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blog image for corporate performance management during COVID-19

As we all struggle to adjust to our new reality of social distancing and general economic uncertainty, it seems as if our expectations for the future are changing day-by-day, if not hour-by-hour.

It is hard to tell what next week will be like for businesses across the world, much less what next month will look like – or six months from now. However, with a good Corporate Performance Management (CPM) solution, your company can gain insight into a range of possible future scenarios, so you can start executing meaningful action items right now.

With the right CPM in your toolbox, you can get fast answers to pressing COVID-related questions, such as:

  • How will it impact my business if I let some employees go? 
  • What can I expect for cash flow, as things stand now? 
  • Which expenses should I cut – now and later?
  • Who are the customers that are slow to pay? 
  • What is the best case scenario of COVID on my business… and the worst?

If you are not sure how to find those answers with your CPM, or if you are not sure whether your current system provides this critical information, this article will help.

What Are the Two Essential Capabilities of Corporate Performance Management During COVID-19?

If you already have and use a world-class Corporate Performance Management system such as Solver, Adaptive Insights, or Prophix, you can breathe easy. You already have access to the tools you will need to answer your COVID-related questions.

Those tools are:

1. Forecasting

Due to the ever-changing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly every company across the planet is having to throw out and replace their 2020 budgets right now. Forecasting on the fly can be difficult if you are working from spreadsheets but, with a highly effective CPM solution, you will have the freedom to run new forecasts for every twist and turn as the coronavirus situation unfolds.

Some of the best forecasts to run include:

  • Payroll modelling / forecasting

As a business leader, you already understand that it is possible you may have to let a few employees go or do a temporary salary cut before we all return to “business as usual.” This forecast helps you clearly identify the effect of your staffing strategy, so you can be more confident that you are making the right choice.

  • Sales modelling / forecasting

Perhaps you are not looking at staff reductions. Essential industries such as healthcare or food and health manufacturing are experiencing a steep rise in sales as a result of the coronavirus. However, whether your sales are on the rise or your company is facing a temporary slowdown, it is critical that you have accurate, timely insight into what you can expect for sales and revenues in 2020.

  • P&L, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow forecasting

It is always a good business practice to keep a close watch on your P&Ls and Balance Sheets to make sure your financials are in order. With the abrupt market shifts we are all seeing right now, it is more important than ever to closely oversee changes in your operating, investing, and financing cash flows as you update your strategy.

2. Reporting

In an emergency, it can be difficult to sort through the sea of reports available to you from a Corporate Performance Management solution, so here is your quick guide to the essential reports you will need right now.

  • Multiple forecast versions compared

Gain insight into your organization’s best-case scenarios, worst-case scenarios, and everything in between using this easy-to-understand comparison report that maximizes your forecasting vision.

Actuals vs. Budgets are handy when your budget fits a predicted scenario, but we think it is safe to guess that your budgets do not quite match up with your reality right now. This report replaces your budgets with forecasts, so you can perform a more accurate actual vs. “budget” comparison that is based on the most up-to-date data.

  • Reports focused on vendor and payroll expenses

It may be time to cut expenses soon, so knowing which of your expenses are “expendable” may be critical information for your company. This report gives you the numbers you need, so you are prepared to cut back if and when that is required.

  • Customer aging receivables

Right now, every company across the world is anxious about the future and rethinking their expenditures – including your clients. By using reports focused on customer aging receivables, you will get quick and accurate insight into which of your customers or clients are late to pay, so you can check in instantly.

Not Using a CPM Solution Yet? There Is Still Time.  

If you are relying on unwieldy spreadsheets or the limited reporting options included with your ERP, you are probably frustrated at the lack of insight you have.

In truth, lack of insight can be a big problem for companies right now, considering how quickly the economic landscape situation is changing. If you are ready to get accurate, up-to-date financial and operational data at your fingertips, including easy-to-read KPI dashboards, planning tools, and a secure data warehouse to house all your data, now is the right time to get your Corporate Performance Management solution set up.

Setting up a modern CPM solution is easier than ever, but you will still need to make sure you choose the right solution for your needs. Though you have a wide range of strong CPM solutions available to your company, your ideal solution will depend on your unique business setup, size, industry, integration needs, and objectives.

However, to make sure your CPM system meets your precise needs during the coronavirus situation and beyond, you will want to ensure you choose a CPM that fits these requirements:

  • Cloud-based solution

If your workforce is largely working from home (WFH) for the duration, now will not be the right time to deploy or support an on-premises / in-office server solution. A cloud-based CPM is more convenient to implement and support during a disruption, and it is also more convenient to access for consultants working from home.

