Connected Planning Defined
In recent years, we’ve seen the introduction of terms such as the ‘connected financial close’, ‘connected planning’ and ‘connected reporting’ starting to be used to describe the integration of key Finance processes – including financial close and consolidation, account reconciliation, financial reporting and extended planning and analysis (XP&A). And there’s a reason for that: the concept of connected sounds compelling. The idea is that – by “connecting” people with data, financial reporting and plans – “connected Finance teams” can move forward with speed and agility.
Connected planning solutions (see Figure 1) have supported Finance transformation for over 20 years. But these solutions aren’t really designed to help the largest and most complex organisations lead at speed – not in this new era anyway.
We recently started sharing a four-part blog series discussing the path toward Intelligent Finance through digital transformation. Regardless of where you are in your journey, our Inspiring Intelligent Finance series is designed to give you insights from the experience of OneStream’s team of industry experts. Today’s post, the third in the series, focuses on helping Finance teams understand why it’s time to move beyond connected planning.
Challenges of Connected Planning Solutions
Modern connected planning solutions offer a nice alternative for corporate and departmental Finance teams seeking to evolve from manual, spreadsheet-intensive processes. And for organisations with little complexity, connected Finance solutions might work well. But how do connected Finance solutions fare for large, global organisations with sophisticated requirements that extend across the entire Office of Finance and into lines of business?
These organisations have dozens of diverse planning and Finance processes, so connected Finance solutions are difficult to scale to meet sophisticated organisational requirements. Why? Because each and every departmental and corporate application or model must be connected – adding risk, cost and complexity to already-taxed Finance teams. Here are some additional factors to consider:
The 2- to 3-Year Itch
Some organisations that began their planning journey with multiple point solutions and attempted to ‘connect’ them are arriving at a decision point 2-3 years later. Why? Well, decisions to implement planning solutions are often made in isolation. The solution is right for that specific part of the organisation at that specific time, and the organisation has probably seen many benefits and improvements to the planning and forecasting processes. There can be multiple solutions fulfilling many different planning requirements, but even if ‘connections’ or integrations exist between them, there’s no standardisation.
Not to mention, in organisations experiencing fast growth and change – which is pretty much every medium to large organisation these days – this lack of standardisation presents a problem when the need to have a single unified view of the organisation becomes imperative. Such organisations probably find themselves struggling with not only data silos but also, more importantly, planning silos. Finance, Sales, HR, Supply Chain and every other function are making forecasts based on numbers. But those numbers don’t always match – and that’s a problem.
Can this problem be solved by more integrations? No. In fact, having more integrations potentially makes the problem worse because more people and more time will be focused on integrating siloed systems. The implementation of these separate solutions has been an advancement in and of itself because users have become familiar with more advanced planning and forecasting capabilities. However, the next level of evolution needs to take organisations forward to a single version of the truth across all processes.
The Better Alternative – A Unified Platform
Organisations today should look to a truly unified platform for all their performance management processes. An intelligent Finance platform (see Figure 2) that allows them to break away from the limitations of spreadsheets and connected planning solutions. A platform that unifies financial consolidation, planning, reporting and analysis though a single, extensible solution.
OneStream offers a solution that delivers corporate standards and controls, with the flexibility for business units to report and plan at additional levels of detail without impacting corporate standards – all through a single platform. The hallmark of a unified platform is the capability of having multiple solutions for actuals, budgets, forecasts, plans, reconciliations, profitability analysis and more – all living together in a single application. Each solution benefits from leveraging everything the platform offers.
As a unified solution, OneStream eliminates risky integrations, validations and reconciliations between multiple products, applications and modules.
Customer Example – Hyperion/Howden Group Holdings
Founded in 1994 as Hyperion Insurance Group, the now re-branded Howden Group Holdings has grown significantly over the last 26 years to over 6,000 employees across 40 combined territories in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, the USA, Australia and New Zealand.
Howden Group is on a continuous mission to add controls and keep pace with growth, without crushing the entrepreneurial spirit. They needed a solution that would provide corporate standardisation while giving the individual subsidiaries the power to run their businesses as needed with a certain level of autonomy and control. That’s why Howden Group decided to upgrade their finance software and replace Anaplan with OneStream’s modern and unified CPM platform. To learn more, watch the replay of our webinar on Howden Group’s move to OneStream.
It was vital for Howden Group to invest in the long term, and OneStream is a strategic platform for the future. Previously, Howden Group had a very complex, fragmented data model that was hard to reconcile. OneStream instead gives them a single source of data, satisfying the corporate governance and control aspect while providing the ability to support divisional requirements through OneStream’s Extensible Dimensionality®. Business leaders are now able to drill into the details to understand the organic growth of the organisation.
To learn more, read our Intelligent Finance Whitepaper, and stay tuned for the final post from our Inspiring Intelligent Finance blog series coming soon.
The financial close process has long been a critical activity for all companies to accurately record and report on their past performance. Not only is this essential for the organisation to understand what has happened, but there are also legal requirements to perform and publish this analysis.
For this reason and more, the financial close is viewed by many CFOs and Finance leaders as the backbone of effective Finance Transformation.
However, change has and will continue to come at organisations from all angles. We have of course seen unprecedented recent impacts from the global COVID-19 pandemic, and there may unfortunately be other similar events in the future. And as we learned from recent events, Finance and Accounting teams must have the tools to conquer complexity, lead at speed and drive performance.
For Finance and Accounting teams who are still relying on manual processes or ‘connected’ corporate performance management (CPM) software, the financial close and reporting processes – such as statutory, risk, or environmental, social & governance (ESG) processes – add another enormous scope of complexity. Why? Because each and every financial close solution or departmental and corporate application must be connected. And that adds risk, cost and complexity to already-taxed Finance teams.
If your organisation is evaluating whether you’re ready for Finance Transformation, here are 5 key signs it’s time to reimagine your financial close processes.
1. Time Wasted
If your financial close and consolidation process is largely manual, especially if you’re using Excel, it’s time for Finance Transformation. Why? Well, to start, your organisation is probably spending considerable time moving data and reference data between CPM processes and/or exerting a lot of effort to achieve the end result. That means your valuable resources are spending more time on data gathering than understanding the results and (too) little time on analysing the data to make better informed decisions. And that’s damaging to not only your people but also your organisation. The manual process is slowing down the process, wasting time (that can be better spent elsewhere!) and making the job harder than necessary for your teams.
