The global economic landscape in 2022 has created challenges for CFOs and Finance teams around the world.  Just when we thought we might get a break from the pandemic that has besieged the world since 2020, new variants have emerged and have driven continued surges in the virus in China, Europe, and many parts of the US.  Supply chain disruptions that started during the pandemic have continued to plague many industries and have driven inflation to the highest levels in 40 years.

Moreover, the war in Ukraine has created increasing pressure on global oil and natural gas prices, which are rippling through the global economy, impacting individual consumers and enterprises alike.  So how are CFOs and other Finance executives planning for the remainder of 2022 and 2023?  Read on to learn the results of the May 2022 Financial Decision-Maker Outlook survey, sponsored by OneStream Software.

Getting Inside the Heads of Finance Executives

For the past few years, OneStream Software has sponsored surveys of Finance executives to gain a better understanding of how they are helping their organizations navigate the complexities of today’s economic landscape.  In the Spring of 2022, Hanover Research surveyed 257 Financial Decision Makers in North America to understand their views on inflation, supply chain disruptions, tax reform, talent management, ESG, and DEI initiatives, and technology investments.

According to the survey, the impact of ongoing global disruption, such as supply chains, inflation, the war on talent, and the Great Resignation, still pose significant challenges. As finance leaders forecast and plan for the future amid this new reality, they must remain agile to survive and thrive. Almost three-quarters of finance leaders expect inflation and supply chain disruption to extend into 2023, with more than half needing to increase prices to offset the impact on their business.

As they continue to navigate the uncertainty of the current economic landscape, 30 percent of finance leaders identified economic disruption as the largest threat to business in 2022. When asked about current business drivers and plans for the coming 12-18 months, CFOs and other financial leaders were heavily focused on economic disruption and other key factors.

Economic Disruption Surpasses Cybersecurity as Largest Threat to Business in 2022

The current financial climate has CFOs and finance leaders predicting inflation and supply chain challenges will extend through mid-2023, forcing organizations to implement new practices to manage the impact on business. About half of respondents polled noted they are increasing prices (51 percent), leveraging new sales initiatives and campaigns (48 percent, a 13 percent increase from the Fall 2021 survey), and expanding their supplier network (47 percent, a 12 percent increase from the Fall 2021 survey) as a result.

Tax reform and planning are on the radar of almost all finance decision-makers as potential new U.S. global tax policies are on the horizon that may impose a minimum tax rate. Half of the organizations polled will need to update their 2022 strategies, including tax planning and provisioning processes (64 percent), and 45 percent said tax changes would significantly alter their 2022 forecasts.

Organizations are Prioritizing DEI Initiatives and ESG Investments

With ESG reporting guidelines converging and new mandatory disclosure requirements being proposed by the US SEC and regulators in other countries, investments in ESG and DEI remain a priority.  These findings align closely with the Spring 2021 survey, as 60 percent committed to investing more in DEI and ESG initiatives this year. While two-thirds of respondents report uncertainty around planning for new ESG guidelines and disclosure requirements, almost all (95 percent) are preparing for this change either by implementing new ESG/sustainability policies, engaging consultants, or investing in software to capture and report ESG data.

CFOs Target Investment in Talent to Combat Great Resignation

The Great Resignation and war on talent continue to support an employees’ market, challenging organizations to revisit their approach to talent acquisition and retention and expand recruitment practices to remain competitive. In the quest for talent, finance leaders are investing in training and employee development (56 percent), improving internal and external workspaces (52 percent), and building company culture (47 percent), among other efforts. When asked if they plan to make a career change of their own this year, almost half confirmed yes, but within their existing organization.

Increased Investments in Predictive Technology, Especially Machine Learning (ML)

With almost half (47 percent) of organizations planning to increase investment in ML this year, and the majority (63 percent) already seeing a return on their investment, it’s clear this technology is serving finance leaders and their teams well. In fact, 87 percent of respondents have either adopted, or are in the process of adopting, an AutoML solution to support intelligent process automation, data center optimization, customer service, and sales/marketing optimizations, among other use cases.

Cloud-based solutions and predictive analytics are also popular among the majority of finance leaders, with one-third saying they use the technology regularly. These solutions will receive increased investment in 2022 than in previous years, with 22 percent of respondents planning to invest more in cloud-based software and 21 percent investing more in predictive analytics. When asked about roadblocks to technology investment this year, 42 percent responded that cost was a factor, in addition to cybersecurity concerns (38 percent) and the technical skill gap of employees (38 percent).

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The results of the Spring 2022 Financial Decision Makers Survey validated what OneStream Software is seeing and hearing from our customers in terms of the business challenges they face.  Inflation and supply chain disruption is here to stay in 2022 and most Finance executives expect them to continue into 2023. The mandatory ESG disclosures being proposed by the US SEC are driving many organizations to invest in their ESG processes and software to help not only with reporting compliance but also with planning and managing ESG and DEI initiatives.

The good news is that today’s cloud-based analytical software technologies are proving their worth in helping organizations plan and navigate a volatile economic landscape and increase their agility to respond.  Other surveys show Finance departments lagging other parts of the enterprise in the adoption of AI and ML tools, but as these capabilities are embedded into modern planning, reporting, and analytical software applications, Finance adoption is poised to expand rapidly.

To learn more, download a copy of the May 2022 Financial Decision Makers Survey and contact OneStream if your organization needs help conquering the complexities of today’s economic landscape

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The collection of quality data is the most important aspect of Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) reporting.  Why is that?  Well, the number of data sources is typically far greater for such reporting than in even the financial reporting process.  The difference stems from ESG reporting involving many different aspects, such as reporting on health & safety, fuel usage, property management, waste management, and more.  How do organisations collect all this data?  Despite technology improvements in large organisations over the years, most organisations have a multitude of operational systems from which to extract this data, which makes data collection for ESG quite challenging.

Why Data Collection and Quality Controls Matter

For ESG reporting to be fully effective, the data collection and quality controls must be built-in and use the same rigor as with financial data.  The external image of an organisation is at stake here, leaving no room for second-rate capabilities.

