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.

Conclusion

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

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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.

What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on the Cloud

What You Need to Know When Moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on Cloud
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 23rd 2022

Are you wondering if you can move your IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on a cloud?  Maybe your organization has an initiative to move all applications to Azure, AWS or IBM Cloud.  Or maybe you want IBM to do the work and maintain your environment to free up IT resources, so a Software as a Service (SAAS) would be better.  Today we will explain what you need to know when moving IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on a cloud.

What are my cloud options for Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics TM1?

First you need to know that clouds come in many forms.  There are Software as a Service clouds, where the vendor maintains the environment, handles upgrades, backups…  And there are clouds where you are just outsourcing the hardware to Amazon, Microsoft or IBM and you use your licensing for the software and install the software in their clouds.  Under this cloud model, you will still need to handle upgrades, and patches.

IBM offers Cognos on Cloud as well as IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud which are their Software as a Service models.  They also allow you to put your regular licenses on a cloud that you maintain.

Migration to IBM’s Cognos on Cloud or IBM Planning Analytics on the Cloud

If you are looking to have IBM do most of the technical work to maintain your Planning Analytics or Cognos environment, you will want to explore their Software as a Service (SAAS) option.  IBM likes to change the names of their programs, but what you need to know is that IBM has a program that allows clients to migrate to the SaaS while maintaining their old environment for a period of time.  With the proper paperwork, they will give you dual entitlements for your on-premise and cloud subscription while you test and transition. 

Our older blog will help to provide you an overview, IBM’s Bridge to Cloud.

Timing of Migration to SaaS

Typically, you will want to explore moving to Cognos on Cloud or PA on cloud at least 3 months prior to your software support renewal to make it cost effective.  For details on cost and timing, email us at renewals@lodestarsolutions.com

Functionality Parity

Additionally, you will want to ensure that the IBM Cognos on Cloud or IBM Planning Analytics on Cloud has parity with your current environment and that all the functionality you need is in the SaaS version.  Previous cloud versions were missing some functionality.  For example, earlier versions of Cognos on Cloud only allowed for DQM (Dynamic Query Mode) and CQM was not available.  I will not go into the details on CQM and DQM here, but you should check out these IBM resources:

Can I move my existing IBM Cognos & TM1 Licensing to a 3rd Party Cloud?

Yes, the good news is IBM allows you to move your “perpetual” or on-premise licensing for IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics TM1, anywhere!  A perpetual IBM Planning Analytics or Cognos license is an asset you purchased that you could use indefinitely.  However, to get access to download the latest version to move to your new cloud, you must be current and pay annual IBM support to either IBM or a reseller like Lodestar Solutions.  If you would like a competitive support quote, email renewals@lodestarsolutions.com.

But the answer is yes, you may move your perpetual Cognos or Planning Analytics licensing to AWS, Azure, or even the IBM Public Cloud, which has made amazing progress!  (We love it!  More on that in a minute.)  However, when you move your Cognos licensing or TM1 to a new environment whether on cloud or something else you want to be careful. 

Caution on Cloud Migration

If you have licensing that includes Processor Value Units (PVUs), which is very common with Planning Analytics TM1 and often in larger Cognos clients, you must make sure the new environment does not expose you to failing an audit.  You MUST make sure you don’t exceed your PVU licensing when you move to the cloud.  For more information checkout our earlier blog, What the Heck is an IBM Cognos PVU and then email us so we can answer any questions at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

IBM Public Cloud

I mentioned we love the IBM public cloud, so I wanted to take a minute and explain.  A few years ago, IBM had Softlayer as their cloud and well, it was not great.  But IBM spent tons of money and invested in better technology and now their IBM Public Cloud rocks!  At Lodestar Solutions we use it for our demonstration environment and its fabulous.  Here’s IBM’s take on IBM Cloud versus Amazon Web Services (AWS)

FEI Webinar April 13th

Cloud Considerations in an Uncertain World

If you want to learn more and are a member of Financial Executives International (FEI), I will be hosting a webinar to FEI Members discussing IBM Cloud.  Cloud Considerations in an Uncertain World on April 13th 2-3pm Eastern.  In this webinar I will be joined by Hillary Hunter, CTO of IBM Cloud and Chris Doroszczyk, IBM Global Managing Director Financial Services Clients.  Members of FEI can register and get CPE credits for attending.

After the event I will write a blog with the highlights for non-FEI Members.

