Time to Evaluate Your Budgeting & Planning Software?

Time to Evaluate Your Budgeting and Planning Software
Time to Evaluate Your Budgeting and Planning Software
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 30th 2022

Are your budgeting and planning processes meeting your needs?  Wondering if what you own is what you need?  Don’t know where to start?  Maybe you are thinking it might be time to do a software evaluation of your budgeting and planning software?  Lodestar Solutions has been helping clients evaluate and implement Planning solutions for over 18 years and we have learned a few things along the way. 

The biggest mistake teams make in evaluating their budgeting and planning software is jumping right into a request for proposal process or asking vendors to just do a demo.  This is like going to multiple car dealerships and test driving all different vehicles without first determining how you will use your vehicle.  Is it for commuting, or towing your boat?  Do you need room for kids, or is it just you and your dog?  By not determining how you want to use the software first, you will experience extra meetings, delayed selection process, potentially extra costs, and you will risk selecting the wrong solution.  If you don’t know what you need, how do you know what questions to ask or who to ask?

So how do you run a budgeting and planning software evaluation?  We will share the steps below:

How to Run a Budgeting and Planning Software Evaluation

1. Requirements Discovery (MOST IMPORTANT)

Lodestar Solutions’ recommendation is that you focus on doing proper Requirements Discovery before talking to vendors.  This requires starting with the end in mind. What are the strategic goals of the organization?  What information is needed to help accomplish those goals?  What type of reporting do you have today and want in the future?  What type of “what if” analysis will users desire?  What data sources are available?  What frequency do you want to update it daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly?  How do you anticipate the business will change in the next 3 years?  What type of solution is optimal, SaaS or On-Prem...?

Proper requirements discovery also requires getting feedback from various areas of the business.  You may start in finance, but the right solution will inspire you to connect all the different plans of the business-like marketing, sales, human resources…

To learn more about facilitating analytic discovery check out our blog – Facilitating Analytic Discovery for Success.

Lodestar Solutions’ Requirements Discovery Services:

Lodestars Solutions can help you not only complete a proper requirements discovery process, but we can also train your team to do so.  Planning systems are not supposed to be static.  As you have seen over the past two years, the world changes, your business changes, and you will want to periodically run an update requirements discovery process.  By empowering your teams by training them on requirements discovery and revisiting the discovery a couple times per year, you can ensure your models will not become outdated in the future, and you will save on expensive consultants.

2. Software Evaluation

Once the requirements have been defined it’s time for the software evaluation process.  Since you have a detailed list of what you need the software to do, you need to prioritize the functionality you desire. 

You should first evaluate your needs to the functionality of your current software.  So, call your software representative and set up a meeting to learn about the functionality in the latest release.  Your issue might just be you haven’t upgraded in a while.

You will want to provide all vendors you invite to participate in your software evaluation with the priority list and ask them to show the functionality on the list.  It is very important that you control the process, not the vendors.  If you fail to provide the detail list, vendors will show you what they think is their strengths, and you risk the software not being able to do what you need it to do.

In an effective software evaluation, you will control the process, not the vendors.  

Lodestar Solutions’ Software Evaluation Assistance

Lodestar Solutions does not formally run selection processes because we are a reseller of IBM Planning Analytics and running the process for a client and then pitching them on the benefits of IBM Planning Analytics lacks impartiality.  We can work with you and provide templates so that your team can easily run the software evaluation process.  Our goal is to assist in the software evaluation procedurally but let you run it.  The benefits of this are that your evaluation process is expedited and leverages templates that Lodestar has created after decades of working with clients.  The templates will help you save time and money.  Additionally, your team will learn techniques in evaluation that they can use when evaluating other software solutions.

Request for Proposals (RFPs) - I would be remised if I didn’t address RFPs.  At Lodestar Solutions we are not a big fan of the formal Request for Proposal process.  In the Planning Software space all the major players are going to be able to say yes, they can do what you need, but it’s how they do it that matters!  And RFP’s will never disclose that a certain functionality requires advanced coding to accomplish.  So, Lodestar Solutions recommends that you spend your time focusing more on the requirements and preparing for the evaluation than compiling a long list of questions and then compiling the results.

IBM Planning Analytics

A solution you should consider when choosing your budgeting and planning software is IBM Planning Analytics.  At Lodestar Solutions we are amazed at the new functionality IBM has been adding, and when designed properly, based on your requirements, IBM Planning Analytics is extremely flexible and robust!  Lodestar Solutions is available to share with you the power of IBM Planning Analytics.  But if you want more information check out these resources.

Gartner Peer Insights.

IBM Website

3. Negotiation

Once you have selected your top vendor it’s time to negotiate.  This process is very important as the savings you receive initially often will determine the annual rate in future years. 

Lodestar Solutions Negotiation Service 

Whether you choose IBM Planning Analytics or another software vendor, Lodestar Solutions can help you negotiate the price and terms of your purchase.  Because we have been selling software for decades, and we have in-house resources that teach negotiation classes to finance executives, we can assist in getting you the best deal.  With our Negotiation Services, you will learn our negotiation framework which will empower your teams to be more effective negotiators in the future.

4. Implementation

The implementation phase is the exciting phase!  This is where we get sh*t done!  Lodestar Solutions recommends a phased, agile approach to implementing, which we call our Business Analytics Agile Methodology (BAAM).  This means focusing on smaller chunks of the project and delivering results in small sprints. An Agile approach has been proven to be the most effective implementation methodology.

Lodestar Solutions’ Implementing IBM Planning Analytics

In the event during the software evaluation process, you determine IBM Planning Analytics is the best fit for you, the Lodestar Solutions team will work with you and your team to educate them on how Planning Analytics works, and the art of designing effective, flexible models.  Our goal is to make you self-sufficient, so that as you incorporate other areas of the organization like marketing or human resources, you can do so without pricey consultants.

