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6 Tips for a Successful Cloud CPM Evaluation

Are you considering replacing your legacy on-premise budgeting system for a cloud corporate performance management solution? If so, you are in good company as a recent Adaptive Insights survey of 300 finance professionals indicated that 86% want to leave their legacy system behind. Once you’ve made the decision to start looking around, the system evaluation sets the stage for a successful project and long-term benefits to the organization. However, there are several points you should take note of to ensure a thorough evaluation. In this post, we will review key priorities for embarking down this path.

Carlson on KPIs-of-High-Performance-Finance

To receive maximum benefits, make sure the solution is ‘born of the cloud’.

1. Cloud or Pseudo-Cloud:  When you develop your evaluation criteria or begin engaging vendors, make sure their solution is truly a multi-tenant, cloud-based architecture that uses current technology. Many vendors today state in their marketing collateral that they offer cloud software, which is understandable considering the increased popularity of cloud solutions. However, you need to validate that their marketing aligns with the facts as many vendors have taken their legacy technology stack and updated with a “cloud” veneer. One way to determine whether their solution was “born of the cloud” is to review a diagram of their systems architecture. If it is overly complex with some surprising layers of technology, it’s probably not truly a cloud solution. Next, you should ask them to stage up a trial instance for your company. If they can’t deploy a trial instance in a few days, they probably have a lot of older wiring behind the scenes that they’re not telling you about. That also gives you an opportunity to play around with the solution and get a sense for usability and key features. One hallmark of cloud solutions that differentiates them from their legacy counterparts is ease-of-use. Also ask about their release schedule. Pseudo-cloud solutions typically have multiple versions running at any given time which slows the ability to roll out new features.

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Adaptive Planning Tip – Lining up the Budget by Vendor

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Aude Stewart, Senior-Associate

As a consultant working with clients to transform their budgeting process, I put a priority on structuring budgets, plans, forecasts, and reports in ways that are more meaningful and provide better analysis with the appropriate level of granularity.

During a current implementation project of Adaptive Planning with Cetylite, a pharmaceutical manufacturer based in New Jersey, I was tasked with lining up the budget by vendor, which is at a lower level than the general ledger account. This approach would provide better expense management and reporting.

Cetylite previously used a spreadsheet-based budgeting process which, in addition to the usual spreadsheet problems such as errors, linked worksheets, and integration, had just too many “moving parts” which made some of the budget requirements too difficult to manage. In this case, Adaptive Planning was integrated with their ERP solution, Exact Macola, so that actuals at the level of transaction data were brought over from their general ledger and their vendor detail is imported at the same time (with the vendor being a dimension) and the same dimension is used in their actual detail and their budget.  I created a report to show the budget and the actuals by vendor and the variances. This level of detail has significantly improved their ability to monitor and manage vendor budgets.

While still a work in process, the value of Adaptive and our dedication to the project is best summarized by Alanna Nelson, CFO of Cetylite, “Although we have not yet finished our implementation of the Adaptive Planning software, Cetylite has been very happy with Adaptive living up to its promises.   The Carlson team assigned to work with us has been great. They have successfully achieved every request that we have made of them. They are able to think ‘outside of the box’ for reporting requests that are unique to our business. We are looking forward to rolling out the platform to the company in early 2015.”

Building a World Class FP&A Team

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Jotham Lane, Director

Now that budget season is over, it’s time to reflect on the effort taken to complete the task and to challenge the status quo. For many financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals, it can be a grueling and rote activity as described in my previous blog post, Avoid the Budget Season Blues.  If your company still has a spreadsheet-based budgeting process, your FP&A team likely spent a lot of time on the following:

  • reconciling data to prior period reports such as P&L by cost center
  • keying in or copying/pasting data for analysis
  • writing formulas in Excel
  • using pivot tables
  • reviewing and testing to eliminate errors and validate results
  • consolidating multiple spreadsheets from various cost centers (watch out for those formula errors!)

There is significant opportunity cost associated with spreadsheet planning not only in the time it takes to budget but also in not fully leveraging the business acumen and capabilities of the FP&A staff.

All of these skills are required in the majority of FP&A positions but it begs the question, “Do they add value to the organization?”  Generally speaking, they do not.  In my previous roles in corporate FP&A, I found the process to be a time drain that diverted me from more fully impacting the business for the better.  There is significant opportunity cost associated with spreadsheet planning not only in the time it takes to budget but also in not fully leveraging the business acumen and capabilities of the FP&A staff. In my experience, finance professionals would prefer to focus on analyzing the numbers and providing answers to more strategic issues.

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Carlson at Adaptive Roadshow for Finance Best Practices

Let’s Meet Up: CMC’s October Events

Carlson at Adaptive Roadshow for Finance Best PracticesWe are back on the road with two exciting events this month. First, we are the featured partner at the Adaptive Insights seminar in Cincinnati, Ohio on October 14th. This free seminar will show finance professionals how financially successful organizations are revolutionizing their FP&A and consolidation processes to ultimately free up time, resources and money. If you are in the Cincinnati area and would like registration details, please click here.

We are also the featured partner at the Adaptive Insights seminar in Atlanta, Georgia on October 21st. This seminar is designed specifically for manufacturing finance leaders.  Attendees will learn how to automate and optimize FP&A processes. For more information and to register, please click here.

Please note that attendees can earn 2 CPE credits by participating in one of these events.  Kevin O’Brien, who heads our Central Region practice, will be our representative at both events. He can be contacted at kobrien@carlsonmc.com.

Coming fast on the heels of the recent NACUBO Planning and Budgeting Forum in Denver, we will be hosting a webinar on October 23rd  at 1pm EDT to showcase our Higher Education CPM solution, which is pre-built in Adaptive Insights. We will demonstrate how this ready-to-implement solution:

  • Addresses the full range of higher education planning and reporting requirements
  • Incorporates modeling and forecasting best practices
  • Reduces implementation cost by up to 50%
  • Minimizes client implementation staffing
  • Enables phased rollout through modular design
  • Includes Carlson Productivity Suite with pre-defined higher education reports

To register for the webinar, please click here. We hope you can join us!

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Avoid the Budget Season Blues

Adaptive-Insights-Platinum-Partner_03It’s that time of the year known in finance circles as budgeting season. Unfortunately, for many finance teams still using spreadsheets, it can be a time of dread, stress and frayed nerves. Dwight D. Eisenhower famously said “Plans are nothing: planning is everything”. That is certainly the case with spreadsheet-based planning as, according to research on the subject, 60% of budgets are already obsolete by the time they are completed. We can chalk that up to the ever-changing nature of business and the rigid nature of spreadsheets. But what if plans were actually meaningful? What if the planning process was an opportunity to get everyone to sing from the same sheet of music and get aligned with company strategy? Rather than singing the budgeting blues, finance teams can hum happily through the planning season. That is certainly the reality for many companies who use Cloud-based corporate performance management solutions. The issues of spreadsheets are already well documented and in fact there is even an organization dedicated to spreadsheet risk called the European Spreadsheet Risks Interest Group. You may wish to read about some of the spreadsheet horror stories they have collected over the years.

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