If your role is to sign off on the ESG reporting of your organisation, then ensure you’ve fully aligned your financial and ESG reporting into a single, governed process.  You’ll also want to ensure that the capability for collecting quality data is the best available.  Ultimately, whatever process and system work for accurate financial reporting can and should also be applied to ESG reporting.

How ESG Reporting Became Mainstream

Several reporting compliance changes moved ESG significantly up the priority list for many leadership teams globally.  Specifically, Europe enacted the 2021 Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR), and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released its long-awaited proposals for climate disclosures for U.S. public companies.  Why do these changes matter?

Simply put, organisations can no longer rely on volunteering the more positive aspects of their sustainable compliance or on publicising specific actions or donations.  Today, an increasing level of socially and environmentally responsible investment activity involves assessing performance metrics beyond just the financial returns.  Such assessments answer the demand for evidence of sustainable processes, practices, and management.

Fuelling that demand is climate change, which is forcing organisations and people to think and act differently, to be more interested in and concerned about how communities are impacted.  Meanwhile, communities are focusing ever more heavily on what their neighbors and favourite brands are doing.  These factors are collectively – and increasingly – pushing organisations towards ethical reporting standards.

Selecting the right system and capability is imperative to meeting those standards.

Why Built-in Data Quality Is Essential

At its core, a fully integrated CPM software platform with built-in financial data quality (see Figure 1) is critical to organisations being able to drive effective transformation across Finance and Lines of Business.  A key requirement is providing 100% visibility from reports to data sources – meaning all financial and operational data must be clearly visible and easily accessible.

Why is this visibility so important?  When organisations collect data from multiple underlying systems and then complete multiple calculations and consolidation steps, full transparency provides uses and auditors the connections between the source data and the final reported data, including for all transformations, adjustments, and eliminations.

ESG OneStream
Figure 1: Built-In Financial Data Quality Management in OneStream

The solution should also include guided workflows to protect business users from complexity by guiding them uniquely through all data management, verification, analysis, certification, and locking processes.  Are these workflows critical?  Absolutely!  The major challenge with ESG reporting is simply the number of data sources to collect from and the sheer volume of requests within an organisation for this kind of data.  Using disparate systems, that collection can take many hours or days.  Having a unified system with the capability to guide users easily through the tasks, however, will save time and money.

Most important is the system’s ability to validate and transform data to ensure complete and accurate ESG information.  When so many different source systems are involved, along with multiple spreadsheets, the system must be able to fill in missing data fields, align analysis and ensure commonality in data before the information appears on reports.  For example, if a typo occurs during a manual data entry, the system should flag any value that seems out of place given the parameters of the company.

Data quality matters for several key reasons, as shown by research.  According to Gartner,[1] poor data quality costs organisations an average of $12.9 million annually.  Those costs accumulate not only from the wasted resource time in financial and operational processes but also – and even more importantly – from missed revenue opportunities.  Interested stakeholders closely review every fine detail an organisation publishes.  Any errors or omissions will therefore be quickly spotted, and the consequences could be severe.

ESG

For instance, poor ESG metrics can make it difficult to attract valuable investment as liabilities are considered too high.  One major concern for organisations today is attracting talent – which can also be affected by ESG metrics because people are becoming more selective about who they work for and with.

ESG reporting now, perhaps more than ever, has a significant impact on the profitability and bottom line of an organisation.  And as the global standards converge into a clearer position, organisations must bring ESG reporting together in a unified way.

Why a Unified Approach Makes a Difference

There is now a compelling argument to transition from a connected to a fully unified CPM platform for ESG reporting, financial close, consolidation, reporting, planning, and more.  What’s the difference?  With a unified CPM platform, all processes are handled within a single application and instance.  Plus, data is loaded into one central database and immediately made available to all business processes, which means there are no manual data movements or reconciliations to perform.

Here are just some of the benefits that come from a unified platform:

  1. One software solution, one application for consolidation, planning, and ESG/financial reporting needs across an entire organisation with extensibility to handle future growth and change – one single controlling team, one single audit.
  2. Performance improvements thanks to control, consistency, and overall process visibility.
  3. Lower cost of ownership from replacing multiple software packages and integration points with one unified platform.

Many of the ESG reporting solutions in the market are focused on only a specific aspect of ESG, such as environmental, health, and safety (EH&S) compliance, but aren’t suited to the broader requirements of setting ESG goals and targets, tracking progress against targets and modeling the impact of ESG initiatives on future financial results.

How OneStream Delivers

OneStream’s unified, Intelligent Finance Platform (see Figure 2) with built-in reporting and analytics eliminates the complexity of fragmented ESG reporting tools.  With a strong foundation in financial data quality, OneStream allows organisations to integrate and validate large volumes of non-financial data (e.g., ESG metrics and conversion factors) with validation from any number of sources.  Confident decisions can then be based on accurate and trusted financial and operating results.

OneStream’s financial data quality management is not a module or separate product.  Instead, the management is built into the core of the OneStream platform — providing strict controls to deliver the confidence and reliability needed to ensure quality data.

ESG OneStream
Figure 2: OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

 

OneStream can quickly aggregate and consolidate ESG data submissions to provide company-wide results.  With OneStream, ESG data is consolidated according to the same principles as financial data. Calculations and eliminations based on specific data values and fuel and energy consumption conversions can also be automated.  Essentially, OneStream “future-proofs” CPM and ESG reporting to ensure compliance when new standards come along.  How?  OneStream allows for unlimited configurable dimensions and hierarchies – ensuring support for GRI, SASB, and other frameworks which may emerge as required.

By intelligently aligning detailed operational and financial data, OneStream’s flexible reporting and analysis capabilities (see Figure 3) eliminate the need for Finance teams to waste time manually copying and reconciling data and creating reports.  In other words, OneStream unleashes Finance teams to focus on providing insights and analysis that better support key decisions.

 

ESG Analysis

Figure 3: OneStream ESG Analysis Dashboard

 

As a unified platform, OneStream can enable organisations to plan and forecast ESG initiatives with confidence and without compromise.  ESG goals and objectives can be set, and users can track actuals vs. targets and provide variance analysis & commentary.  What-if scenario modeling is also available to understand the ultimate impact of ESG policies on financial results and business value.

