FP&A: The Strategic Engine Powering Mid-Market Companies

FP&A: The Strategic Engine Powering Mid-Market Companies
FP&A: The Strategic Engine Powering Mid-Market Companies
Written by Heather L. Cole, July 18th, 2024

In today’s volatile business climate, mid-market companies must harness the full potential of Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) to not just survive but thrive. FP&A has transcended its traditional role, emerging as a strategic advisor and a cornerstone for aligning financial acumen with business strategy. Let’s delve into why FP&A is more critical than ever and how it can be the catalyst for transformation.

The Ascendancy of FP&A in Strategic Planning

Imagine embarking on a journey without a map or trying to complete a puzzle without knowing the final picture. That’s the challenge businesses face without a robust FP&A process. FP&A is the compass that guides mid-market companies through the complexities of today’s business landscape, ensuring that every department’s efforts coalesce to form a cohesive strategic vision.

But like many journeys, the road to success does not always go as planned.  Mid-market companies must incorporate flexibility and agility into their FP&A processes. 

Strategic Alignment and Performance Measures

FP&A is the linchpin that ensures strategic goals are not mere aspirations but are intricately woven into financial planning models. This alignment is pivotal for tracking progress and steering informed decision-making that propels the company forward.

Performance measures integrated into financial models demonstrate how strategic plans tangibly affect the bottom line. This transparency enables every individual within the organization to see how their contributions foster collective success.

Communication and Collaboration: The Pulse of FP&A

Effective FP&A transcends numbers and spreadsheets; it’s fundamentally about people and communication. To truly leverage FP&A’s power, fostering cross-departmental collaboration is vital.

  • Share the Why: It’s imperative that everyone grasps the rationale behind strategic goals. When employees understand the ‘why,’ their engagement and commitment to these goals intensify.
  • Foster Open Communication: Establish channels for consistent updates and feedback. This practice not only maintains alignment but also cultivates a culture of insight-sharing that can refine the FP&A process.
  • Collaborate Across Departments: Dismantle silos and champion interdepartmental cooperation. This synergy ensures that all facets of the organization are in lockstep with strategic objectives.

Making FP&A Approachable and Engaging

Promoting the Office of Financial Planning and Analysis can be approached with a blend of professionalism and approachability. Here are some strategies:

  • Engage with Storytelling: Utilize storytelling to convey the significance of FP&A. Narrate success stories where strategic alignment and effective financial planning have led to remarkable accomplishments.
  • Gamify the Process: Introduce gamification to invigorate the FP&A process. Challenges or competitions centered around key performance indicators (KPIs) can make the process more compelling.
  • Celebrate Wins: Consistently celebrate milestones and recognize departments and individuals who contribute to successful FP&A initiatives.

Conclusion: FP&A’s Pivotal Role in Navigating Uncertainty

The evolution of FP&A into a strategic function underscores its potential to revolutionize mid-market companies. By embracing collaboration, leveraging driver-based forecasting, and providing strategic advice, FP&A can guide companies through uncertainty toward a prosperous future. Embrace the power of FP&A and witness your mid-market company not just survive, but flourish.

Want to Know How?

Don’t you hate it when you read a blog and they tell you what you need to do but not how?  You may be thinking of course I have to have cross-departmental collaboration but how do I get them to work with us? Or maybe you are curious about how to become a better storyteller of your data and “Why”.  Well, stay tuned.  Lodestar Solutions is committed to helping FP&A professionals discover proven methods and we will be sharing them through a series of blogs, webinars, and courses. So follow us on Linkedin so you don’t miss anything!

To wrap up, we invite you to join our upcoming webinar on Thursday, July 25th from 1-2 PM EST.

The Ultimate Budget Rejuvenation Framework: Aligning Finances with Strategic Goals

Date: Thursday, July 25th
Time: 1 - 2 PM Eastern

This exclusive webinar is tailored for midmarket CFOs, where we will unveil our revolutionary Financial Planning Rejuvenation Framework. In today’s uncertain world, outdated budgeting models are no longer sufficient. This software-agnostic framework offers a modern, dynamic approach to budgeting, emphasizing the importance of cross-departmental collaboration and front-line insights. Discover how to leverage the knowledge of your entire organization to create more accurate and actionable financial plans. Don’t miss this opportunity to transform your forecasting process and drive strategic success.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: Turning Self-Doubt into Corporate Success

Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: Turning Self-Doubt into Corporate Success
Overcoming Impostor Syndrome: Turning Self-Doubt into Corporate Success
Written by Heather L. Cole, July 8th, 2024

For over 20 years, I have navigated the turbulent waters of running my software reselling business, Lodestar Solutions. With each year that passed, I wrestled with self-doubt, fear, and anxiety. Hello, I'm Heather Cole, and I am a long-time sufferer of impostor syndrome. You know that insidious little voice in your head that whispers, "You're not good enough," "What do you think you're doing?" or "They'll find out you're a fraud." For me, that voice is a frequent visitor, particularly when I’m pushing myself toward new goals or challenges.

