Planning is becoming a core need for business today. And there is a lot of software out there to help in the process. If you are looking at improving the way the business forecasts and planning improvement is on your radar, then here are some tips on how to assess and what to look for as part of your planning weaponry.
Planning has been centred around finance under a cluster of software applications called Corporate Performance Management.
The key differences between them are centred around:
- On premise v Cloud
- Size and scalability
- Features and how they meet your business requirements
- Integration with other sources of information and systems
- Ease of use
In order to assess capability there are a number of review and assessment bodies which can help:
When assessing any software it's worth remembering that it only performs as well as the implementation which put it to work. So all the reviews in the world won't account for a poor deployment.
So next to the features of the software, be sure to assess how achievable it is to make them work in practice - and ask your implementation partner the right questions to be sure you get what you need from them to get the software working well for your business.
On premise v Cloud - so the software might be cloud based and the ability to update across the board is a big selling point - however you don't want your implementation partner to be that removed - you want to be able to meet them direct to ensure they understand your business and show you first hand how your business can use it effectively.
Size and scalability? - Software needs to be capable and flexible enough to meet your business needs; so if you are mid-sized then the features and complexity of what you need in planning will be different from an enterprise customer - obvious I know, but we can all get swept up with sexy functionality which never really gets used - take the latest smart phones!
The next question to establish is whether your delivery partner has put the solution into a customer like you, not necessarily the same sector but similar size or complexity or with similar requirements. It's worth remembering that the software company is not always the best placed to deliver - so look around for the right partner to meet your implementation needs.
More importantly what do you need the software to do for you? If you have a particular business structure which needs to plan, forecast report or consolidate in a particular way - that demands certain functionality. So check out that the software can do it - or has done it before. You may want ot establish if it can deal with the volumes of detail, or if you can model in multiple dimensions, or model projects and cost centres together. Every business has some unique requirements, make sure yours can be met.
The functionality of this breed of software varies. Some are purely planning whilst others include consolidation. Reporting and analytics is becoming an important weapon in the forecasting and budgeting space - as well as being fundamental to better communication, providing good visibility of results right across the business.
By the same token, an implementation partner needs to show you that they have the experience and know how to build your models with the structure you need. You may need to model in detail or flip between bottom up and top down budgeting; you may need to model time and projects across many entities and time zones. If so it's important that your partner not only understands what you're trying to do, but has some experience in delivering it.
Integration these days offers the ability to connect almost any data ,creating enormous potential for the planning space.
It is imperative that software is capable of integrating with your source data. , An openAPI and simple to use integration tools will make a massive difference to what is possible here.
Equally this is a skill set not shared by all. Consultancies may be used to building planning models, but run a mile from the more technical demands of integration. As important, is an understanding of what you are trying to extract from the data. This drives where and what level you are accessing information to populate your plans.
Be sure to check that the deliverer has connectivity with your brand of accounting ledgers and other source systems before committing, the whole process will then be faster and the outcome more elegant.
Ease of use, Many systems claim they are easy to use- so the proof here is in the pudding. Look and feel needs to fill you with confidence that others in your team will 'get it' fast. Reviews and customer testimonials are where you get the low down on usability. Better still, ask for a hands on demo!
The shape of your models and the build quality will also affect usability - so be sure to get feedback not only from the software review portals - but from the partner and delivery end too, by asking for customer references.
If you would like to see cloud planning software in action then ask for a demo from our team or see Adaptive Insights in action in our recent webinar