Moving beyond spreadsheets with IBM Planning Analytics

By | 3 minute read | September 21, 2022

African-American man sitting at desk in his office

My journey with IBM Planning Analytics started with an early morning phone call to tell me that a member of my team had died, suddenly and unexpectedly. Not only was his loss a personal tragedy, it was a tragedy for the whole organization. Our teams relied heavily on his decades of expertise to help us plan and forecast strategically for the future.

The company had been through tough times overall. An expensive enterprise resource planning (ERP) implementation meant there was no money left for other systems, and we’d been forced to run our budget process on a complicated network of 27 linked spreadsheets. Fred was the only one who knew how they worked and suddenly he wasn’t around.

If there was ever an example of key-person risk, this was it.

A world without spreadsheets 

We stumbled our way through the next budget process as best we could, until we came across IBM Planning Analytics with Watson. We could see, for the first time, a world that could exist without spreadsheets. We could see a world where people worked together on a common tool using a common approach to unite and agree on data-driven decisions for the good of the business. Better still, it was a world that didn’t rely on a single person.

But the story doesn’t end there.

Making sense of the data

Once we’d moved off the spreadsheets, we discovered the power that comes from managing data. We found countless problems with our master data, all of which had been masked through spreadsheet aggregation. We had been blissfully unaware of these challenges for years and now it was time to address them. By having full visibility of our data with IBM Planning Analytics, we could finally make sense of all our data together.

These problems were not trivial. In fact, we found examples where our product costs were materially misstated and discovered we’d been selling some products lower than what it cost to make. Through manual updates to spreadsheets, and working at a high level, errors – even seemingly blatant ones – were hiding in plain sight.

There’s little doubt in my mind that our investment in IBM Planning Analytics paid for itself several times over. Not only did we mitigate the key-person risk, which is honestly all we wanted to do, but we gained so much more. We made the organization value its data and want to put data to work for the good of the business.

Unlocking the value of data with the promise of AI

It’s often hard for leaders to see the value in analytical tools. Spreadsheets seem fine, but they’re not. They lull you into a false sense of security. Not only is the business logic linked with the spreadsheet owner, a risk on its own, but the sheer simplicity of the spreadsheet conceals the countless treasures within.

The promise of AI is tantalizing. It can provide insights that humans could never find. But realistically, can we ever hope to get there if the business still thinks in rows and columns? Our expert colleague’s untimely death was a tragedy, but we thank him every day for his legacy. I encourage business leaders that want to make a true impact on their bottom line to explore a continuous integrated planning solution like IBM Planning Analytics, which eliminates the manual work and helps to:

  • Enable automated planning processes
  • Encourage cross-functional collaboration
  • Embed predictive AI capabilities for more accurate predictive forecasting

If you want to learn more, including how to create multidimensional plans, budgets and forecasts, explore interactive dashboards and reports, and discover pre-built solutions by industry or use case, you can get started today with a 30-day free trial or request a demo of IBM Planning Analytics with Watson.

I also encourage you to join the IBM Business Analytics live stream event on October 25, to hear more case studies on how others have used Planning Analytics to accelerate decision making.