Knowledge Transfer for Implementing an Alternatives Solutions

We appreciate that you may decide that another solution is a better fit for your needs.  If that is the case, Lodestar Solutions, will work with you and the implementation team for the software to transfer all the knowledge discovered in earlier steps.  Additionally, if you would like a Lodestar Solutions team member to periodically overview the process of the implementation team and serve as an accountability agent, we can do so.


We can’t stress enough the importance of the first Requirements Discovery phase when evaluating your budgeting and planning software.  By doing the discovery process properly you will deliver solutions your end users love, save valuable time in implementation, and save money on consulting services.  But most importantly you will ensure you select the correct software to meet your needs now and for years to come.

Lodestar welcomes the opportunity to discuss the next steps for your process.   

If you would like to receive our Software Evaluation Checklist which can be customized, click here.    

Additionally, here is a blog you may find beneficial – Software Selection Process.

Next Step

Email Lodestar to discuss the above and your specific project.  Services@lodestarsolutions.com

Do you like our content?  Want to keep updated with our blogs and posts?  
Follow us on Linkedin.

PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics

PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics
PowerPoint Options Cognos and Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, June 23rd 2022

As someone who worked in finance and analytics for many years, I found myself having to update many different reports, often in PowerPoint, with financial numbers for management, board members and others.  It can be a time-consuming process of hand typing numbers, verifying they are correct and then updating all over again each month or quarter.  Did you know that there are PowerPoint options to automate this process?  I wish I knew about these PowerPoint options for Cognos and Planning Analytics many years ago.  One of the products for Cognos Analytics has been around a long time, the other product for Planning Analytics is new to market through a company called Intito (Intito – Solutions and services for smarter performance management), called Office Connect.  Below I will talk about both options.

IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office

IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office is a product that allows you to use Excel, Word and PowerPoint to import data directly into presentations or documents and have that data refresh at the push of a button. 

What is it?

  •  IBM® Cognos® for Microsoft Office provides the framework that leverages the business intelligence architecture, including security, metadata, and content storage.  This infrastructure helps you manage your Microsoft Office documents and monitor the financial performance of your organization.
  • Use the applications of IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office to create, view, and consume reports, analyses, and other business intelligence content using familiar Microsoft Office applications, such as Excel, PowerPoint, and Word.

What Problems does it solve?

  •  The need to update PowerPoint presentations with data from Cognos Analytics or Planning Analytics (this is done by connecting your Planning Analytics cubes to Cognos Analytics) without having to copy and paste or hand type everything in.
  • Accuracy is important and you are nervous hand typing everything in each month.
  • When the closing process is complete you have very little time to update, and you are not into working nights and weekends.

The above examples show the Microsoft Office add-in and a resulting report once imported.  Every time the data updates in Cognos Analytics, you simply open the presentation and click the refresh data button and voila, your numbers have been updated.  Best news is, if you own Cognos Analytics you already own IBM Cognos for Microsoft Office. 

Intito Office Connect

Intito Office Connect is software that works directly with Planning Analytics and allows you to update data and report objects directly in PowerPoint with a few clicks of a button.  When I first saw this product, I was blown away and believe anyone who has presentation style reporting that needs to be updated each month should investigate purchasing this product.

By using Intito Office Connect you will save time, increase efficiency and accuracy, and spend more time analyzing and less time verifying numbers in a presentation.


Would you like to learn more about Intito Office Connect?  Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  We have uploaded a demo that can be watched here.  I highly recommend checking this product out.  For years the only way to get Planning Analytics data into PowerPoint was either hand typing or connecting to Cognos Analytics.  With this option you can skip all of those steps and direct connect!


As you can see, I have provided two good PowerPoint options for Cognos and Planning Analytics.  Why not make your life easier and more automated?  Reach out to us at services@lodestarsolutions.com to discuss both PowerPoint options. 

Need to know what is new in Planning Analytics Workspace – check this out.

What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace 75 and 76 - Lodestar Solutions

What’s new in Cognos Analytics - What’s New in Cognos Analytics 11.2.2 - Lodestar Solutions

Developing KPIs Executives Use

Developing KPIs Executives Use
Developing KPIs Executives Use
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 16th 2022

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) can be more challenging than people think.   You create a Cognos or IBM Planning Analytics dashboard with the KPIs the company has been measuring and no one uses it.  People convince you to change the dashboard and someone else complains that it’s not meeting their needs.  As an analytic professional you start to feel like you are caught in the middle of a tug a war.  Today we will share Lodestar’s recommendations on developing KPIs executives use so you don’t get caught in the middle.

KPIs and the Strategic Goals

In last week’s blog, Create Support for KPIs Across the Organization we discussed that when defining KPIs you need to first start with the strategic goals of the organization, then ensure that you are engaging the right stakeholders from the very beginning and finally communicate the WHY.  If you did not read it go read it now, so you understand why strategic goals are so important in defining KPIs.

Steps for Developing KPIs for Cognos or Planning Analytics

  •  Start with Understanding the Strategy Goals and Initiatives of the organization
  • Define the stakeholders, the people that the organization needs to have strong relationships with to succeed. 
  • Facilitate a KPI discovery session (Facilitating Analytic Discovery for Success)
  • Define what you can monitor to make the relationship with the stakeholders stronger
  1. Ask the stakeholders themselves
  2. Engage your end users so they feel part of the process
  •  Identify your data needs & evaluate if you already have it
  1. IBM Planning Analytics can be a useful tool for calculating and collecting data you might need.
  •  Validate the measurement definition, calculation, and frequency
  • Share the WHY for the KPIs with the organization
  • Define how to communicate your KPIs 
  1.  Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics could be useful tools
  •  Review your KPIs quarterly to ensure they help improve performance

Common KPI Mistakes

Now that you have the basic steps, I want to share the common mistakes that can jeopardize your company’s future.