The Voice

Interestingly, that voice seems to take a vacation when we’re relaxing or indulging in a Netflix binge. But the moment we start aiming higher and stepping outside our comfort zones, it reappears with a vengeance. This phenomenon is particularly pronounced for many professionals in the Office of Finance, where the pressure and visibility are immense. I recall a conversation with a seasoned CFO in his 60s, who confessed that every time he faced the CEO, he felt like a small child, unworthy and insignificant. Can you relate?

Affecting Corporations

Impostor syndrome isn't just a personal issue; it's a corporate one. It silently chips away at the bottom line by stifling innovation and collaboration. When we hold back our ideas out of fear of judgment or ridicule, we rob our teams and organizations of valuable insights and opportunities for improvement. The best ideas often come from those on the front lines, but if we haven’t created a culture that encourages them to speak up, we're failing as leaders.

How it Appears

This self-doubt also manifests in other ways. Ever notice how we often claim to be "too busy" to take the next step in our careers, whether it's pursuing a new credential, engaging a coach, or learning a new skill? This busyness can be a mask for self-doubt, a way to avoid potential failure. Another common trait is the endless quest for more knowledge, believing we need just one more course or credential before we can take action. But the truth is, knowledge is not power; action is power. We must transform learning into doing and start contributing actively.

Impostor syndrome not only hinders personal growth but also organizational progress. Imagine the lost opportunities for innovation and problem-solving when team members hold back. As leaders, it's crucial to foster an environment where everyone feels confident to share their ideas and take bold steps forward.

Last Call

To those who resonate with these struggles, I invite you to join my final webinar of the year on Impostor Syndrome this Thursday at 2 p.m.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome for Financial Executives- Strategies for Success

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome for Executives: Strategies for Success

Register Here

Thursday, July 11th, 2024
2:00 – 3:00 PM ET – NO REPLAYS

This will be my last public Imposter Syndrome Webinar this year, and the recording will not be publicly available, however, if you are one of my Executive Coaching clients you will have access to it.

Why is this my last one? Not because I don’t think it’s important, as I think this challenge is eroding the bottom lines of many companies.  But, at Lodestar Solutions I am shifting my focus to helping finance teams revamp their budgeting processes for greater accuracy and alignment with reality.

Next Chapter – Revamping Budgeting

After 20 years of selling and implementing budgeting software I am still frustrated by the fact that corporations spend tons of money on software and consulting to “fix their budgeting process”, and a year later still struggle with the fact that although they can put the budget together faster, it still does not reflect reality.    You see many companies just rebuild what they had in Excel with a better tool like IBM Planning Analytics.

Candidly I have thought about this challenge for years, but my little voice in my head said, “Who do you think you are telling major corporations how to revamp their broken budgeting process?”    I have decided it is time to take action!  I have created a framework for revamping the budgeting process regardless of the software you use.  I may fail completely.  Maybe no one needs help overhauling and navigating the politics of change, but I will hold my head high that I tried.  And I hope many of you follow this new endeavor.

To stay up to date on what's next for Lodestar, and to get more details on our future Webinars, be sure to check out all of our Blogs

Message to You!

Don’t let self-doubt hold you back any longer. Take action, share your ideas, and join us to conquer impostor syndrome once and for all. Let's move from surviving to thriving, both personally and professionally.

See you on Thursday.

Overcoming Imposter Syndrome for Executives: Strategies for Success

Thursday, July 11th, 2024
2:00 – 3:00 PM ET – NO REPLAYS

- Heather Cole

Introducing IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications

Introducing IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications
Written by Mike Bernaiche, June 20th, 2024

IBM Planning Analytics is a powerful tool that helps organizations streamline their planning, budgeting, and forecasting processes. To make the most of this tool, IBM offers a range of pre-built applications that can be easily integrated into your existing planning processes. Planning Analytics Core Financial applications can help you plan and make forecasts of what is going to happen in different areas of your organization. You can use the applications to create comprehensive business plans, manage projects, determine the demand and supply chain, and calculate workforce costs.

These applications are designed to address specific business needs and can help you get up and running quickly with IBM Planning Analytics. Some of the pre-built applications available include:

Included with Each Application

When you purchase one or all the IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications, they include:

  •  Data Models
  • Cubes
  • Turbo Integrator Process
  • Rules
  • Feeders
  • Planning Analytics Workspace Books
  • Websheets

Each of the below IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications is plug and play with the other, meaning all of them play nice together for integrated planning. 

While this is a quick start guide, you will need to load your data and tweak the models to your business use case.  However, by using these quick-start applications you can shave significant time off an implementation saving time and dollars.

Sales Planning and Forecasting

With this application, you can produce precise sales predictions and strategies, considering aspects such as past sales data, market movements, and seasonal variations. The Financial Planning application offers the essential modules that any company requires to make budgets and forecasts. It also lets you create the three main financial statements that are vital to any business: Balance Sheet, Income Statement, and Cash Flow. Moreover, the Financial Planning application enables you to evaluate other measures and perform more business analysis as needed.

