organization is uniqueness. No two are the same, and no two close processes follow exactly the same steps, use the same data, or expect the same output. We understand that, and we want you to navigate and manage your close process just the way you like it.

Spring19 adds new features that let you personalize your close process. The User-Defined Consolidation Process provides greater control over the order and timing of consolidation calculations, and allows for actions to be reordered or even skipped if they’re not needed. This flexibility lets finance work faster and with more agility (and less confusion) by only presenting what’s needed for your custom close process.

One example of User-Defined Consolidation Process is enabling your team to balance the books in local and common currencies, but then moving the processing of interim and reporting currencies to after the consolidation is complete. Or, for the accounting consolidation, you have the flexibility to run consolidation scenarios for specific period ranges instead of all years. It gives you more flexibility to do whatever meets your specific needs.

Intelligent Reports

Spring19 offers even more benefits on the reporting side, all leading to more personalization, more flexibility, and more security. These new features and enhancements will help you get the right reports and data into the right hands quickly, easily, and securely.

Spring19 brings enhanced Report Collection distribution functionality that enables you to more easily and efficiently send reports to those—and only those—who need them. Through pre-defined, scheduled processes, the Planful platform will automatically compile and format the reports, then email them to designated individuals based on user roles and security.

We’ve also enhanced the ease at which you can dynamically select reports and the dimension members within your automated report packages. This lets you dynamically build reports based on parameters set during report creation. So, as subsequent report packages are created, they automatically include the proper data. For example, if a report is structured around departments, any new department will be automatically added and the relevant data included.

Enhanced Security

We mentioned security in the last Spring19 post, but we have also included security and control enhancements specifically related to reporting and automated report distributions.

When the books are closed, it’s time for the reports to go out. Much of the included data is obviously sensitive and confidential, so it’s critical that only the right people get the right data. And, it’s equally important for finance to make sure HR isn’t getting marketing reports and sales isn’t getting operations reports. To help, Spring19 improves the security around report distribution by making it easier to control who gets what, while giving you more control and more options around distribution.

Spring19 also gives you the ability to personalize the email subject lines and email text, even down to formatting, fonts, styles, and more. Additional controls let you send targeted emails with accompanying reports based on recipient data security. For example, managers might get one version of a report, directors get another, and executives get yet another.

Easier Close, Easier Reporting

The close process always comes with a sense of urgency, and the accompanying stress. We’re trying to ease the entire process, and Spring19 offers many great new features and improvements to help remove the pain. By giving you more control over the process, more insight into the activities, and more control over the dissemination of the resulting reports, we know you’ll rest easy at the end of every month. Well, at least a little bit easier.

In the next and final installment, we’ll dig into how Spring19 offers extended data integrations to help finance go further in their quest to become the central data source for the entire organization. Stay tuned for more from the Planful team!

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Digging into Spring19: Increased Usability from a Modern UI

Digging into Spring19: Increased Usability from a Modern UI

This is the second in a four-part series digging deeper into our Spring19 product release. The series helps illustrate how finance teams can use these new features and capabilities to accelerate, streamline, or otherwise improve their daily and periodic activities.

We’ve packed hundreds of changes into Spring19, but we’ve distilled them down to four areas of impact. Here’s where our customers will see the most value from Spring19:

  1. Enhanced Workflows
  2. Modern User Experience
  3. Greater Control
  4. Extended data Integrations

People demand a modern user interface and experience in everything from smartphone apps to enterprise software. You can blame Apple for making software look, feel, and work in an effortless, intuitive manner. Since everyone looks to that experience as a model for usability, we’re working hard to make Planful applications nearly as simple and intuitive.

Where the rubber hits the road, or rather, where the click hits the application is the user interface. And even though Planful software does some incredibly complex functions, it has to be nearly effortless for our finance users. It also has to be easy for finance so that they don’t need to rely on IT or other technical resources to, say, build reports or create dashboards.

Every product release has user interface improvements based on feedback from customers and our observations of how people use our software every day. In Spring19, we’ve made a concerted effort to make specific areas, tasks, or functions significantly faster or easier to accomplish with fewer clicks. Some of it happens in the background, which you’ll never see, while some of it will be crystal clear to our regular users. When you put it all together, Spring19 makes our application easier to navigate and easier to use, all with less time waiting in between clicks.