Effective ESG reporting ultimately allows investors to gauge an organisation’s intentions and actions – from how the organisation treats people to how board decisions are made or whether environmental factors are being prioritised.  To achieve meaningful targets, companies must therefore have the right ESG solution to drive performance.

Learn More

To learn more, visit our ESG Webpage, download our solution brief or check out the other blog articles in our ESG series.  Contact OneStream if your organisation is ready to align ESG reporting with financial reporting, and get ahead of upcoming disclosure mandates.

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As modern Finance leaders learn how to adapt to global shockwaves, clarity about the future of Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) gets increasingly more defined.  At the forefront is a push toward coordinated planning to achieve greater alignment between Strategy, Finance, and Operations.  But a few years ago, the promise of transforming financial and operational planning into one cohesive ecosystem fell short due to the limited availability of technology.  Once again, planning process advancements outpaced the supporting technology – or at least that’s what you’ve been told.

Join us to learn the truth: your organization has a choice – unify connected planning or face the hidden costs.

Due to becoming increasingly sophisticated, organizations continue to face challenges when leveraging technology to support Finance.  And the additional pressures of volatile revenue streams mean Finance leaders must still manage growth, optimize emerging technologies, address increased needs for globalization, evolve target operating models, and enable mobile employees.  Those same leaders must also find new ways to increase productivity, optimize costs and maximize relationship value.

This concept of connecting all business planning processes into one seamless, integrated solution is on the mind of many Finance leaders.  And it’s especially on the minds of those seeking to improve organizational collaboration and decision-making.

unified planning

Why?  Because Finance must cope with the fallout of a global pandemic, nationwide staffing shortages, endless supply chain disruptions, and unforeseen geopolitical pressures thousands of miles away.  To stay ahead of these disruptions, leaders must extend planning beyond the traditional Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) group and instead partner with Sales, Supply Chain, HR, and other functions to quickly re-plan and re-forecast without adding complexity or overhead.

And despite the challenges, many organizations are still dependent on multiple connected legacy corporate performance management (CPM) tools or even spreadsheets to manage critical financial and operational processes.  Many CPM modeling and planning toolkits – such as Anaplan, Board, or Essbase –tout flexibility and speed for departmental planning needs.  But these toolkits are not designed to unify connected planning processes across the enterprise.

Why?  Because rather than leveraging a unified, extensible architecture, modeling toolkits instead rely on a series of individual planning models that must be “connected” together.  Having disparate models not only creates data latency, risk, and chaos, but also makes the planning process maintenance-intensive, difficult to access, slow to consolidate, and inconsistent.  Not to mention, such chaos is prone to user errors and comes with a high cost for data movement.

Now Is the Time to Unify Connected Planning or Face the Hidden Costs

Over the coming weeks, we’ll share a four-part blog series discussing the path toward unifying connected planning through digital transformation.  Here’s a sneak peek of the key topics in our Unify Connected Planning series:

Regardless of where you are in your finance journey, our Unify Connected Planning series is designed to share insights from the experience of OneStream’s team of industry experts.  We recognize, of course, that every organization is unique – so please assess what’s most important to you based on the specific needs of your organization.

Conclusion

The aspiration of unifying connected plans is nothing new.  But to remain competitive amidst the increasing pace of change and technology disruption, Finance leaders must think differently to finally conquer the complexities inherent in fragmented point solutions and disconnected modeling toolkits for enterprise planning.

Still, the introduction of eXtended Planning & Analysis (xP&A) puts Finance in the driver’s seat to inspire a digitally ready, data-driven, and performance-focused culture across the entire organization to help realize the promise of true integrated business planning (IBP).  To provide the operational relevance and flexibility required for Line-of-Business groups AND Finance.  To enable the organization with controls and the governance required to not only evolve and scale but also continue the endless journey of unleashing the true value and potential of the Finance team and beyond.  And through it all, there’s one shared goal – to drive performance and inspire a new standard for corporate performance management.

At OneStream, we call this standard Intelligent Finance.

Learn More

To learn more about the value of unifying connected planning, download our whitepaper titled “Unify Connected Planning or Face the Hidden Cost” by clicking here.  And don’t forget to tune in for additional posts from our Unify Connected Planning blog series!

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Financial reporting is an essential function of any Finance organization.  It provides stakeholders with a snapshot of the financial results and financial position of the enterprise.  You may think that financial reporting is mainly a function of the Accounting group within the Office of Finance, however financial reporting and the related analysis of financial results is an important function of most Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) departments.  Financial reporting capabilities are also an important feature to evaluate when selecting a software package to support FP&A as well as the Accounting team.  Read on to learn more.

What is Financial Reporting?

Financial reporting refers to processes and practices that provide stakeholders an accurate depiction of the finances of an enterprise, including its revenues, expenses, profits, capital, and cash flow. The enterprise could be a private or public company, non-profit, government agency, higher education institution, or other organization.

The primary financial statements that are produced through the financial reporting process include the following:

Key Stakeholders and Their Requirements

Financial reporting needs to inform and serve the needs of a variety of stakeholders.  This can include external stakeholders such as investors, owners, bankers, public markets, regulators, and boards of directors – who all need to understand the financial performance of the enterprise to guide investment decisions, levy taxes, ensure compliance, and provide advice to executive management.

External stakeholders are typically most interested in the key financial statements mentioned in the prior section, as well as supporting details, schedules, and commentary (e.g., management discussion and analysis) about the financial performance of the enterprise.