Need more proof? Consider the net impact to organisations generally. A 2019 Ventana Research Finance Benchmark survey found that 48% of organisations take longer than 6 days to close the books. That length of time is far too long in today’s world, and it has consequences. It’s painful to an organisation from the missed opportunities that come with reporting later than necessary. But it’s also painful for the Finance teams who must handle complex manual tasks over a number of days.
2. Lack of Extensibility
If you have multiple processes within the same applications to handle different areas of your business (e.g., management vs. statutory reporting or different levels of budgeting and planning by business units), then you’re using the previous generation of CPM tools. Why? Well, if core components cannot be re-used, then you’re using legacy CPM technology. For instance, if a calculation must be replicated in multiple processes or an account cannot be shared or be visible across multiple hierarchies, then legacy CPM technology is holding your organisation back. It’s no longer necessary to deploy multiple solutions where divisions, business units and departments have a requirement to plan and report at a lower level of detail vs. corporate.
How can this make a difference? Well, having multiple solutions for actuals, budgets, forecasts, plans, reconciliations, profitability analysis and more potentially means multiple different technologies and many different types of integrations to manage. Not only will this be taking more time but there is significantly increased risk in the integrations, validations and reconciliations between multiple products, applications and modules. A modern unified and extensible CPM platform brings this together into one – streamlining processes whilst lowering both cost and risk.
3. Low User Acceptance
If your users are frustrated with the current tools and the level of service and resolution from the vendor support, then it’s a strong sign that change is needed. That’s especially true if you have lost staff because of such issues. Why? Well, if your users aren’t happy with the interface, capability or service of the tools they’re using, then it can (and usually does!) breed unhappiness in their teams or departments. Modern interfaces are everywhere today – from the mobile phones we use to the televisions or even the fridges in our homes. People expect the same simplicity and ease of use in business applications. As a result of frustration when that’s not the case, some users are less engaged in their work, and many will even consider changing roles and/or companies for this reason.
How can user acceptance of the system really help your organisation? Most Finance resources are qualified and ambitious. They wish to be strategic business partners and to use their expertise for the good of the organisation. Accordingly, the right system can be a pleasure to work with, especially when it uses efficient processes that minimize manual tasks, such as performing allocations, calculating depreciation or posting manual journal entries. Minimizing such tasks will give users the time and scope to make a difference – enabling users to help elevate the performance of your organisation as a whole.
4. Missing Functionality
If you’re missing some key capabilities, it’s a good indication change is needed. The functionality around the periphery of the close process especially tends to be a good indicator of whether change is required. Why? Well, if any data commentary and supporting information are stored in Excel files, notes, manual folders or even post-it notes, it raises major functionality concerns. If there’s limited access to real-time information and the only way to get data points is to wait until after the close, you’re employing a high-risk strategy which could cause your organisation major trouble further down the line. Beyond the risk, such functionality (specifically the lack of it) makes it difficult for users to keep track of the process effectively. There are also multiple potential points of failure, and valuable information could be lost. Worse still, the wrong version could be used, resulting in errors in reporting.
How can functionality be improved to avoid those pitfalls? Here’s how: by eliminating spreadsheets, point solutions and other manual data stores across multiple business units. The result? Standardisation across the organisation and, importantly, a single version of the truth for financial and operating results. This functionality in turn supports increased insights and improved decision-making. Your corporate staff also gains the ability to drill through from summarised corporate data right down into the underlying operational details – all in one system.
5. Quality Concerns
If there are concerns, even small ones, around the quality of the data/process and/or there are known errors in reporting, it’s time for a change. Frequent disagreements over data are also a sign to take action. Why? Well, constant errors in the key data or KPIs when presented at the board level are obviously problematic. It’s also not ideal if there are regular restatements required due to errors found after the close. Both types of errors can cause unnecessary stress to everyone involved. Plus, in today’s corporate reporting environment, having good financial data quality isn’t an option – it’s a requirement. Errors or omissions in financial statements can result in compliance issues or penalties, loss of confidence from stakeholders and often a reduction in market value.
How can you avoid those issues and instead ensure you have high-quality data and processes? By fully integrating your CPM solution with all sources systems. Then data quality risk can be managed using fully auditable system integration maps. Validations can be used to control submissions from remote sites. This all provides your organisation with the ability to reduce internal control risk with better audit trails, better drill-down and drill-back to data sources, and a better (and complete) process and change visibility. Ultimately, fully integrating the CPM solution with all source systems will not only reduce the costs of compliance, internal controls and audit requirements, but also improve confidence in the quality of financial results for internal and external stakeholders.
If your organisation is struggling with the need to manage your critical, enterprise-wide financial close as effectively as possible, now is the time to reimagine the financial close.
If your organisation doesn’t have timely, insightful and easily accessible information for insightful reporting and analysis to maintain a competitive edge – now is the time to reimagine the financial close. And if your Finance and Accounting teams are held back from unleashing the true potential of Finance across the organisation, now is the time to begin your Finance Transformation journey.
That journey starts with you setting a new foundation for change and performance management.
To learn more about how organisations are reimagining the financial close, click here to read the whitepaper. And if you’re ready to take the leap from spreadsheets or legacy CPM solutions and start your Finance Transformation, let’s chat!
In a recent webinar with our partners at PwC, we explored how Finance leaders are increasing the value and guidance their teams provide to their organizations while driving increased performance. In this discussion on Office of Finance Transformation, Scott Stern, Senior Director of Product Marketing at OneStream, first examines how Finance teams can evolve from a scorekeeper to a coach role with Colby Conner, Finance Partner at PwC. Then Scott examines some examples of customer transformation with Tana Treearphorn, Director of Advisory at PwC.
This webinar details the organizational attributes and technology required for Finance teams to successfully navigate this transformation. What does success in Office of Finance transformation look like? Mr. Colby suggests the following rule of thumb. When Finance and business unit leaders spend just 2 minutes or less of strategy meetings agreeing on the accuracy of the numbers and spend the remaining 58 minutes developing insights and solving challenges, the Office of Finance Transformation can be deemed a success.
