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.
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 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.
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.
The implementation phase is the exciting phase! This is where we get sh*t done! Lodestar Solutions recommends a phased, agile approach to implementing, which we call our Business Analytics Agile Methodology (BAAM). This means focusing on smaller chunks of the project and delivering results in small sprints. An Agile approach has been proven to be the most effective implementation methodology.
Lodestar Solutions’ Implementing IBM Planning Analytics
In the event during the software evaluation process, you determine IBM Planning Analytics is the best fit for you, the Lodestar Solutions team will work with you and your team to educate them on how Planning Analytics works, and the art of designing effective, flexible models. Our goal is to make you self-sufficient, so that as you incorporate other areas of the organization like marketing or human resources, you can do so without pricey consultants.
Knowledge Transfer for Implementing an Alternatives Solutions
We appreciate that you may decide that another solution is a better fit for your needs. If that is the case, Lodestar Solutions, will work with you and the implementation team for the software to transfer all the knowledge discovered in earlier steps. Additionally, if you would like a Lodestar Solutions team member to periodically overview the process of the implementation team and serve as an accountability agent, we can do so.
We can’t stress enough the importance of the first Requirements Discovery phase when evaluating your budgeting and planning software. By doing the discovery process properly you will deliver solutions your end users love, save valuable time in implementation, and save money on consulting services. But most importantly you will ensure you select the correct software to meet your needs now and for years to come.
Lodestar welcomes the opportunity to discuss the next steps for your process.
If you would like to receive our Software Evaluation Checklist which can be customized, click here.
Additionally, here is a blog you may find beneficial – Software Selection Process.
Email Lodestar to discuss the above and your specific project. Services@lodestarsolutions.com
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