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It is easy to predict the future when it is business as usual. However, if your business environment is suddenly impacted by something like the coronavirus, a delayed product launch or an unplanned acquisition, your corporate budget may become obsolete very quickly.

How Do I Know it is Time To Replace the Budget with a Forecast?

Sometimes unexpected events happen and it is clear the company’s actual performance is moving so far above or below the annual budget that it no longer provides value in the following ways: 

  • A cost control tool
  • A target for employee compensation plans
  • A detailed financial break-down of corporate strategic goals
  • A financial plan for various corporate initiatives

There are many signs that your budget is becoming obsolete due to unexpected events, such as:

  • Management comments why a revenue or expense budget variance is occurring
  • Complaints from sales teams that their targets are too high due to XYZ event
  • Lack of budget ownership from department heads

In addition, you will start hearing from executives that the budget column in the financial statements is “useless” or that the budget target figure in a Key Performance Indicator (KPI) is no longer valuable. 

Some organizations have a predefined monthly, quarterly or semi-annual forecasting process, and when the unexpected happens, they simply take this into account next time they reforecast. These companies often have budgeting and forecasting software such as Solver, Adaptive Insight or Planful to speed up and automate the time and effort it takes to create budgets and forecasts.

Other organizations’ forecasting techniques only include a single annual budget version as a baseline, and for these companies a “forced” reforecast due to unexpected events might involve a lot more arms and legs and interruptions to people’s work schedules.  

What to do When the Corporate Budget Becomes Obsolete?

Companies generally do one of the following when their budgets become obsolete: 

  1. Do nothing and live with the undocumented comments and questions until next year’s budget is launched
  2. Leave the budget as is and use report comments to explain big budget variances (see sample screenshot below).
  3. Reforecast the rest of the year and replace the now defunct budget with the new forecast

Most companies enter their corporate forecasts at a higher level than the annual budget, and often it is only done at the Profit & Loss account level and sometimes also for Balance Sheet and Cash Flow.

In most cases, smaller organizations with well organized, home-grown Excel models can forecast in their spreadsheet and then re-import the forecast into their ERP system or third-party reporting tool. In mid-sized and larger organizations even forecasts at the GL account level may require a lot of work due to requirements to do this by division or department. These companies either have more human resources available to perform the work or they use a budgeting tool to automate it.

Picture1

How to Reforecast Your Budget?

Whether your forecasting requirements are simple enough to be handled in Excel or your company is using a modern budgeting tool, there are ways to avoid the painfully slow bottom-up data entry process. The problem with the latter is that the new forecast may already be old by the time you are done. In these cases, the unexpected event that led to the reforecast could have changed again, leading you to start all over.

Budgeting and  forecasting software automation typically means that your input model is highly formula driven. For example, your forecast model can rapidly calculate all the required entries automatically such as % Revenue Increase, Target Net Income, Reduction/Increase in Headcount, etc. This functionality has many names such as:

  • Top-down planning
  • Driver-based modelling
  • Break-back modelling (see sample screenshot below)
  • What-if analysis

Picture2

Regardless of what you call it and the type of planning tool you use, an automated reforecasting model can create an entire forecast in minutes or hours versus days or weeks with manual methods. 

 An automated model also allows you to create multiple scenarios. For example, armed with a “Best Case”, “Worst Case” or “Likely” forecast scenarios, you can be prepared for unexpected events without rushing to reforecast. Instead, you replace the “Likely” budget version with the already created “Best Case” or “Worst Case” scenario and you are done. 

If the situation calls for a brand new scenario, you adjust the drivers in the automated model and it will recalculate and store the underlying account-level forecast transactions.  

When your company has the right tools and plans ready for a budget reforecast they will be prepared for a virus outbreak, stock market crash or exciting acquisition of a competitor. Planning ahead will reduce stress and blood pressure for the organization’s finance team.

hybrid cloud

There are around 40,000 Microsoft Dynamics GP customers world-wide and many are not planning to move to the cloud yet. However, if you are one of them, this does not mean that your company can’t start taking advantage of modern cloud-based reporting solutions today to drive better and faster decisions for yourself and your management team!

Hasn’t Cloud-based reporting for on-premise ERPs been available for a long time?