Summary

In summary you can move IBM Cognos and Planning Analytics on the cloud, but like anything, proper planning in advanced is highly recommended.  But you don’t have to go it alone.  Lodestar Solutions’ team of experts can guide you through what you need to know when moving IBM Cognos & TM1 licensing to a cloud.  Just reach out to us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

5 Reasons People Object to Upgrading Cognos

5 Reasons People Object to Upgrading Cognos
5 Reasons People Object to Upgrading Cognos
Written by Heather L. Cole, March 9th 2022

Are you trying to get funding for a Cognos or IBM Planning Analytics upgrade?  Maybe you want to get some TM1 or Cognos Training and need to ask for funding.  Did you know there are 5 reasons people object to upgrading?  That’s right only five main reasons.  So today I thought I would walk you through the primary objections and relate it to upgrading and expanding your usage of Cognos and Planning Analytics. 

First let me say I did not create this list.  Bari Baumgardner, a very successful businesswomen was presenting at a conference I attended this weekend hosted by Dean Graziosi and Tony Robbins.  The conference is really designed for the coaching industry.  However, the nuggets of information are very applicable to the world of Business Analytics.  So, if you are an employee running a Cognos or IBM Planning Analytics upgrade, or a consultant you will want to understand and learn to overcome the 5 reasons people object to upgrading.  They are time, money, social support, fear, and doubt.

1. Time -

The most common objection to upgrading your Cognos, IBM Planning Analytics or other solution is time.  As a firm specializing in upgrading clients to the latest business analytics technology we often hear, “We don’t have time.”  But is that really true? 

The thing about time is you never think you have enough, and you can never get it back.  It’s the scarcest resource.  I love Bill Gates’ quote:

"We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten.  Don't let yourself be lulled into inaction."

But let’s talk about your time, and the time of your team.  How valuable is it?  If you could invest a couple months of focused work that would eliminate a number of redundant monthly tasks, would you do it?  Imagine automating reporting processes and empowering end users to leverage the data and analytics you provide!  What if you could help create a culture shift so everyone in the organization explored the data and made game changing decisions to help the company accomplish their goals.

How long have you been trying to deliver self-service to your users?  If it’s been a long time, we need to talk.  (See our blog, Find More Time for Analytics Projects)

There are steps you can take that can turn the objection on time into the very reason you can’t wait any longer to upgrade and modernize your Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics environments.  Our clients that have upgraded and modernized their Planning Analytics and Cognos deployments all have said the same thing, “Why did we wait so long?”  To schedule a chat email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.

2. Money -

The second objection to upgrading we hear is we don’t have any budget.  I fully understand the need to have funding, but what if I told you that many CFO’s have a magic stash of money.  And that when they see a project that will have a significant return on the investment and help them accomplish their strategic goals, they open the money bag and fund the project.  Seriously, I have seen it many times! 

But the secret is that they must see the value.  If you are telling them you need to upgrade to get on a supported version, that probably is not compelling enough.  We need to present a reason that is more important to them. 

Executives are very focused on making or saving money and achieving their strategic goals. 

Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics are amazing tools that when deployed correctly can have a huge impact on the success of the company and the achievement of strategic goals.  The problem is that there are not enough analytic professionals that appreciate the massive impact they can have by delivering the latest IBM solutions to their executives.  When the right information is put in the right hands for better decision-making it will make the company more money. 

So, again.  The objection of not having money is exactly the reason why you must act NOW to upgrade and empower your teams with data.  You know your competition is….

See our blog Secrets to Getting Funding for Your Cognos Projects.

3. Internal Support -

The third objection I hear as an analytics coach to executives and their teams is that they don’t have enough internal support.  Maybe IT doesn’t support your IBM Planning Analytics upgrade, or you have an executive that is saying we should move everything to Microsoft.  Well, you are not alone.  There are other clients that have this struggle.  However, with the correct internal influence and that art of persuasion you can build the support you need.

Lodestar Solutions is happy to have a chat with you to strategize how to gain the support you need.  Email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com.  It all begins with helping others see the vision you have as to the role of data and analytics in achieving strategic goals.

4. Fear -

The fourth objection to upgrading is fear.  Fear of failure, fear of success, fear of rejection fear of change… Fear is almost always secretly lurking in the background. 

Try this little exercise to help overcome hidden fears.  Write down the worst-case scenario.  Maybe you ask for funding and get rejected.  Maybe you get everyone to support the project but don’t deliver it on time….  Write down every possible bad outcome.