  • Rapid deployment

A CPM that takes months to deploy will not help you solve the situation right here and now. Cloud-based solutions are faster and easier to deploy than on-premises solutions, and CPMs that include pre-built vendor report and forecast templates will get you analyzing your evolving numbers the same day your solution goes live, so you can answer your critical questions instantly.

Learn More About Your Options for Corporate Performance Management

If chosen carefully, effective, cloud-based CPMs can help you maintain your agility with quick decision-making during the coronavirus or any other unexpected setback.

Ready for some advice that will help you determine which CPM is right for you? We can help.

Since 1996, the global team of CPM experts at Solver have helped companies like yours successfully navigate the rapidly changing business landscapes that define our modern, global commerce world. We are happy to share our expertise with you, so you can find your path through this unexpected and unprecedented worldwide situation.

Truly, you can ask us anything about CPM. We promise you a careful, well-reasoned answer that makes sense for your exact needs. (We do not like one-size-fits-all answers, and we suspect you do not like them either.)

 

We guarantee that when you contact Solver, you will get the guidance and help you need to understand all your CPM options, so you can confidently move your business forward in all situations, including right now.

Ask Solver a Question.

 

powerbiandsolver

If you have ever tried to build and maintain financial reports inside a visualization tool, the answer should be simple. Power BI works well for dashboards, but modern cloud-based corporate performance management (CPM) solutions are the best option for your financial reports.

BI vs. CPM

Let’s elaborate. Power BI belongs to a category typically referred to as Business Intelligence (BI) tools. While purpose-built, financial reporting and consolidation tools belong to a category referred to as Corporate Performance Management (CPM) Software.

Business Intelligence:

In the business intelligence category, you also find other well-known solutions such as Tableau and Domo. For the most part, BI tools are purpose-built for dashboards with rich visualizations. Also, BI tools are increasingly infused with artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities.

Corporate Performance Management Software:

On the other hand, CPM solutions are specifically designed for accounting teams to consolidate financial data. CPMs often produce professionally formatted financial reports such as: 

  • Profit & Loss
  • Balance Sheet
  • Cash flow statements

Most CPM reporting tools offer budgeting modules. And in recent years, the ability to do sophisticated planning such as sales forecasting and modeling.

If the difference between BI and CPM is so clear, why is “Financial Reporting in Power BI or in a Corporate Performance Management Solution” even a topic worth covering in a blog? 

Well, with the rapid rise in popularity of Power BI for financial reporting and its key competitors, an army of “hungry” consultants have emerged.  And, given a strong and flexible tool like Power BI, a sales person with the right technical skills can make almost anything, including formatted financial reports, look good.  Many companies have fallen into this trap lately of using Power BI for financial reporting. And, when you ask a skilled, revenue motivated consultant: Can you do that? Chances are that you will get a “Yes!”  And after a few weeks
or a few months, and a sizable consulting bill, you may actually have good looking Power BI financial reports.  But, as excited as your executives may be to have a single cloud-based portal for both dashboards and financial reports, for most financial executives this has a tendency to turn into a small nightmare.  Why?

Because neither Power BI nor its BI competitors were designed to manage a financial reporting process.

A lot of hard coding and hacking is needed behind the scenes in Power BI’s modeling language. Of course, if you are ready to hire a technical expert or keep your Power BI consultant permanently retained to handle model changes as your chart of accounts grows, your roll-ups change or you need to write a new report, you could survive for a while. Eventually, we can say with certainty, you will be back in Excel to do your financial reporting where your accounting team is comfortable with formulas and formatting.

Alternatively, you can deploy a CPM solution that is built to streamline the financial process. Also, you can deploy a CPM tool to deliver professionally formatted financial statements.

With a CPM solution, you can also move your budgeting process into the CPM tool and run it all in the cloud.  Now, it does not have to be an either or.

The Best Way: Use BI Tools and CPMs Reporting Tools Together

An increasing number of CPM vendors offer pre-built integrations to leading BI tools like Power BI.

Two such vendors are Solver and Prophix. As an example, Solver is similar to Power BI in that it is an Azure cloud-based platform, and it comes with a pre-built connector to Power BI.  Below is an example of a comparison between Power BI and Solver. It clearly shows that companies looking for both dashboards and financial reporting should use a BI tool for their dashboards and a CPM tool for their financial reporting. Neither tool replaces the other.

power bi and solver

As organizations gear up for what can be the “Roaring Twenties,” having the right tools for the job might be one of the smartest strategic moves a management team can make. On the other hand, trying to fit a square peg in a round hole, could lead to frustration. The frustration is delayed reporting and wasted money. It is increasingly accepted that “data is the new gold.” When Power BI is integrated with a best-in-class CPM solution and both are running in the cloud, organizations are likely a step closer to success and industry leadership in the years ahead.