Yes, vendors like Prophix, Solver, Vena, Adaptive Insights, and Planful (formerly Host Analytics) have offered both cloud-based financial reporting and budgeting for years. However, all of these vendors have typical corporate performance management (CPM) architectures that require data to be loaded from the on-premise ERP and into the cloud CPM tool before the user can run reports. 

The process requires a “refresh” of data from the ERP database into the CPM database which means that the data users see in reports is not real-time. This also mean that the drill-down on any number is only as detailed as the lowest level data that was loaded into the cloud CPM database. 

Your executives are often ok with this because they want to wait on their report analysis until the accounting team has closed the books. However, the accounting team that is posting transactions in the ERP system almost always prefers live ERP reporting because they want to immediately see the impact of journal entries in their reports. They don’t want to refresh data into a CPM reporting database first, and then wait one minute, ten minutes or significantly longer to run reports after the data has been transferred to the CPM tool.

How do I get true live reporting for my on-premise Dynamics GP data?  

The obvious answer is that you use an on-premise report writer like the default Management Reporter tool, GP Report Writer, Smartlist or SQL Reporting Services (SSRS). However, while none of these tools are inferior to what is offered by other ERP systems, and they have aged “gracefully,” they are just not comparable to many modern cloud reporting tools.

Key weaknesses of on-premise report tools include:

  • Not particularly user-friendly for accounting staff to design reports.
  • Lack of easy and professional formatting.
  • Typically requires VPN or Terminal Server to connect to Dynamics GP in order to run reports from outside the office network.
  • Maintaining multiple report writers for different data (e.g. Management Reporter for GL reports, and GP Report Writer and SSRS for sub-ledger reports).

In order to overcome these weaknesses and help GP customers maximize the value of their data with modern, cloud-based reporting tools, Solver has now launched what they refer to as “Hybrid Cloud Reporting.” You can see it live in this video. This is a unique integration technology that enables you to:

  • Use your web-browser to run beautifully formatted reports (looks like Excel formatting).
  • Benefit from true real-time reports on your GP data without any data transfer to a separate reporting database.
  • Drill-down from any number in the report directly into your underlying GP transactional data.
  • Easy internet and browser-based access with no need for VPN, or software like Terminal Server.
  • Enter budgets from user-friendly forms (looks like Excel) in the cloud and have the transactions stored directly into your budget table in Dynamics GP. 

In other words, now your accountants and reporting end-users get the best of two worlds by only needing a web browser to run live reports on GP and drill-down.

Below is a simple architecture diagram to explain how it works:

hybriddiagram

What about budgeting and forecasting?

Like many other cloud-based CPM solutions, Solver also offers budgeting and forecasting. With the new Hybrid Cloud technology and Solver’s cloud-based Planning Module, users can store budget data directly back from Solver’s budget forms in the cloud, into the General Ledger budget table in Dynamics GP. 

So, if you struggle with manual Excel-based spreadsheets for your budgets, you can save a lot of time by eliminating emailing files between users, linking between spreadsheets, and put better controls in place for the entire budget process with workflow and approvals. 

As an example, users can access budget forms like the example below with their browser and instantly, until you close the budget process, update their department’s budget in Microsoft Dynamics GP. Since Solver’s Hybrid Cloud updates are real-time, reports can immediately be run to see the impact of these changes on the budget.

Enjoy Faster and Better Decisions in the 2020s

Companies like Solver, Prophix, Vena, Adaptive Insights, and Planful are driving the next generation cloud-based reporting and planning technology. However, with the lack of live reporting and live budget write-back to on-premise ERP systems like Microsoft Dynamics GP, accountants and very active ERP users have been left with their legacy tools for their real-time reporting needs.  

With the release of Solver Hybrid Cloud for Microsoft Dynamics GP, these users now get the best of both worlds and can start ushering in the 2020’s by enabling themselves and other users with faster and better decisions.  Learn more about the benefits of choosing Solver CPM solutions by contacting us today or requesting a demo. 

 

sage-intacct

If you have surveyed an audience of mid-market accounting and finance professionals, you almost always find that 90-95% primarily rely on manual budget models in Excel. How is this possible when most enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems, including Sage Intacct, have both basic native ERP budget functionalities? In some cases, they also have specialized add-on modules. For example, the Microsoft Dynamics on-premise ERPs had the now “retired” Forecaster product and for Sage, it is the Sage Budgeting and Planning. Other ERP systems have built various Excel export and import mechanisms to make it easier for users to budget in Excel. Then, re-import the GL portion of the budget.