While a bit simplistic, this “2-minute test” illustrates exactly what Finance leaders of sophisticated organizations should strive to achieve. Under this ideal, Finance transcends the role of data aggregator and summarizer to become a trusted partner of business unit leaders. Transforming essentially elevates Finance’s role to focus on providing insights and guidance to drive performance for the entire organization.
Why Embark on the Office of Finance Transformation Journey?
Mr. Conner explains how today’s organizations have an urgent need for Finance to better support the business. He describes how many factors – including increasing economic pressure, emerging technology, new data sources and increasing data volumes – all challenge organizational performance. He then describes how these internal and external factors present opportunities for Finance to lead at speed to not only meet the pace of change but also conquer increasing complexity.
He also examines how many Finance organizations limit their role to being scorekeepers. These teams spend much of their time wrangling data and reconciliations with a focus on aggregating data and producing reports. In contrast, organizations that have embarked on an Intelligent Finance journey progress to a coach role and add value by providing knowledge, insights and operational decision guidance across their organizations.
Finance teams that complete this journey evolve to become owners of an “insight supply chain.” These teams can then take data from inside the organization and turn it into insights to define new futures and create market leadership.
Addressing Office of Finance Transformation Challenges
So why isn’t every Finance team successfully launching this transformation? The answer is pretty simple: there are significant challenges to realizing an Office of Finance Transformation. The primary challenges are outdated technology and manual processes that force many teams to spend too much time managing data and tools instead of conducting analysis and providing insights.
Mr. Conner redefines these challenges as being opportunities. He suggests Finance teams turn the status quo of manual tasks and inefficient processes into the “fuel” that powers transformation. More specifically, he argues that implementing a modern corporate performance management (CPM) solution to automate processes will give Finance teams the extra time they need. That time allows Finance teams to first spend time implementing transformation and ultimately find themselves with the time needed for high-value analysis and insight development.
Mr. Conner specifically identifies OneStream’s Intelligent Finance platform as a solution that empowers Finance teams in two ways. First, it gives teams the ability to begin the Office of Finance Transformation by conquering the complexity of CPM processes. Second, it provides teams the capability to complete that transformation with advanced analysis and reporting. Some example opportunities to increase efficiencies in CPM processes include streamlining the financial close process or building efficiencies in reporting or budgeting & forecasting (see Figure 1). He explains that OneStream’s powerful process automation capabilities enable Finance teams to automate processes and eliminate wasted time spent on manual efforts.
Five Attributes for Finance Transformation Success
Mr. Conner then defines the five organizational attributes (see Figure 2) for Finance Transformation success and provides a detailed explanation of each.
A key highlight of these attributes included a discussion of how Finance teams absolutely must build trust across the organization as a coach for the operational business units – moving the role of Finance from Scorekeeper to Value Adder and Wealth Creator. While many factors will engender trust (see Figure 3), Mr. Conner specifies that Finance teams must maintain confidence in numbers that are shared with the organization on a timely basis. In his words, “If the data isn’t always right, if it is always being revised or if it takes too long to put together, then it erodes trust.”
He also explains that Finance teams must understand each operational unit’s goals and have the analytic ability to provide insightful and relevant analysis. He identified the OneStream Intelligent Finance platform as having not only the financial data quality capability to build confidence in governed financial and operational data, but also the ability to empower advanced financial and operational analytics.
Intelligent Finance in Action
To close out the webinar, Tana Treearphorn shares two customer examples of Finance Transformation. In the first example, he examines how a $21B SaaS provider of cloud-based customer relationship management (CRM) services and complimentary enterprise applications (e.g., customer service, marketing automation, analytics and application development) conquered the complexity of rapid growth. With the OneStream platform and guidance from PwC, this Finance team transformed from being a report provider who spent 80% of their time reconciling data to being the provider of insights to the entire organization.
In the second example, Mr. Treearphorn shares how PwC guided a $75B global freight and logistics provider using the OneStream platform to unify their fragmented closing and planning processes from across the globe. In doing so, the provider powered their transformation by building efficiency in their processes and increasing the relevance of their operations insights.
To learn more about how OneStream empowers organizations to lead at speed in Office of Finance Transformation and how PwC guides organizations on that journey, watch the webinar replay of “Intelligent Finance: Driving a New Level of Business Agility.” And if you’re ready to conquer complexity in your own Office of Finance Transformation, contact OneStream today.
As we discussed in Part 1 of this series, Finance teams running legacy SAP solutions are being put in an uncomfortable position. How? Well, despite billions of investment dollars across thousands of customers, SAP is pushing all long-term Finance Transformation through its SAP HANA platform. And with support ending for legacy EPM (and widely used) products such as BPC beginning in 2024, Finance organizations have an important question to answer.
How can Finance organizations drive innovation forward with speed and agility, without compromising critical requirements or getting sucked into a multi-year project?
If your organization uses SAP for EPM, you have three choices:
– Choice 1: Continue with legacy SAP EPM products until their end of life.
– Choice 2: Invest in SAP’s unproven next-generation products, such as Group Reporting, Analytics Cloud (SAC), and maybe Central Finance or some variant hybrid strategy. Note that this strategy requires at least one S/4 HANA Finance instance to support Group Reporting.
– Choice 3: Take control of your Finance Transformation by evaluating alternate EPM strategies with a solution such as OneStream.
Where to begin? No matter where your organization is on its Finance Transformation journey, getting “under the hood” with a thorough due diligence process is critical to understanding how different technologies can impact your Finance team’s user experience. And that is exactly why we’re focusing this post, Part 2 of our blog series on demystifying S/4 HANA and SAP EPM, on key evaluation factors to help you assess how SAP’s transformation strategy might impact your organization.
Key Evaluation Factors
Here are the four common evaluation factors we outlined in our first post:
For those of you evaluating an alternative EPM strategy, we’ll also share some of the feedback from our 130+ SAP ERP customers. Many of them have already replaced SAP BPC, BFC and other legacy products as well.
Let’s dig into each of the key evaluation factors.