Not Evaluating Your KPIs Regularly

In the last 3 years the world has changed, your business has changed, and yet so many companies are still using the same dashboards and measures they defined years ago.  KPI’s are not intended to be static they should change as your business changes, as your employees change, as your suppliers and customers change.  At Lodestar Solutions, we coach our clients on hosting quarterly or at least semi-annual strategy sessions to identify how your Cognos Dashboards, KPIs and Planning Analytic models should change.  To learn more about hosting meetings check out our blog, Facilitating Analytic Discovery for Success.  

“What got you here won’t get you there!” 

Measure Everything

Another mistake is to create too many KPIs.  Hint the name says it all, they are Key performance indicators.  Not All performance indicators.  Start with what you believe best monitors the relationship with your stakeholders (as described in previous blog).  We are looking for the needle movers.  Things our teams can take actions on to improve the performance.  When you measure too many things, people don’t pay attention to any of them.  Remember if you are hosting regular strategy sessions you can change them.  Less is more.

Tying Bonuses to KPIs

Be very careful if you tie bonuses and incentives to performance on KPIs.  According to technology thought leader Bernard Marr, “The true purpose of a KPI is to help people inside the business know where they are in relation to where they want to be.  They act like a compass on a sea voyage.  But, once those KPIs are linked to incentives, they stop being a navigation tool and become a target an individual has to hit to secure their bonus.” 

I have seen this firsthand.  Prior to the real estate bust, I was working with a large Chicago home building designing an IBM Planning Analytics model.  Just prior to the crash we noticed that the number of spec homes was increasing significantly, which was odd as spec homes are the models used to help sell houses.  When we asked the CFO about it, he said, oh yeah that’s because we have had people back out of closings.  He then added we pay our project manager based on completions, so they keep building.  Fast forward the billion-dollar home building is no longer in existence.  I believe the warning signs were there, but the company didn’t act fast enough to change how people were paid.  Foundation Crumbles on Kimball Hill homes.

Get an Analytic Success Coach

Success leaves clues and there is a methodology of developing the KPIs executives use.  The above gets you started but if you want rapid success you may want to consider getting a coach to guide your thought the process.  Yes, there are analytic success coaches!  At Lodestar Solutions we work with clients to empower you and your teams to successfully facilitate analytic strategy sessions.  If you would like to learn more about how a coach can help you achieve success in weeks not years, email us at services@lodestarolutiosn.com.

All Companies Should Care About ESG Reporting!

All Companies Should Care About ESG Reporting
All Companies Should Care About ESG Reporting
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 2nd 2022

Every company even privately held companies should pay attention to ESG reporting!  ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance and is a set of standards used by socially conscious investors to screen potential investments.  But wait it’s so much more than that!!!  The SEC will most likely require companies to provide ESG Reporting in the future.  But all companies should care about ESG reporting and today we will discuss why.  And if you are an IBM Cognos or IBM Planning Analytics client, we have good news for you…

What is ESG?

First let’s clarify what ESG reporting is.  As we mentioned it’s a set of standards that will help not only investors, but employees, customers, credit reporting agencies and more evaluate how your organization is performing in three areas.

  • Environmental - criteria consider how a company safeguards the environment, including corporate policies addressing climate change.  So, are you a polluter, or generating too much CO2?  
  • Social - criteria examine how a company manages relationships with employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities where it operates.  For example, do they have diversity and inclusion programs?
  • Governance - deals with a company’s leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.

Why You Should Care

All companies and team members should care about ESG for several reasons.

SEC Rules:

Initially ESG will impact publicly traded companies. The SEC in March 2022 proposed rule changes that would require registrants to include certain climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports. These included information about climate-related risks that are reasonably likely to have a material impact on their business, results of operations, or financial condition, and certain climate-related financial statement metrics in a note to their audited financial statements.  So if you are with a publicly traded company or invest in one, this will provide transparency on organizational behavior.

Trickle Down to Private Companies

If your company is private but provides goods or services to a public company, you will see that they are starting to require vendors to provide information about their emissions and other ESG measures.  The reason is that the Greenhouse Gas Protocols define what they call Scope 3 emissions as “all indirect emissions that occur in the value chain of the reporting company, including both upstream and downstream”.  Therefore, businesses are now working to engage with suppliers and create low-carbon and easily recyclable products and services to reduce value chains emissions.  The net effect is that almost everyone that provides goods and services to publicly traded companies will need to report or risk losing large contracts.

Credit Ratings

Many experts including the S&P Ratings believe ESG factors will affect your credit rating.  So, if you want to borrow money in the future, your ESG scores may help you get a better rate, or they could hurt you.

Employees Care and want to work with companies in alignment with values.
Customers Care and want to work with companies in alignment with values.
Investors are researching and investing in companies with better ESG ratings.
Executives Care - Your Executives are discussing this with other executives, so if you are responsible for reporting or analytics, you should care.

The Guidelines for ESG Reporting

The guidelines for ESG reporting are still evolving and there are a number of organizations that are working to help create standards such as the Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Protocol Corporate Standard which classifies a company’s GHG emissions into three ‘scopes.

The Sustainability Accounting Standards Board’s (SASB) Standards, which are industry-specific, sustainability disclosure standards focused on financial materiality.

And the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures to improve and increase reporting of climate-related financial information. (TCFD)

But companies looking to begin tracking their ESG measures should know it’s ever changing so your tools must be flexible.

Call to Action

If you are a business intelligence professional or maybe you are in the finance team, I urge you to do your research.  Understand what ESG is.  Ask what your organization is doing about ESG!  You might find the legal department is running with it initially, because it’s an SEC risk item.  But let’s think about it.  Business Intelligence and finance teams are in a unique position to help.  They know the data; they understand reporting and can help develop scorecards and dashboards to keep ESG on everyone’s radar. 

If you are an IBM Cognos or IBM Planning Analytics client, did you know IBM has samples of ESG reporting using their tools.  Email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we can provide a demonstration on how you can leverage the tools you own today to do ESG reporting with IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics.

Can Analytic Teams Thrive in a Hybrid or Remote World?