Financial reports are also essential tools for informing internal stakeholders about the financial performance of the enterprise.  This can include the CEO, CFO, and senior management team, as well as managers across the enterprise who need to understand how their particular subsidiary, department, business unit, or function is performing in relation to the overall enterprise.  Internal stakeholders are typically most interested in the consolidated income statement of the enterprise, as well as profit and loss reports for their specific area of responsibility.  This is where financial reporting expands to include financial analysis.  This financial analysis delivered as part of internal management reporting may include the following:

Interactive Executive Dashboard
Figure 1 – Interactive Executive Dashboard

The form these internal financial management reports may take can vary based on the preferences of the internal stakeholders.  Some may prefer printed financial reports or books of reports.  Some may prefer electronic access to financial reports via email delivery, while others may prefer to review financial results through an interactive dashboard (see figure 1), with the ability to drill into key performance indicators (KPIs) or values on financial reports. Financial and operational analysts may prefer to have access to financial and operational results via an Excel spreadsheet so they can slice and dice the data and perform scenario analysis as needed.

The Financial Reporting Gap

Given the demanding requirements of internal stakeholders when it comes to financial reporting and analysis, you might be wondering how well enterprises are doing in meeting the needs of this audience.  Unfortunately, despite the explosion of data across organizations, many organizations still struggle to meet the information requirements of executives and managers because they just don’t have the right tools for the job.

In fact, according to the FSN Future of Analytics in the Finance Function survey from 2020, only 14% of Finance leaders consider their reporting and analytics insightful.  That means 86% of reporting and analytic effort is missing the mark.  Why is this?  Because most enterprises are relying on fragmented silos of spreadsheets, legacy ERP and corporate performance management (CPM) software, data lakes, and BI tool for their reporting needs, which force Finance teams to build disjointed processes around their technology and are not organized in a way they understand.

Reporting and Analytics in CPM Software

Today’s modern CPM software solutions offer a number of advantages over legacy CPM solutions.  They are most often deployed in the cloud enabling faster time to benefit.  They offer specific functionality designed to address the financial close, consolidation, planning, reporting, and analysis needs of enterprises.  And most include robust, built-in reporting and analysis capabilities.  If this isn’t part of the CPM solution you are selecting, then you’ll need to augment the solution with 3rd party BI and reporting tools.

OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform
Figure 2 – OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform

For example, with a broad range of reporting and analytics capabilities, OneStream helps reduce reliance on spreadsheets and fragmented reporting tools to increase the speed, scope, and accuracy of reporting across the organization. OneStream’s Intelligent Finance Platform (see figure 2) unifies finance processes across the office of the CFO while enabling the organization with self-service, easy-to-use financial reporting software for a variety of stakeholder groups. OneStream’s reporting and analysis capabilities include the following:

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Financial reporting is an essential function for both Accounting and FP&A functions, and these capabilities are an important factor to consider when enterprises are evaluating CPM solutions for financial close, consolidation, planning, and forecasting.

Over 1,000 enterprises have chosen OneStream’s unified Intelligent Finance platform to support their financial close, consolidation, planning, reporting, and analysis requirements and to deliver timely, accurate financial and operational results to internal and external stakeholders.  To learn more, check out our interactive eBook and contact OneStream if we can be of assistance.

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For financial analysts, planning for the future is always top of mind.  Most analysts understand the importance of planning, budgeting, and forecasting.  After all, those processes are the bread and butter of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A).  Most planning processes, however, focus on a near-term horizon.  Long-range planning (LRP) builds on budgeting, planning, and forecasting processes by focusing on longer-term financial goals and key initiatives that are 5-10 [JO1] years or more in the future.

Leveraging an effective FP&A software solution to plan, track and achieve longer-term financial plans and goals is, therefore, key to an effective LRP process.

Why Long-Range Planning Matters

With all the volatility in markets and global economies due to the pandemic, it’s no wonder that looking ahead with an LRP process can feel daunting.  Why?  Well, getting a handle on what’s going to happen tomorrow or next week is tough enough, so understanding what might happen in 1-2 years – or in 5 years – seems nearly impossible.

And if the planning process is happening in offline spreadsheets – that’s an even bigger headache.  Putting together a plan that truly represents a vision of the future requires inputs from across the organization, so having to combine various spreadsheets that lack data quality and consistency controls can make any planning process a tedious and time-consuming task.

Despite the above challenges, long-range planning is an important tool for mapping out not only the vision for the future but also the related goals and plans to execute on those goals.  Capturing the inputs within FP&A software brings that vision of the future together into one long-range plan – one the entire organization can work toward achieving.

What Is Long-Range Planning?

Long-range planning typically spans a 5- to the 10-year period[JO2].  The LRP process differs from not only the near-term budgeting and forecasting activities (e.g., rolling forecasts) that typically span a year, but also the mid-range strategic planning processes.  Essentially, a long-range plan looks to align long-term goals with action plans to execute the strategic planning.  Understanding the strategic direction of the organization helps FP&A craft a vision of the future, and vision forms the long-range plan.

Notably, beyond just Finance inputs, the long-range planning process requires inputs from many different stakeholders in the business.  Here are a few examples:

For the long-range plan to be successful, those implementing it must understand not only what the plan incorporates as goals, outlooks, and financial impacts, but also how everything will be accomplished.

Key Elements in the Long-Range Planning Process

The ability to understand and align financial and operational goals will ultimately help craft a united vision for the future – one that spans across the organization.  Here are just a few examples of useful components of the long-range plan:

  1. Mission Statement and Company Vision – What is the company’s mission?  Understanding where the company currently stands compared to its longer-term mission and vision will inform future direction.
  2. SWOT Analysis – A strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis helps define current internal strengths and weaknesses in the business to better understand what can be improved as part of the long-range plan and what should be avoided.  By focusing on both external opportunities and threats, FP&A teams can help drive a dialogue with key executives, one focused on key areas to consider outside the 4 walls of the organization.
  3. Sales and Operational Goals – Understanding both the sales and operational goals helps lend insight into the LRP to identify activities that help increase revenue, profits,  and production rates to drive overall business performance.

How Financial Software Enables an Effective Long-Range Planning Process

One common pitfall of the traditional long-range planning process is the reliance on manual modeling in custom Excel spreadsheets – a headache to which any financial analyst can relate.  Using spreadsheets means spending hours creating, distributing, collecting, and rolling-up complicated Excel models only to suffer from data inaccuracies, quality issues, and non-conformance problems.  After all, without traceability to the data sources and what’s driving the data in the Excel file, there’s no authority in the numbers.  And absolutely no one enjoys standing up and presenting numbers that just can’t be backed up.