While most ERP vendor’s budget add-ons do the job better then entering budgets directly into the ERP system, there still seems to be a large group of companies that simply need a full-featured budgeting and forecasting solution to get the workflow, formula and layout flexibility they need. These solutions are typically referred to as Corporate Performance Management (CPM) tools. They also include a reporting and consolidation functionality.

How do I know if my planning process is NOT streamlined?

Typically, there are a number of key motivators when an organization begins to look for a CPM solution to improve its planning process:

  • Effort spent exporting and importing data from Sage Intacct to home grown Excel budgets
  • Current process is error-prone and a resource strain on the finance team
  • Lack of time and resources to quickly re-forecast (for example if a virus hits the economy!)
  • Lack of automation to create many budget versions
  • Current tool too complex for staff to learn so ended up back with a manual Excel model
  • Find that the ROI of automation with a CPM tool is higher than the cost of manual processes

Which benefits should I expect from modern CPM Planning tool?

Because Sage Intacct is a cloud-based ERP system, pretty much all customers looking for a full featured CPM solution like Solver, Adaptive Insight or Anaplan, will also expect a high degree of functionality, including:

  • Cloud-based platform
  • Pre-integration to Sage Intacct and Sage Intacct approval as a certified add-on vendor
  • Complete workflow functionality to manage submissions, reviews and approvals of the budget
  • Highly flexibly budget form design to completely replace the company’s manual Excel models
  • Strong native report writer for variance reporting and budget consolidations
  • User administration and security that allow for any person to participate in the budget regardless if they are users of Sage Intacct or not
  • Usability features like spreading, break-back, lien items with comments, and more.

I am planning to implement Sage Intacct. What is the best timing for budgeting tool?

Accounting teams always have a lot on their plate. Therefore, it never seems to be a great time to implement another software. However, the best time seems to be in the 2-3 months after the most recent budget cycle. Not only will issues and needs be fresh in mind, but it also allows for plenty of time to select, implement and test a new planning solution before the next budget cycle starts. Some organizations even do a “dry run” of their new budget solution during the year for one of their forecasts.

Carefully selecting a CPM vendor is important

Turbulent Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) market

For example, when a vendor gets acquired, it usually ends less than good for customers. The most typical reason that issues arise is that acquiring companies are much larger than the target company. Therefore, politics and other internal priorities at the parent company tend to drive employees away, disturb the focus of product development, increase prices and more.

Eventually, many acquired products die slowly, and customers end up switching products and vendors. Comshare, Adaytum, SRC Software and Clarity are a few vendors that suffered this during the M&A spree that took place in the CPM space about 15-20 years ago. Over the past 3 years, another wave of M&A has happened, including Workday acquiring Adaptive Insight, a PE firm acquiring Host Analytics from its old investor, Wolters Kluwer acquired Tagetik, and PE-owned Insight Software acquiring Jet Global, Atlas, BizNet and other players in the game.

Protecting the significant financial investment

There are more CPM solutions that are cloud-based. Customers can sign up for one or more years of subscription versus having to purchase the software upfront. However, even if a subscription is reasonable, the amount of time and effort from the internal staff (often with the help of costly consultants) has to be put in to get a CPM solution fully up and running. Also the reports, budget model and dashboards that management need are very significant. You can expect anywhere from twenty thousand dollars and to several hundred and thousands of dollars in direct and indirect costs for full blown implementations. In other words, picking the right vendor and the right product carries a much larger costs than simply a year’s worth of subscription.

Protecting your job

While a good vendor selection and successful implementation can be a significant boon to the careers of project management, it can be the opposite if it all does not work out well. Let alone the stress and long hours that often come from enterprise software implementations,  should it not end well,  can be a scar that follows you for a long time in your career.

Be Strategic

Whether there is too much pain from spreadsheet budgeting or a tactical hint for competitive advantages with faster and better decision-making that drives your search for a CPM solution, a final piece of advice is to be strategic about it. Don’t look at a CPM solution as a temporary band-aid, but view this technology for what it can be when properly chosen and implemented with care. One of your most important decision-making tools that can help drive growth and success for your organization in the 2020s.

