The German BARC conference “DFC Planning and Controlling” dealt with this question. This conference informs about the current challenges in finance and controlling and shows possible solutions by using powerful Controlling and Planning Software. The focus is on important criteria for the selection of software, live insights into the tools, and tips and tricks from many practical use cases (e.g. List GC). The conference is aimed at all who are currently in search of new technologies because they are:
- still mainly using Excel
- want to replace or expand their current tool, or
- want to learn about the latest features and newest models from software vendors to enhance their planning system
Core statement of the DFConline conference: "Performance Management is the key success factor".
At the annual DFConline, BARC’s moderating senior analysts always take a look at the latest market developments. This year, they identified performance management as a critical success factor for companies. Considering that 50-80% of the effort in financial departments goes into data aggregation and preparation, it makes sense to use proper software as a support.
By using powerful Controlling Systems, data integration processes are highly automated, reducing the manual effort of linking source systems to almost zero. This frees up valuable time for important analyses and recommendations. Central data storage – the single point of truth – prevents data silos and ensures effortless collaboration paired with necessary standardization. Elaborate authorization concepts instead of folder structures, which we know from Excel, facilitate collaboration.
High Data Quality = high Quality of Analysis
Central data access also has a surprisingly high positive effect on data quality, which in turn is of enormous importance for the quality of analysis. Powerful software solutions bring transparency and reliability for decision-making. Planning, Analysis, Budgeting, Reporting and Forecasting are based on the central already mentioned data storage, which ensures that the current, planned and forecast datasets are highly reliable.
Optimization of the own Performance in Finance
Another advantage of Performance Management & BI technologies is the better handling of fluctuating market conditions. The need for flexible Planning and Forecasting is evident especially in times of crisis. Whereas prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, forecasts were often prepared on rather long-term basis, while during the crisis and to date primarily short-term, rolling forecasts and ad-hoc analyses have been more in demand. The use of Excel sheets does not provide this flexibility.
How flexible Controlling Software can be used was shown by smartPM.solutions at the DFConline with two short exemplary presentations:
1) “We didn’t expect these changes as a result of the new scheduling system” practice use case LIST GC, Supplier of high quality interiors for yachts and apartments.
The company LIST GC demonstrated the Planning, Forecasting and Analysis of their new Controlling System live and provided deep insights into the flexibility, the latest features and the resulting changes in the mindset of the management. The discussion also includes how quickly a new software will pay off and details about their selection process.
2)“Why MS Power BI is a good option for your planning” as shown in more detail in the Planning & Analysis in Microsoft Power BI factsheet. It provides more insight on why Planning with Power BI means a win-win situation for IT-and FP&A departments.
The top 10 Reasons to purchase Controlling and Planning Software
Not only those who are using Excel, but often also companies whose implemented technology no longer fits their own requirements ask themselves the following question: “Is there something better that can optimally support my needs?” Performing a health check of the current system is recommended in order to identify potential for optimization in processes, structures and technology should the need arise. Arrange a professional meeting and health check here >>
The BARC Planning Survey 22 points out, among other things, which are the top 10 purchase criteria when selecting Controlling and Planning Solutions:
- High software flexibility
- The fulfillment of requirements in Planning
- The fulfillment of requirements in Analysis
- The price / performance ratio
- Software performance
- Predefined data connections
- Ease of use
- Local support
- Easy further development of the system (see the List GC Case-Study and expert talk),
- Keeping large amounts of data under control
Software performance plays a major role in user acceptance. In the implementation project, the structures and processes are optimized in order ro enable fast and intuitive work using the new system.
But even the best multidimensional technology can be made slow if the technological know-how is lacking.
According to BARC, the right implementation partner is crucial for success. Know-how and experience with projects, as well as good customer ratings help to evaluate the implementation partner. smartPM.solutions scores 4,9/5 stars in project evaluation with over 40 strict criteria. All 10 purchase criteria of the BARC Planning Survey are rated with “very well met” by smartPM.solutions, as depicted in the Raven Intelligence dashboard.
The smartPM Consulting Team has a controlling background and is a partner at the same level. It also provides support in Change Management. In addition, smartPM is known for its excellent local and highly reliable support. Many manufacturers outsource support teams to lower cost countries, which often results in customer dissatisfaction.
Software Selection - everything you do rarely requires an extra effort
Internal resources often have to be made available to facilitate the selection of the right Controlling and Planning software. Most companies review and evaluate multiple software solutions, often with the perception that everyone can do it all. Finding the right solutions for the requirements set is a real challenge. It proves to be useful to have a partner at your side who offers multiple technologies and provides insight into the different systems. smartPM.solutions partners with the market leading technologies Jedox, MS Power BI via Acterys und Unit4 FP&A and has developed the predefined smartPM business models based on these platforms over a period of many years.
It is advisable to consider a few things in advance when choosing a new Controlling software:
- What are the underlying constraints? (interfaces, source systems, project pressure, necessary lead cycles, e.g. for forecasts, number of users, cloud or local, etc.)
- What are the existing strategic requirements (professional, technical, organizational), and
- What is the targeted balance: e.g. software flexibility for power users enabling autonomous customization vs. standard solutions and individual programming
All decision-makers (IT, specialist department, management, purchasing, etc.) should be involved in the requirements gathering process. Thereby, any exclusion criteria/mandatory criteria and pleasant-to-have criteria are to be defined. Of all software providers in the market, only those are selected that meet the mandatory criteria. A so-called longlist of software vendors is then created. A possible mandatory criterion can be, for example, an industry sector specialization, such as the energy supply industry in the case of smartPM.solutions. In the next step, a narrowing down to the shortlist takes place. This is followed by a more thorough evaluation, e.g., based on a use case that the shortlisted vendors have to solve – this proof of concept or proof of value then leads to the decision in favor of a system.
" Partner companies are often better at this than large manufacturing companies."
…was a sentence from a senior analyst at the DFC BARC Event 2023. The key to success is that the software implementation partner speaks the same language. This applies to know-how, customer focus, and modeling skills. It also influences the subsequent performance of the system and the transfer of know-how for the future development of the planning solution.
The Costs and ROI of Controlling and Planning Software
The cost of a Controlling and Planning software depends on the type and number of users. The prices for a power user, medium user, read-only user, etc., will vary. Additionally, there are license costs for the software and finished modules, incl. the transfer of know-how.
With regard to the time frame, care should be taken not to implement too much at once. It is advisable to define several smaller projects for implementation, e.g., Integrated Planning in the first step, then Project Portfolio Controlling and finally HR Planning. Later, other departments can follow and the system grows. This enables integrated corporate management control (xP&A – extended Planning and Analysis). The use case List GC shows the selection and ROI upon implementing a new planning solution in real life. The median implementation time of a Controlling and Planning software is 4.5 months (according to Barc The BI Survey 21, n=2050) – for smartPM.solutions it is a span of 6 weeks in the fastest case and 3 months on average.