IBM Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS

IBM Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS
IBM Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS

Written by Mike Bernaiche, January 18th, 2024

IBM recently introduced a new partnership and offering for Planning Analytics.  Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS brings together impressive planning and forecasting software with the power of AWS.  While this offering is available to anyone, I would suggest the sweet spot is for those who have smaller teams and have AWS credits that can be utilized. Below I will expand on the offering and why I think this is an incredible opportunity for clients.

What is Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS?

IBM Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS refers to the deployment of IBM Planning Analytics, a performance management and business analytics solution, in a cloud environment hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS). This deployment model allows organizations to leverage the benefits of cloud computing for their planning, budgeting, forecasting, and analytical needs.

Key Features of Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS

Just as you would come to expect with Planning Analytics on-premise or SaaS (IBM cloud) you get the following with Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS.

  • Interactive web experience - Workspace, the IBM Planning Analytics interactive and customizable web interface, provides a single, self-service experience for business users.
  • Native Microsoft Excel interface- Continue to use the Excel interface to leverage and automate existing spreadsheets while connected to the Planning Analytics solution.
  • Real-time decision-making ability - Support unlimited data volumes and users, providing real-time aggregation and calculation–without compromising on performance.
  • Secured, Governed, and Compliant - Rest assured that your critical financial and operational analytical data is properly secured and governed.
  • Highly Visual Analysis and Reporting - Don’t export data to external tools. Easily produce a variety of graphical charts within multi-tab displays to provide deep analysis.
  • Powerful Modeling - Move from conventional to advanced scenario modeling including “what-if” analysis. Run calculations and analyze large data sets quickly and easily.

3 Offers for Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS

  • Essentials – Perfect for small teams who want to create faster, more accurate plans and forecasts. Uncover deep insights and adjust plans in real-time without having to export data to other tools.
  • Standard – Tailored for companies that want to harness AI to plan smarter, pivot quickly, and feel confident with trusted insights. Anticipate outcomes and adapt to changing demands at the speed of business.
  • Premium - Designed for large enterprises that want to integrate business planning across every part of the organization.
    Prepare for tomorrow with an AI-powered planning solution that can handle your business's complexities.

What is included?

What is Included in Planning Analytics on AWS

As you can see there is a plan for everyone!  Unless you have a large finance and accounting team, the standard will be great for most.  Essentials provided a great entry point with a minimum of 5 users.

The good news, as you grow you move from essentials, to standard or standard to premium.  Scalability is easy and seamless.

The cost of entry is very reasonable, better than you will find with any competing planning solution for what you get with IBM Planning Analytics as a Service on AWS.

Summary

There you have it!  An excellent solution at a great price providing awesome planning and forecasting features.  Maybe you own planning analytics and are looking to move to software as a service on the cloud.  Perhaps you do not own a planning solution today or are in the process of exploring.  If so, reach out to us today at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.  We can provide all the information you need to make an informed decision.  To learn more about the latest version of Planning analytics check out these blogs:

Breaking Down Barriers: Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning and Analytics

Breaking Down Barriers: Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning & Analytics
Breaking Down Barriers: Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning & Analytics
Written by Heather L. Cole, November 2nd, 2023

In the ever-evolving landscape of business, the traditional Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) process has long been the backbone of strategic decision-making. Finance teams meticulously crunch numbers, create forecasts; and assess financial impacts to steer the ship in the right direction. However, there’s a catch. FP&A, with its sole focus on financial perspectives, often leaves out a crucial element – the interconnectedness of various departments that collectively shape an organization’s success.  So, it’s time to Break Down Barriers and Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning and Analytics.

Too Many Silos

Picture this: your sales team sets ambitious targets, marketing gears up for a series of compelling campaigns, HR plans for talent acquisition and compensation, and production meticulously schedules resources, materials, and capacities. Each department meticulously crafts its operational plan, but in isolation, these plans lack a holistic view. The rise in sales demands increased production, which, in turn, requires more manpower and machinery. It's a domino effect, and without a cohesive understanding of these intricate connections, businesses can find themselves stumbling in the dark.

Extended Planning and Analytics

Enter Extended Planning and Analytics (xP&A), a revolutionary approach that transcends the boundaries of traditional FP&A. xP&A isn’t just a buzzword; it's the catalyst for breaking down silos and fostering transparent collaboration across departments. Think of it as the ultimate backstage pass that unveils the grand orchestra of business operations.

Orchestra of Collaboration

In the world of xP&A, every department's plan, be it sales, marketing, HR, procurement, or supply chain, is interconnected and interdependent. Instead of isolated islands of strategies, there’s a seamless flow of information and insights, painting a comprehensive picture of the business landscape. This interconnectedness is the key to unlocking the true potential of organizational agility.  xP&A is a key factor in Transformational Planning.

Transformational Planning

So, what does this mean for your business? It means shattering the limitations of conventional spreadsheets and embracing a future where collaboration isn’t just encouraged – it's ingrained in the organizational DNA. Imagine the sales team aligning their targets with production schedules, marketing campaigns dovetailing seamlessly with procurement plans, and HR strategies adapting in real-time to accommodate shifts in other departments. It's a harmonious synergy where each department's impact is not just recognized but optimized for the greater good of the entire organization.

