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The Impact of Modern Intelligent Planning Technologies

July 30, 2019
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Modern technology has changed the face of financial planning for companies, large and small. Advancements like APIs and micro-services, business intelligence and data warehouses, and cloud computing have created a seismic shift in the potential tools for the Office of Finance. But the shift is even greater than that. As we talked about in our recent round table on the subject, these changes can have far-reaching impact, from finance teams to business leaders to IT. As companies look to switch to cloud-based planning and analytics solutions, many are, unfortunately, finding that some solutions are only part way to the cloud. These “faux cloud” offerings offer few benefits for finance or other teams in the enterprise, in particular those benefits typically found with true cloud-native applications.The impact of speed and agility may seem obvious for the finance team, but the benefits of a true cloud-native solution FP&A and CPM radiates out across the enterprise.

Impact on Finance

The impact of a planning solution built on a modern technology stack for finance teams seems like it would be obvious. The reality is, however, that finance teams have dealt with the challenges and complications of old technology and poor implementations for so long that they may not even know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.Traditional solutions - even those more advanced than Excel spreadsheets - can still be slow to load and process significant data volumes. Adaptation to new models can be cumbersome and time-consuming for the finance team. Focusing on setting up new models takes valuable time away from the core tasks that drive the business.With modern technology and cloud-native solutions, finance teams can scale data flows quickly and adapt processing needs on the fly to their business’s cyclical nature. A truly advanced solution also allows the team to pull in data from multiple data sources, quickly, leading to a complete and accurate picture of cash flows and budget performance, while lending itself to accurate predictive models and forecasting.

Impact on Business Leaders

Data-driven decision making can be the difference between business growth and unnecessary or dangerous risk taking. The challenge for small to medium businesses today is providing leaders with the information that takes into account multiple dimensions and presents it in an easily digestible way. Solutions that have simply adapted older technology for the cloud lack the performance and connectivity to rapidly process large amounts of data - the kind of information needed to make smart and meaningful business decisions. Applications that have been purposefully built for the cloud and incorporated APIs into the architecture can easily form connections with critical business applications to get the most up-to-date information for subsequent analysis. The processing power of a scalable cloud application results in rapid analysis of large structured and unstructured data sets on the fly. More importantly, fast processing means this data can be presented in dynamic, easy-to-understand dashboards. Business leaders can drill down into organizational information to gain real insights into the whys and hows of company performance.

Impact on IT

While other groups are getting more from modern financial planning solutions, IT ends up with less:

  • Less time required for implementation.
  • Less time needed for support and updates.
  • Less money spent on infrastructure.
  • Less work added to already overburdened IT project and support queues.

When a solution is “faux cloud”, IT feels the strain immediately. Instead of rapidly standing up the new solution, implementation becomes an extensive and resource-draining effort. And because Finance is frequently working against hard deadlines, there is little room for error in standing up or even updating a new application.Cloud apps, on the other hand, don’t require infrastructure changes or configuration. Servers don’t have to be purchased and provisioned to handle Finance’s busiest days, or worse, built as a compromise between hardware costs and performance needs.Updates occur automatically, which both removes pressure from IT support teams and also increases security. There is no concern over a missed update or an unpatched server. All of this means that IT doesn’t need to increase its backlog or its headcount to support the finance team.Modern architecture combined with cloud-based hosting of applications results in fast, agile, performant, and scalable forecasting, budgeting, and analysis. Finance and business teams alike have a greater breadth of data to work from, and IT can be nearly hands-off in the implementation and long term maintenance of the solution. In all, the impacts of a properly developed, cloud-native solution are win-win for the entire organization.

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