Evaluation Factor 1: Complexity
As part of any Finance Transformation, organizations must conquer the complexity inherent within their internal systems to simplify the administration and maintenance of critical processes. Figure 1 illustrates SAP’s multi-product strategy. Each product requires its own resources, skill sets and coordination between respective implementations.
As illustrated in Figure 2, the SAP EPM solution is fractured into multiple products. Each arrow you see is an integration point that must be created and maintained. SAP Analytics Cloud (SAC) is the only native cloud solution – the other solutions were not designed specifically for the cloud.
Thus, a mixture of platforms – which adds risk, cost and complexity – could be needed. Lastly, since each product requires its own skill set, administrators are specific to each product and are not leveraged across solution areas.
In comparison, OneStream (see Figure 3) is a unified corporate performance management (CPM) solution on a single platform. There’s only one integration between your source systems and OneStream, regardless of which EPM processes (e.g., planning, financial close, accounting reconciliations) are part of your solution. Plus, since OneStream is a single product, experienced administrators’ skills can be leveraged across solution domains.
Evaluation Factor 2: Change Management
Change Management (see Figure 4) is another key evaluation factor. Why? Because SAP is asking its customers to commit to a Finance Transformation project that will require significant management resources and oversight over several years across the ERP and EPM technology stack.
By contrast, with OneStream, a project requires only updating your CPM management layer. This step will enable your organization to focus exclusively on innovating and fulfilling the needs of the financial management team and senior executives.
Evaluation Factor 3: Timing
Project timing and time to value are also key evaluation considerations (see Figure 5), especially when evaluating an “ERP first” strategy. Why? Well, right from Day 1, organizations will feel the immediate impacts of cash outflows and mass activity across the entire Finance, Supply Chain and other key functions involved in requirement gathering and project planning.
Impact of ERP Before EPM Investment Strategy
The SAP EPM architecture requires organizations to implement at least one S4/HANA instance before any other work can be done (see Figure 6). In addition, the structures for statutory and management reporting must be built in the S/4 HANA environment as the efficiency of Group Reporting and Central Finance are dependent on S/4 HANA structures. Thus, the initial design portion of the project is lengthened to ensure all EPM and ERP requirements are included in the Global Design.
Why does this matter? Well, those requirements mean you’re looking at a minimum 18-month ERP implementation before work can even begin on the EPM solutions. And if you’re part of a large, global and complex organization, your organization could be looking at a 3- to 4-year ERP implementation before that work can begin.
Comparatively, the OneStream architecture allows you to implement your CPM solution first (see Figure 7). By devoting your efforts to the CPM solution, you will generally see benefits within 6-12 months of starting the project.
And by focusing on the decision-making layer of Finance Transformation, you will address the critical management needs first. This strategy will also provide another benefit: the new chart of accounts would be initially implemented and controlled in OneStream. Once solidified, this structure would then simplify and reduce the design effort of any new ERP system – which will shorten the ERP implementation cycle.
The structure also provides the benefit of extending the timeframe for you to decide on the fate of your current ERP, providing additional runway for you to undertake a more complete analysis of your ERP needs and perform the proper due diligence for that project.
Evaluation Factor 4: Investment
With any project, the actual investment (see Figure 8) should always be a significant consideration. The dollar value of the investment, if great enough, can impact other corporate priorities. Also, as the saying goes, “the larger the investment, the greater the risk.”
Modernizing aging transactional ERP systems and EPM solutions are important and strategic projects that can support finance transformation. And there’s no question that a substantial investment of time and resources is required to upgrade to SAP S/4 for Finance Transformation.
So which do you invest in first – the ERP systems that run the business, or the EPM solutions that help you manage the business?
If you’re a Finance team with immediate needs to drive agility across planning, financial close and other key processes, you must consider the business value of accelerating the Finance Transformation by conquering the complexity of your EPM processes before you embark on an ERP upgrade. You may even find that the value you create will fund your ERP transformation when the time is right.
To learn more about why SAP customers are moving to OneStream, read our whitepaper here.
For too long, the Finance function has been seen as an afterthought, but this perception is changing. Finance no longer just collates historic information up to a particular point in time. Instead, Finance is critical in making decisions or adjustments about future operations for a company and its customers, and this strategic role depends on data. For Finance to have any credibility, it must be able to manage data, analyse data and drive improvement across the organisation.
Today, the question Finance teams must answer is not WHETHER they have enough data from Sales, Finance, HR or Supply Chain groups. Rather, Finance teams and organisations must tackle HOW they plan to leverage their data to develop insights, drive performance and create a competitive advantage. And that starts with strategic Finance Transformation.
Software is Changing the Status Quo
As organisations consider their own Finance Transformation, they need to recognise that their customers are living in a world where Finance is also changing for them. How? The consumer’s relationship with money is changing very quickly in a way that’s both significant and permanent. New stores of value, such as digital wallets, exist. New point-of-sale options like Klarna are also emerging. The physical incarnation of Finance devices, products and services may soon disappear (e.g., we won’t need cards if there is stored value, or perhaps a biometric payment option).
The pandemic drove forward the digital economy, and changes in how people can transact directly impact revenue opportunities in the market too. If, however, an organisation can’t cope with new streams of data, new payment methods, new financing options and how people interact with money, then the organisation as we know it will not succeed. In effect, software is changing the status quo.
This pace of change will only increase over time, including with developments in AI and machine learning, and businesses need to understand these changes. Most importantly, though, enterprises must understand how these external changes can create internal opportunities to leverage new technologies and new techniques to drive performance quickly and intelligently. Over time, embracing change and future-proofing the Finance function will create opportunity to gain a competitive advantage.
Data is key to success.
The efficient collection, storage, management and dissemination of data are increasingly critical to developing and sharing critical insights. Why? Because this agility means you can learn, develop and iterate on important plans that impact internal processes, products, suppliers and customers – and do so quickly and at scale. Unfortunately, the largest and most complex organisations struggle with such agility due to over-reliance on legacy software and fragmented tools. Now is the time to rise to the challenge through innovative Finance Transformation.
Consider that monthly reports give you just 12 data points in one year. Wouldn’t decision-making be more effective with weekly and daily data (see Figure 1)? Data latency and slow reporting will inevitably mean data is not fully leveraged or used effectively. And what a large enterprise cannot manage effectively, many newer and smaller entrants can.