As financial professionals, our goal is to provide predictability and certainty in the numbers.  According to a Forbes article, Uncertainty Underscores CFO’s Role to Drive Digital Transformation, xP&A provides the certainty we all seek.

Reference:

If you are on Excel, you might should check out our earlier blog, The Power of IBM Planning Analytics for Mid-Market Companies: Leveling Up from Excel.

Getting Started

But how do we start on this journey beyond finance? 

On November 8th, we invite you to join our webinar, "Breaking Down Barriers: Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning and Analytics." In this transformative event, we’ll delve into the transformative power of xP&A using IBM Planning Analytics. Our experts will guide you through the process of dismantling organizational silos, enabling seamless collaboration, and achieving unprecedented corporate agility.

Don't miss this chance to revolutionize your planning processes. Register now and let us guide you in unlocking the keys to building a truly agile and successful organization. Together, we'll navigate the complex terrains of global changes, industry shifts, and supply chain intricacies with confidence. It’s not just a webinar; it's your ticket to a future of seamless integration and unwavering agility.

Join Us

Join us on November 8th at 1 PM Eastern and be part of the evolution. Embrace xP&A, break free from the shackles of isolation, and step into a world where collaboration knows no bounds. Register now and embark on a journey toward a future of boundless possibilities.  

Breaking Down Barriers: Unleash Corporate Agility with Extended Planning & Analytics

Unlocking Efficiency and Innovation for Midmarket Companies with IBM Planning Analytics

Unlocking Efficiency and Innovation for Midmarket Companies with IBM Planning Analytics
Unlocking Efficiency and Innovation for Midmarket Companies with IBM Planning Analytics
Written by Heather L. Cole, September 8th, 2023

In today's fast-paced business landscape, midmarket companies face unique challenges when it comes to budgeting, forecasting, and planning (FP&A). Many of these organizations heavily rely on Microsoft Excel for their financial processes, a tool known for its flexibility and ease of use. However, this love affair with Excel often turns sour as businesses grow and evolve. The result? FP&A professionals find themselves trapped in a never-ending cycle of data chasing and error checking, leaving little time for strategic thinking and analysis.

So, what's the solution for midmarket companies looking to break free from the shackles of Excel and embrace advanced technology and AI for their FP&A processes? The answer lies in IBM Planning Analytics, a powerful tool that's more accessible than you might think.

Excel's Love-Hate Relationship

Excel is the backbone of many midmarket FP&A processes due to its simplicity and familiarity. It's a tool that can handle the uniqueness of each organization's financial data and calculations. However, as businesses grow and change, Excel's limitations become painfully evident. The time and effort spent on manual data entry, formula checks, and error corrections can be overwhelming.

Midmarket companies need a solution that retains Excel's flexibility while adding scalability and advanced forecasting capabilities. Enter IBM Planning Analytics, a game-changer for finance teams looking to adapt and thrive in today's competitive marketplace.

The IBM Planning Analytics Advantage

IBM Planning Analytics offers the best of both worlds: the familiarity of Excel and the power of advanced technology. It empowers finance teams to create dynamic and robust models that can adapt to the ever-changing business environment. The key to rapid success with IBM Planning Analytics is not relying on pre-built templates but engaging with knowledgeable consultants who understand both the technology and FP&A processes.

At Lodestar Solutions, we firmly believe in the proverb "teaching a man to fish." Our approach is to coach your team in using the technology effectively, ensuring that you become self-sufficient in leveraging IBM Planning Analytics. This means no more dependence on cookie-cutter solutions or struggling to fit your unique business needs into rigid templates.

Join Us for the Webinar: The Pain of Outgrowing Excel

Still skeptical about making the switch from Excel to IBM Planning Analytics? We invite you to join us on October 19th for our webinar, "The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics." In this informative session, we'll delve deeper into the challenges midmarket companies face with Excel, explore how IBM Planning Analytics can revolutionize your FP&A processes, and showcase real-world success stories of organizations that have made the transition.

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel: Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics

Date: Thursday, October 19th, 2023
Time: 1:00 – 2:30 PM Eastern

The Pain of Outgrowing Excel Midmarket CFOs Discover Relief with IBM Planning Analytics

Why Should You Attend?

  1. Uncover the Hidden Costs of Excel: We'll shed light on the often underestimated costs associated with Excel, including the time, resources, and missed opportunities that could be better invested elsewhere.
  2. Discover the Power of IBM Planning Analytics: Learn how IBM Planning Analytics can transform your FP&A processes, reduce errors, enhance collaboration, and provide actionable insights for strategic decision-making.
  3. Realize that IBM Planning Analytics Is for You: Contrary to popular belief, IBM Planning Analytics can be deployed for as few as 10 users, making it accessible and cost-effective for midmarket companies.
  4. Embrace Flexibility and Scalability: Understand how IBM Planning Analytics offers the flexibility you love about Excel while adding scalability and advanced forecasting capabilities.