With the Financial Planning application, you can prepare forecasts and budgets at the following levels:

  • Company (entity or business unit)
  • Departments
  • GL accounts
  • Period: monthly level
  • Currency
  • Data sources
  • Data versions

The following models are included in the FPA model flow:

Financial Planning and Reporting Model Overview

Project Planning

The Project Planning application is a tool for planning and managing projects in any part of an organization. The application has a main module for planning and monitoring. It also has a section for Project profitability, which you can use if it is relevant for the projects you manage.

You can manage projects at the following levels:

  • Project
  • Company (entity or business unit)
  • GL accounts
  • Period: weekly level
  • Data versions
  • Customer

Demand and Supply Planning

The Demand and Supply Planning application enables demand planning from the viewpoints of both the product planner and the customer planner. Planning is done at a level above the SKU, such as product family, class, or subclass. However, the application can be adjusted to plan at the SKU level if needed. Demand planning is done at a weekly level, and the plan has actual, budget, and forecast versions.

Demand Planning in IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications

Advanced Workforce Planning

The Advanced Workforce Planning application uses data like employee information, assumptions, incentives, and driver data to calculate the workforce costs. Users can export the final results and use them in other models or applications of Planning Analytics.

The Advanced Workforce Planning application uses data like employee information, assumptions, incentives, and driver data to calculate the workforce costs. Users can export the final results and use them in other models or applications of Planning Analytics.

  •  Hire date
  • Employee ID
  • Name
  • Job description
  • Pay type (hourly or salary)
  • Merit information (date, month, percentage increase)
  • Bonus information (date, month, percentage increase)
  • Medical plan
  • Incentives the employee is eligible for

Take Planning Analytics to the Next Level

As you can read, taking Planning Analytics to the next level is much easier with IBM Planning Analytics Core Financial Applications.  You can purchase 1, 2, 3 or all 4!  Reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss what might be right for you and to see a demo of these applications in action! 

There are several benefits of using pre-built applications for IBM Planning Analytics. These applications are designed to address specific business needs and can help you get up and running quickly with IBM Planning Analytics. By using these applications, you can streamline your planning processes, improve the accuracy of your forecasts, and make more informed decisions about your business

Have you seen what is coming soon in IBM Planning Analytics?  If not, check this blog out!  Trust me, there is some very exciting stuff coming soon!!

The Future of IBM Planning Analytics - Lodestar Solutions

Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training: A New Way to Administer Your Environment

Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training- A New Way to Administer Your Environment
Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training- A New Way to Administer Your Environment
Written by Mike Bernaiche, June 13th, 2024

With the announcement that Planning Analytics 2.0 will reach end of support in April 2025 and the realization that Architect will not be included in Planning Analytics 2.1, the role of a well-trained administrator is crucial. Lodestar is pleased to introduce Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training, utilizing the incredibly powerful Planning Analytics Workspace.

Why Administration Training?

If you use Architect to manage your Planning Analytics system, you need to learn the administration features in Workspace. Architect will not be available in Planning Analytics 2.1. Join us for a public Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration training class to prepare for the future of IBM’s Planning Analytics solution.

Streamlined System Management - Planning Analytics Workspace offers a plethora of administrative capabilities that, when utilized effectively, can streamline system management. Training enables administrators to understand the full extent of these capabilities, from managing users and databases to configuring the environment and monitoring system health.

Enhanced User Experience - A trained administrator can ensure that the system runs smoothly, which in turn enhances the user experience. They can manage user activity, optimize system resources, and handle administrative actions with ease, leading to a more efficient and user-friendly environment.

Proactive Problem-Solving - With the right training, administrators can set up alerts and monitor the health of databases, allowing them to be proactive rather than reactive1. This means they can address issues before they become problems, ensuring the system operates without interruption.

Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training Details

Details:

Cost - $499

Length of time: 2 hours

Session will be recorded

Includes 1 hour of time with our technical consultant / trainer, scheduled for a future date.

Agenda:

Introduction

Overview of Security in Architect vs PAw
Objectives of the session

Security: Architect vs PAw

Comparison:

  • Architect Security Model
  • Aw (Planning Analytics Workspace) Security Model

Side by Side Differences:

  • Authentication Methods (CAM, Kerberos)
  • User Roles and Permissions
 Access Control Mechanisms

User Management

Adding Users to Workspace:

  • Steps to Add Users
  • Role Assignment

Adding Users to "Databases" (TM1 Models):

  • User Creation and Management
 Role and Permission Settings

Setting up Workbench for Admin Functions

Overview of Workbench
Key Admin Functions and How to Access Them

Data Management

Backup of the Data Directory:

  • Importance of Regular Backups
 Steps to Perform Backups

TI Processes and Chores

Creating TI (TurboIntegrator) Processes:

  • Introduction to TI Processes
  • Steps to Create and Run a TI Process

Creating Chores:

  • Purpose of Chores
 Steps to Create and Schedule Chores

Using Administrator Features in Workspace

Databases:

  • Overview and Management

Agents:

  • Role of Agents and How to Manage Them

Users and Groups:

  • Creating and Managing Users and Groups

Q&A

Open Floor for Questions and Clarifications

Conclusion

Summary of Key Points

 Next Steps and Additional Resources

How to sign up?