Data and reporting must be delivered in a useful, visually pleasing (see Figure 2) and understandable format which can be interpreted and leveraged to improve your business, your processes, your supply chain and, ultimately, your customer experience. Access to relevant and timely financial data is a competitive advantage because it enables and empowers decision-makers.
Leave legacy behind.
The future is software-driven. Today’s incumbents can be disrupted almost overnight, usually due to a lack of planning and future-proofing. They leave themselves vulnerable by not asking how technology can help them understand the business in real time and create additional value. Newer competitors don’t suffer from the same legacy- or process-driven inertia. Instead of focusing on rebuilding backends, they concentrate on delivering solutions that add genuine value. Furthermore, we will increasingly see that Finance does not require a long supply chain of people involved in making financial decisions. Unsurprisingly, with the right data at the right time, software is actually very good at creating predictive forecasts.
Ultimately, business success boils down to customer success. Whether related to your internal customers, the end customer or your supply chain, the ultimate key business indicator (KPI) is always what it costs to deliver the best level of customer experience. Businesses must understand their critical KPIs and have access to them to create real-time analysis. The days of the Finance department being the data laggard are over. Focusing only on internal reporting does not add value to the customer. Finance therefore needs to be an internal business partner, feeding not just data but “information” in the correct format to the right people at the right time to enable them to make better plans and decisions.
As we move into the future, change will be exponential, and once it accelerates away, it will be very difficult to catch up. Future-proof your Finance team now. Consider how technology can help you leverage your existing and future data to ensure your enterprise comes out on top.
To learn more, click here to watch a replay of my recent webinar, “Future Proofing Finance.”
Like all things that change over time, the corporate performance management (CPM) or enterprise performance management (EPM) landscape has been through several key changes. Many of you may remember the consolidation of smaller niche vendors nearly 15 years ago when OutlookSoft, Cartesis, Hyperion, Cognos and TM1, to name a few, were swallowed up by those mega-vendors of today – SAP, Oracle and IBM. The critical importance of CPM in Finance Transformation continues to grow.
With increasing market demand for Finance Transformation, newer CPM vendors have since flourished alongside continual market growth and increasingly more organisations recognising the need for such solutions. Indeed, the mega-vendors now have multiple areas of focus, outside of CPM, and have probably found themselves with declining CPM businesses, which only contribute a small percentage of mega-vendors’ overall revenues.
Not surprisingly, then, there is a natural push from legacy vendors to divert focus and attention towards full enterprise resource planning (ERP), human capital management (HCM), customer experience and/or supply chain opportunities to drive higher revenue and secure more of those larger deals. But there is a problem with that. Sometimes this approach dilutes the value of CPM, which is definitely not ideal.
De-Emphasising CPM Dilutes Finance Transformation
De-emphasising CPM ultimately has a negative effect. The result? The dilution of Finance Transformation. Specifically, what has transpired is the collapse of the lines between ERP and CPM businesses as a result of reallocating investments away from delivering true innovation. Instead, the focus has been on aligning the look and feel of the ERP and CPM solutions, creating a perception that CPM and ERP are the same, or at least interchangeable.
Legacy vendors are also willing to further dilute the value of CPM/EPM by heavily discounting CPM into multi-million-dollar ERP, HCM and supply chain software deals. While this approach might work for IT groups intent on using a single vendor, potential consequences abound. Here are just a few ways de-emphasising CPM impacts Finance teams:
While preparing for the next step in the transformation journey, Finance leaders must, must, must understand the key differences between ERP and CPM. And for organizations preparing to evaluate new software for Finance Transformation, understanding ERP and CPM is especially critical.
ERP Systems Run the Business
Transactional systems such as ERP are best used to ‘run’ the organisation. Any number of these systems can be present in a global organisation and can come from multiple suppliers.
While the term was first used in the 1990s by the Gartner Group, ERP systems actually have deep roots in the manufacturing industry and can trace their history back to the 1960s. At that time, manufacturers needed a better way to manage, track and control inventory.
Today, ERP is generally referred to as a category of business management software – and typically a suite of integrated applications – that an organization can use to collect, store, manage and interpret data from many business activities. Here are some examples of the business activities ERP systems help automate and track:
CPM Systems Manage the Business
The CPM or EPM solution (see Figure 1) is the management layer above all transaction systems. CPM software provides a level of agility and visibility which is now critical for any organisation that wants to successfully handle the complexities of growth and change. With an effective management layer in place, organisations can upgrade or replace underlying ERP/GL systems. And it can be done without disrupting critical management processes, such as planning and reporting, during the transition period.
Essentially, CPM systems monitor performance across the enterprise with a key goal at the centre of it all: improving business performance. A CPM system integrates and analyses data from many sources, including from applications across the organization such as the front-office, e-commerce systems, back-office, data warehouses and external data sources. Here are a few of the key management processes supported by CPM:
CPM Investments Are Agnostic to M&A Strategy
During a recent customer conversation, the customer explained how a OneStream CPM investment was a key part of his organisation’s M&A strategy. The company recently made a very large acquisition and had very little time or information to integrate the financial systems. To integrate or consolidate systems at the transactional ERP layer would take months or even years, not to mention cause major disruptions in day-to-day business operations. Comparatively, integrating the acquired company into OneStream can take just a matter of hours to a few days depending on the company size.
The Next Generation CPM Emerges
OneStream entered the CPM market to offer something completely different to the fragmented CPM systems acquired and developed by mega-vendors. To offer something better – a single unified platform to bring together all the key CPM processes and analytics in one place (see Figure 2).
The strength of the OneStream platform takes organisations to an entirely new level of CPM, one where they can move away from only viewing key data and ratios at the month end to receiving weekly or even daily signals. As a result, action can be taken at the speed of the organisation. OneStream is therefore empowering its customers to “lead at speed.”
With OneStream, multiple integrations down to source systems to feed each CPM process are not necessary. Instead, the intuitive workflow ensures data is loaded from ERPs only once and then becomes immediately available in any required process, such as planning and financial consolidation.
Thanks to OneStream’s ability to re-use core components of dimensionality, different hierarchies/business structures – which previously often resulted in separate CPM instances – can now be accommodated in a single platform.