Can Analytic Teams Thrive in a Hybrid or Remote World?
Can Analytic Teams Thrive in a Hybrid or Remote World?
Written by Heather L. Cole, May 26th 2022

I recently spent significant time reaching out to executives and senior managers in IT and Finance to discover what challenges they were facing as they emerge from the pandemic.  There was a common theme!  Many Finance and IT, analytic professionals don’t want to return to the office full time.  But can analytic teams thrive in a hybrid or remote world?

For 2 years analytic professionals have been called into action to provide new views of data and insights to help executives navigate the uncertain times.  The data was essential to help organizations pivot.  And not surprisingly analytic teams rose to the occasion and did it remotely. 

Now the world has opened up and many executive teams expect the world to return to what it once was.  They are calling everyone back to the office, some 5 days a week, some are starting with hybrid, a few days a week in the office.

But the data is showing many people in knowledge-based careers, don’t want to go back. 

According to The Future Forum, developed by workplace-messaging platform Slack, surveyed more than 10,000 workers globally in the summer of 2021 and found an “executive-employee disconnect”.

Remote Work

“The survey found 75% of all executives reported they want to work from the office three to five days a week, compared to only 34% of employees.  Among executives working remote through the pandemic, 44% said they wanted to come back to the office every day.  Just 17% of employees said the same.”

In a recent study in the UK, only 10% of the workers wanted to return to the offices completely.  Thought leaders like Bernard Marr have stated that the world has shifted permanently, and hybrid work is here to stay.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend the book Business Trends in Practice:  The 25+ Trends That are Redefining Organizations by Bernard Marr.

As more research is being performed on the benefits of hybrid working, workers are arming themselves with data to plead their case for virtual working.  Unfortunately, I believe there are many executives that are about to face a big reality check, as top talent walks out the door.   This issue will be exacerbated by the fact that talented people often will not even apply for a job if it requires full time in the office.  It’s not about the money, it’s about quality of life!

 FEI Conference on Managing Remote Workers

Last week I attended the Financial Executives International Annual Summit in Cleveland, OH where the discussions ranged from DEI, ESG and the new world of working.  I decided I wanted to listen in on a panel of finance executives sharing their thoughts on remote and hybrid working. 

“We are better together,” one CFO stated.  She was adamant that they could not create the same culture with remote teams. 

After she explained her companies journey through Covid and the future plans, I asked the questions, “Do you believe that you may miss out on top IT and analytic professionals that prefer to work in a hybrid or remote environment?”

“Yes, potentially, but if they don’t understand our culture and believe we are better together, then they are probably not a good fit.”  Wow the response hit me as I thought of all the amazing IT and analytic professionals who have told me they will not go back to 5 days in the office.  They would rather quit.  “We did have a couple cyber security positions we couldn’t find applicants in the US, so we hired them overseas,” she continued. 

I looked around the room to see if anyone else caught the irony of the situation.  She wouldn’t allow hybrid or remote in the US, but they hired people overseas that have time zone challenges and potentially language and culture challenges. Hmm.

After the presentation I took some time to reflect on the situation.  Why were so many executives insisting people return to the office when their teams showed amazing resilience and productivity remotely during the pandemic?  Was it culture?  Was it Control?  Was it their own inexperience?

Can you build a culture with remote teams? 

As someone who has run a software reselling business successfully virtually for 18 years, I believe yes you can create the strong culture and what one describes as the connective tissue of teams.  But you can only create the culture you seek if you have a very strong WHY.  As author Simon Sinek says, “People don’t buy WHAT you do, they buy WHY you do it.” Simon Sinek, Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action. 

“All organizations start with WHY, but only the great ones keep their WHY clear year after year.” – Simon Sinek

You must hire people that deeply connect with your WHY and then implement techniques to allow the remote team members to thrive.  I do believe culture absolutely can be defined and created remotely when managers care and connect with their teams.

Do you lose Control with Remote Teams?

One can argue that you do lose control with teams that are virtual, but my philosophy is that I don’t need control of the people that work for me.  I need the, inspired, educated and innovative.  When I hire the right people and empower them, they will accomplish amazing things!  Often, they create ideas I would never have dreamed of.  If I tried to control them all I would be doing is killing their ability to solve the problems on their own.  I do however think managers must be available to provide guidance and feedback which can be done remotely leveraging High-Performance Management techniques.

(If you want to learn more about High-Performance Management techniques, please email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.)

Will you lose the ability to attract and retain talent if you don’t allow Hybrid working?

I believe companies that make a firm rule they don’t allow remote or hybrid working will not be able to attract the talent they seek.  Maybe managers need to look for a new approach.  Imagine, learning the skills to manage and inspire remote teams.  You build a team that trusts you and the organization.  Team members are grateful that you allow them to not miss the big moments in their family’s lives.  The team converts what was once 2 hours of travel time and allocates another hour to learning and the important tasks so they can better serve the organization.  What if your teams were trained to facilitate meetings to be efficient and engaging even through zoom or teams?  Would you allow hybrid and remote work? 

Are you skilled at Managing Remote Workers?

My challenge to all managers of analytic professionals.  Look in the mirror!  What skills as a manager could you work on to do a better job of including your remote team members?  Could it be maybe all our management skills could benefit from what is being coined Up-leveling?

I have worked remote for over 25 years.  Most of which included managing remote teams of analytic professionals and projects.  I believe analytic teams can thrive in a hybrid or remote world.  If you have a strong WHY, hire the right people, invest in education for your teams and you invest in learning how to inspire and manage remote teams.  You and your team will thrive while adding tons of value to the organization and your clients. 

Lodestar Solutions can help!

If you are having discussions internally on this topic and would like some pointers, you can start by reading our earlier blog, Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytics Talent. 

Lodestar Solutions is here to help!  Email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Keep the discussion going!

Add a comment to this blog.  Tell us if your company is allowing hybrid working and any remote management tips you have to help team members thrive in a remote world.  If you are an analytic professional share your thoughts.  Do you want to return to the office?

Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytics Talent!

Why You Aren't Attracting Analytics Talent
Why You Aren't Attracting Analytics Talent
Written by Heather L. Cole, May 12th 2022

Are you looking to hire analytics talent but struggling to find people to even apply for your open positions?  Are you blaming the Great Resignation?  STOP!  The people are getting hired by someone… So, today I’ll share what I have been coaching our Lodestar Solutions clients on hiring talent and Why You Aren’t Attracting Analytic Talent.

Your Job Posting Sucks.

The first place to start is sit down and read your job posting!  Most suck.  When you read it, think I was of the experience level I am looking for, would I respond to the post?  Most job posts are written in the old school way when employers have tons of candidates to choose from.  The world has changed and so should how you write your job posts.  It’s not so much what you are looking for but what you offer the candidates with analytics talent!  See our earlier blog, Job Posting Tips to Attract Analytics Talent.

Do You Allow Remote or Hybrid Work?

If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that major corporations can survive and thrive even when employees work from home.  As someone who used to deal with Chicago’s commute, I can tell you when I started working remote over 20 years ago, I vowed I would never work for someone that made me go to an office every day.  Talented people know they can demand a remote or hybrid work environment and if you don’t put it on your post that you offer it, top analytics talent are doing the proverbial swiping left and rejecting you.  

Executive Team Needs to Face Reality

I appreciate that there are many executive teams that want to require people to come back into the office, but the data is showing us that hybrid work and remote work is here to stay.  Even one of my favorite authors, Bernard Marr discusses this in his book,  Business Trends in Practice: The 25+ Trends That Are Redefining Organizations. A quick way to validate this is to ask your team.  Create an anonymous survey and see what your people are saying.  You do realize that if your people want to keep working at least some days remotely and you want them in the office you risk losing them, right?

Evaluate your Pay!

Inflation is real.  The market is benefiting the job seekers, so they are demanding more pay.  But many companies are failing to look at market conditions and adjusting pay.  I had one client post a job and when a friend saw the posting, he said Heather they are extremely low paying for the title they are posting.  This discussion led them to do their research and sure enough they weren’t even close.  It’s easy today to find market rates.  There are many sites like www.glassdoor.com or www.indeed.com where you can put in search parameters and see what the market is paying. 

Unfortunately, for some of you, your prior behavior has given you a bad reputation.  If your online reviews in the job boards is not so stellar you will need to face it head on!  Would you apply for a job with a company that had a 2.8 rating out of 5?  You might want to consider writing in your job post how the environment is changing if you are in this situation.

Learn How to Manage Hybrid Workers

After you check your job posting to attract talent, and you know you are paying a fair wage, you should start to see applicants apply.  Now the hard work comes!  You must learn not only how to manage hybrid workers and remote teams but also how to hire people that would thrive in the new world. 

Ask the Right Questions –

You will want to review your departmental and corporate core values and ask questions to flesh out if applicants have your core values.  I don’t believe this is something we can teach; I believe core values was something our parents taught us when we were children or it’s part of our DNA.  For example, do you really think integrity is taught later in life?  To get yourself started read the book Hiring for Attitude: A Revolutionary Approach to Recruiting and Selecting People with Both Tremendous Skills and Superb Attitude! by Mark Murphy.

Display How You Manage Your Team Hybrid Workers –

During the interview process you want to share what you do that is unique to help them grow and thrive as a manager.  The younger generation want constant feedback and to be part of something important.  As a manager you want to create ways to help meet their needs so you can inspire them.  More on this in future blogs.

Show them the Path.

Finally, you want to make sure you are mapping out a growth plan for any new hires.  With the speed of technology and the rapid changing world, you MUST hire growth minded people.  But as a manager you also must help them define that path for the future and provide feedback.  If your company is willing to invest in their learning and “upskills” make sure you communicate that.  Soft Skill training programs are always a great growth path for analytic professionals.   Another idea is to offer group coaching to your team members.  If you want to learn more about group coaching and professional development programs, email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Analytic Talent Resources

Here’s another resource you might want to check out if you are seeking talent.

Gartner’s article on How to Attract and Retain Talent for Your Data And Analytics Team.

Summary of Attracting Talent

Hopefully you had a couple ahh moments while reading our thoughts on why you aren’t attracting Analytic Talent.  Hybrid work and remote teams are here to stay.  We would love to hear about your struggles and creative ideas you have had to address them.  Please email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com to set up a chat.

5 Tips for Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward

5 Tips for Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward
5 Tips for Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 17th 2022

As I find myself glued to the nightly news watching as the situation in the Ukraine unfolds, I experience a roller coaster of emotions.  Everything from grief, and anger to hope and inspiration.  I watch as people from Poland, Romania and around the world take action to help complete strangers.  And it makes me realize that the world needs us all to take action to “Pay it Forward”.  

Pay it Forward is when you do something kind for someone else and expect nothing in return.  You don’t need to wait for someone to do something nice for you.  You can start the chain today!  It does not have to be anything huge.  Let me give you an example of paying it forward that my husband and I did a while back.  We were walking our dog one evening and noticed our neighbor’s mailbox door was falling off.  Clearly it had been that way for quite a while.  So, we went home got a few screws and in the dark repaired it.  We did not leave a note.  We just walked away and giggled that they would wonder who fixed their mailbox.

You see, it’s the small daily actions we can take to better someone else’s life that can make an impact. So, I am challenging all of you… How can you make a difference and Pay It Forward?  Here are 5 Tips for Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward.

Business Analytics Professionals

I believe we are in a unique situation as Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward.  Most Business Analytics Professionals are lifelong learners.  We read, listen to podcasts, and take classes online.  Business Analytics Professionals are also problem solvers.  We have fine-tuned our brains to solve the most complex problems.  However, we often take our talents for granted.  I know I am guilty of thinking if I could figure it out, anyone could.  But what I have discovered is that we really do have unique gifts we can share with our co-workers, and organization. 