Additionally, there’s an inability to adapt the plan as changes occur.  In today’s volatile market conditions, reacting and adapting to change with speed and accuracy is critical to driving performance.  Disjointed Excel models simply don’t allow for the type of on-the-fly, what-if modeling or changes that are so crucial to success in modern planning.

Instead, utilizing FP&A software for the long-range planning process has many benefits:

Gartner Cloud FC MQ
Figure 1: Data visualizations enable faster insights and changes
to fluctuations

All these improvements ultimately make long-range planning easier, quicker, and more accurate than a siloed planning process taking place in disjointed Excel spreadsheets.  And that means less of a headache for the financial analysts tasked with putting the plan together.  The improvements also allow leadership to focus more on strategy and execution – and less on worrying about the credibility of data or the reliability of Excel models.

FP&A teams must therefore use processes like LRP to help elevate Finance as a strategic business partner and earn that much-desired seat at the strategy table.  And the first step of achieving those goals requires moving the Finance role past data aggregators and cleansers of complex and messy Excel spreadsheets.  Leveraging effective software to do just that enables the transition into the next stage of Finance.

Conclusion

Long-range planning is an important piece of the financial planning scope – and one that informs tactical budgeting and forecasting cycles and strategic mid-range planning to drive towards future business performance.  In the process, being able to leverage reliable and flexible FP&A software not only improves the quality of life for those tasked with putting together and executing the plan but also allows the organization to remain focused on strategic initiatives and the continued success of the business through uncertain times.

At OneStream, we refer to such effects as practicing Intelligent Finance.

Learn More

To learn more about how your organization can take steps forward with long-range planning, click here to download our ebook on Intelligent Forecasting.

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The year 2020 was one that anyone who has experienced it will not soon forget.  After starting off the year with great expectations about the decade ahead, by March the global COVID-19 pandemic had put a wrench in just about every organization’s plans for the year and cast a major blow to the global economy.  Fast forward to 2022 and the situation has improved drastically.  The global availability of several vaccines and advanced treatments has reduced the risk of severe illness or death as we transition to the endemic stage of COVID-19 and its variants.

But we have seen continued disruptions of global economies and supply chains, as well as increasing inflation as a result of the pandemic and as geopolitical challenges. All of these forces have become a true wake-up call for any organization that hasn’t undergone a digital transformation of its business and finance processes.  Why?  Because digital finance transformation is critical to creating the agility required to navigate disruption and conquer the complexities of operating in today’s dynamic global economy.

Leading at Speed Starts with Conquering Complexity

In October of 2020, I published a blog post titled “Finance in the 2020s – How to Conquer Complexity and Lead at Speed.”  In that article, I described a Modern Finance Maturity Model that provided a roadmap to conquering the complexity of critical finance processes and enabling CFOs and Finance teams to operate with more agility.

The key message was that Finance executives and teams need to master the basic finance processes, then layer on more advanced capabilities that can drive digital transformation. (see figure 1)

Roadmap to Modern Finance
Figure 1 – Modern Finance Maturity Model

Mastering the basic finance processes includes streamlining and simplifying book of record financial reporting and implementing agile planning and forecasting.  With these processes running efficiently, Finance teams can then support strategic decision-making across the enterprise through period-end performance reporting, then move into the more advanced process of financial signaling.

Sounds simple right? Not really. There’s a lot of work that is required, but it doesn’t have to all be accomplished in one fell swoop. The best path to success is to think big — but start small and incrementally build a path to leading at speed through the adoption of modern, digital technologies.

6 Steps to Leading at Speed

Here are six steps successful finance organizations are taking to conquer complexity and put themselves in a position to lead at speed. The order of the steps described here is not carved in stone, it can vary depending on the challenges and requirements of a particular organization.  The 6 steps include the following:

These steps are described in more detail in a white paper titled: “6 Steps to Leading at Speed”, which you can download here.  In summary, in order to lead at speed, organizations need efficiency in IT systems, agile business processes, and the ability to deliver timely and accurate financial and operational results to executives and decision-makers across the enterprise.

This can only be accomplished with a unified, CPM software platform that can conquer the complexity of these finance processes and enable CFOs and finance teams to lead at speed.

Leading at Speed in Action

CPM speed

As mentioned above, the order of the steps described here isn’t carved in stone, nor should an organization try to accomplish all of these steps at one time. Where a particular organization decides to focus its efforts should be driven by business needs and priorities. But as the organization accomplishes these steps, the business benefits will begin to accumulate.

OneStream has worked with hundreds of organizations to help Finance teams conquer the complexity of their finance processes, unleash the value of their finance teams, and empower the enterprise with financial and operational insights.  Download the “6 Steps to Leading at Speed” white paper to learn how these organizations have simplified their IT landscapes and reduced TCO for Finance applications.  You can also learn how they increased Finance team productivity, shifted more time to partner with a line of business leaders, and increased their business agility.  Now that’s leading at speed!

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On 6 April, OneStream’s EMEA Managing Director Matt Rodgers had the privilege of hosting a conversation between tennis Brand Ambassador Jamie Murray and our Chief Financial Officer Bill Koefoed. They explored a variety of topics that cut across the worlds of tennis and modern Finance including agility, performance optimisation, and harnessing technology to lead at speed.  Read on to hear the highlights of their conversation.

Ready for Change

Court surfaces, weather conditions, and even time zones – the life and career of a professional tennis player must by nature anticipate the unpredictable. Such factors not only impact players’ performance, but also the game itself down to ball speed and bounce. Jamie Murray emphasised how important it is for players to be adaptable and agile if they want to stay on top of their game. By developing muscle memory, a fundamental strategy will be in place and ready to adapt as needed in competition. As well as strategy and tools, the right people need to be in the team or organisation in order to survive and thrive. For Jamie, the broader support team is essential: playing partner, coach, trainers, and even family.