That’s why over 700 organisations have chosen to convert from multiple legacy CPM products to OneStream’s Intelligent Finance platform – and they’ve never looked back. These organisations have achieved abundant benefits. Here are just a few:
When it comes to CPM vs. ERP, leaving CPM behind for an ERP system is not a great move for any medium to large organisation. A CPM solution is a critical investment for such organisations – one that ensures an effective management layer is in place. CPM solutions deliver key information and reporting relating not only to the performance of the business but also to how to manage effectively and take the right decisions going forward. In other words, CPM complements and integrates with transactional systems such as ERPs, which are key to running the business – true Finance Transformation relies on both CPM and ERP systems working together.
To learn more, click here to read about how our customer Xylem facilitates better, faster business decisions using OneStream.
Finance leaders are transforming the Finance function and extending the value they offer their organizations by leveraging the converging capabilities of digital technology to take advantage of predictive analytics. These technological capabilities provide new access to multiple sources of the vast data within organizations, foster the ability to interpret that data and provide tools that advance Finance transformation.
By leveraging these technologies, Finance leaders are expanding their sphere of influence with Sales, HR and Supply Chain. They’re also strengthening business partnerships and trust while providing deep operational insights and guidance for their organizations. How? By speaking in the language of the business and analyzing key business drivers such as pricing and sourcing that drive profit margin and cash flow.
Many Finance leaders successfully navigate part of this Finance Transformation journey with three steps that enable them to employ predictive analytics to provide both strategic and operational guidance:
Let’s examine these steps in a bit more detail to see what’s necessary to ensure success.
Step 1: Integrate Financial and Operational Data
To provide actionable insights, Finance leaders must have access to operational data. Additionally, they must have the capability to examine operational data alongside, and within the context of, financial data (see Figure 1). Sophisticated organizations generate vast quantities of data, so both Finance and business-unit leaders require digital technologies that provide access to these various data sources. For effective decision-making, this access must be efficient.
Access must therefore not require team members to waste valuable time moving and managing data. Additionally, the access must be timely so that up-to-date information is readily available for operational business decisions that have an impact before month-end.
Organizations that fail to align financial plans with granular operational plans will ultimately struggle with forecast accuracy – because they operate in silos. Financially, the impact of that can take many forms and impact both profit and cash generation. Here are just a few examples of impacts:
Step 2: Align Predictive Analytics Directly into Planning Processes
No matter where the Office of Finance sits in its Finance Transformation journey, predictive analytics can help focus on collaborating with business partners, find new ways to ask “why” and drive performance. Here are just a few of the top use-cases for organizations thinking about adding predictive analytics and machine learning (ML) into their financial and operational planning processes:
Access to raw data is ultimately meaningless without the capability to interpret that data. Finance notably lags other functions in the adoption of advanced analytics, according to Dresner Advisory’s 2020 Wisdom of Crowds® Data Science and ML Market Survey (see Figure 2). But modern corporate performance management (CPM) solutions offer capabilities that can empower Finance and business-unit leaders with self-service tools for predictive analytic forecasting. With the ability to apply predictive forecast models to data, Finance teams can leverage their organizations’ vast data to guide critical decision-making – and do so at the speed of the business.
Step 3: Deploy Predictive Analytics Across the Organization
With powerful predictive models at their fingertips, Finance teams can take advantage of visualization capabilities to collaborate with business partners. How? By creating and distributing dashboards with easy-to-use charts, graphs and reports that bring forecast data to life.
Sophisticated and modern visualizations also provide interactive access, enabling users to change variables to see real-time results of those updates to models, plans and forecasts. These visualizations and dashboards provide leaders across the organization with not only the ability to access data but also the capability to interpret that data – which helps guide critical decisions and informs organizational plans.
Unleashing Finance with Built-In Predictive Analytics
OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform empowers Finance teams to lead at speed by unifying predictive analytics with core CPM processes, such as planning, budgeting and forecasting; financial consolidation; reporting; and financial data quality. And with built-in predictive analytics (see Figure 3), OneStream™ is unleashing Finance transformation to take budgeting, planning and forecasting processes even further – allowing teams to plan, analyze and predict with confidence.
Plan, Analyze and Predict with Confidence
OneStream’s Predictive Analytics 123 solution, which can be downloaded from the OneStream MarketPlace™, automatically cycles through multiple predictive algorithms to determine the most accurate forecast type. Results are then graphically displayed and deployed across all aspects of the budgeting, planning and forecasting processes.
Finally, with OneStream’s reporting and visualizations, Finance and business users can bring key financial and operational metrics together by combining tables, charts, graphs and other visualizations. Users can then not only turn insights into action with the ability to see the real-time results of changes to models, plans and forecasts, but also share insights and collaborate on critical analysis and decision-making. With direct integration to data sources, users can drill down into the underlying causes, all the way back to transactional details, to quickly understand business trends.
To learn more about leveraging predictive analytics for budgeting, planning and forecasting, view our interactive solution brief, “Leading at Speed with Predictive Analytics 123”.
As CFOs maneuver their organizations through the warp-speed environment of the 2020s, Finance Transformation is en vogue again. Why? Let’s face it—Finance chiefs at large, sophisticated organizations cannot afford to manage their organizations with the same technology widely used for the past 20 years. Not if the goal is to actually help teams move with the agility and pace required to drive performance through periods of volatility and disruption.
With the debate on the need and value of Finance Transformation settled, Finance teams can finally focus on taking the steps needed to lead at speed. And that journey starts with a simple objective.
To lead at speed, Finance teams must finally conquer the complexity of their dis-connected corporate performance management (CPM) tools and processes.
As we shared in the kickoff of the “Inspiring Digital Transformation with Intelligent Finance” blog series, now is the time to break the cycle. But where to begin?
A good first step, and the topic for this post in our blog series, is by defining what it takes to be an Intelligent Finance organization.
The Intelligent Finance Organization
No matter where your organization sits in the transformation journey (see Figure 1), creating a collective vision, as a team, is always helpful.