Now write down what you would do if that bad thing happened and what you would have learned from the experience.  Finally write down how you will feel 2 years from now when you are in the exact same place you are now. 

You see people don’t regret acting if even if they don’t succeed.  Successful people don’t have failures; they have learning experiences.  

Theodore Roosevelt

5. Doubt -

The final objection is doubt.  You might think that doubt and fear are the same thing, but I believe they are different.  Doubt is that little voice that says, you aren’t good enough.  Who do you think you are believing you can have a massive impact on the company’s profits?  You don’t even really know how to use the software.  Have you ever heard that voice? 

I have.  She gets really loud in my head at times.  But you know what I discovered?  I never hear the voice when I am binge watching Netflix.  Nope.  She’s silent.  But when I am considering taking a bold move, making a big impact or trying something outside my comfort zone, poof there she is. 

Did you know it has a name?  Imposter Syndrome.  See this Forbes article Imposter Syndrome In Your Business And How To Overcome It

What I have learned is that when that voice pops up, it’s GAME ON!  Something amazing maybe even life changing is about to happen if I just lean in and surround myself with people that will be my cheerleaders. 

But for some of you, you don’t have cheerleaders.  If that’s your case, let’s talk.  The Lodestar Solutions community is full of amazing minds that can help cheer you to success.  Email Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Summary

Now you know the 5 reasons people object to upgrading their Cognos and/or Planning Analytics are time, money, social support, fear, and doubt.  Don’t let these objections stop you from being amazing at your job!  Overcome these objections and lead your organization to analytic success.  The first step can start today.  Just email us at services@lodestarsolutions.com and we can chat about your unique situation.  You were born to make an impact.  Start now.

IBM Planning Analytics Versions Are End of Life

IBM Planning Analytics Versions Are End of Life
IBM Planning Analytics Versions Are End of Life

Written by Heather L. Cole, March 3rd 2022

Are you an IBM Planning Analytics TM1 user that has not upgraded in a while?  If so, you MUST know that this year several versions of Planning Analytics TM1 are being sunset so they will no longer be supported by IBM.  Today we will discuss what IBM Planning Analytics versions are end of life. 

This is very important to know because the world has changed, and hackers are evil.  We all witnessed security teams scrambling to update Log4j vulnerability in almost every software.  For more information check out our recent blog, 911 – Log4j Security Risk Affects IBM Planning Analytics, Cognos… 

 The best way to stop hackers is to be on a current supported version and be on IBM support.

What IBM Planning Analytic Versions are Sunsetting?

If you are on Planning Analytics versions 2.07 or earlier IBM will no longer support it effective April 30, 2022.  If you are on 2.08 IBM will no longer support it after September 30, 2022.  And if you are on a Cognos TM1 version 10.2 or earlier you probably already know you have been unsupported since 2019.  So, it’s time to upgrade PA!  More on that in a minute.

Can you still use TM1 if they sunset your version?

First, it’s important to know if you are on an IBM Planning Analytics TM1 version that is not supported by IBM, you can still use it.  For many of you that own “on-premise” licenses you can even use it if you are not paying support, but we don’t recommend that.  Read our earlier blog, Consequences of Not Renewing IBM Cognos Support.

IBM will not help you.

However, if you are on an unsupported version of TM1 and something happens, IBM will most likely tell you, you must upgrade PA.  And no one wants to upgrade under duress.  You might be thinking, “but we haven’t called IBM for support for years.”  That may be true, however when issues arise, it typically is not the software.  It’s more often that IT upgraded something in your environment and it broke planning analytics.  Why? Because new software doesn’t always play well with old software.  When this happens, you will need to call IBM.  And well, they will tell you to upgrade PA. 

What if I can’t upgrade PA?

I appreciate for some of you upgrading your Planning Analytics when the system is down, and you need to get the reports to the executives is not realistic.  I appreciate the sense of panic this can create.  If you find yourself in this situation, call Lodestar or email services@lodestarsolutions.com with a subject line of 911.  Our tech wizards might be able to help get you up and running.

Planning your TM1 upgrade.

The latest version of Planning Analytics is 2.0.9.11  released December 21, 2021  (see link for more info).  Lodestar Solutions does recommend getting on this version.  There are a few steps you need to think about when you upgrade PA.