Here are just a few areas where our Spring19 enhancements make for increased usability.

Navigation Ribbon in Spotlight and Modeling

We know that finance relies on Microsoft Excel, as well as Word and PowerPoint. Those apps are ubiquitous and the files are easy to share and collaborate on, and finance still wants to work within them. That’s why we’ve put so much effort into developing Spotlight for Office, and we’ve doubled-down on that effort in Spring19.

The new ribbon menu within Excel will be the most apparent to our customers. Visually, the icons have been updated with a modern, more obvious look, and the overall ribbon has a more intuitive layout. We’ve also added secondary “right click” menus to convey more information and reduce the number of clicks per action. It makes for a more efficient workflow and lets finance do more with fewer clicks.

See More, Do More

The Spring19 usability enhancements expand beyond just Spotlight and Modeling, however. We’ve also added or enhanced other usability features within Spotlight and Modeling. It’s easier to zoom in and out, easier to interact with dynamic queries, and easier to navigate throughout the application.

Speaking of zoom, we’ve added full screen mode for Financial Reports in Spring19. That gives you more screen real estate to show more data and/or more information at one time. You’ll get a better view with much less scrolling, like in the example below.

   

Circling back to people, process, and technology, these UI enhancements have made the technology faster so finance can focus their time on doing more strategic work instead of clicking around or waiting on pages to refresh.

Intelligent Seeding for Plan Scenarios

You’re frequently building new budget and forecast scenarios by starting with your last budget, forecast, and actual results as a baseline set of data. The new intelligent seeding in Spring19 makes the scenario seeding process faster, easier, and more customizable by automating much of the background work and data coordination by making sure the right datasets are tapped and the right periods are filtered out. It also ensures that formulas copied into your new planning scenarios are automatically updated to account for the subtle customizations of a new scenario.

This is critical for two primary reasons. One, the forecasting process naturally has to happen quickly in order to respond to the changing business conditions in an acceptable amount of time. You can’t afford to spend a week setting up a new forecast. Two, you need to have confidence in forecasts and budgets. If you’re doing this manually, there is a lot of room for errors, broken formulas, misplaced data, and more. Intelligent Seeding removes that risk from the equation, so you always have confidence that your budget and forecast scenarios have structural integrity. Spring19 offers dramatic speed increases, but it’s mostly invisible to our customers since it’s happening behind the scenes. We think this enhancement will be a big hit with our customers the first time they experience the improvements. This enhancement gets us one step closer to the ultimate dream – one-click rolling forecasts.

More Dazzling Dynamic Reports

Everyone loves the flexibility and customizability of Dynamic Reports. Spring19 makes them even more, well, dynamic. Enhanced drill-through capabilities allow more filters to be applied to transaction data. Formatting can be customized by adjusting row and column height and width. Subtotals and grand totals can now be added instantly so you see what you want to see. And much more.

Spring19 gets closer to offering a completely custom, unique report for whatever your needs might be. It lets you build the reports you want, in the way you need, so you can present data in a manner that best lets you tell the story you want to tell. It gives you more control so you can build compelling reports that fit your business.

Reporting is Easier and More Secure

Finance and security go hand in hand. You’re dealing with extremely sensitive, extremely confidential information, from salaries to revenue projections, and only certain people are permitted to see certain data.

Spring19 makes it easier and faster for finance to manage security in fewer clicks and with more confidence. Provisioning new users and permissions is more intuitive, and more user information is visible in a single view. It’s further peace of mind for those of us in finance who are already kept up at night with security fears.

Easing the Transformation of Finance

Finance has a lot to do, but they want to get the tactical, periodic work out of the way quickly and accurately so they can focus on the strategic work. The UI and usability improvements in Spring19 help to eliminate the busy work of finance, and enhancing the view of data, forecasts, budgets and more helps finance really impact their organization in new and exciting ways.

In the next installment, we’ll dig into how Spring19 gives finance more control over the work they do and the output they present. Stay tuned for more from the Planful team!

 

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