We are working on the dates, and we plan to host 3-4 classes before the year ends. We will share a link to register for the class with our customers and on LinkedIn soon. If you want to ensure that you receive the invitation, please contact me at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

For all the changes coming to IBM Planning Analytics check out these recent blogs:

Summary

You can see why IBM Planning Analytics 2.1 Administration Training is important. Come to our 2-hour training session to learn how to manage the new Planning Analytics environment that will be available for all customers soon. Contact me at services@lodestarsolutions.com if you have questions or want a private training class.

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96)

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96)
What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96)
Written by Mike Bernaiche, June 7th, 2024

This is it, one of the major updates I mentioned in my last blog, The Future of IBM Planning Analytics - Lodestar Solutions. Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96) has some big updates including the new Planning Analytics AI Assistant. This is a game changer for the Planning Analytics community and I’m very excited about this release.  Keep reading to explore everything in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96).

Books and Reporting

Planning Analytics AI Assistant - With the new Planning Analytics AI assistant, you can use simple natural language commands to do many different actions on books. Enter a natural language command or instruction in the Planning Analytics AI assistant. You don't need to follow any strict rules when you give a command if the command has one action that you want to do and (usually) the object of the action.

To see a cheat sheet of commands and options. Use AI to interact with books using natural language - IBM Documentation

Important Note – Planning Analytics AI Assistant required a separate license purchase; it is not included in the standard workspace license.  Please reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss your options.

Planning Analytics AI Assistant

Include Unnamed Members for Set Consolidations - You can now create a set consolidation with both named and unnamed members of a set. Before, you could only use named members that already existed for set consolidations.

Freeze Row Header Column Widths – This stops the row header columns from adjusting widths when you increase or decrease consolidation on the rows. The width is fixed for any hierarchies or row header columns that are added to the report.

New Click Options on Action Buttons

New Click Options on Action Buttons in PA 2.1.3

Modeling

Create Users in Planning Analytics Local - You can now create users in a Planning Analytics Local database using the Users and groups editor. To open the Users and groups editor on a modeling workbench, right-click a database in the Databases tree, and then click Manage users and groups.

Create Users in Planning Analytics Local in PA 2.1.3

Enhanced Auto Complete and Validation in Rules Creator - A more advanced auto-complete feature recognizes the necessary elements of a rule statement and shows the appropriate elements for you to choose when you press CTRL+SPACE in the rules editor.

You can also click the Validate business rules icon to check your rules thoroughly. This checks your rules the same way as saving a rule does and goes beyond the syntax checking and validation that happens while making a rule.

Administration

See Snapshot Sources in Workspace Administration - You can view the version of Planning Analytics Workspace that was used to create a snapshot in IBM Planning Analytics Workspace Administration. This feature lets you find out which snapshots are outdated.

See Snapshot Sources in Workspace Administration in PA 2.1.3

Depreciation Notices

End of Support for Planning Analytics Workspace Local on Red Hat Linux 7 – Support ends in June 2024.

End of Support for Planning Analytics Workspace Local on Windows Server 2016 – Support ends in 2024.

Important Links

Everything in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96) - 2.1.3 - What's new, May 30, 2024 - IBM Documentation

Important Reasons to Start Upgrade Discussion - End of Support for Planning Analytics 2.0.9 - Lodestar Solutions

The Future of Planning Analytics - The Future of IBM Planning Analytics - Lodestar Solutions

The Power of OKRs, Metrics, and KPIs in Achieving Organizational Success - The Power of OKRs, Metrics, and KPIs in Achieving Organizational Success - Lodestar Solutions

Summary

In conclusion, Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.3 (96) introduces several exciting new features and updates, including the Planning Analytics AI assistant, which allows users to interact with books using natural language commands. Other enhancements include the ability to create set consolidations with unnamed members, freeze row header column widths, and use new click options on action buttons. Additionally, users can now create users in Planning Analytics Local, use a more advanced auto-complete feature in the rules creator, and view the version of Planning Analytics Workspace used to create a snapshot in the administration console. It is important to note that support for Planning Analytics Workspace Local on Red Hat Linux 7 and Windows Server 2016 will end in June 2024 and 2024, respectively.

Reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss the AI Assistant and upgrading to the latest version of Planning Analytics.