LOS ANGELES, CA. – February 11, 2020 – Solver, ranked among the highest rated companies in cloud-based Corporate Performance Management (CPM) for customer satisfaction by G2, announced its partnership with Sana, the maker of the Sana Commerce app for Microsoft’s Dynamics 365 Business Central and other ERP systems.  Solver and Sana have partnered to integrate Solver’s reporting and budgeting solution with Sana’s e-commerce solution to offer customers advanced cloud-based reporting. With this integration, Dynamics 365 customers using Sana Commerce can now create advanced reports for their e-commerce data as well as their Dynamics Business Central financial data using a single cloud-based CPM solution. The integration comes with a number of pre-defined reports including: Web order customer detail, e-commerce KPI report, outstanding quotes, sales by customer, returns analysis and multi-month sales trend.

By partnering together for this integration, Solver and Sana are focusing on delivering rapid time-to-value for Dynamics 365 customers looking for professional reports with drill-down that will provide their managers with better and faster decisions related to their e-commerce sales data. It will also allow them to view the related impact on their financial statements.

“With this integration as well as the pre-built and user-definable reports, managers can view their e-commerce business data in virtually any imaginable format to get important insights,” said Nils Rasmussen, CEO at Solver. He continued, “Our joint customers can also use the Sana Commerce data as part of Solver budget input forms for sales forecasting.”

“For Sana giving our customers insights into their KPIs is important. Tools like Solver allow businesses to get the most out of their Sana web store by using data. We are very happy to be working with Solver to help give our customers an overview of their online performance,” said Arno Ham, Chief Product Officer at Sana Commerce.

 

 

About Solver

With a quickly growing community of thousands of global customers and hundreds of partners worldwide, Solver provides the leading cloud Corporate Performance Management suite for Microsoft Dynamics 365, Acumatica, SAP Business One, SAP ByDesign, Sage Intacct, Sage 100, Sage 300, Sage 500, Sage X3, NetSuite and other ERPs. Solver is ranked in the leader quadrant in the Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Software Grid on G2, and as a Microsoft Gold ISV Partner, Solver has won countless awards, including the Microsoft BI Partner of Year Award, recognition on the Gartner Group CPM Magic Quadrant, and Best Places to Work for a workplace culture that celebrates customer service, integrity, and innovation. Solver is sold through its 12 global offices and a worldwide network of partners. For any questions, visit www.solverglobal.com or contact Solver at info@solverglobal.com.

 

About Sana Commerce

Sana helps businesses all over the world reach their full potential. We offer the shortcut to e-commerce. How? Through 100% seamless integration with SAP and Microsoft Dynamics.  Our e-commerce solution leverages existing business logic and data in powerful and user-friendly web stores. This lets our clients focus on improving customer experience, streamlining sales processes, and increasing sales volume and frequency.
Sana Commerce is a certified partner of Microsoft Dynamics and SAP. Our innovative approach and strong partner network make Sana the driving force behind over 1,500 web stores worldwide. Because of our experience and expertise, we can go all the way, offering not only a product but also supporting services such as online marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, hosting, design and online payment providers.

Sales Analysis Dashboard

Why companies are upgrading from spreadsheets to Corporate Performance Management Software

 

There are typically two or three key motivators why an organization starts looking for Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution: 

  1. The pain of manual reporting or budgeting in spreadsheet is becoming a major burden on the finance team.
  2. Management sees a strategic advantage in automated reporting, planning and analysis tools to drive better and faster decisions than competitors. 
  3. The company is migrating to a cloud ERP system and also wants to update reporting and budgeting to a best-of-breed cloud solution.

Regardless, whether it is pain, strategic initiatives or cloud migration that drives the decision to find a Corporate Performance Management  solution, there are many pitfalls that can be avoided to increase the chances for success and a good return on investment (ROI). Some of these are discussed below.

Why careful CPM vendor selection is important 

 

  1. Turbulent Mergers & Acquisition (M&A) Market Can Affect You

When a vendor gets acquired, it often ends less than ideal for customers. 

A common reason that issues arise during a merger or acquisition stems from the fact that acquiring companies typically are much larger than the target company. The parent company’s politics and other internal priorities tend to drive away employees, disturb product development focus, increase prices and more. 