Bill Koefoed joined OneStream as CFO in November 2019, mere months before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down the world.  The bulk of his experience as a Finance leader at OneStream has been to lead the organisation and its people through massive disruption as well as rapid growth. He agreed with Mr. Murray that strong teams are important, as well as visibility into the organisation and key metrics. Leadership and success come through agility and being able to plan for different scenarios. To achieve this, CFOs need to track KPIs, goals, and data more frequently than ever across Finance and Operations.

Measuring Performance and  Leading at Speed through Technology

Similarly, Mr. Murray sets goals at the start of each season. By tracking results and analysing KPIs for each match he can identify what is or isn’t working well, identify opportunities for improvement, and adapt mid-season. In tennis not only has data analysis evolved but there have been fundamental changes in technology. Gone are the days of wooden racquets. Today’s lightweight racquets and synthetic strings enable players to increase power, speed, and control. According to Mr. Koefoed, Finance leaders cannot lead at speed with the equivalent of wooden racquets. Old technology is limiting, lacking basic foundations for true agility in the face of disruption that characterizes the new normal. Data lives in siloes, and manual processes lead to risk and wasted time that does not add value to the organisation. Modern Finance tools enable more advanced capabilities that give a Finance department unparalleled insight and transform them into a true business partner.

The Future of the Game

Mr. Murray commented that in tennis, as in all professional sports, advancements in science and technology, training and nutrition are helping players have longer careers. As a business, professional sports continue to grow with the financial rewards massively increasing over time. This increases exposure of the game and encourages a healthy interest in sport for the next generation. Mr. Murray left us with some words of wisdom about not only physical health, but also mental health, and the need for all people to develop strength and resilience through the highs and lows of life whatever career we are in.

Said Mr. Koefoed, the Finance game has evolved too. As the world moves faster, organisations must be ready to adapt on a continual basis. With the right people, processes and technology in place, even the most complex organisations can be ready to truly lead at speed.

The recording of the full conversation with Jamie Murray and Bill Koefoed is available here.

About Jamie Murray

To date Jamie Murray has claimed 26 ATP doubles titles, including two men’s Grand Slams: the Australian Open and the US Open. He won a further five mixed doubles titles at Wimbledon and the US Open and is currently ranked #20 in the world.

About Bill Koefoed

Bill Koefoed, Chief Financial Officer of OneStream Software, has more than 25 years of experience in Finance leadership. Before joining OneStream, he served as CFO for online retailer Blue Nile, and prior to that was in senior Finance leadership and investor relations at Microsoft.

Download the Webinar Replay

As we near 2022, uncertainty remains a steady theme for the year ahead. Finance leaders are looking to become more strategic with decision making and planning to get ahead of the uncertainty. While also driving connectivity among teams through a hybrid work environment. In OneStream’s third Women in Finance webinar, we discussed how women in finance can empower one another to serve as leaders to drive connections.

Moderated by Pam McIntyre, Corporate Controller at OneStream, the webinar featured a panel of three innovative leaders across various industries. The panelists include Moonsun Park, CFO at Sharp Electronics; Beth Elwell, VP of Financial Planning & Analysis at Trane Technologies; and Amy Corbin, CFO at Surescripts. Below are highlights from the panel discussion, including the importance of connection and driving productivity through flexibility.

Creating Lasting Connections in a Remote Environment

The Women in Finance webinar kicked off with questions on the importance of mentorship and making connections in today’s hybrid work environment.

Moonsun Park highlighted the importance of mentorship and having an advocate in the development of her career. She credits her mentor as a sounding board for her both professionally and personally.

Beth Elwell discussed the importance of connecting with individuals outside of your job function. Her mentor was a leader within her organization outside of finance. Elwell explained how her mentor served as an incredible resource and friend in her career. “Business partnership is so important. Just because someone isn’t in your function doesn’t mean they’re not going to help you in your career. You never know what door they’re going to open,” said Elwell.

Amy Corbin encouraged listeners to think of mentors as influencers. “Sometimes you need someone to connect you with someone else in your organization or within the community,” she said. “Look through the lens of who is connecting you and who is influencing you.”

Empowering Women in Finance

The panelists provide a piece of advice they have for women aiming for the top of their careers, while facing the challenge of an environment where access to leaders is more restricted.

Corbin encouraged women in finance to reduce reliance on talking purely about numbers. Instead, turn it into a business conversation. “To go far in your career, make yourself relevant to the business in the business’s language. Stakeholders are looking for a business partner, not a numbers person,” she said.

Focusing on connectivity, Elwell recommends that women build relationships across team members, managers, customers, and mentors. To build these connections in a hybrid work environment, Elwell said “Don’t underestimate the power of video. Communicating through video allows people to be more engaged in the conversation, creating more powerful and lasting connections.”

Park added to Elwell’s perspective, “Be visible and be present as much as possible.”

Beating Burnout Through Flexibility

The panelists discuss how they balance the demand of work with the flexibility to prevent burnout. Park encourages her teams to take time off and to focus on delivering the quality of work versus the quantity. She credits OneStream’s unified and scalable CPM technology as “a huge benefit in terms of time savings.” Park believes turning manual processes into more automated ones has enabled her team to do more value-added activities as business partners.

“The key to this balance is prioritization,” adds Elwell. She advised teams to focus on understanding what the customer needs in terms of data when they need it. “It’s important to understand dependency and making sure management reporting is streamlined as much as possible to eliminate waste,” she said.

Corbin shared the importance of remaining flexible in meeting stakeholders where they are. “It’s about setting realistic timeframes and being realistic about turnaround,” she said. Corbin also emphasized the importance of being open to change. “It’s ok to try something new, possibly make a mistake and try again.”

Advocating for Yourself and Empowering the Next Generation

The conversation then focused on best tips for how women can advocate for themselves, while also considering the next generation of women. Corbin advises that “It starts with making yourself invaluable to an area of business and being known for some area of expertise.” She also urges listeners to take any and every volunteer opportunity to try something new and to be willing to take a risk.