  1.  It’s recommended to upgrade PA into a new clean environment.
  2. You should review your license entitlements to ensure you don’t accidentally violate your license.  Email Lodestar to setup a complimentary what the heck do I own session. Services@lodestarsolutions.com.
  3. Learn the new functionality and plan when you will want to leverage the amazing new features. Email Lodestar to setup a discussion of new functionality at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Upgrading does not need to be a stressful experience but preplanning is important.  Lodestar Solutions is here to help!  We offer many options to help you with your upgrades.  We even offer upgrade bundles to make IBM Planning Analytics upgrading assistance more affordable.  See our blog, Solving the IBM Planning Analytics Upgrade Challenge

Take the Next Step.

If you are one of the many whose IBM Planning Analytics versions are end of life or you just want to upgrade to get the new functionality, email us and we can answer all your questions about upgrading Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants

Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants
Benefits of Diversifying Your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants
Written by Heather L. Cole, February 24th 2022

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!  It’s quote we often hear in reference to investing.  There are horror stories of people who put all their money in the stock of one company like Enron or one investment advisor like Bernie Madoff only to watch their life savings go poof!  But did you know that saying also applies to hiring consultants?  Today we will discuss the Benefits of Diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants. Diversifying your IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics Consultants means you work with more than one consulting firm. 

Having a Second Set of Eyes

Have you ever had a problem you were trying to solve and just wanted to have a second set of eyes?   Or maybe you have a repetitive task, and you think, “there has to be a better way”.   Whenever I have that thought, I reach out to someone I think will know the answers.   It took me years to learn, but I now know that although I probably could figure out the problem myself, time is the most limited resource we have.  And if I just phone another IBM Planning Analytics or Cognos expert in my network, I can solve the problem in a fraction of the time. 

If you diversify and contract with multiple Cognos consulting firms, and you have access to not just the consultants assigned to you, but also their teams.  The bigger your network the faster you will get answers.

But let me share a little secret, if a consultant makes a mistake, many firms will back them and their work.  They don’t want to admit that a mistake was made.  By diversifying and using more than one Cognos or IBM Planning analytics consulting firm you have a built in BS detector.

Diverse Offerings & Experience

The next benefit of diversifying your IBM Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consultants is that firms often time have different offerings.  One might be really good at Data Warehousing and Planning Analytics, whereas another might offer executive strategy sessions to discover what really needs to be designed.  Additionally, one might have a financial service background while another distribution.  Believe it or not, you can benefit from someone with industry expertise that is different from your own, as they can bring innovative ideas to your project.

Different Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics partners have different offerings and expertise.  You can benefit from their wealth of knowledge.  In the U.S. most of the partners know each other and many partner with each other all the time.

Knowledge of New Releases

Not all Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consulting firms invest in educating their teams on the latest versions.  Candidly if they are primarily focused on billing and revenue generation, training takes away from billing.  So, there could be functionality that is available in a new release that your consultant doesn’t know about.  By diversifying your Cognos consultants, you increase the likelihood of leveraging the latest functionality.  At Lodestar Solutions, we pride ourselves on educating our clients on what’s new every quarter. 

Knowledge saves time and money copy

Knowledge of IBM Licensing

Did you know there are Cognos and IBM Planning Analytic consulting firms that don’t know IBM licensing?  Yes, there are some amazing consultants that are fabulous on the product but don’t know how to save you money on your IBM licensing and IBM support renewals.  Lodestar Solutions has many clients that came to us after working with another partner and failing an IBM Audit.  It doesn’t have to be that way!  By diversifying and working with a partner that understands licensing you can save money and reduce the risk of failing an audit. Here’s a link to our webinar on, How to Avoid Failing an IBM Analytics Audit.   And our blog, How to Save Money on Support Renewals

 If you have IBM licensing questions or are in the middle of an IBM audit, email us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com.

Additional Client Offerings

Finally, a big benefit of working with multiple Cognos and IBM Planning Analytics consultants is that some offer client only benefits.  For example, at Lodestar Solutions we host a client only virtual user group every quarter where we share the new releases, what works and what doesn’t, and have straight talk.  We share 3rd party tools we think clients will benefit from and we network with our peers.  But that’s not all, we record the sessions, so clients can access our client only portal and watch the sessions at any time.   Our clients love the user groups, but it is a closed group.  

Want to participate, in our next user group?  Have us quote your IBM support renewal.  Email Renewals@lodestarsolutions.com for a license evaluation and renewal quote.

Tips in Working with Multiple IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consulting Firms

Now that I have shared some of the benefits of diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants.  I want to share a few more tips. 