Intelligent Finance offers organizations the chance to take control of their destinies. To finally leverage the benefits of technology without compromising on their requirements. To drive performance by unifying their Finance teams. By working smarter, not harder to unleash the power of Finance, empower the organization with insights to drive performance, and continuously evolve the scope and value of their Finance teams.
Here are the 3 steps to becoming an Intelligent Finance organization:
Step 1: Unleashing the Value of Finance through Digital Transformation
Step 1 of becoming an Intelligent Finance organization starts by unleashing your team from tedious and disjointed, manual processes. Why? Well, to start, spending time on “low-value” processes holds Finance teams back from performing higher-value work – such as evaluating new capital investments or analyzing the impact of new product innovations. Too much manual work also kills culture and adds risk to CPM processes.
Unfortunately, according to PWC’s “Leading Finance in the Digital Era” research, manual processes are still the status quo. As PWC notes, (see Figure 2), Finance teams have a material opportunity to eliminate waste and drive automation across a number of CPM processes, including for reporting, budgeting & forecasting, and analysis.
Here are a few additional data points from PWC’s research:
Intelligent Finance teams take a platform approach to CPM, replacing multiple legacy systems, spreadsheets or cloud-based point solutions. The benefit? It simplifies the organization’s IT landscape for administrators and users. This approach reduces the time, effort and costs of maintaining multiple legacy applications while reducing manual data movements and accelerating planning, reporting and analytics.
By eliminating manual work and accelerating these processes, Finance teams can shift their time and attention from administration tasks to performing value-added analysis and decision support – unleashing the true power of Finance.
Step 2: Empowering the Organization with Data-Driven Financial & Operational Insights
With an intelligent platform like OneStream in place, the second step toward becoming an Intelligent Finance team focuses on empowering the organization with financial and operational insights.
As cost pressures and the pace of change increase, Finance is being asked to do more to help support critical decision-making across the enterprise. But as PWC notes in its “Leading Finance in the 2020’s” research, developing insights and wisdom to inform the business requires Finance teams to elevate from the traditional “scorekeeper” role (see Figure 3) into a wealth creator role for the organization.
Intelligent Finance teams create enterprise value, or wealth – not only by being smart about “the numbers” – but also by first developing organizational trust.
How do they accomplish this? By learning the “big picture” of the business, of course. By working side by side with Sales, Operations, Marketing and HR. By aligning their understanding of the big picture to create data-driven insights around customer or product profitability. And by sharing daily operational analytics and financial signals to drive controllable cost-efficiency.
Intelligent Finance teams leverage data-driven insights to create trust and increase value to the organization. But these teams also rise to the challenge of helping their organizations address altogether new challenges.
Step 3: Evolving the Organization to Address New Challenges & Requirements
Intelligent Finance teams prepare their organizations for the unexpected. Yes, they anticipate what’s next. But how do they do it?
Intelligent Finance teams stretch out beyond the boundaries of the “Finance org chart.” And they put their money where their mouth is by investing in dedicated resources to support Sales, Operations, HR, IT and so on. Why? Well, how else can Finance teams expect to build expertise into the business? How else can Finance teams gain the trust of their business partners? And how else can Finance teams expect to earn their seat at the strategy table to help guide decision-making for extended planning & analysis (see Figure 4).
Intelligent Finance teams also think big when it comes to digital innovation. How? They make technology decisions that move CPM processes forward through automation. They also future-proof the Finance function by making investments with the scale to address a range of capabilities – such as people planning, account reconciliations, machine learning and predictive analytics. And they do it all without adding the technical debt of new, disconnected Finance software.
Conquering Complexity to Lead at Speed
OneStream’s Intelligent Finance platform (see Figure 5) was designed with flexibility and scale in mind to help Finance teams conquer complexity to lead at speed. By unifying CPM processes through a single, extensible solution, OneStream eliminates the burden of data gathering, reconciliation and administration of fragmented, connected finance solutions that continue to hold so many Finance teams back from reaching their true potential.
For those of you wondering, “what’s next,” remember this: True Finance Transformation is really more of an evolution than a revolution. And for many Finance teams, no matter where your organization is in the journey, as in life, always know your “why” by operating with a clear purpose and mission for your future.
At OneStream, we call this Intelligent Finance.
To learn more about OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform, tune in for additional posts from our Inspiring Intelligent Finance blog series and download our interactive whitepaper.
In today’s volatile economic environment, Finance teams are constantly having to react and respond to diverse challenges. And Finance leaders are at the forefront of helping their organizations overcome siloed decision-making caused by external forces and internal complexities. As businesses navigating through these challenges, Finance leaders can find opportunity to implement strategic initiatives that will empower their organizations to lead at speed.
In OneStream’s inaugural Women in Finance webinar, we discussed the evolution of finance and what that means for women in business today. Following the success of that discussion, OneStream hosted a second Women in Finance webinar, moderated by Pam McIntyre, Corporate Controller of OneStream Software. The webinar featured three dynamic leaders in very diverse organizations which included Jacqui Allard, Chief Accounting Officer of Cimpress, Cathy Kresnak, VP Finance, Finance Transformation Program at Johnson Controls, and Kathleen Le, Director of Finance at Zayo Group. Below are the highlights of the customer panel discussion, including their thoughts on how Finance is leading at speed and staying agile in the 2020’s.
The Keys to Leading at Speed
The customer panel discussion kicked off with the women reflecting on what leading at speed means to them within their unique organizations. Overall, the leaders agreed that it requires a combination of factors, but adaptability was a key theme. “Being a leader during these times means continuing to push the organization towards success no matter what gets in the way, and to do it with the best tools possible,” said Le. “For me leading at speed combines the ability to adapt, the ability to motivate, to make efficient decisions and most importantly continue to move forward.”
Allard added: “Leading at speed is really important. But if speed is your goal you will miss opportunities in what your company is trying to accomplish. You have to be able to pivot and adapt with the path to get to your goal successfully.” Allard stressed the importance of effective communication and alignment across departments, roles, and levels within the organization to ensure buy-in from everyone who will be impacted by the initiative. Kresnak continued this point: “Working in a large company, there are a lot of challenges when trying to do things quickly – a huge ship doesn’t turn easily.” She continued, “In a complex environment like ours, it’s important to get the enterprise excited and the teams encouraged to see the benefits of a new tool. It’s about the balance between accomplishing it quickly, accurately and delivering a strong result in the end.”