Empower you teams to share their ideas, accomplishments, and the work they’re doing to help with driving connectivity. Elwell adds, “Diversity is top of mind for companies right now, so opportunities are more abundant than ever before – but we have to make the opportunities continue to be abundant.” She also encouraged leaders to act as role models for younger generations. “As leaders, we should create safe environments for people to take risks,” she said.

Park recommended that women reach out to leaders within the organization. She adds, “If we don’t know you, we won’t have visibility into what you do unless you make that conscious effort.” She also leverages her position within the company to bring people into meetings while sharing individuals’ accomplishments to the rest of the company.

Learn More and Get Involved

To hear the full Women in Finance discussion, check out the full webinar replay. Continue the conversation and stay connected with the Women in Finance community by joining our new LinkedIn group and stay up to date on future events.

 

At OneStream, we realize that delivering timely and accurate consolidated financial statements is just a part of the period-end financial close process. We see the Financial Close as a comprehensive and continuous cycle that involves managing the close process and all related tasks.  It includes collecting and consolidating data from multiple sources, matching transactional detail to eliminate misstatements, reconciling intercompany balances, and utilizing matched data and reconciled intercompany balances to reconcile account balances required to publish consolidated financial statements.

OneStream is the only corporate performance management (CPM) platform on the market that supports the entire financial close process within one, unified application (see Figure 1).  It’s this capability to unify all of these processes in parallel and without complexity that gives OneStream the ability to replace multiple legacy or connected finance applications as well as spreadsheets.  This approach not only drives speed and accuracy in the close process, but it’s a huge opportunity for organizations to drive total cost of ownership savings and generate a high return from their OneStream investment.

Figure 1: OneStream Unified Financial Close
Figure 1: OneStream Unified Financial Close

What’s New?

OneStream continually looks for ways to help customers get the most from the platform and has just announced the release of the OneStream Financial Close MarketPlace solution which streamlines and simplifies existing customers’ access to our Account Reconciliations and Transaction Matching solutions.

The OneStream Financial Close (OFC) solution fully unifies the ability to use Transaction Matching detail to support Account Reconciliation balances. Integration between these solutions is optional allowing each solution to also be used independently. The solutions included within OFC require the same minimum OneStream platform version which always ensures alignment between these critical processes.

Here are a few of the benefits of OneStream’s Financial Close (see Figure 2) solution:

Figure 2: OneStream Financial Close Marketplace Solution
Figure 2: OneStream Financial Close Marketplace Solution

Learn More

Hundreds of OneStream customers have implemented our platform to streamline their financial close, consolidation, and reporting process – replacing spreadsheets and multiple legacy applications.  And many have extended their investment with the OneStream Account Reconciliations and Transaction Matching MarketPlace solutions.  This has enabled them to reduce data latency and further streamline the close process while eliminating risky spreadsheets and standalone point solutions.  To learn more about OneStream’s Financial Close Suite please visit our website or contact your OneStream account representative. If you are a current OneStream customer, you can download the OneStream Financial Close solution directly from the OneStream MarketPlace.

The year 2020 was one of the most challenging ever for CFOs and Finance executives.  To truly understand the impact of the pandemic on financial decision-making, in July of 2020 OneStream sponsored a Hanover Research survey of Finance decision-makers.  The survey results highlighted the impacts of the global pandemic on hiring, upskilling of IT and Accounting staff, as well as investments in cloud-based planning, reporting and analysis tools. The survey also highlighted how most organizations (61%) were deferring certain investments until after the US presidential election.

Now that the 2020 elections are behind us and the global pandemic is winding down, we thought this would be a good time to again take the pulse of Finance decision-makers. So in March of 2021 we launched another survey of Finance decision-makers in North America and gathered responses from 340 Finance executives across industries.

Here’s a summary of what we learned from the 2021 Hanover Research Finance Decision-Makers survey.

Key Findings: COVID-19 Response & Recovery

The good news is that almost three quarters (73%) of companies expect that they will return to normal growth by the end of 2021, while 18% expect a return to normal growth in 2022.

Hanover Survey

During COVID-19, approximately 11% of employees switched from entirely in office work to fully remote work during COVID 19 but expect to return to the office post pandemic. The number of hybrid employees stayed approximately the same throughout the pandemic and is not expected to change when the pandemic ends. Regarding the return to the office, nearly all companies (98%) have made budgetary plans for returning to the office, one third (36%) of which plan on dedicating over 15% of their budget to reopening the office.  Data privacy tools is the most common (18%) priority for the earmarked return to office budgets, with hybrid cloud technologies (18%) and office reconfiguration following closely (18%).

Hanover Survey


Pandemic-Related Investment Changes

Since the COVID 19 pandemic, over half of companies increased their data analysis tool investments and usage. Specifically, companies most commonly invested in artificial intelligence (59%), predictive analytics (58%), cloud-based planning and reporting tools (57%) and machine learning (54%).

Hanover Survey

And the survey also found that organizations are using data analysis tools more than before the pandemic. In August 2020, half (46%) of companies reported using cloud-based solutions constantly, while a quarter used predictive analytics (28%), machine learning (21%), and artificial intelligence (20%). Now, over half of companies have increased their usage of each tool, with cloud-based planning and reporting topping the list at 65% claiming increased usage.

Hanover Survey

Given that more than half of companies have increased their investments in machine learning, it’s unsurprising that most are planning to optimize new departments and use cases with the technology.  Specifically, companies are planning to optimize IT/cybersecurity (30%) and are prioritizing customer service (15%) and accounting & finance (12%). 

Hanover Survey


Administration-Related Investment Changes

Despite many companies deferring investments until after the election, over half of companies report that it positively impacted their investment decisions for 2021. Launching new products and services have been the most positively impacted investment areas, followed by physical expansions, including new employees, software, acquisitions, and facilities.

Most companies (86%) said they will need to change their financial forecasts in the event of a tax change by the new presidential administration Similarly, most companies (89%) have already made plans to change hiring and staffing plans to accommodate wage increases.

Hanover Survey

In addition, most companies are increasing, or are planning to increase, investments in environmental, social and governance (ESG) management and reporting systems (85%) as well as DEI training (86%).