How to Pay it Forward

So, I thought I would share some ideas Business Analytics Professionals can use to step up, take action and make the world a better place.

1. Share What You Learn

Every day we learn something.  Maybe today you read a book, attended a training class or listened to a podcast.  But what do you do with the information?  Are you storing it away for the day you need it?  If so, stop being selfish.  There is most likely someone you know who would benefit from what you learned.  Maybe it’s a co-worker, friend or family member.  So, share it.  Draft a short email stating what you learned and why you think that person would benefit from it.  You could also include a link to the source. 

I have a rule.  Every time I read a book, attend a conference, or discover something, I feel I owe it to the world to pass it on.  You have probably seen my Linkedin book reviews, which admittedly I need to start doing more of.  Linkedin is a great place to share what you learned. Let’s connect on Linkedin.  I would love to see what you are learning. 

2. There Must Be a Better Way

Because Business Analytics Professionals have an inquisitive mind, we often think to ourselves, “There must be a better way.”  Well, most of the time there is.  So, when you have this thought put it down in a journal or list and challenge yourself to try to find a better way.  Then share it with your company.

For example, when I work with our IBM Analytics clients, I am always amazed at how much time many organizations wasted recreating reports in Power Point when there are ways to automate and have your Cognos reports link to a Power Point that can be refreshed on demand.  Here’s an old video on Cognos and Power Point integration.

Challenge: create a list of items that make you think, “There must be a better way.”

3. Offer to Help Automate

Did you know one way to increase your influence and persuasion according to the expert Dr. Robert Cialdini is to leverage the principle of reciprocity.  Reciprocity is his first principle of persuasion, and it states that human beings are wired to return favors and pay back debts.  For more information on Cialdini and influence check out this blog, How to Use Cialdini’s 6 Principles of Persuasion to Boost Conversions. 

So, imagine there is a team member that every month has to grab data from many sources and put it in Excel.  Then they spend tons of time validating and formatting the data for distribution.    What if you were able to work with them and automate the process with either IBM Planning Analytics or Cognos? 

Challenge:  Find one person that is dealing with manual processes you can help automate.

4. Create Training Videos

Business Analytics Professionals are great at learning and figuring out technology but not everyone in your organization is wired like us.  So, help others feel confident in the use of data and analytics by creating simple training videos that will help them feel more confident.  Creating training videos is simple to do with tools like Camtasia by Tech Smith.  Here’s a blog we have on the topic. Leverage Videos for BI Training of End User?

Challenge:  Identify 3 questions that you commonly get from end users and create videos to answer them.

5. Be a Little More Patient & Smile

The final way we can pay it forward is simple.  It’s something you can implement immediately.  When you are interacting with people just be a little more patient and smile.  Remember we don’t all learn at the same speed.  Some of us are a little slower.  I can tell you from personal experience, I did not learn to read until I was 10, that when you are struggling to learn the person that is patient with you is a person you will appreciate for a long time.  So slow down, be patient and smile.

Challenge:  Smile More and be Patient today and every day.

Let’s Connect So We Can Pay it Forward

I hope these 5 tips for Business Analytics Professionals to Pay it Forward have inspired you.  I too want to Pay It Forward.  So, if you have questions on IBM Analytics, Planning Analytics, Cognos, IBM Licensing, Training or Upgrades, contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.  We are here to help.

Benefits of Attending Cognos Analytics User Groups

Benefits of Attending Cognos Analytics User Groups
Benefits of Attending Cognos Analytics User Groups
Written by Heather L. Cole, February 8th, 2022

For years I thought I could just watch a video, read a Cognos Red Book, or just play with the IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics software to advance my skills.  And you know it worked.  But what I discovered is that when I surrounded myself with people that were better than I was, that knew more than me and had different experiences, well my game leveled up significantly.  I could learn tricks in hours not days or weeks.  I could return to my clients looking like a superstar.  And that’s why I am a huge believer in the benefits of attending Cognos Analytics User Groups.

Live Virtual User Group

So, on February 17, 2022, at 9 am – noon central Lodestar Solutions will be hosting the North Texas Cognos User Group with IBM.  But the great news is you don’t have to be in Texas to join!  The event will be virtual so if you are in Chicago, Tampa, DC or even London you can join. 

Benefits of Cognos Analytics User Groups

There are many benefits to attending a Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics User Group!

Networking - 

Back when we could meet in person, I always loved attending Cognos Analytics user groups to meet new friends.  I miss the personal interaction of the virtual world, but then after attending a Tony Robbins conference virtually I discovered you can still connect at a conference.  You just need breakout rooms!  So, Lodestar Solutions is adding its unique spin to the North Texas Cognos User Group, with a virtual networking breakout session.  I know it’s not as good as in person, but if everyone agrees to turn on their cameras and be present it can be a lot of fun!  During the networking session you will be put into a virtual room of your peers to chat.  Don’t worry we will provide discussion topics.

Building your Rapid Response Team -

In life I have learned I don’t have to be the smartest person to add a lot of value.  I just need to know the smart people.  Your network can help increase your worth!  So, let’s meet people and build our network so when we have the strange situations, we have a lifeline to reach out to. 

Learning What’s Possible - 

As technology continues to advance, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the changes, new features and integration tools.  Heck there are amazing 3rd party tools for IBM Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics that you probably don’t even know exist.  Products like Motio and Qubedocs.  Guess what, IBM sales is not really motivated to educate you on tools they can’t sell.  However, Cognos Analytics User Groups often share new tools, and administrative hacks.

North Texas Cognos User Group

Now we know it’s important to attend IBM Cognos Analytics user groups, I want to share with you what Lodestar Solutions and IBM will be covering on Thursday, February 17th, 2022, at the North Texas Cognos User Group.

