Planning and Analytics on the Cloud
All organizations must perform financial planning and analysis (FP&A), and many want to shift from a complex web of spreadsheets to a cloud-based integrated solution. This article will introduce financial planning and analysis and survey four cloud-based solutions.
An FP&A solution consolidates and integrates all data, rules, and calculations into one solution that can project plans and monitor performance. The typical components of an FP&A solution are:
- Load actual values from operational systems.
- Load prepared forecasts for given events.
- User input of forecast drivers, assumptions, parameters, and scenarios.
- Rules and formula engine that takes the inputs and generates plans in the form of speedy data stores. (Typically online analytical processing cubes.)
- Consolidation of plans into income statements, balance sheets, or performance metrics dashboards.
- Security and a process of governance to monitor the entry and approval of all forecast input.
Four Leading FP&A Solutions on the Cloud
There are three relatively new cloud-only solutions and a reliable veteran solution that has cloud options:
- Anaplan (cloud-only)
- Adaptive Planning (cloud-only)
- Planful (cloud-only)
- IBM Planning Analytics
Some evaluations below are summarized from Gartner, August 2019, Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions.
Anaplan is a cloud-only planning software company that was founded in 2006. It has high customer satisfaction with flexibility and a reputation for meeting the users’ needs.
Drawbacks of Anaplan include the difficulty of implementation, performance issues, and a steep learning curve for the formula syntax.
Adaptive Planning (formerly Adaptive Insights)
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Adaptive Planning was founded in 2003 and acquired by Workday in 2018. Workday has recently rebranded Adaptive Insights as Workday Adaptive Planning.
While Adaptive Insights is known for meeting the users’ needs and flexibility, it also has an excellent reputation for being easy to implement. There have been complaints about their professional consulting services.
Planful (formerly Host Analytics)
Planful, while also flexible and meeting needs has stable application governance features and little need for support. There have been deployments lasting over six months and performance issues with large datasets.
IBM Planning Analytics
IBM Planning Analytics (powered by TM1) has received many improvements recently – functionality, usability, and flexibility. TM1 has a long success story as a planning engine, and IBM has invested in overhauling the front-end, dashboards, Excel plug-in, and more. New, meaningful versions are released frequently. TM1 is based on an in-memory database with a compressed OLAP (dimensions, hierarchies, and facts) structure. This enables extremely high performance with large amounts of data.
IBM Planning Analytics entered the cloud market with a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution. IBM maintains the instance, including upgrading to the latest versions.
With IBM’s new approach to cloud products – IBM Cloud Pak, a Kubernetes container approach – they have created implementations with plug-ins for Planning Analytics, Cognos Analytics, Watson Studio, and more. See IBM Planning Analytics with Cloud Pak for Data. The Cloud Pak approach enables quick implementation and easy integration with other IBM products. It also has the feature that it can be installed on any platform – AWS, Azure, IBM Cloud, etc.
IBM Planning Analytics is typically the top choice for large organizations with complex planning needs. Still, the Cloud Pak allows scaling from 5 users to as many as will ever be needed.