RealTime IT News

Time to Scrap Your BPM Spreadsheets?

Many small businesses use regular spreadsheets for business process management (BPM), but these can take a lot of time to create, and slow down planning.

In a survey of 343 financial professionals by the Business Performance Management Forum, all agreed that spreadsheets were one of the major problems delaying or disrupting the budgeting process.

One potential solution is to turn to companies such as Adaptive Planning, which provides its own spreadsheets enhanced with built-in budgeting, planning and financial planning templates. (Adaptive Planning sponsored the spreadsheet survey).

Adaptive this week released Version 5 of its solution, also called Adaptive Planning, in a Software as a Service (SaaS) form.

Adaptive Planning Version 5 enables multi-dimensional reporting and can import model sheets, which let users view data in two dimensions. It integrates discussion forums, online documents and project management into planning and reporting processes, and lets users set up Wikis for internal collaboration.

It also includes a Financial Best Practices Community, which offers collaborative online articles, discussion groups, expert perspectives, polls, videos and other resources that let financial professionals worldwide connect with each other and share best practices.

When customers sign up, they send Adaptive Planning their spreadsheets, and the company then rebuilds those financial applications in its product and sets up financial models and the appropriate formulae, company CEO William A. Soward told InternetNews.com.

Built-in formulae include industry-standard head count plans, capital planning calculations, sales inputs and projections and product marketing figures at the departmental level.

The firm's product gives customers "alignment around a common set of assumptions," lets them assess what-if scenarios, and replicates the new information entered into such scenarios throughout the rest of the model so they can understand the key drivers of their business, Soward said.

The product can import results from the customer's general ledger system, which "makes it a key system for creating financial reports by letting you report on a plan as against actual variance reporting," he added.

The inherent problems of spreadsheets

Companies use desktop spreadsheets to support planning and budgeting processes, but they "spend so much time working around the inherent problems of spreadsheets that they cannot make their budgeting process a more effective management tool," Robert D. Kugel, Ventana Research's senior vice president and research director, told InternetNews.com.

For example, they do not have the time to do detailed contingency planning, identify duplicative spending or understand the factors driving variances, Kugel explained.

Adaptive Planning is designed to solve this problem. "Everything's tied together, and if there's an error in logic, that's brought up to the surface and you can address it," Soward said.

Customers have dashboards on their user desktops that give them a high-level view of their company. The product has access control, so "everyone sees the report with the access level they have and can drill down to the levels they're authorized to," Soward said.

Adaptive Planning said its implementation team consists of financial application people rather than IT staff. "We want customers to have access to multidimensional reporting capabilities without becoming power users or IT users," Soward explained.

Adaptive Planning was beaten to the punch in terms of moving to SaaS by Host Analytics, another company offering a budgeting application.