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.

This article will describe how reporting can save operational costs.

 

Photo taken from Shutterstock.


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This article will describe a real life example of a manual application of BI360.

Image taken from Shutterstock.


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This article concludes the “Customize Budgeting Reports” series.


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This article will highlight essential reporting and analysis features in Corporate Performance Management solutions.


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This article will describe the importance of forecasting with the best corporate performance management software and how it differs from budgeting.
Why is forecasting a good practice for all organizations? Here are five reasons:

  1. A forecast is usually a much quicker process and involves fewer employees.
  2. A forecast is entered at the general ledger account level while detailed templates, such as personnel templates, are not used.
  3. A budget is a company’s intention for the coming year, while a forecast is the most up-to-date expectation of what will happen over the remaining months of the year.
  4. The budget is finalized prior to the start of the year while a forecast can be created monthly or quarterly once the year has started and actual data can be reviewed.
  5. Many organizations create multi-year forecasts while budgets are only for the coming year.

While the budget is created one to two months before the year starts, the bulk of it is created up to fourteen months prior to the start of the month. For example, the budget is finalized in November for a company based on a calendar fiscal year, which is a year prior until the next November happens. Meanwhile, a lot can change in the various aspects of an organization regarding economy, industry, products, competitors, employees, and leadership. A forecast can more accurately influence decision-making.

Companies can impact their bottom line by forecasting on a regular basis.

An organization will be much more agile by forecasting monthly, as it can affect the following decisions:

  • Expense reduction and tightening up the authority to spend money.
  • Employee raises, new hires, and terminations.
  • Capital expenditures reductions or increases.
  • Strategic planning and modifying initiatives.

A forecast should include the current year actual data for the closed months. It should also allow the departmental managers to modify the amounts for the remaining months. Additionally, copying the budget data to the forecast will allow managers to concentrate solely on changes in the forecast. You can show the prior year actual data as well.

Templates

Another example is a rolling forecast. This template exists for organizations that do not create a budget but they forecast monthly. In a five-year forecast template, it is recommended to plan the first two years quarterly and the last three years annually.
One other option for a monthly forecast is to enter an expected annual amount by each account. Create a calculation that subtracts the annual amount entered from the actual year-to-date data. Then allocate the remaining amount based on historical actual data.
Finally, we recommend using the Breakback template. This template allows a manager to enter a few amounts to create the forecast in October, November, and December:

  • The desired net Income of $600,000. This is the main driver of the Breakback template, and the only input that is mandatory.
  • Increase all administration expenses by 3%. All of the departments are available for a global increase or decrease across all accounts.
  • Increase administration full-time salaries by 6%. All of the accounts are available for a global increase or decrease across all accounts.

Variance Analysis

The calculation of a variance is the difference between the actual expenses and the budget, the actual expenses and the prior-year expenses, or the actual expenses and the forecast. To calculate revenue data, subtract the budget from actual expenses. To calculate expenses, simply do the opposite. The reason for this is that a positive variance is typically good while a negative variance is typically bad.
The first step is to calculate and analyze variances. Then allow departmental managers to enter comments to document the reasons for the variances.
Variance reports can have comparison reports against the budget for both month-to-date and year-to-date data. Envision a middle section that allows for comments or a conditional format for a quick highlighting variances for review. Variance reports can also be an exception report that allows the manager to filter out variances over or under a specific percentage.
There are several ways of showing variances, but how management will create actionable items to prevent or correct the issues remains essential. Variance analyses  help highlight trends, opportunities and challenges. Variances should be a precursor to a re-forecast. This can significantly affect hiring decisions, marketing spending, and strategy changes.

Best-practice Recommendations on Variance Reporting and Analysis Processes 

 

  • Provide variance reports to each department manager.
  • The finance department should meet with each department manager to review the variances and discuss any concerns and successes.
  • Build an input form that stores comments for all departmental material variances.
  • Concentrate on the larger variances and discuss with the executive management of the company.
  • Make changes to the strategy and initiatives of the organization if needed.
  • Continually re-forecast and make decisions regarding the forecast.
  • Create a forecast then the variance reports should be off of the forecast first and the budget second.
  • Document the action items and review them at the start of the next meeting.

Companies utilize forecasting to resolve budget allocation or to plan for anticipated expenses for the upcoming year. Take the time to forecast. Use the tips mentioned above to help achieve those organizational goals without wasting any time. Learn more from Enabling World-Class Decisions, the executive’s guide to understanding and deploying modern corporate performance management tools.
If you need assistance in finding a corporate performance management solution or a forecasting tool, Solver has a team of experienced professional that can get your organization starting in building the right template for you.
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 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.