Conclusion

It's time for midmarket companies to break free from the constraints of Excel and embrace the future of FP&A with IBM Planning Analytics. Don't settle for one-size-fits-all solutions; your business is unique, and your financial planning tools should reflect that. Join us on October 19th to explore how you can regain control, reduce the pain of Excel, and unlock efficiency and innovation. It's a decision that can revolutionize your finance department and propel your organization toward success in the modern business landscape.

Check out another one of Lodestar's most recent blogs: Escaping the Budgeting Blues: Rolling Forecasts with IBM Planning Analytics.

The Power of IBM Planning Analytics for Mid-Market Companies: Leveling Up from Excel

The Power of IBM Planning Analytics for Mid-Market Companies Leveling Up from Excel
The Power of IBM Planning Analytics for Mid-Market Companies Leveling Up from Excel
Written by Heather L. Cole, June 14th, 2023

In the fast-paced world of mid-market companies, there's a hero waiting to rescue you from the clutches of outdated spreadsheets.  No, it's not a caped crusader, but something even better - IBM Planning Analytics!  Buckle up and get ready for an exciting journey as we uncover the game-changing benefits of IBM's solution and bid farewell to Excel, the aging superhero of yesteryears.

Pricing that Won't Give You Nightmares:

Forget about breaking the bank or sacrificing your firstborn for a planning and analytics tool.  IBM understands that mid-market companies have budgets too, which is why they offer pricing options designed specifically for smaller deployments and departmental use.  Finally, a solution that won't leave you in tears when you check your bank account!  Email sales@lodestarsolutions.com to get a quote and save yourself from financial frights.

Join Forces with the Mid-Market Masters - Lodestar Solutions:

Who needs a trusty sidekick when you have Lodestar Solutions by your side?  We have been laser-focused on making mid-market companies successful with IBM Planning Analytics since 2004.  With IBM Planning Analytics’ superpowers of robust budgeting, planning, and what-if capabilities, Lodestar Solutions will guide you through the planning galaxy and help you conquer any data-related challenges.  Schedule a call with them at sales@lodestarsolutions.com and unleash your inner superhero!

AI, the Crystal Ball of Analytics:

Prepare to be mind-blown!  IBM Planning Analytics has been infused with AI, giving you the power of advanced forecasting capabilities.  No more relying on fortune cookies or flipping a coin to make critical decisions.  With AI-driven insights, you'll feel like you have a crystal ball that predicts market trends, demand patterns, and future scenarios.  

Lodestar is consistently releasing blogs on all the latest updates for IBM's Planning Analytics and much more! Be sure to follow us on Linkedin and check out all our blogs

Excel's Retirement Party:

Let's face it - Excel has served us well, but it's time for a retirement party.  Bid farewell to the days of dealing with complex formulas, error-prone fat-fingering, and hair-pulling frustration.  IBM Planning Analytics is here to save the day with its intuitive interface, real-time data consolidation, and advanced modeling capabilities.  Say goodbye to Excel's wrinkles and hello to a streamlined planning process that will make you dance like nobody's watching!  To learn more about what is possible with IBM Planning Analytics and how it compares to Excel see our video - Have You Outgrown Excel for Budgeting & Planning? 

Expand Your Way to Success:

With IBM Planning Analytics, the fun never stops.  Extend your planning processes beyond finance to include sales, marketing, and distribution... all connected to reflect the constant changes in business today.  Say goodbye to spreadsheet nightmares and hello to features like multidimensional modeling, scenario modeling, driver-based planning, and dynamic reporting.  You'll be dancing with joy as you uncover deeper insights, make accurate forecasts, and outsmart your competition.  Who said planning and analytics can't be fun?

Conclusion:

Get ready to unleash your inner Analytic superpowers and embrace the agile world of IBM Planning Analytics.  With tailored pricing, support from the thought-provoking experts at Lodestar Solutions, AI-driven forecasting, and the retirement party of Excel, mid-market companies can find success while having fun.  So, take the first step and email sales@lodestarsolutions.com to schedule a call and discover how IBM Planning Analytics can turn your financial processes into an industry-dominating adventure.  It's time to level up your Planning with IBM!

BONUS!

Should you choose to partner with Lodestar Solutions as your sidekick, you gain access to several client-only offerings such as our quarterly Planning Analytics User Group where we share all the latest and greatest of IBM’s Planning Analytics tools.  Featuring live demos, Q&A, and breakout discussion time, you’ll leave with a wealth of knowledge and support.

Also free to Lodestar clients is our Analytics Success Klub!  Are you ready to ASK for success?  Our Analytics Success Klub is not your ordinary monthly subscription program.  It's a community of ambitious analytics professionals who are serious about their soft skills.  We're talking about communication, influence, facilitation, presentation, negotiation, storytelling, and more.  And this is FREE to Lodestar Solutions clients.  Click here to learn more about our ASK program and contact sales@lodestarsolutions.com to become a client!