  •  Be transparent.  Don’t hide the fact you are working with multiple firms, find firms that can work together.
  • Find a firm like Lodestar that is willing to subcontract other firms, so you have the diversification but one stop shopping.
  • Interview a few firms and ask around about their strengths.  Here’s a link to where you can find IBM Partners. 
  • Check Linkedin and see how well connected their team members are.  A strong network can provide rapid, creative solutions.

Next Step

Let’s talk about your project and challenges.  Lodestar Solutions can help you diversify your consultants, save money on IBM licensing and support, learn the latest version and network with your peers.  We would love the opportunity to be one of your go to partners and show you the benefits of diversifying your IBM Planning Analytics and Cognos Consultants.  Contact us at Services@lodestarsolutions.com for a complimentary review.

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.

Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics

Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics
Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics
Written by Heather L. Cole, November 4th 2021

Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics

Did the Pandemic disrupt your business?  Did it make you think you need to look at your business in different ways?  Were you creating new Excel spreadsheets to run various scenarios and thinking there must be a better way?  Well, there is!  Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics formally known as TM1 can be business changing!

What is Scenario Planning?

Scenario planning empowers decision-makers to identify various potential outcomes and anticipate the impacts, evaluate responses, and manage plans for all possibilities.  It starts with a question, “What if ___________ happened?”  Then you leverage robust models to project the financial and operational impact.  You want the model to allow for the scenario to flow all the way to earnings and estimating cash flow.  This will allow you to develop an action plan.  Scenario planning when done right is an integrated approach to dealing with uncertainty.

Scenario planning allows team members to recognize and mitigate risks and plan for growth opportunities.  It allows executives to anticipate different outcomes for the organization based on assumptions about forces that drive the market like interest rates, countries shutting down, and resource shortages

Why You Must Do Scenario Planning

I think we all can agree the world has changed!  If the pandemic taught us anything it’s that we must learn to deal with uncertainty and be prepared for various situations.  The only way to fully plan for uncertainty is scenario planning.  Your organization’s future depends on it.

Why You Need the Right Tool

During the Pandemic many organizations scrabbled to create Excel models to do scenario planning. It is also possible to do what if modeling in Excel.  But the question should not be can I do scenario planning in Excel, but should I? 

For many organizations, the answer is NO!  You need a robust tool designed for scenario modeling like IBM Planning Analytics (TM1). 

Use the best tool

Let’s say you move into a new house and now have a 5-acre yard and you need to mow it.  You currently own a push mower.  Could you cut your lawn with the push mower?  Yes.  But should you?  My guess is it would take you at most one cutting to realize that you need a better machine for the job at hand!

Well, scenario planning is the same as your lawn.  To provide rapid results and what if modeling of your business with Excel probably isn’t going to cut it. (Pun intended).

Scenario Planning with IBM Planning Analytics with Watson

At Lodestar Solutions we recommend and believe in the flexibility and power of IBM Planning Analytics for Scenario Modeling!

What is IBM Planning Analytics?

So, you may be thinking, is this a glorified Excel tool?  No!  It’s so much more than that because IBM has infused their Watson Technology into their Planning Analytics tool providing enhanced Predictive Forecasting.  “Predictive forecasting augments human intelligence by using statistical and predictive analytics to identify and assess trends and seasonality patterns in historic values, greatly improving forecast accuracy” according to IBM’s Whitepaper you can download here

Take ACTION

But let’s cut to the chase.  You don’t have time to waste!  If you want to retain talent you MUST give them the right tools.  If you want to be prepared for a rapidly changing business climate, you MUST run scenarios.  So, you need the BEST TOOLS for Scenario Planning.  I believe the best tool for running scenarios is IBM Planning Analytics!

Want to learn more about Scenario Planning?  Email or call sales@lodestarsolutions.com,  813-425-2910 to set up a complimentary chat about scenario modeling and how you can lead transformation in your organization.

Not Ready for a Chat? Join our webinar.  On November 18th, 2021 at 10:30am - Noon Eastern I will be hosting a webinar.

Mastering Transformational Planning: Why CFOs Should Lead this Initiative?

You will learn:

  •  Why you MUST become a transformational leader to become the Modern CFO everyone looks up to.
  • How to attract the most in demand superstars that your competition wants so that you can realize transformation faster.
  • Why Continuous Forecasting is the most important sought-after skill in today's uncertain world.

Attend our webinar and walk away with proven methods you can implement immediately to start your transformational journey.  It all starts with a plan!

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