The purpose of this blog entry is to help you shape a vision for the optimal decision-making platform that your company should plan for today to be ready for the future.
Sure, corporate performance management (CPM) vendors will keep innovating and delivering powerful features that may not even have been requested by their customers yet, but most likely, your company has a lot of homework to do while vendors work on delivering the CPM portals and tools of tomorrow that will optimize their customers’ decision-making.
Almost no organizations today are close to “CPM Nirvana.” They suffer from the burden of maintaining report writers across their different systems and a lack of enterprise-wide dashboards with fine-tuned KPIs. Furthermore, they use manual spreadsheets to present information and to manage all or parts of their budget process. They also lack, or have a poorly defined, enterprise data warehouses to gather all important data, and very few offer their users a single BI portal with mobile apps for easy end-user access from anywhere. This article will provide insight into some of the key features to expect from CPM solutions in the coming years, and it will discuss areas you can prepare today so that you are as ready as possible to take advantage of this functionality and to help you turn it into a competitive advantage to drive world-class decision-making across your organization.
Expected Future CPM Functionality and Your Roadmap
Imagine a future where in one single day you have subscribed to a BI cloud service, loaded data from four data sources, mapped your data to a common data model (profit, customer, etc.) and gone “shopping” in an online application marketplace for 30 different reports, dashboards and budgeting templates. At the end of this day one of your deployment, not two or four months later as is typical with BI implementations, you invite your first managers into your new, user-friendly web-based portal to start their first analysis.
Future world-class organizations will not simply replace their old, often specialized CPM solutions with new ones as needs occur. Instead, they will start with a detailed analysis of what type of information, in what type of format and with what kind of accompanying decision-support (exception, predictive, etc.) their executives as well as information workers need in order to optimize their decision-making capabilities.
Executives will put high priority on their future CPM platform project because they know that an extremely well-planned and executed CPM implementation will function almost like an exoskeleton for the business, surrounding every decision-maker with supportive technology to help them make smart and speedy decisions, just like an exoskeleton works to strengthen the speed and power of the human body. However, as any savvy CPM user knows, dashboards, reports and forecasts are only as good as the data that drives them. In other words, the organizations of the future that will be leading in their industries because they have successfully implemented a powerful CPM platform to enable their employees with world-class decision-making are the companies that already today start cleaning up their transaction data, because this can take years, and it totally defines how successful their CPM solution will be. Most companies have “dirty data” everywhere.
Customer relationship management (CRM) systems often have poorly filled-out information about campaigns, leads, opportunities, and customers. Accounting systems often have incomplete chart of accounts, or have transaction entries that don’t capture important customer, product, or project information. Data issues are almost always prevalent throughout a company’s transaction systems. This prevents them from the ideal situation where they can have 360 degree views of their customers, sales people, products, etc. So, by understanding the importance of good, clean data today, executives can strongly support the re-implementation or purchase of new transactions systems that then will help drive extremely powerful CPM implementations in the future and that will enable world-class decision-making and resulting business success.
CPM Platforms in the future
The most successful BI platforms of the future will have all of the following characteristics:
Extraction, Transformation and Loading (ETL)
Earlier, we discussed the importance of clean data. Well, even if your transaction systems offer good, reliable data, your CPM solution is only as good as the data you can load into it, as well as the timeliness of that data. Therefore, the CPM solutions of the future will increasingly offer very strong data loading functionality that is able to easily connect to the application programming interfaces (APIs) of your different transaction systems and load data into the CPM tool automatically on a schedule as well as on-demand.
Business Data Warehouses
Half the reason why almost all companies today are not able to give their employees great, timely, on-demand information to support great decision-making is that their data is stuck in numerous different on-premise and cloud data sources, and each one has a different reporting and analysis tool. Not only is it slow and cumbersome to get the information out, but it is almost impossible for users to learn all the different report writers and even harder to effectively combine the data to present KPIs and easily consumable reports and dashboards. This “information handicap” can be resolved by implementing a flexible business data warehouse to manage key financial and operational data. CPM platforms of the future will eliminate the need to design such data warehouses in-house. Today, many companies try, and often fail, to build such data warehouses in-house, and even if they should partially or fully succeed, a home-grown data warehouse is not an integrated component of a CPM suite and as such will fail to deliver world-class planning, reporting and analysis to their end users. CPM vendors see this problem and how it can limit the success of their solutions and thus will increasingly offer configurable data warehouses with full user interfaces and business rules such as hierarchies, currency conversion, and so on. Many will offer it in the cloud as a service, and others will offer it for on-premises installations or a combination of both.
All Inclusive, Web-based CPM Portals with Apps
As discussed, one of the biggest CPM problems in organizations today is that users need to access numerous reporting tools as well as compile spreadsheets to retrieve and present the information their decision-makers need. In addition to the critically important ETL and data-warehouse components, all successful CPM platforms of the future will offer a single web portal user-interface where CPM functionality or modules (“apps”) can be installed on demand. The single web portal is important so that users only need to access and learn one interface, and administrators only need to maintain one user management and security model. Furthermore, IT doesn’t have to install any software on users’ computers and they can offer remote access. The “App” concept becomes important for CPM vendors to support so that their customers can quickly install the functionality that they want, but even more importantly, the app concept will enable customers or third party developers to add special functionality that the vendor may not prioritize. Whether accessed as a cloud service or installed on premise, future CPM web portals will also increasingly be able to consume outside web services such as machine-learning algorithms, exchange rates, and numerous other third party offerings that add value to and help enable world-class decision-making.
Solver enables world-class decisions with BI360, a leading web-based CPM suite made up of budgeting, reporting, dashboards, and data warehousing, delivered through a web portal. Solver offers BI360 through cloud and on-premise deployment and is reinventing CPM with its next generation solution. BI360 empowers business users with modern features including innovative use of Excel in the model design process. If you’re interested in learning more, our team is excited to hear about your organizational needs and goals.