Move to IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud

Move to IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud
Move to IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud
Written by Heather L. Cole, October 27th 2022

Is your IT department too busy to upgrade your IBM Planning Analytics, but you want the amazing new functionality IBM has added to Planning Analytics?  Well maybe it’s time to look at IBM Planning Analytics on the Cloud, which is SaaS (Software as a Service).  With the great resignation, companies on hiring freezes and all the mergers and acquisitions, it’s not uncommon to see IT teams stretched too thin.  By moving to IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud, you can free up IT resources and yet still get your upgrades.  

At Lodestar Solutions we are seeing more clients inquiring about moving IBM Planning Analytics from On-Prem to SaaS, IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud.  So today we will share with you your options and timing for migrating to Planning Analytics on Cloud…  But know with proper planning, it is possible and not hard to Move IBM Planning Analytics from On-prem to SaaS on Cloud.

What is Planning Analytics SaaS

Planning Analytics on Cloud is IBM’s SaaS version of Planning Analytics.  Which means IBM hosts Planning Analytics in their cloud environment and IBM handles most of the technical aspects like upgrades, backups, etc…  Clients don’t have to worry about doing the installations, upgrades, or backups.  IBM does all that for you, freeing up valuable IT resources.

For more details on Planning Analytics Cloud see IBM’s site on Getting Started with Planning Analytics on Cloud

Additionally, you might want to see our earlier blog What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on Cloud. 

How to Move from Planning Analytics On-Prem to SaaS

Licensing Options- 

When you are looking to move to Planning Analytics on Cloud there are a couple different approaches to consider. Typically, the approach is based on the type of licensing and/or size of your current deployment of IBM Planning Analytics.

Enterprise Licensing:

If you are a mid to larger size client on Enterprise Planning Analytics licensing, the option you should explore is the IBM promotion called Cloud Adoption Play (CAP).  This is a promotion that IBM is offering at the time of this blog but is subject to availability.  The Cloud Adoption Play allows you to have dual entitlements of Planning Analytics on Prem and on Cloud for 1 year.  This will cost you a little more then your normal on-prem support renewal but gives you plenty of time to migrate and test the cloud before committing to it. 

At the end of one year, you will have to decide whether you will continue to use Planning Analytics on Cloud or return to on-prem.  When you make the final decision, your renewal will be based on if you choose SaaS/Cloud or on-prem.  But the great news is if you choose to return to on-prem there is no penalty. 

Express Licensing:

If your deployment of Planning Analytics is under 50 users, or you are on the Express licensing model, the Cloud Adoption Play might not make financial sense as it does have minimum requirements.  But don’t worry, Lodestar Solutions and IBM can work with you to determine the best migration path to a SaaS subscription.

In order to understand your unique situation and what the best approach is for you to move to Planning Analytics on Cloud, contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com and we will be happy to help you explore your options and timelines.

Creating the Timeline

The first step to moving from IBM Planning Analytics On-Prem to Saas/cloud is to plan your timing.  Determine when your team will be available to move the models and do the testing you will require.  Remember finance teams have certain times of year that are really busy, like year end and you don’t want to overwhelm them.

Enterprise Client –

If the Cloud Adoption Play is the route you are going, then you may want to purchase SaaS at the time of your renewal.  This will be the best value.   But don’t wait until your renewal to start discussing your SaaS plan with Lodestar Solutions or IBM, you will want to start the discussions 3 months before your renewal.

Express Client -

If you are an Express Client and the Cloud Adoption Play does not make financial sense, then it’s important to note that you will want to ensure you have support with IBM for your on-prem Planning Analytics while you move to the cloud.  To save money, you want to review your renewal data as this could impact your timing.

For example, if you know your support renewal expires in March, and you want 3 months to test and migrate to the cloud, we recommend you start your Cloud subscription in January.  This will essentially create 3 months of dual licensing and support.

In order to plan your migration to Planning Analytics on Cloud, contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com and we will be happy to help you explore your options and timelines.

Moving your TM1 Planning Analytics Models

Once you have your Planning Analytics on Cloud environment you will need to move a copy of your models to your new cloud environment.  You will want to make sure you set up your users with the proper security and update the connections to your source data sources.

For some of you that don’t currently own Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW), you will want to educate yourself and your team on all the cool new functionality.  Here’s a link to one of our videos on PAW.  

If you would like training on PAW, please reach out to Lodestar services at Services@lodestarsolutions.com and we can discuss your training needs.

Testing

Never skimp on testing.  Make sure your team has plenty of time to fully test your Planning Analytics on Cloud solutions. 

Don’t go it alone!

Lodestar Solutions is here to help you understand your options, evaluate the costs of on-prem verse on cloud and help you successfully Move IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud.  Set up a chat today by emailing us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times (Part 2)

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times Part 2
Written by Heather L. Cole, October 13th, 2022

Budgeting and Planning is even more important in times of uncertainty!  And I think we can all agree that we are in one of those crazy times.  This is a year of extreme uncertainty!  Inflation, supply chain issues, workforce issues, and crazy political unrest in many countries are all creating a budgeting environment we have not seen in decades.  Last week we blogged about things corporations should consider when budgeting for expenses.  This week we will cover Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times and focus on, revenue, the other important component of the Cash Flow and Balance Sheet. 

