If you need a corporate performance management (CPM) tool to streamline budgeting, forecasting, reporting and financial close, it’s important to remember that not all solutions are created equal.
Even though most tools offer the same high-level functionality—such as source system integrations and advanced process automation—specific features vary in the CPM technology market. Some solutions will be better suited to solve your challenges over others, which means you should review your pain points, assess your business requirements and identify the features you need before bringing vendors to the table. You can then focus your search on vendors that fit the bill.
This is easier said than done though, especially if it’s your first time leading the search for a CPM technology platform. That’s why so many finance teams rely on insights from Nucleus Research—a leading technology advisory firm—to help narrow down their shortlists when looking for a new solution.
In Nucleus’ 2021 CPM Technology Value Matrix, a select group of vendors are recognized as market Leaders for their advanced functionality and superior ease of use. Here are some must-have features you should expect from CPM Technology Leaders, with some context regarding the pain points these specific features address.
A Native Excel Interface
In the 2021 Value Matrix, Nucleus asserts that “planning with antiquated email and spreadsheet processes is no longer possible in modern business environments”—and that’s true. Planning with Excel on its own can lead to some crippling challenges, including:
- Copying and pasting transactional data from the ERP/GL into spreadsheets, which is subject to human error
- Multiple versions of the same budget template getting passed around via email
- Spending days consolidating data from dozens of individual spreadsheets to create reliable reports and forecasts
However, despite Excel’s challenges, finance professionals still love spreadsheets because they’re flexible, familiar and comfortable—and that’s why you should look for CPM solutions with a native Excel interface.
If your CPM tool centralizes your data without forcing you to abandon Excel, you’ll be able to solve your spreadsheet challenges without sacrificing Excel’s usability. You won’t have to learn an unfamiliar interface, waste time on manual aggregations or create new reports and budgeting templates from scratch. Instead, you’ll be able to leverage the Excel infrastructure you already have and ensure a smoother transition to agile, more reliable business planning.
Another excerpt from the 2021 Value Matrix states that “CPM solutions unify all organizational data for holistic planning across finance, HR, supply chain, sales and marketing.” This is crucial, because as your business continues to grow, you’ll need a scalable platform that's easy to adopt across departments—ensuring all cross-functional stakeholders are always on the same page.
That’s why you should look for vendors that can address your unique business needs with pre-configured solutions for maximum adoption and usability. Pre-configured solutions make your implementation easier with templates, business logic and workflows that are tailored to specific processes, such as:
- Workforce planning
- Cash flow modelling
- CapEx planning
- Incentive compensation management
- Account reconciliation
Pre-configured solutions can also address industry-specific planning requirements, including:
- Net interest income planning for banks and credit unions
- ARR planning and customer health dashboards for SaaS companies
- Loss ratio and cost per claim analysis for insurance firms
- Production planning in manufacturing
- Enrollment planning in higher education
- Labour management for healthcare providers
Even if you don’t need all of this right away, it’s important to pick a vendor equipped with everything you’ll need in the future. This will drive adoption across your business, save you the hassle of working with IT consultants and give you some peace of mind as your company continues to evolve. After all, your growth journey is always changing—you need to partner with a vendor that can empower that growth as it happens.
Historical Data Analysis and Predictive Scenario Modeling
Even the most thorough forecasts will eventually be wrong, especially when market conditions change. In order to pivot quickly, learn from experience and maintain reliable budgets, you’ll need a CPM solution that can measure your past, present and future business performance—all in one platform with the most up-to-date data at your fingertips.
When engaging with potential vendors, be sure to make it clear that historical data analysis and predictive scenario modeling are important to you. Here’s why these should be at the top of your CPM wishlist:
- Quick access to historical data makes it easy to identify variances between past budgets and forecast periods—ultimately resulting in more well-informed business plans as your requirements change over time.
- Predictive scenario modeling (based on real-time actuals) allows you to test your business plans against potential future outcomes. This helps you identify your most significant business drivers and gauge the impact of anticipated changes so you can adjust your plans with confidence.
- Using a CPM technology solution to streamline scenario modeling will eliminate the manual effort typically associated with this process. It frees up more time to uncover the story behind your numbers and empowers key decision makers with actionable, data-driven insights.
Keeping everyone organized and working as a team are critical components of effective business planning. If you don’t maintain transparency and hold people accountable to their tasks, cross-functional stakeholders will feel disconnected from your key planning processes. This creates data silos and planning inefficiencies across the business, making it hard for your finance team to come up with reliable numbers.
That’s why customizable workflows are so important to have in place. If your CPM technology solution lets you design repeatable, step-by-step processes that are aligned with the structure of your business, you’ll be able to loop in stakeholders at the right times during your strategic planning cycle.
You’ll also be able to assign tasks based on specific roles and security permissions and then monitor the status of those tasks in real time. You’ll find it’s a lot easier than emailing spreadsheets around and chasing down budget owners for numbers all the time.
Vena: Your CPM Technology Leader for 8 Years Running
Now that you know what to look for in a CPM technology solution, it’s time to assess Nucleus’ Leaders and identify vendors for your shortlist. According to the 2021 CPM Technology Value Matrix, Vena has the best usability out of any other Leader in the market right now.
Vena’s Complete Planning solution is the only CPM technology platform that combines enterprise-class functionality with the comfort and flexibility of Excel. Vena should be included in every CPM technology evaluation, as the features mentioned above are some of the platform’s primary strengths.
But regardless of which vendors you look at, make sure to align your search with the specific needs of your company. And with the 2021 CPM Technology Value Matrix guiding you, you’ll be able to approach the market with confidence—and ultimately modernize planning with the solution that’s best for your business.