Agenda for User Group Meeting (subject to change):

9:00 - 9:15am: Introductions
9:15 - 10:00am: The Great Resignation: Analytics Professionals are on the move and how you can respond, by Lodestar
10:00 - 10:30am: Virtual Networking - small group discussion
10:30 - 11:00am: Update on Cognos Analytics on Cloud, by IBM
11:00 - 11:10am: Break
11:10 - 11:30am: Vulnerability with Log4, by Lodestar
11:30 - 12:00pm: Python Integration with Cognos/Planning Analytics, by Lodestar

To register, go to Lodestar’s Training Portal (link below). Don’t worry, it’s free. You will have to create a username and password. By doing so you will be granted access to the recordings of the user group after the event. Lodestar Solutions will also periodically post updated videos and information to this training environment. So, if something major happens you will get notified.

This does not mean you should skip the meeting because you don't want to create an account! You want to attend because we are also having virtual networking where we put you in breakout rooms to meet your peers and discuss various topics of interest.

If you have any questions or issues with registering, please email services@lodestarsolutions.com.

I also recommend you check out the new global Artificial Intelligence and Data Analytics User Group (AIDAUG).  AIDAUG will be very beneficial to all IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics customers.  Okay true confession, I am one of the organizers, along with Jean-Georges Perrin, Ryan Dolley, Jens Baumler, Mark Lack, Martin Otto, Paul Cortellesi, Paul Mendelson, Ralf Roeber, Riekke Jacobsen and Stuart Litel.   I am forever amazed at the wisdom of this group and still wondering how I got invited to join them.  

Check out  https://aidaug.org and https://www.linkedin.com/company/aidaug/

Job Posting Tips to Attract Analytics Talent

Job Posting Tips to Attract Analytics Talent
Job Posting Tips to Attract Analytics Talent
Written by Heather L. Cole, February 3rd 2022

“I can’t believe it! Our IBM Planning Analytics guru is leaving.  He’s been here 10 years and we just gave him a raise.”  This statement has been repeated to me many times in the past year.  The Great Resignation is in full swing.  And it’s getting more challenging to attract IBM Planning Analytics/TM1 talent.  So, I thought I would take some time to help any organization looking to attract budget, forecasting, and planning analytics talent.  Here are my job posting tips to attract analytics talent.  These tips are great for all job posts, but we will focus on attracting Finance and IBM Planning Analytics/ TM1 talent.

The Point of View of the Job Post

You have probably noticed your news feed is filled with articles stating that it’s an employee’s market.  Organizations are struggling to find and keep analytics talent.  They are offering sign on bonuses, work from home options and other perks.  Well, these articles are making employees think, “what could I get if I left?”  With a few clicks of the mouse, they are looking at their options and feeding the wave of resignations. 

What I don’t understand is if it’s such an employee’s market why are job postings still written focusing on what the employer is looking for?  If you are looking for analytics talent you need to stop and consider whose point of view is the post written from?  

The post should be written to appeal to the reader and standout.  You must share why the worker would want to work for you over a competitor! 

Communicate What Talented Analytics Professionals Seek

The world has changed and so have the desires of top IBM planning analytics professionals.  The pandemic made a lot of people realize a long commute isn’t required.  Working from home can work. Lifestyle and quality of life are more important to talented people. 

Take a moment and write down what you think your ideal IBM Planning Analytics professional would want.  Then go ask your existing team what they value and what inspires them?  What do they like about working at your organization?  Now weave what you have to offer into your job posting.   Remember you want to stand out as they may have a lot of opportunities. 

Here are some of the things I hear IBM Planning Analytics and talented finance people looking for:

  •  Flexible work schedules
  • Ability to work remotely
  • Opportunity for growth in the position
  • A firm that will invest in their training
  • Interesting work that makes a difference
  • A company that believes in the power of analytics and executives support it.

Don’t Focus on Specific Technology

I realized I stated I would focus on job posting tips for IBM Planning Analytics / TM1 talent but in your search for analytics talent stop limiting your pool to people with existing IBM Planning Analytics experience.  Often, I see job descriptions that state TM1 or IBM Planning Analytics experience a must.

It has been my experience that technology advances so quickly that anyone with knowledge of robust planning applications like Anaplan, Hyperion, Adaptive and other industry competitors could be a great fit for your organization.  The most important thing you need to find is someone that knows how planning models work.  Looking for skills like problem solving and communication are more important than knowing a specific version of IBM Planning Analytics.

There’s also a benefit of getting someone without IBM Planning Analytics or TM1 experience.  They will go through training and learn all the new functionality that you haven’t implemented yet, like virtual hierarchies (See Guide to Creating a Virtual Hierarchy) and workspace.  (See What’s New in Planning Analytics Workspace Version 67 and 68).

Maybe you will realize when they come on board it’s time for a remodel.  For more information on remodels see our blog It is Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models

Words Matter - Grab their Attention

You want to make your job description stand out!  You want the individual to read it thinking OMG this is me!  Well, words matter.  You want to make sure they feel inspired and excited.  I appreciate those of us in technology and finance may not be expert copywriters, but I am guessing someone in your company is.  Ask for help from someone on your marketing team.

Here’s a sample of some copy that Lodestar Solutions has used in our job postings to attract entry level IBM Planning Analytics / TM1 talent.  When people responded to this job post, they usually commented that the post spoke to them.

Are you an expert in Microsoft Excel and love to analyze numbers?  Do you work in accounting or finance and find it extremely satisfying to creating macros to automate tasks?  Do you love the challenge to simplify models and processes and are inspired to find a better way to deliver information to the business?  Are you a confident communicator who can interface equally well with technology teams and business-side managers?  Are you looking for an opportunity to put your problem-solving skills to use and make a difference?

Where are You Posting your IBM Planning Analytics Job Opening? 

Last but not least on our list of job posting tips, where are you putting your job posting?  Are you just putting it on your website and hoping someone will see it? 