Revenue Planning

When times get uncertain, and scary, organizations usually tighten their purse strings and look at what expenses can be cut.  But wait, there are two parts to the Profit and Loss statement.  The revenue is a key component to profitability. 

There are only a few ways to increase your revenue. 

  •  Increase prices
  • Sell more to your existing clients
  • Find new clients

But there are additional ways to increase profitability even in uncertain economic times.

Profitability

Losing Clients on Purpose

One way I find interesting is to purposely lose the non-profitable clients.  I was talking to a CFO friend and client of mine a few years back and their industry was in a difficult situation.  Competitors were slashing prices, and it was putting them in jeopardy.  The CFO made a bold decision, after doing the analysis he determined if he increased his prices, he would lose about 20% of his clients.  He believed that the 20% of the clients he would lose were also the high maintenance, non-profitable clients.  At first people thought he was crazy, but they did it.  When they increased prices, they lost a little more than 20% of their clients but their profits soared. 

It's the old Pareto Principle, which states that for many outcomes, roughly 80% of consequences come from 20% of causes, also known as the 80/20 rule.  If you want to learn more about Pareto Principle I think you will find this Entrepreneur article interesting, The 80/20 Rule is True for What’s Holding You Back, Too.

Talk to Key Customers

Don’t just look at expenses and guess at revenue.  Talk to your key customers.  Remember they are facing the same uncertain times you are.  Talking to your customers about their business, their struggles, and their fears, will not only build a stronger relationship but give you clarity on your revenue stream. 

Another advantage to talking to your customers, is that you will also learn if the staff shortages you may be experiencing are jeopardizing your relationship with your customers.  I don’t know about you but recently I have experienced horrible customer service at companies I used to love to patron.  In some cases, I am not going back.  To accurately forecast your revenue, you must evaluate your customer service.  According to a Forbes article, Ninety-Six Percent Of Customers Will Leave You For Bad Customer Service.

The Other Important Statements

Most companies still focus on capital expense, operating expense and revenue in their budgeting and planning cycles.  But in uncertain times it is even more important to not ignore the other statements.  Yes, the cash flow and balance statement.

Typically these statements are viewed at the highest level of the organization but according to the Harvard Business Review article, Setting Your Annual Budget Amid Economic Uncertainty, “Business-unit budgets generally track revenues and costs — items on the income statement — but not cash-flow or balance-sheet items.  The three get tied together at the highest level of the company, but P&L owners should see them, too.  They’re likely to be the first to spot slowing orders, growing inventory, or delayed collections, but they effectively ignore the cost of capital and rarely look to the balance sheet as a source of funds or savings.  As a result, they often miss the broad significance of what they see.”

Lodestar Solutions recommends our IBM Planning Analytics clients redesign their models to incorporate all the financial statements - P&L, Balance Sheet and Cashflow.  But we also recommend monthly and quarterly reviews at the budget unit level to understand where the potential issues lurk. 

Ask Questions at Lower Levels

In the book, Seeing around Corners How to Spot Inflection Points in Business Before They Happen, by Rita McGrath the author discusses how team members at the lower levels often see changes, risks and opportunities first.  We recommend clients get more people involved and ask more questions to thrive in uncertain times.

Having the Right Tools

As a software reseller of IBM Planning Analytic software, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that having the right tools for your budgeting and planning process is essential.  I am amazed how many mid-market and large organizations still rely on Excel for their planning and budget process.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel, but also appreciate it’s limitations.  One of the things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times is the tool you are using.  If you want flexibility and to be agile in your planning, you need software that helps streamline the modeling and planning processes when budgeting in uncertain times.

LEARN MORE!

If you would like to learn what industry leading tools like IBM Cognos Planning Analytics can do for you, join us on Thursday, Nov 10th, 2022, at 1 PM Eastern for our webinar, Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech.

Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times

Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times
Things to Consider for Corporate Budgeting in Uncertain Times
October 6th, 2022

It’s that time of year again when most companies are frantically creating their budgets.  But this is not a normal budget year.  This is a year of extreme uncertainty!  Inflation, supply chain issues, workforce issues, crazy politics and unrest in many countries are all creating a budgeting environment we have not seen in decades.  For many in the budgeting and planning world this means late nights, and stress as they try to contort their models to provide the modeling they need in this uncertain world.  So, we thought we would share a few things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times.  First, we will start with expenses and then look at revenue.

What Got You Here Won’t Get You There!

The models or Excel spreadsheets you used last year are probably not designed to handle the questions executives have today!  Companies that use the same templates year after year without updating them for the changes in their industry and world are going to struggle more to gain certainty than those that see around the corners and anticipate changes like interest rates, and inflation.  If your models don’t allow you to do “what if” modeling, well you really need to look at a redesign and maybe even invest in more robust tools. 

If you don’t have flexible models and software that allows for rapid changes, then it’s like you are mowing your acre lawn with a weed whacker.  It can be done, but how long will it take? 