Rationalizing Finance Systems at Cimpress
According to Allard, Cimpress needed a solution that would produce a smooth and fast close process to enable improved planning and reporting processes. “We have so many different businesses with different brands, different identities, and different initiatives. When we looked at the CPM market, many solutions were positioning the businesses to be on the same system, with the same controls, and that they should be more efficient because they are marching down the same line. But that wasn’t going to work for us.” Cimpress needed a solution that was going to appreciate and accommodate all of the different ERPs and all of the different sizes of businesses to make sure they are all successful.
“Finding OneStream was like finding a unicorn. Instead of trying to get the data aligned at the bottom level, we let the processes happen as they should and grab the data at the top,” said Allard. “OneStream aligned with how we think about our business strategically, by letting local teams keep their systems, with an added translation layer that enabled the teams to become much more efficient and speed up the close.” Cimpress went live on OneStream across all their businesses with full consolidation and management reporting and are looking to go live with their budget solution next month.
Zayo Group Goes Live with a Big Bang
Next, Le discussed the approach Zayo Group took to eliminate multiple point solutions for financial consolidation, rolling forecasting, task management, vendor analysis and dashboarding. Le and her team went live on OneStream – with everything at once – in a short 6-month period. “We move very quickly at Zayo, but we wanted to make sure on the financial side that all the data was talking to each other so that we didn’t have any questions on the accuracy. We were able to eliminate our prior consolidation tool, Prophix, and add on a Task Management solution for the accounting close which helped us get from a 17-day close to a 5-day close. The platform has given us so much more efficiency and visibility into the data.”
On top of this success, Zayo Group was able to eliminate their Excel models and implemented a rolling forecast. They now have a standardized forecasting model and have automated processes that used to take hours to run in Excel. The trial balances are in OneStream and they are able to transfer that data onto the forecasting side to report all operational metrics.
Finance Transformation at Johnson Controls
With over 100K employees and $30B in annual revenue, streamlining internal systems and processes at a large enterprise like Johnson Controls is a critical factor to leading with agility and speed. That’s why the organization is moving from Oracle Hyperion Financial Management to OneStream. “As we embark on our transformation journey, we think about it in phases of process, technology, and people. What are the processes, how can we standardize them through technology, and how can we make sure they are globally accepted?”
Because of the complexity of Johnson Controls’ landscape and the global nature of the organization, they have over 100 ERPs plus tons of separate tools that are used to get data sets and perform analytics. External reporting is the top priority now, but Kresnak and her team see a future roadmap to benefit from all capabilities of OneStream. “We look at this project as the opportunity to set the platform for the future and how we look at Finance. We want to position OneStream as a catalyst for change as our organization and the businesses within in continue to evolve. It’s not just a consolidation tool – it’s much more powerful – and anything the users need and want, we can accomplish. I want to push the limits with OneStream to add as much value as possible back into the company.”
Women in Finance Leadership
As we consider how the Office of Finance is evolving and moving into a much more strategic role, the customer panelists shared how they personally have adapted their leadership styles as they navigate an environment not particularly known for having female executives. “When I started my career, I didn’t have a lot of women to look up to, so it’s been nice over the years to see that evolve,” said Kresnak. “I think as you get more mature in your career, you have to be adaptable to different environments, different teams and team members. For example, I look at our OneStream project, and how our relatively small team is managing this major deployment that is going to have a massive influence across the company. So I think whether male or female, it is that experience and collaborative effort that we bring to a team that really adds value.”
Allard attested to having strong mentors throughout her career – both men and women – who have helped shape her leadership style. “When I first started out, there was a very cookie cutter idea of what a strong leader should be and overall, we’ve seen an evolution of style in corporate America,” She continued, “Through my 20s and 30s I spent a lot of time building my foundational skills and leading with those to communicate how I can add value. As I was influenced by different leaders and gained more confidence, I became much more comfortable opening myself up from a personal perspective which has helped me connect with diverse teams with very different skillsets.”
Le also shared the importance of mentorship for woman in Finance roles. “I tried to learn from example throughout my career, and over time I took the things I liked about my mentors’ individual leadership styles and put those factors together to build my own,” she said. “Above all you need to be able to have a voice. Speak up to help with any strategy and do what is best for the organization. Being a female leader in Finance gives me the ability to make sure my organization is planning, forecasting, operating as efficiently as possible so that we can reach our goals and initiatives. And as long as our organization can continue to move forward and adapt, that’s where leading at speed is successful.”
To hear the full Women in Finance discussion, be sure to watch the webinar replay. And if you’re ready to empower your Finance teams with the ability to adapt and lead at speed, contact OneStream today!
Well, here we are in the Spring of 2021. The weather is getting warmer, the vaccines are rolling out and there’s hope that the pandemic has reached the tipping point and the world will turn to normal later this year. But 2021 also represents a critical tipping point for Oracle Hyperion customers who must make an important decision about their future. Will you upgrade to Hyperion 11.2? Convert to Oracle EPM Cloud? Or will you consider an alternative solution such as OneStream?
Over my 20+ year career within the corporate performance management (CPM) industry, I’ve talked to hundreds of SAP customers about their Finance Transformations. And most Finance users reported facing a pretty common challenge: How can Finance leaders drive performance if they’re consumed with the complexities of managing multiple applications in the SAP enterprise performance management (EPM) ecosystem?
Here’s my take. Fragmented EPM solutions add risk, cost and complexity to financial processes (e.g., financial consolidation, planning, analytics and financial data quality). And if the purpose of Finance Transformation is to help organizations modernize and simplify processes, technology should reduce risk, not add more. In fact, I often suggest Finance leaders start their evaluations by asking a simple question – how can your organization take steps to reduce complexity?
The COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 will long be remembered as an event that disrupted our personal lives and businesses. And for many organizations, the uncertainty created by the pandemic caused a pause in IT projects and other major investments. But in some cases, the disruption created by the pandemic accelerated or jump-started IT projects focused on transforming key Finance processes. Why? Because many organizations realized they needed to modernize their systems and processes to support remote workers and to increase their ability to respond quickly to changing economic and business conditions.