According to a recent Forbes article, Cloud revenue in the second quarter of 2018 grew at amazing rates for Microsoft, IBM, and SAP. Companies are spending billions of dollars to move their core business applications to the Cloud. These are not just the mundane applications that calculate depreciation on equipment we are talking about. Companies are moving their entire sales processes to the Cloud where the most sensitive customer information resides.
I thought it was unsafe to have customer data in the Cloud
I still am on calls today where my clients say they are very concerned about the safety of their customer data. They would rather protect the data themselves than trust some third party. That’s when I tell them that companies like Microsoft are spending over $1 Billion per year (Reuters Article) on cyber security. In addition to its internal security investments, Microsoft alone has bought three security firms whose data and file protection technology have been integrated into their Cloud service Azure Information Protection. Companies are starting to realize that their data is probably much more secure on Cloud services such as Azure than on their own data servers.
The need to collaborate is driving cloud growth
When we think of early Cloud success, we think of solutions like SalesForce, SugarCRM, and Dynamics 365. What these solutions have in common is that they are all Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions. These tools rely on collaboration from many people in the organization to effectively manage the data:
- Marketing loads potential sales leads into system for follow up
- Sales nurtures the leads into prospects and customers
- Accounting bills the customers
- Customer service tracks service calls
All these job functions used to be handled in completely separate systems. The only way the systems talked to each other was by someone picking up a phone and discussing or sending an e-mail. Nowadays, every single touch with the customer is being tracked, modeled, and turned into a sales opportunity in real time. The need to have your data available to many different people in the organization at the same time mandates a technology that is available around the clock with ease of access.
Many people in the organization do not work in the office on company networks. These folks are on the road making sales calls or at customer sites making service calls. Logging onto a company machine or using a machine that has VPN access can be a pain and may take a couple of days to get the data entered. Have Cloud solutions available that run on any network allows your field employees to enter data in real time so your company can react much quicker to emerging trends.
Now that the sales process is on Cloud, planning and forecasting are next
With all the focus on Cloud collaboration for the sales and service processes, you would think we would be further along on the planning and forecasting process. Let’s think about it. A sales rep is entering data about their prospects, customers, and sales pipeline into their CRM on a daily basis. Once a year, however, they get a spreadsheet sent to them by someone in accounting to comment on some budget numbers by general ledger account and not by customer.
This person in accounting is manually sending spreadsheets to everyone in the company asking for data. The problem is that the person in accounting is asking for the information the way they are accustomed to seeing it and not the way the person in the field sees it. There is a complete disconnect in the exchange of information.
Let’s think deeper. Your sales forecast is the road map to so many people in the organization. Whether they are in lending, sales, supply chain, or internal auditing, each department is planning their next steps based on the information gathered in the planning and forecasting process. This whole process is currently based on data that may or may not be based on the same data building blocks. If ever there were a candidate for Cloud collaboration, planning and forecasting are a perfect fit.
Volume Forecasts – A case study for cloud collaboration
Let’s examine our classic volume forecast example from above. In a typical scenario, accounting will ask folks in the field for forecasted revenues and expenses by general ledger account number. The problem is that folks in the field deal with pallets of bricks being sold to customers with each sale having different prices, discounts, and costs. Everybody is talking in their own language and it takes weeks to make any sense of the collected data.
With Cloud collaboration, the folks in the field continue to work with their data in their own language. They track current pallet sales, prices, etc. at the customer level so it makes sense for them to project future numbers the same way. Asking your sales team what future sales forecasts look like at the customer and product level would give you the most granular data you could possibly hope for in managing your company’s next steps.
They best way to capture this raw intelligence is to have the planning and forecast solutions on the Cloud and available around the clock and on any network. While you are interacting with your customers is the best time to capture projections on sales for those same customers. Entering data into an Excel spreadsheet that comes around once a year is hopelessly outdated in approach and usefulness.
Who can help move your planning and forecasting to collaborate on Cloud?
There are many planning and forecasting solutions out on the market place that have been around awhile that were built for Collaboration such as Hyperion by Oracle, TM1 Cognos by IBM, and BPC by SAP. Over time, these tools were modified to run on Cloud. The problem is that the core data storage for these solutions are in proprietary OLAP cubes or require special connectors to access the data. These additional layers and configurations can drive up your costs.
Another solution, BI360 Cloud by Solver, is now available on Microsoft Azure and aggregates data into Microsoft SQL Server allowing many visualization and reporting tools access. With BI360, your sales team will be able to track and forecast information in terms of pallets, customers, prices, discounts, etc. while accounting will be able to use the same data to project sales and expenses by general ledger account number.
Banks, Credit Unions, Manufacturers, Retailers, and many other companies are now collaborating on Cloud for their planning and forecasting needs. Finally, everybody is speaking their own language in planning their next steps by collaborating on Cloud with tools like BI360 and others. Whatever you decide, it is time to trust your data on Cloud so you can get all your employees on the same page.
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.