The Power of OKRs, Metrics, and KPIs in Achieving Organizational Success

The Power of OKRs, Metrics, and KPIs in Achieving Organizational Success
The Power of OKRs, Metrics, and KPIs in Achieving Organizational Success
Written by Heather L. Cole on May 30th, 2024

In today's fast-paced business environment, it's essential for organizations to have a clear direction and a roadmap for achieving their goals. This is where OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), metrics, and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) come into play. These tools provide a framework for defining, tracking, and measuring success, helping organizations stay focused and aligned on their journey toward achieving their objectives.

What are Metrics and KPIs?

Metrics are measurements that help evaluate the success of an organization. There are two types of metrics - quantitative and qualitative. Quantitative metrics are expressed numerically and can be objectively measured, while qualitative metrics cannot be expressed numerically and often involve subjective evaluation.

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) on the other hand, are measurable values used to evaluate the success of an organization. KPIs should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-based. They provide a way to measure success, identify areas for improvement, and track progress toward goals.

History of KPIs and Measures. 

The idea of KPIs or performance measures can be traced back to 1919 when the DuPont Corporation developed a performance measurement system to evaluate the efficiency of their operations.  The concept became all the buzz in the 1990s with Robert Kaplan and David Norton introducing the Balanced Scorecard as a strategic management tool. It was a framework that typically included four perspectives: financial, customer, internal processes, and learning and growth.

About the same time as the balanced scorecard buzz, John Doerr began using a slightly different approach at Google.  He wanted a way for organizations to define and track their objectives and outcomes to stay focused on what matters most and OKRs (Objectives and Key Results), were born.

What are OKRs?

OKRs are a framework for defining and tracking objectives and their outcomes. An objective is a specific goal for an organization to achieve, while key results are quantitative measures that track progress toward achieving the objective.   OKRs help organizations stay focused on what matters most and ensure that everyone is working towards the same goals.

Have I confused you?  Are you wondering what’s the difference between a KPI and a Key Result?  Not a lot.  In fact, a KPI could be the same as a Key Result.

WARNING You MUST Have Alignment! 

It's important to note that OKRs and KPIs should be aligned with the overall goals of the organization. If KPIs are not aligned with the organization's objectives, it can lead to confusion and misdirection.

Let us look at a couple of cases of Measures Gone Bad.

Wells Fargo

In 2016, Wells Fargo, the second-largest bank in the USA, was fined US$185m by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau for opening around 2 million accounts and credit cards without customers' knowledge or consent. This was done by employees to meet the bank's aggressive sales targets and KPIs for new accounts. As a result, more than 5,000 employees were terminated. This scandal had a significant impact on the bank's reputation and led to changes in its sales practices and management.

Pinto

Pinto

Focusing on the wrong measures can have disastrous consequences, as was the case with the Ford Pinto. The Pinto was designed with a focused goal of being under 2,000 pounds and under $2,000, with an emphasis on being a true subcompact car with low cost of ownership and clear product superiority. However, the organization was missing one important measure: safety. To save money on the vehicle, the organization did not provide enough protection for the gas tank in the event of a rear-end collision, resulting in exploding cars.  They had several options including placing a plastic baffle between the fuel tank and the differential housing at a cost of $2.35 per vehicle. But sadly, none of the protective devices were used.  (SOURCE)

This decision ultimately cost the company in terms of lawsuits, damage to its reputation, and loss of consumer trust. You can read more about the history of the Pinto here.

In Conclusion

OKRs, metrics, and KPIs are powerful tools that can help organizations achieve their goals and succeed in today's competitive business environment.  However, KPIs and measures done wrong can have disastrous results.  If you are looking for help in defining your OKRs and KPIs check out our earlier blogs, Create Support for KPIs Across the Organization, and Developing KPIs Executives Use.  

End of Support for Planning Analytics 2.0.9

End of Support for Planning Analytics 2.0.9
End of Support for Planning Analytics 2.0.9
Written by Mike Bernaiche, May 23rd, 2024

There are some big changes coming soon to IBM Planning Analytics.  You can see everything coming by checking out my recent blog The Future of IBM Planning Analytics - Lodestar Solutions.  One of the big changes coming is the end of support for IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.9, slated for April 30, 2025. 

What does this mean. You will need to upgrade to Planning Analytics 2.1 to continue to receive support with IBM.  There is also some very important information to understand about moving to Planning Analytics 2.1.  Below, I will detail all the changes to help you through this process.

What Does End of Support Mean?

On April 30, 2024, IBM announced the end of support for IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.9.  What does this mean?  In short, starting on May 1, 2025, IBM will no longer provide general support for IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.9 and older versions unless you have purchased extended support, which is expensive.  If you have not upgraded to IBM Planning Analytics 2.1.x or higher and you need to enter a support ticket or get a fix and you are not on a supported version, IBM will ask you to upgrade.  The time to start planning your upgrade is now.  See detailed info here.

Upgrading can be stressful, but Lodestar is here to help you through this process.  Near the end of this blog, I will provide details on our upgrade process to limit the stress and make sure you are supported with IBM.