To find top talent in IBM Planning Analytics, Lodestar Solutions recommends posting it where top talent hangs out.  There are a number of IBM Planning Analytics user groups, many have their own LinkedIn group.  There are financial planning LinkedIn groups too.  But I believe the best way to get the word out is to have your talented team members share the job posting on LinkedIn to their network.  Ask your business partner, consultants you work with and IBM sales representatives to share your post.  Believe it or not they know a lot of people

Analytic Talent Resources

Here are a few other resources you might want to check out if you are seeking talent.

Call Us for Help Finding Talent

If you are a Lodestar Solutions client, remember we are happy to review your job posting.  We are also happy to share it within our vast network.  Let’s chat.

Not a Lodestar Solutions client, no problem, contact us and we are happy to discuss how we might help you find your next IBM Planning Analytics rockstar.  Email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

We hope you have enjoyed this blog and use our job posting tips to attract analytics talent.  Please share a comment on your tips to attract talent.

It Is Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models!

It's Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models
It's Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models
Written by Heather L. Cole, January 20th 2022

The world has changed!  Your business has changed!  Technology has changed!  When was the last time your Financial Planning team and your Executive team sat down and discussed how they want to run the business?  When was the last time you redesigned your operating planning models?  It is Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models.

What is an Operating Planning Model?

An operating planning model is the link between strategy and execution within a business.  The operating model should define how an organization is organized and aligns how they do business including decision making, leveraging assets, and delivering to their clients.  When done properly the operating plan defines who does what, where it’s done, and how assets are leveraged.  Because the operating model defines how an organization operates, it provides a structure to monitor performance of the various areas of the business.  Performance Management of the operating model is a key to achieving the strategic goals for the organization. 

Reality of Operating Planning Models

An operating model should be updated as conditions change.  I think it’s safe to say in the last two years conditions changed for every organization.  Yet, many organizations are using operating plans they created years ago.  Sure, they have made modifications to the operating planning models like adding business units or changing assumptions but often this is just a patch to get them through the annual budgeting and planning process.  Due to time and resource restraints, they put off properly assessing their models.  When the financial planning and analytics teams feel the pain of trying to work with old models but without executive support, they will struggle.  Or worse they will join many in the great resignation and leave.

Risk of Avoiding a Redesign of Planning Models

I recently met with a CFO and CEO of a company that was feeling the pain of years of avoiding redesigning their planning models.  They brought me in because they believed they needed new performance management software and wanted to look at IBM Planning Analytics.  Although most software resellers will immediately jump into pitching their software, at Lodestar Solutions, we know that software is rarely the problem. 

We needed to get to the root of the challenge they were facing.  As the discussion began, they shared their extreme frustration in feeling handcuffed by their current planning system.  I listened as they provided details on how cumbersome their system was and how it didn’t meet their needs.  Then it was time to get to the meat of the situation, I ask questions about their business, and it turns out their models had been designed years ago when they had a very simple business.  But over the years they had expanded to several complementary service offerings that all had unique business operations.  The FPA team had used the initial models and simply added to them.  I call this the duct tape and super glue method of operating planning.  This method works in an emergency but is not a long-term solution.  The executives were now feeling the pain of years of duct tape and having a difficult time gaining visibility into their business.  Not only could they not measure the real impact of business decisions, but they could also not leverage AI and Predictive Analytics to guide them in their decision making.  Covid only exacerbated the situation.

If you are experiencing similar frustrations, we need to talk.  It doesn’t need to be that way!

The software is not the problem

Your Software is Not the Problem

As an executive coach I meet with many executives that are feeling the pain that is a result of avoiding a planning model redesign, but their first instinct is to blame the software tools.  If you are a mid-size organization, and you are using Excel, you probably need to look at an enterprise planning tool because your team is wasting a lot of time trying to manage your business.  But for organizations that own an enterprise planning solution like IBM Planning Analytics, your tool is probably not the problem.  The fact you have not committed to taking a step back to redesign your models is the issue.

IBM Planning Analytics and other competitive tools have made great strides over the years.  Each new release brings amazing new functionality, but many companies either fail to upgrade to the latest version or they just move their existing models to the new release.  They don’t appreciate that their models were designed based on the limited functionality the software had years ago.  So, even if they are on the current version of the software, they are not able to benefit from technology advancements made by the software vendors.  This is like having a new car with Bluetooth and Navigation but not using it.

For IBM Planning Analytics clients if you aren’t leveraging the game-changing functionality IBM has added over the years, like Planning Analytics Workspace, and virtual dimensions, we need to talk.  It’s probably time for a redesign.  To learn more about this check out our resources. 

Is it Time to Redesign Your TM1 Planning System? 

IBM Planning Analytics Video Series - Virtual Hierarchies

Benefits to Using IBM Planning Analytics Workspace 

Time to Act, Time to Redesign –

If you can relate to the scenarios above, now is the perfect time to act.  It all starts with a few questions and a phone call.  Yes, it just takes a few small steps to identify if you can benefit from an operating planning model redesign. 

7 Questions to Ask to Determine if It’s Time to Redesign your Planning Models.

How can you confirm it is time to update your operating planning models?  If your models were designed more than 2 years ago, if your business has grown, if you have new executives… it’s time to discuss a redesign.  To start ask yourself the following questions. 

  1.  When were your models originally designed?
  2. Have you added complimentary business offerings since the original design?
  3. Have mergers and acquisitions been part of your growth strategy?
  4. Have you implemented the new functionality offered by the software you use?
  5. Have you had a change in the executive team since the original design?
  6. Do the executives want to view the business from a different perspective?
  7. Are you able to leverage your data for Predictive and Prescriptive Analytics?

Contact Lodestar Solutions

Now, reach out to Lodestar Solutions to discuss your unique situation.  You don’t have to be an IBM Planning Analytics client to pick our brains and leverage our decades of experience working with mid-market and large enterprise teams.  Model redesigns should be based on your business not your software so regardless of your current tool, let’s start the conversation.  Email Services@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule a complimentary discussion. 

It is Time to Update Your Operating Planning Models.