Conclusions

Running a survey like this one is always interesting because it provides a chance to validate our assumptions about key market trends.  We were pleased to see the positive outlook by most Finance executives about economic recovery in 2021. It was also encouraging to see 98% of companies in North America preparing for the return to the office.

The survey also validated what we are seeing in the market, with increased demand for cloud-based planning and reporting solutions, as well as advanced analytics tools, typically replacing spreadsheets or legacy corporate performance management (CPM) applications.  And we have also seen increased usage of cloud-based planning and reporting tools – with many organizations increasing the frequency of their planning and reporting cycles during the pandemic.

One area that did surprise us was that 85% of companies indicated they plan to increase their investments in ESG management and reporting systems.  The media buzz on this topic clearly increased in the 2nd half of 2020, as has OneStream customer interest in this topic.  Several of our customers are already leveraging our platform to collect, manage and report on ESG and sustainability initiatives.

To learn more, download the 2021 Hanover Research Finance Decision-Makers survey and contact OneStream if your organization needs to improve its ability to “lead at speed” and more easily navigate ongoing market volatility.

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.

Finance Transformation
Figure 1. PwC’s Leading Finance in the 2020s: Automation Holds the Key to Improved Efficiency

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.

Finance Transformation
Figure 2. PwC’s Attributes for a Successful Finance Transformation Journey

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.

Leading Finance in the 2020s
Figure 3. PwC’s Leading Finance in the 2020s:
Elevating from Scorekeeper to Wealth Creator

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.

Learn More

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.

If government finance is about anything, it is about data. Often vast amounts of data. Data that is received (from source systems such as ERPs or other agencies), data that is processed (such as budget formulation, allocations, and projections), and data that goes out the door (data to other agencies and reports to the pubic).

In virtually any step of the financial data journey, we find ourselves in need of additional information about the number in front of us at a particular moment. If it is an aggregated value, what are the component parts? Where did the number come from? Was it imported from another system? Did someone enter the number? Was it calculated? Is this number tied to a specific fund, bureau, program, project, or strategic goal? Has this number changed? Who changed it? When did they change it? What was it before they changed it? Did it require approval to be changed? Who approved it, and when? What other numbers are impacted if this number changes?

This all comes down to what is possibly one of the most over-used, erroneously defined, and diversely understood terms in government finance: analysis. This is perhaps because the term is used outside of government finance in virtually every field imaginable. In fact, I recall in a music composition class in college, we analyzed Bach concertos. But, when it comes to government financial data analysis, it can be summed up as the process of uncovering the “back story” of numbers. How it got here and what it really represents. There are possibly as many ways to analyze financial data as there are to interpret the term. The following is a discussion of some of the most common methods of financial analysis in government today and some of the pros and cons of each:

1 – Call Someone

This is the most basic solution to the analysis problem. We need to know detailed information about a value so we phone/email the person we think may have the required information. This may be the correct person, or maybe not. The response may be swift, or maybe not. There is often no knowledge of the level of effort required from the responder to produce the information being requested. This method is most effective for executives or consumers of information who typically are just dealing with very high-level aggregations of data and infrequently have inquiries of this nature. The return on investment of their time to get access and training to use any other method may not be worth it to them or the agency.

Pros:

Cons:

2 – Use Spreadsheets

spreadsheets

This method is widely used. This is the method used by many of the people on the receiving end of the requests in method 1. This involves IT produced data extracts which then are mapped and uploaded into legacy data structures such as Essbase or TM1. Then the add-ins are used to connect to that data. The effectiveness of this method can vary greatly depending on the structure of the source data, the structure of the intermediary data storage area, and skill and availability of the IT team involved in extracting and maintaining the data. Many agencies continue using this method simply because they have done so for a very long time.

While there certainly is a high level of familiarity in this method, getting to the needed information can be very time consuming. The needed data often resides in more than one system. There may be financial transactional data in one system, budget data in another, workflow and approval tracking in another, account reconciliations in another, and audit information in yet another. This can make the process extremely complex, or depending on the requirements, impossible.

Pros:

Cons:

3 – Use Business Intelligence Tools

Many agencies have various business intelligence (BI) tools such as Tableau, Qlik, or Cognos. These are used to explore data, build dashboards, track key performance indicators, and produce reports. Many of them have fairly sophisticated ETL (extract, transform, load) capability to join tables and pull data from source systems while others rely on 3rd party ETL tools. In most cases they rely on utilizing data in a data universe, warehouse, data lake, or data mart.

While BI tools require specialized training, most agencies with these tools in house have experts on staff. However, these experts tend to reside in an IT (Information technology) group or other operational teams and may not have the financial acumen needed. Rarely does any type of audit or control information get moved from source systems to a data warehouse and the BI tools lack any audit capability on their own. BI tools also lack financial intelligence, so any financial treatment of data requires extensive configuration and/or programming.

Pros:

Cons:

4 – Use a Financial Management Platform with Analysis Included

Financial Analysis

A newer option to address this need is utilizing an intelligent finance platform that has financial analysis capability built in such as OneStream. Instead of pulling data from a budget system, a consolidation system, an account reconciliation system, a document management system, a reporting system, and a workflow system, this is all done in a single platform. Several forward-thinking agencies are currently using this new technology or in the process of rolling it out. But the majority of agencies still have multiple siloed systems to manage these various functions as this was the only technology available until fairly recently.

These older systems were state-of-the-art when implemented 15 to 20 years ago. The newer technology manages these functions in a single platform with all the analytic capability residing in the same platform. This allows a user to drill-down and analyze a data element from anywhere in the system with full audit and data control. This could be a budget formulation data entry screen, a KPI dashboard, a CARS reconciliation, or a section of a CBJ or AFR. When a user sees a number and has a question regarding that number or visibility into who made any changes, they can get the “back story” from wherever they are in the process in real time. This is possible since all the functionality is contained in a single platform.

Pros:

Cons:

Hopefully this was a helpful overview of some of the most common ways to get the underlying details of your numbers. All have their place and their pros and cons. And every agency has to decide what works best to understand the “back story” of their numbers.

To learn more visit the OneStream web site.