Upgrading to IBM Planning Analytics 2.1.x

There are some important points to note when you upgrade to IBM Planning Analytics 2.1.x.

Legacy components - Architect, Perspectives, TM1 Applications, and Performance Modeler are no longer in the product with 2.1.  This may seem scary, especially for the fans of legacy tools like Architect.  However, Planning Analytics Workspace has everything you need and honestly, it is so much easier to use than Architect in my opinion.  If you have a lot of Perspectives reports, do not fear, there is an easy upgrade path and most if not, all, will convert to Planning Analytics for Excel reports without intervention.  Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss migrating your reports.

Planning Analytics Workspace with the new AI Assistant

Imagine above is Planning Analytics Workspace with the new AI Assistant coming soon!

What is included in IBM Planning Analytics 2.1.x? The main components are Planning Analytics Workspace, Planning Analytics for Excel, PA Spreadsheet Services (TM1Web) and the PA Engine. 

One important item to note, Microsoft Server 2016 is no longer supported with Planning Analytics 2.1.  I highly recommend upgrading to Microsoft Server 2022, and if you are able, placing the workspace install on a Linux server.

Since we are talking about upgrading, you might be interested in what is coming soon in Planning Analytics.  GREAT news.  Here is a blog I just wrote that details everything coming soon.  I promise you don’t want to miss reading all the exciting new features coming soon including the AI Assistant, Bursting and so much more!
The Future of IBM Planning Analytics - Lodestar Solutions

Upgrading Made Easy with Lodestar Solutions

At Lodestar Solutions, we are experts in upgrading both Planning Analytics and Cognos Analytics software.  We have made the process easy, seamless, and affordable.

Lodestar offers upgrade bundles that fix your upgrade cost, and you reap the savings and benefits.  We offer two and four upgrade bundles that include:

  •  Installation of 2 or 4 environments.
  • Configuration
  • Migration
  • Documentation
  • Live recorded walk-through
  • 20 additional hours of support to be used as you direct.
  • You have 1 year to utilize the upgrade bundle.

You can read more about the details here Solving the IBM Cognos Upgrade Challenge - Lodestar Solutions

Please reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com to learn more about our upgrade bundles and discuss your unique situation.

Summary

Look, we understand that a major upgrade like this can be frustrating and time consuming.  Reach out to us to set up a call and discuss your situation.  We are here to take you through this process as stress-free as possible.  We have done countless successful upgrades, and we look forward to working with you soon.  The end of support for IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.9 is coming.  Don’t wait!  We are already starting to book upgrade projects! 

The Future of IBM Planning Analytics

Future of IBM Planning Analytics
Future of IBM Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, May 17th, 2024

Before we discuss the amazing future of IBM Planning Analytics we should start with some background. IBM Planning Analytics is a powerful solution for enterprise performance management, business intelligence, and analytics. It enables users to create, analyze, and share insights from data across different domains and scenarios, such as finance, sales, operations, and HR. IBM Planning Analytics leverages the power of IBM Cognos TM1, a proven and scalable in-memory engine that can handle large and complex data sets with ease. With IBM Planning Analytics, users can access and explore data from various sources, create and modify models and plans, design and generate reports and dashboards, and collaborate and communicate with stakeholders.

One of the key components of IBM Planning Analytics is Workspace, a web-based interface that provides a unified and intuitive user experience. Workspace allows users to interact with data and models using various tools and features, such as Books, Reporting, Applications, Plans, Models, and Actions. Workspace also supports natural language processing and generation, which enables users to ask questions and get answers in plain language. Workspace is constantly evolving and improving, with new features and enhancements being released regularly. In this article, we will share links to blogs on the latest updates and improvements in Workspace 93, 94, and 95.

New Features and Improvements in Workspace 93, 94, and 95

IBM Planning Analytics Workspace has introduced several new features and improvements in its latest versions - Workspace 93, 94, and 95. These updates aim to enhance the user experience and provide more advanced capabilities in Books and Reporting, Applications and Plans, and Models.  Please see the below links to Lodestar blogs on each release.

On the Roadmap

Now let’s get to the good stuff. What is on the road map for the future of IBM Planning Analytics?  Let me start by saying… incredible stuff is coming soon!

Quick Start Applications

Recently, IBM made prebuilt applications generally available.  These applications are a quick start guide to your budget and planning model building.  There are currently four available and they include:

  •  Financial Planning and Reporting
  • Advanced Workforce Planning
  • Project Planning
  • Demand Planning

Included in the prebuilt application:

  •  Data Models and Cubes
  • Turbo Integrator processes, rules and feeders
  • Planning Analytics Workspace books
  • Websheets

Once installed, you tweak to meet your requirements, load your data and you are off and running.  If you would like to see a demo of these new pre-built applications, please reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Financial Planning and Reporting in Planning Analytics

Workspace AI Assistant

Coming soon a new AI assistant is included with workspace.  Imagine asking a question about your data or how to create a rule and letting the system guide you through the process or return a chart you are trying to create.  Welcome to the new AI assistant with the future of Planning Analytics Workspace.

