There is a trend in the performance management space to move away from the traditional spreadsheet-based planning application to a browser-based solution. This is, of course, a welcome move, as it automates a process which is very manual and error-prone. The business benefits of this new approach are well documented — reductions in cycle time, more confidence in the numbers, more time for analysis, etc. There are many.
In an earlier post on things to consider when selecting a planning application, I discussed some of the problems that can hinder reporting and analysis with these applications. One of the issues is the lack of spreadsheet integration and “owned by finance” reporting capabilities.
Giving finance execs the report formatting they want
Finance users love their spreadsheets! They are very easy to use and extremely flexible. They also have very powerful, flexible and pixel-perfect reporting capabilities. You get lots of control and options for formatting (cell by cell), alignment, charts and printing (“fit to page,” for example). We all know that our finance executives have very specific requirements for their reports — fonts, underlines, column spacing and so on. Spreadsheets make it easy to meet their needs in this area.
This is where browser-only performance management applications fall down. Their lack of reporting flexibility may encourage poor behavior — the type of behavior that you were trying to get away from. Imagine being presented with an ad hoc reporting task. Finance executives require an answer to a question in their preferred highly-formatted report style. With a browser-only performance management solution, you may be tempted to copy and paste the data from the browser into a spreadsheet or perform a “data pull” into a .csv file and then manipulate the data in the spreadsheet using VLOOKUPs and SUMIFs. As we well know, any time you cut and paste data in that manner, it introduces the possibility of error that always comes with manual processes. Not the kind of data management behavior that we want to force people into by leaving them no alternative.
The right finance reports without the “poor behavior”
The approach taken by IBM Planning Analytics is different. The software provides an extremely powerful and flexible spreadsheet capability alongside sophisticated browser-based capabilities. Each of these sets of features augments the other so that users get the best of both worlds. Because the tool is fully integrated with the underlying database, users benefit from centralized definitions, business rules and security, which also keeps auditors, compliance officers and IT happy.
Meanwhile, though, end users can analyze and report on the data in the spreadsheet environment that they are most familiar with. That gives them the tools they need to meet tight reporting deadlines and satisfy even the most exacting formatting requirements of their executives. Thanks to this combination of features, IBM Planning Analytics delivers uncompromising performance while discouraging the poor behavior described above.
Learning more about a better breed of planning application
Want to know more about how IBM Planning Analytics can bring value to your organization? Take a look at our interactive SmartPaper, Beyond process efficiency — driving business value in the age of analytics.