If you want to discuss your current models or want to see the power of an industry leading planning and budgeting system, IBM Planning Analytics/TM1, email us at sales@lodestarsolutions.com.

Change Your Frequency

According to McKinsey in their article, Just-in-time budgeting for a Volatile Economy
A volatile economy makes traditional budgets obsolete before they’re even completed.” 

We agree, many corporations still do the big annual budgeting process that is outdated the day it is approved.  The annual budget process worked in a stable world.  But news flash, we are not in a stable world.  Changing your frequency to quarterly instead of annual or better yet a rolling forecast will allow your budget to be more current.  As the Harvard Business Review article, Three Ways to Bring Flexibility to Your Budget states, “These “just-in-time budgeting” solutions got popular during the 2008–2011 economic crisis but for many were perceived as a temporary fix. Today, with high volatility a permanent feature, it’s time to accept that they’re here to stay.”

At Lodestar Solutions we have been encouraging clients to move to a Rolling Forecast for years.  Here’s a link to my 2016 video Rolling Forecast verse Budgeting – Let it Roll.  This may be more relevant today than it was when I initially presented this at CFO conferences years ago.

Zero Based Budgeting -

We appreciate that taking last year’s actuals and providing them to business units as a starting point for the budget is easier.  However, given the uncertainty and changes in almost every industry, Lodestar Solutions recommends a zero-based budget.  By having budget unit owners start from zero, you will cause them to really think about how their department budget has changed or how it needs to change.  A zero-based budget mentality will allow team members to reflect and understand how the business drives value and where it is lacking.  I am not opposed to providing last year’s actuals, but you really want to encourage people to reflect on changes and anticipate the future.  Unfortunately, I believe inflation and employment challenges will be here for a while.

If you subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, check out Zero-Based Budgeting Gains Clout as a Way for Companies to Find Savings.

Outsourcing Verse In-House

Consulting:

Many companies are dealing with staff shortages in their finance and analytics teams.  This can result in team members bearing the burden of doing the work of two or more people.  This can cause them to start considering their options.  This is one of several factors that cause companies to take a closer look at what functions are handled internally vs externally.  If you are like many clients and you have experienced attrition during the great resignation, you know how difficult it is to find talent.  When you find talent, they are very expensive.  These increased labor costs may motivate your organization to think maybe instead of hiring we should outsource.  This is a valid question, but it’s important to note that the consulting firms are having the same talent pool challenges.  Therefore, we want to remind everyone that in your budget, you need to include an increase in consulting fees.  We are seeing inflationary increases in almost every service industry so make sure you are increasing your professional service fees, including IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consulting.  Everyone is raising their rates! 

Software as a Service:

Another option to consider when you are faced with staff shortages, especially in IT is to consider moving more software applications to a hosted or Software as a Service (SaaS) model.  When you have SaaS your IT department typically does not have to allocate internal resources for patches, upgrades, backups… 

SaaS is a good option if your IT resources are limited.  Additionally, many SaaS structures like IBM Cognos’ structure allow you to add more users for a short period of time. 

Take IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud (SaaS).  Let’s say throughout the year you need 100 users in the system but during budget cycles you need 100 additional users for only 3 months.  You will pay a small upcharge for users not originally contracted for the year, but you could end up paying only for three months for the budget season users.  The result is you have more control over your expenses and therefore cashflow.  For more info on what you need to know when moving to the IBM cloud, see our blog, What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on Cloud

If you are an IBM Cognos or Planning Analytics client and would like to explore an outsourced model where your power user is a consultant contact use at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Having the Right Tools

As a software reseller of IBM Planning Analytic software, I would be remiss if I didn’t remind you that having the right tools for your budgeting and planning process is essential.  I am amazed how many mid-market and large organizations still rely on Excel for their planning and budget process.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Excel, but also appreciate it’s limitations.  One of the things to consider when budgeting in uncertain times is the tool you are using.  If you want flexibility and to be agile in your planning, you need software that helps streamline the modeling and planning processes.  

LEARN MORE:

Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech

If you would like to learn what industry leading tools like IBM Cognos Planning Analytics can do for you, join us on Thursday Nov 10, 2022, at 1 PM Eastern for our webinar Tackling the Top 3 Performance Management and Budgeting Struggles - Talent, Time and Tech.

Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics

Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics
Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics
Written by Mike Bernaiche, September 30th, 2021

Did you know that you can track your key performance indicators (KPI’s) with Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics?  Many people do not realize that Planning Analytics has built in functionality to create the highly visual scorecards and metrics.  A while back the only way to create these up or down arrows or the red, yellow, green indicators was through Metric Studio in Cognos BI.  IBM moved this functionality into TM1 with the use of Performance Modeler and today you can create charts like the above along with visual maps or flow charts to track all your metrics.

What are Scorecards and Metrics in Planning Analytics?

Let’s start with the basics.  IBM Cognos Planning Analytics Scorecards and Metrics integrates scorecarding and strategy management capabilities to provide better integration of performance management with planning.