I do have a screen shot of the assistant in action and would love to chat with you about the assistant.  Please reach out to me to discuss in more detail.

Bursting Planning Analytics Workbooks

I’m super excited about bursting in Planning Analytics.  You will soon be able to slice a workbook in Workspace and get the information to individuals how they need and when they need it. You will have the ability to burst in PDF or to PowerPoint.  Just think about the time saved by setting up bursting. 

This should be available in 2-3 months, and I can’t wait to put this into practice with my Planning Analytics clients.

Other New Features Coming Soon

Other items coming soon:

  •  New Static Universal Report
  • Personal preference for each Workspace user.
  • Simplified Localization on Modeling Workbench
  • Autocomplete rules

All of the above should be out over the next couple of months.  Please reach out to me to discuss this in more detail.  I love having calls to talk about the future of IBM Planning Analytics.

End of Support

The end of support for IBM Planning Analytics 2.0.9 is slated for April 30, 2025.  What does this mean? You will need to upgrade to Planning Analytics 2.1 to continue to receive support with IBM.  There is also some very important information to understand about moving to Planning Analytics 2.1.

Architect, Perspectives, TM1 Applications and Performance Modeler are no longer in the product with 2.1. The main components are Workspace, Planning Analytics for Excel, PA Spreadsheet Services (TM1Web) and the PA Engine.  Also, Microsoft Server 2016 is no longer supported with Planning Analytics 2.1

Now is the perfect time to reach out to me about your unique needs and let’s talk and plan your upgrade. Please reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we can set up a call to discuss. 

Wow, a lot is going on with the future of IBM Planning Analytics and I look forward to connecting with you soon!!

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 95

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 95
What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 95
Written by Mike Bernaiche, May 13th, 2024

Welcome to the cutting edge of business analytics! IBM’s Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW) version 95 has just rolled out and has several new features that improve the overall experience of the product. In this blog, we’ll dive into the latest enhancements that make Planning Analytics Workspace even better.

Also, Before we get started Planning Analytics 2.1 is out and there is a lot to unpack.  Please check back next week for a new blog covering everything that has changed with Planning Analytics 2.1.  With the update to Planning Analytics 2.1 Planning Analytics Workspace is also known as Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.2 Now let’s get to it!

Books and Reporting

New synchronization settings allow customized display of hierarchies.

You can now adjust how each hierarchy in the cube viewer or visualization reacts to a synchronization event that is sent to that widget, using the new synchronization settings under Advanced synchronization. 

When the widget that gets the synchronization has synchronization enabled, you can access Advanced synchronization in the Properties > Synchronize > Hierarchies section.

New synchronization settings allow customized display of hierarchies in PAW 95

Applications and Plans

Color Coded Tags in Plan Tasks

By using custom tags with different colors in plan tasks, you can easily see what tasks are on the plan Overview page.  Any tags that you create are saved to the plan. This means that all tasks in a plan can share the available tags in that same plan. Tasks can't access tags from other plans.

Color Coded Tags in Plan Tasks in PAW 95

Modeling

Enhancements to File Manager

In Planning Analytics Workspace 95, 2.1.2, the File Manager tool on the modeling workbench has several new features that make it easier to move files around. The File manager displays all the files and folders that you have uploaded to the Planning Analytics database and lets you manage those items. 

The File manager features that are described here are only available in Planning Analytics Workspace on Cloud and Planning Analytics Workspace Local. They are not available in Planning Analytics Workspace on Planning Analytics as a Service or when connected to Planning Analytics Engine.

Important Note - If you're using IBM Planning Analytics Workspace Local, update the Planning Analytics Administration agent to the version that is included in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.2. You won't be able to use the File manager in Planning Analytics Workspace 2.1.2 unless you update the Planning Analytics Administration agent to the version from the same release.  For more information - Enhancements to the File manager - IBM Documentation.

Roll back Transactions in the Transactions Log

You can undo one or more transactions from the database transaction log in Planning Analytics Workspace.  For detailed instructions - Roll back transactions in the transaction log - IBM Documentation.

Manage Database Thread Activity on the Workbench

You have a new feature on the modeling workbench that lets you see and control thread activity for a database. This feature has many of the same options as Planning Analytics Administration for thread monitoring. 

To see thread activity on a Planning Analytics database, select the database on the Databases tree, then choose Threads. 

To see thread activity on Planning Analytics Engine, select the database on the Databases tree, then choose Activity. 

The thread monitor shows all threads on the database in these columns that you can sort. The columns are different for Planning Analytics database and Planning Analytics Engine.

Coming Soon

There are many excellent and exciting enhancements coming in the next few months with Planning Analytics Workspace.  I promise you; it is going to up your Planning Analytics game.  Without giving too much away, think bursting, think AI, think Assistant.  Stay tuned to our blog for all the details coming soon! 