Eventually, many acquired CPM products die a slow death, and customers end up switching product and vendor. Comshare, Adaytum, SRC Software and Clarity were but a few CPM vendors that suffered this fate during the M&A spree that took place in the CPM space 15-20 years ago. 

Another wave of M&A is actively happening, and has been for the past 3 years. Companies involved in this CPM acquisition & merger wave include

Acquisitions & Mergers can mean your company falls victim to increased prices, turbulent support, and more. It’s important to make sure, when choosing a CPM Software vendor, to look for a vendor that is…  

 

  1. You Need to Protect Your Financial Investment

CPM solutions these days are increasingly cloud-based. Rather than purchase the software outright, CPM customers can subscribe to use the software on an annual basis. 

However, even if a subscription is reasonable, the amount of time and effort that internal staff has to put in to get a CPM solution fully up and running to include the reports and budget model and dashboards that management team needs, can be very significant. 

You can expect anywhere from $20,000 – a several-hundred thousand dollars in direct and indirect costs for full blown implementations. 

In other words, picking the right vendor and the right product carries a much larger costs than simply a year’s worth of subscription. 

 

  1. Protecting your job 

While a good vendor selection, and successful implementation, can be a significant boon to the careers of the management team in charge of the project, it can be the opposite if it all does not work out well. 

Let alone the stress and long hours that often come from enterprise software implementations,  should it not end well, it can be a scar that follows you for a long time in your career.

 

Key CPM vendor selection factors

While some organizations have too rigid software selection processes when they evaluate new CPM solutions, others suffer from the opposite problem.  

Here are Some Simple Tips for When You’re Looking for a CPM Vendor:

 

  • Avoid RFPs: Unless RFPs are simple and they focus on the important factors determined by the business users, they tend to be playing favorites based on who wrote the RFP.
    RFPs are often template-based, with far too many questions that drown the important items within the much less important topics. And let’s be honest, few team members end up reading all the RFP replies. Vendors tend to interpret questions their own way in order to provide a maximum number of positive replies. 
  • Know what you want: Communicate key objectives and critical needs to vendors and demand that these be covered in software demonstrations.
  • Look for pre-built ERP integrations: Make sure the CPM automation vendors you look at have a pre-built integration to your ERP system. Ideally they provide connectivity both to the general ledger tables and sub-ledger tables so you can report, drill down and budget to as much detail as your business users desires.
  • Look for Support for “best-of-breed” Dashboard tools: In the past, most CPM vendors developed their own, often very limited dashboard modules. The result has been that many organizations therefore also purchased best-of-breed dashboard tools in order to serve other users and other data sources in the company. However, with the rise of advanced visualization solutions like Microsoft’s Power BI and Tableau (acquired by Salesforce in 2019), the new trend is that CPM automation solutions focus on their core reporting, consolidations and planning capabilities and instead deliver their data out to best-of-breed dashboard solutions through pre-built integrations.   
  • Make Sure The CPM is Cloud-Ready: While many companies still run a number of their critical business systems on-premise, the cloud trend is crystal clear. CPM solutions are generally easier to manage in the cloud, with automated reporting tools upgrades, frequent releases, and user-friendly interfaces. Some, such as Solver CPM, can even query certain on-premise ERP systems live from the cloud, providing accountants with real time insights and drill down directly into their ERP. Make sure the CPM solution you look at was architected for the cloud and that it is to an “old”, single tenant on-premise architecture that the vendor is hosting somewhere in the cloud. 
  • Look for Vendor Stability: As discussed, there has been a tremendous amount of acquisitions in the CPM industry over the past couple of years. Most of the CPM vendors that have not been acquired by a larger vendor, have heavy Private Equity (PE) investments. Examples are Vena, Board and Centage. Notable exceptions to this are Prophix and Solver. PE firms generally want their money back within 4-5 years of making their investment so they can provide real returns to their own investors, and that often means that customers will find their vendor shifting owner again, often with resulting price increases and shifting development focus.  

 

Final Tip: Be Strategic

Whether it is too much spreadsheet reporting and budgeting pain or a tactical hint for competitive advantages with faster and better decision-making that drives your search for a Corporate Performance Management solution, a final piece of advice is to be strategic about it. Don’t look at a CPM automation solutions as a temporary band-aid, but view this technology for what it can be when properly chosen and implemented with care; one of your most important decision-making tools that can help drive growth and success for your organization in the 2020s.

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