This allows you to:

  • Visually capture and monitor organizational strategy and goals
  • Define and monitor your key performance indicators (KPIs) with traffic light and trend icons
  • Compare your KPIs to corporate strategic goals
  • Create interactive scorecard diagrams and data visualizations

Components of Metric Cubes

Metric cubes are made up of the following:

  • Metric dimension
  • Metric Indicator dimension
  • Metrics cube
  • Impact diagram – auto created with metric cube
  • Strategy map
  • Custom diagram
  • History chart - - auto created with metric cube
Metrics Cube

Metric Dimension Properties

Metric dimensions are made up of the follow properties that need to be set:

Format property

      Specifies the numerical or date/time display format.

Performance Pattern

      Above target is favorable

      On target is favorable

      Below target is favorable

Tolerance Type

      Absolute - the value in the tolerance indicator is the tolerance and is used as-is.

      Percent - the value in the tolerance indicator is used to calculate the tolerance as a               percentage of target.

Tolerance Type

Metric Diagram Types

There are four types of diagram types that can be used with scorecards and metrics.

  • Impact diagram
    Impact diagrams visualize the positive and negative relationships between the metrics in your metrics cube.  This type of diagram shows how the business actually works by displaying how one metric influences another.
  • Strategy map
    A strategy map is an industry standard visualization that tracks business performance by perspectives, objectives, and metrics.
  • Custom diagram
    A custom diagram is a strategy map where you import a custom image and show metrics with dimensional context onto the image as data points.
  • History chart
    A history chart shows a column chart of data for a metric.

For even more information on scorecards and metrics from IBM check out this link, Understand Cognos TM1 Scorecarding - IBM Documentation.

IBM Planning Analytics and Transformational Planning

Recently we started researching and developing a program to teach clients transformational planning.  Heather Cole recently wrote in this blog, It’s Time for CFOs to Leverage Transformational Planning - Lodestar Solutions “the world has changed. Organizations of every size are being forced to rapidly adjust to the new world where distribution challenges are the norm and employee retention is top of mind. The uncertain world is forcing companies to create a transformation strategy. I believe this needs to start with the CFO. It’s Time for CFO’s to Leverage Transformational Planning.”

I couldn’t agree more with these words and believe that scorecards and metrics in Planning Analytics can help take you to transformational planning in your organization.

Here is another blog from Heather that further talks about getting on board the transformational train before some else does.  Finance Must lead Business Transformation Before Someone Else Does - Lodestar Solutions.  Also, inside this blog is a place to register for our free webinar titled - Mastering Transformational Planning: Why CFOs Should Lead this Initiative?  This webinar is on Thursday, November 18th, from 10:30am-noon Eastern.

In this free webinar you will discover:

  • Why every CFO must discover and lead Transformational Planning
  • How to identify where the quick wins are in your organization
  • How to move your organization to Transformational Planning
  • How to find more time for Transformation Initiatives

If you have any questions regarding the webinar or scorecards and metrics in Planning Analytics, please reach out to services@lodestarsoltuions.com.

Five Tips to Hosting a Virtual IBM Cognos & TM1 User Group

5 Tips to Host a Virtual User Group
5 Tips to Host a Virtual User Group
November 12th, 2020

The world has changed, and it is never going back!  A year ago we were able to attend the IBM Analytics event in Miami, listen to live Cognos Analytics and Cognos Planning Analytics/TM1 user success stories and network with other IBM Cognos users over a beer.  Not anymore, at least not for a while.  But Lodestar Solutions has decided to pivot.  We learned five tips to hosting a virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group, and we have no intention to return to in person user groups!

Why Virtual Cognos User Groups are Better Than in Person

On November 11, 2020 we hosted a new format for our Lodestar Solutions, Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group and it was fabulous!  Our clients and team members loved it so much, we are not going back to in person group for three reasons: time, geography and flexibility.

Saving Time with a Cognos User Group

We value our Cognos Analytics and Planning Analytics TM1 Administrators’ time.  In the past we would host events in a main city like Chicago and attendees would have to travel an hour to get to the site and an hour home.  We would do our best to make the session of interest but sometimes, there were sessions that only applied to a subset of the population. 

With the virtual event we were able to tell the attendees the topics, why they should care or how it impacts them.  If the topic did not apply to them, they were able to do other things and return for the next session. 

Cognos User Group Geography

Our clients are all over the US and some internationally.  In the past we could not serve all our clients, so we focused our user groups on locations with a large cluster of clients.  We can now serve our IBM Cognos users even in the most geographically remote locations.

Cognos User Group Flexibility 

Most IBM Cognos BI or TM1 Administrators are very busy and often manage multiple systems, not just IBM.  It is not uncommon for them to get the emergency email or text and they must drop everything.  Lodestar Solutions understands our client’s needs, and so we prerecorded our session and let everyone know if they had to drop off, they could come back and watch the part they missed.  Cognos Administrators loved this feature and we discovered that they would leave, address the issue and return.  I believe that if we had not let them know they could watch what they missed; they probably would not have returned for the Q&A sessions.  