If you want to discuss your environment with Planning Analytics, please reach out to me at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

For everything new in Planning Analytics please click here What's new in Planning Analytics Workspace - IBM Documentation.

What’s New in IBM Cognos Analytics 12.0.3

What's New in IBM Cognos Analytics 12.0.3
What's New in IBM Cognos Analytics 12.0.3
Written by Mike Bernaiche, May 2nd, 2024

IBM Cognos Analytics is a powerful and flexible platform that enables users to access, analyze, and share data from various sources. It offers a range of capabilities, such as data exploration, dashboarding, reporting, storytelling, and artificial intelligence, to help users discover insights and make informed decisions. With each release, IBM Cognos Analytics introduces new features and improvements to enhance the user experience and performance of the platform. In this blog, we will review some of the most notable changes and additions in the latest version, IBM Cognos Analytics 12.0.3, which was released in April 2024.

General

Content Security Policies: Enhanced support for CSP directives to reduce XSS attack vulnerabilities.

Content Retention Rules: Improved efficiency in the application of content retention rules.

Carbon Design System: Adoption of the IBM Carbon Design System for a streamlined user experience across IBM products.

Assistant

Enhanced answers for queries on main factors and influences: When you ask the Assistant to display the main factors and influences that affect your data, the Assistant now shows enhanced answers.

Enhanced answers for queries on main factors and influences in CA 12.0.3

Dashboarding

Creating dashboards automatically from the quick launch scenarios: The quick launch scenarios on the welcome page of Cognos Analytics, Upload and Create from existing data, now have an option to generate a dashboard automatically based on the data source that you upload or choose.

Creating dashboards automatically from the quick launch scenarios in CA 12.0.3

Adjusting table columns: You can now change the size of columns in table visualizations.

Improvements to drill-through: The dashboard drill-through definition dialog box was improved to make the user experience with parameters better. The parameters in the drill-through definition are now sorted, with the broken parameters shown first. A filter is also added that lets you show the parameters based on their mapping state.

Styling single headers in a crosstab: You can now style text of single column and row headers in crosstab.

Custom labels for data columns: You can give custom labels to data columns in dashboards.

Showing value in a legend: Use the Value in legend property to specify what value a legend is showing.

Showing value in a legend in CA 12.0.3

Setting the maximum number of items in a legend: Use the Maximum items in legend property to specify the maximum number of items to appear in a legend for a visualization that supports this property.

Setting the maximum number of items in a legend in CA 12.0.3

Mapbox Boundaries v4: Cognos Analytics 12.0.3 now uses Mapbox Boundaries v4. The updated version implements adm3 (township, town, charter township) and adm4 (city, town, village) boundaries from Mapbox for US and for all other countries. It also adds over 30,000 new postcode boundaries.

Reporting

Adding native custom controls to the toolbox directly:  You can now create and upload an extension for custom control and put it in the Insertable Objects toolbox.

JavaScript API function to check saved report output: A new JavaScript API function, isSavedOutput(), is added to the scriptable report APIs. You can use this function to check if a report is a saved report output.

New and improved JavaScript API documentation: The JavaScript documentation explains the APIs that you can use to add custom features to reports.

CCLLocaleGenerator Tool: The CCLLocaleGenerator Tool uses the local information from the cognos_analytics_install\configuration\i18n_res.xml file and creates the prompting configuration files.

Setting the maximum number of items in a legend: Use the Maximum items in legend property to specify the maximum number of items to appear in a legend for a visualization that supports this property.

Setting the maximum number of items in a legend in CA 12.0.3 (2)

Mapbox Boundaries v4: As of release 12.0.3, maps use Mapbox Boundaries v4. The updated version implements adm3 (township, town, charter township) and adm4 (city, town, village) boundaries from Mapbox for US and for all other countries. It also adds over 30,000 new postcode boundaries.

Modeling

Importing and enhancing OLAP metadata: Use the Load metadata option in the administration user interface to load and enhance the metadata for OLAP data sources. An enriched cube includes the data characteristics that are required for the product AI-based functionality, such as forecasting in dashboards, to work.

Unified method of creating OLAP-based data modules: Data modules that use OLAP data sources are now created using the same method as data modules that use relational data sources. The supported data server connection types include IBM Planning Analytics, IBM Planning Analytics as a Service, Microsoft Analysis Services, Microsoft Azure Analysis Services, and other OLAP connections.

Additional Areas

Summary

If you are looking for a powerful and user-friendly business intelligence tool, you might want to consider upgrading to Cognos Analytics 12.0.3. This latest version of IBM's flagship product offers many new features and enhancements, such as improved dashboarding, data exploration, storytelling, and reporting capabilities. You can also benefit from the enhanced security, performance, and scalability of Cognos Analytics.

Whether you are new to Cognos Analytics or an existing user, you don't want to miss this opportunity to take your business intelligence to the next level. Contact Lodestar Solutions today at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss your unique needs and get started with Cognos Analytics 12.0.3.

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