Sanjeev Aggarwal's Blog

November 8, 2009

Increasing interest for Corporate Performance Management (CPM) in Mid-Market Enterprises

In today’s world overloaded with buzzwords, terms such as “Business Intelligence (BI)”, “predictive analytics” and “Corporate Performance Management (CPM)” are confusing to mid-market enterprises.

BI technologies provide historical views of a company’s business operation. Some of the enterprise –class BI solutions now include predictive analytical capabilities also. BI is a term used to describe the technology used to access, analyze and report on data relevant to an enterprise. It includes ad-hoc query, reporting, on-line analytical processing (OLAP), dashboards, scorecards, search, visualization, etc. Initially, most BI vendors lacked the ability to build models that can project in the future. However, in the past 3-4 years, the enterprise-class BI vendors have added some of these capabilities to replicate functionality offered by CPM vendors. BI and CPM are complementary solutions, and the BI platform provides a natural-basis to build a CPM solution. BI solutions are usually very complex and expensive for most mid-market companies. However, some of the more focused and template/wizards driven “Express” or “Fast-start” solutions, which are more affordable (especially if they are available in a online or appliance) and can be implemented in a reasonable amount of time – are becoming interesting for the mid-market if the vendors can show measurable benefits and short-term ROI.

In the CPM world, “predictive analytics” is generally used to refer to software solutions that automate and manage process related to corporate performance – financial forecasts, budgets, financial strategies, financial consolidation, scorecarding, and reporting. Another term used to identify CMP is BPM (Business Performance Management but this is sometimes confused with Business Process Management – two very different areas). Some CPM solutions regularly monitor some key performance indicators (KPI) in terms of actual vs. budget and, whenever a significant discrepancy is identified, help perform root causes to identify sources that could be causing this.

The BI and CPM solutions do not need to come from the same solution provider, as the two technologies are complementary and could co-exist. However, there may be economies and synergies related to getting them from the same vendor (if offered). In some instances, mid-market ERP solution vendors are now developing deeper integration to some CPM solutions (like NetSuite with Adaptive Planning).

In the current tough economic conditions, this segment is under tremendous pressures to improve financial processes, measurements and management of the mid-market enterprises. To adress the above, mid-market businesses are increasingly deploying CPM solutions to improve planning (forecasts and budgets), manage costs/optimize profits and more importantly risk and compliance.

The following companies provide enterprise and mid-market CPM solutions:

Increasing interest and deployment of these solutions by mid-market enterprises is demonstrated by the double-digit growth rates most of these mid-market solution companies are experiencing. The CPM applications are targeted at the mid-market company CFOs, C-level executives, finance team and corporate strategy teams.

How were majority of these mid-market companies addressing the financial planning issues until now? Majority of these companies are using Excel spreadsheets. Using Excel, has significant accuracy limitations and  the amount of time spend on the planning process. It also denies the organization a collaborative, connected and productive planning process. Mid-market organizations need to take a more objective view to replace Excel based planning and replace them with CMP solutions. Some basic analysis on time (and accuracy achieved) spent on Excel planning and the results achieved will quickly show the benefits and ROI that can be achieved by CPM solutions – these can be split into the “hard” benefits quantifiable by replacing Excel and the many potential “soft” benefits derived from using a CPM solution.

July 9, 2009

Business Intelligence (BI) – Does it have a place in the SMB and Mid-Market Enterprises?

The recent demise of LucidEra has brought forward the discussion of the need for BI in the SMB and Mid-Market enterprises (companies with 1-999 employees and revenues usually less than $1 billion). My take is that this was based on the limited BI value LuidEra offered and the current difficult economic conditions vs. their SaaS based business model. With the explosion of BI solution targeted at the SMB & mid-market, the BI industry is inundated with newer solutions and scaled-down versions of existing enterprise solution targeted at this segment. I have also seen several discussions on the potential increase in adoption of BI solution based on these solutions being delivered in a SaaS model to address the IT resources and infrastructure in the SMB and mid-market companies.

Business Intelligence is all about gaining 360 degree insight into a company’s business, and helping company executive make decisions based on the facts as opposed to information in Excel spreadsheets or gut feel. Business intelligence can offer significant benefits to small and mid-sized organizations. The problem becomes sifting through the plethora of solutions to select offerings that meet the SMB’s needs. SMBs don’t have the required resources or time to do this.

The key question that needs to be addressed is – what are the BI related need of the SMB and mid-market companies and weather these needs are being met by these BI solutions? The solution delivery model is secondary to the key question. This segment of companies is realizing that business decisions need to be made on more than excel spreadsheets and gut instinct.

SMBs don’t understand data warehouses and BI, as it is applied to large enterprises as they do not have staff that can make sense out of the reporting provided by these standalone BI tools nor do they have IT resources/budgets to integrate standalone BI applications to data from various business applications and business processes. SMBs understand BI in the form of dashboards and reports with drill down capabilities. They need solutions that can provide quick real-time insights and ROI that can have measurable business results. How can the use information from the past to more accurately predict the future or to look at real-time data to more efficiently utilize the existing resources or inventory; make changes to enhance business process or operational efficiencies?

In my recent interaction with business solution vendors that focus on the SMB and mid-market, BI solutions are now available and embedded as part of a larger business solution – integrated business solution like NetSuite; SAP (based on Business Objects acquisition) – Businessone, Business-by-Design, Business All-in-One; Oracle Business Intelligence Standard Edition; other ERP and CRM solutions (Salesforce.com) .

SMB and mid-market companies need to first investigate the BI capabilities that are already provided by these applications or modules that are already integrated and can be easily add-on to their business application solutions. It does not matter whether these solutions are cloud-based (SaaS), hosted or on-premise; utilizing these exiting BI functionality will provide much easier implementation and ROI compared to bringing in new vendors. Most of the vendors mentioned provide easy to use dashboards with BI analytics capabilities to enhance operational efficiencies, analytical and predictive analysis, risk analysis, forecasting, etc. Business application vendors need to increase their focus on their BI solutions as a key value proposition to the SMB and mid-market.


 

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