Virtual User Group

Five Tips to Hosting a Successful Virtual IBM Cognos & TM1 User Group

We appreciate that there have been local Cognos BI and TM1 user groups all over the world.  Lodestar Solutions also understands that many IBM Analytics User Groups have been forced to suspend their meetings and look for another way.  So, we thought we would share what we did and how to host a successful Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User group.

1. Cognos Content in Small Bites

The first thing is to plan your content in small bite size chunks, no more than 30-45 minutes per session. Once you have a list of your topics and speakers you will want to organize your agenda in a logical order.  For our Lodestar User Group, we hosted all the Planning Analytics/ TM1 sessions first, followed by TM1 Technical.  Then we moved into BI Technical, followed by other Cognos Analytics sessions.  This allowed people to join when the content applied to them.

2. Prerecord the Sessions

We prerecorded the sessions and hosted them on our training site, which is Kajabi.  You could put them on YouTube as well.  The reason we prerecorded is we wanted to ensure there were no technical issues with a presenter’s internet.  We were also able to edit the videos before posting.  We use Camtasia for editing.  You can get a free trial at here.

3. Zoom for Introductions and Q&A

We used Zoom for our user group.  All attendees joined by Zoom, then we guided them to our training portal where our sessions where prerecorded.  By zooming we were able to go on camera to create connections during our introductions and were able to answer questions as they came up about connecting to the sessions.  After each session they returned to Zoom for a live question and answer session with the presenter. 

4. Networking Session with Breakout Rooms

To further connections with our community we scheduled networking sessions after each topic area like Planning Analytics.  Through Zoom we divided all the attendees into breakout rooms and gave them a series of short questions to discuss with the group.  This allowed Cognos power users to connect with other power users they may never have met.  We also assigned a moderator to each room to ensure everyone had a chance to speak.  Our Cognos clients loved the breakout rooms and said they wish they had more of them.  Not sure how to use breakout rooms? Check out this blog

5. User Success Story Sessions

To add more value, we wanted to have a couple clients share their success stories.  But we know our clients do not have a lot of time to prepare a slide deck and presentation, so we made it easy.  We sent our Client Presenters a list of interview questions.  We then scheduled a time to record a zoom session where we asked the questions.  It was in an interview format.  The attendees loved hearing the stories and seeing the interaction.  The feedback was it was a lot better than a boring power point.  We were able to edit the interviews to get them down to the time allotted and upload them as a session on our portal. 

For More Information

So, are you looking to join a Cognos Analytics BI or Cognos Planning Analytics User Group?

For more information on the Lodestar Solutions Client User group, email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  Another good resource for finding user groups is on the IBM Community site.  Another option to check out for Cognos groups is meetup.com.

If you are looking to organize an IBM User Group, we recommend you follow our Five Tips to Hosting a Virtual IBM Cognos and TM1 User Group so you can ensure success for your event. 

To learn more of our tips and tricks be sure to check out all our blogs on our website, or sign up for our Lodestar Solutions Knowledge Center

Have You Secured Funding Yet? It’s Budgeting Season, Secure Funding Now For IBM Cognos

Have You Secured Funding Yet?  It's Budget Season.  
Secure Funding Now for IBM Cognos!

Do you need process improvement and require funds for Cognos consulting or need additional IBM Cognos licenses? Now is the time to reach out and get your funding in the budget! Far too often we see companies that have a need for a new software solution and services, but they don't factor it in their budget. As a result, this pushes their initiatives out another year!

We all know it's that time of year: budgeting season! So now that budgeting season is ramping up for most companies it is time to reach out to Lodestar Solutions. You need to solidify IBM Cognos software quotes, Cognos upgrade consulting resources, etc. Therefore, it's more beneficial to get what you think you'll need next year in your budget and secure funding now for IBM Cognos!

What You Need to Consider 

Here at Lodestar, we are big believers in helping you realize the importance of how to secure funding now for IBM Cognos. We have found with several clients the earlier you have these software and services conversations the easier it is to get them approved. Hence the longer you wait the less likely you are to get what you want.

In summary, think about it this way, it's kind of like saying what you want for the holidays now. If you don't start thinking about it and talking about it you're just going to get an ugly sweater you will never wear (no one wants that). You want to make sure to cover all topics: net new install or upgrade consulting,  IBM Cognos licenses, training and Cognos consulting services for next phases, etc. You want to get estimates now to put in your budget. Remember, it's all about securing funding now for IBM Cognos!

Budget to Upgrade to Cognos Analytics

Looking to upgrade to Cognos Analytics?   Don't forget Cognos BI 10.2 is unsupported after April 2018!

To help build your budget, check out our complimentary Cognos Analytics Upgrade Evaluation Kit.  

Challenged to get funding?  ​See our blog on 5 Steps to Get Funding.

In conclusion, email us at Sales@Lodestarsolutions.com to set up a call to discuss your needs in 2018. Furthermore, we will provide free estimates for your IBM Cognos licensing needs, Cognos upgrades and services needs to get the most out of your analytic solutions.

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