How Customers Help Planful Drive Product Innovation

How Customers Help Planful Drive Product Innovation

With the launch of the Fall18 release, I sat down with Sanjay Vyas, Chief Product officer at Planful, to hear first hand about the work his team has been doing and how they are focused on building great products that our customers truly want and can benefit from.

We continue the strong pace of product innovation and advancements we’ve been focused on over the past few years. In fact, we’ve given customers 4 new products and more than 250 new features and enhancements over the last 18 months, including new API integrations, powerful features like Spotlight for Office, and innovative products including MyPlan.

Our product and engineering teams have been focused on helping finance, budget owners, and executives be more productive, work faster, and be more collaborative. More importantly, our driving goal is to help Finance transform into strategic business advisors that drive the success of their organizations. The Fall18 release adds numerous speed, collaboration, and accuracy enhancing features to allow finance to become central in connecting the organization around a single plan and single source of truth. Sanjay Vyas, our chief product officer, serves as the guiding force and vision behind the team, helping to ensure great products are delivered on time and that customers are realizing the benefits of the breakthrough products and features we’re working so hard to deliver.

Martell: How does the Planful engineering team deliver so many new and exciting products and features quarter after quarter?

Vyas: We have a great team, we’re focused and we have great customers.  One of the ways we’ve been able to deliver so many cool features and products over the past 18 months has to do with our commitment to our people. We’ve added 24 engineers to our team in the last 18 months. They are a great, innovative group of people. In addition to listening to our customers’ feedback and requests, our engineering team performs two team hack-a-thons a year, one in the spring and one in the fall. This gives our team time to think, ideate and come up with the most innovative feature on the market.

Martell: How are Planful customers involved in the product development process?

Vyas: We look to them for guidance. We engage with our customers through our online customer community, quarterly regional HUG meetings, and we also work with customers on support issues; all of which guide our product roadmap and spark ideas for features and enhancements.  We really value the feedback that our customers provide and make their feedback a top priority.

Martell: How has the EPM market and customer needs changed over the past few years?

Vyas: In progressive organizations, finance is becoming more integral in setting company direction, not just delivering reports to the board…products like MyPlan have allowed finance to take a more strategic role in the organization and give budget owners more autonomy.

Martell: Finance leaders tell us that they want to be a more strategic part of their organizations. How is Planful helping them reach that goal?

Vyas: Again, with the launch of MyPlan, we’ve allowed finance to talk about the business, not just budgets. By giving line of business leaders the autonomy to manage departments that roll up to one budget, this allows finance to think broader and more strategic. With our latest data trends feature, finance can now save time by reviewing historical budget data, see how and where budgets are trending and highlight potential discrepancies.

Martell: Finance teams are also asking for more collaboration tools and more task management tools. How is increased collaboration changing the role of finance within an organization?

Vyas: Let’s face it, for budget owners, financial reporting and budgeting is an onerous task. It hijacks managers for days or weeks each period and takes them away from being a strategic vision in guiding the business. By making tasks easier, and giving finance a faster and more efficient way to work, the budgeting process takes less time, and makes budgets more accurate and more informed, which is beneficial to both sides. Included in the Fall18 release, we launched Task Manager to help finance stay aligned and focused on due dates, goals and ensure projects stay on track. This feature enables comprehensive and effective management of all financial planning, modeling, consolidation, and reporting tasks, enhancing collaboration and focus to meet critical deadlines and execute against goals and objectives. These features have been frequently requested by customers. I am excited we were able to deliver them with this release.

Martell: How do you see finance’s role shifting over the next year or two, especially within forward-thinking organizations?

Vyas: Our more progressive customers have finance taking a more active role in guiding the direction of the organization and they are using visionary insights like predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to make decisions faster and with confidence. Everyday we are talking to customers about how they are using, or would like to use predictive analytics and artificial intelligence within their everyday financial processes, and we’re discovering some really exciting use-cases. We are excited to design new and exciting ways to incorporate these capabilities into the Planful platform in the near future. I  also see finance having a greater seat at the C-level table and contributing more at the business level versus just thinking about the budget/profitability stage.

Martell: Can you give us a glimpse into what Planful is working on for 2019? 

Vyas: We’re super excited about the year ahead.  I don’t want to give too much away, but we’re working with customers and our product team on some exciting new applications of predictive and prescriptive analytics, and machine learning in the planning process. This technology can provide internal and external data intelligence in the decision-making process, and make recommendations about which scenarios organizations should pursue to optimize results. We are very excited about exploring the many different ways this technology can be applied to our customers’ various use-cases to help them make better decisions.

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