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Craig Schiff

I am very excited about this opportunity to share my perspectives and experience in my BeyeNETWORK Blog. For those of you who may not have read my articles and newsletters over the past few years, I hope you will appreciate a vendor-independent perspective on all things related to Business Performance Management (BPM). I focus on key topics organizations should consider throughout their BPM project lifecycle, from early stage requirements definition and justification, key measure development, vendor selection and finally, successful deployment and rollout. Of course, market trends and vendor updates will also be part of the mix. Please stop by on a regular basis to see what's new, and to make this interactive, please share your opinions. If you have a specific question, contact me directly at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

About the author >

Craig, President and CEO of BPM Partners, is a pioneer in business performance management (BPM). Craig helped create and define the field as it evolved from business intelligence and analytic applications into BPM. He has worked with BPM and related technologies for more than 20 years, first as a founding member at IMRS/Hyperion Software (now Hyperion Solutions) and later cofounded OutlookSoft where he was President and CEO.

Craig is a frequent author on BPM topics and monthly columnist for the BeyeNETWORK. He has led several jointly produced webcasts with Business Finance Magazine including "Beyond the Hype: The Truth about BPM Vendors," the three-part vendor review entitled "BPM Xpo" and "BPM 101: Navigating the Treacherous Waters of Business Performance Management." He is a recipient of the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. BPM Partners is a vendor-independent professional services firm focused exclusively on BPM, providing expertise that helps companies successfully evaluate and deploy BPM systems. Craig can be reached at cschiff@bpmpartners.com.

Editor's Note: More articles and resources are available in Craig's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

 

The trends for 2015 we identified a year ago have largely come to pass and continue to be a factor in the performance management space. We believe the three new trends described below will have a significant impact on performance management in 2016.

 

Combination of BPM and BI

 This is a natural progression as users of performance management (BPM) systems are demanding more and better analytics and starting to request predictive analytics specifically. Their needs now go beyond just dashboards and data visualization.  In addition, IT executives involved in BPM vendor selection projects are looking for BI to address custom use cases related to the core data in the system. What this leads to is a preference for performance management vendors that also offer integrated and robust business intelligence capabilities. While all vendors offer some BI-like functionality and most are built on a platform of BI tools, the need is for access to more complete and exposed BI functionality.

The vendors that benefit most from this trend are those that have acquired or partnered as resellers with BI vendors. These include Adaptive Insights (with Adaptive Discovery based on their myDials acquisition), Centage (with Analytics Maestro based on their BI-Metrix acquisition), Host Analytics with their Birst partnership, Longview with their  arcplan merger, and Tagetik with their Qlik relationship. Of course IBM, Oracle, and SAP have significant BI offerings they can bundle in with their performance management solutions as well.

 

Cloud as the Standard

 We have now reached the point where cloud has become the default deployment option in most performance management deals. At BPM Partners we did not encounter a single deal this year where the cloud option was off the table. Every customer we worked with was open to the cloud and the majority had it as their preference. In some instances they would only consider an on-premise solution if it had significantly better pricing or functionality when compared to the cloud-based alternatives. Recognizing this trend a number of vendors have been re-architecting for the cloud, those with multiple deployment options have been leading with the cloud, and even the largest vendors have introduced new cloud-based performance management offerings. We doubt that we will see any vendors left that don't offer a cloud option by the end of 2016.

Vendors that benefit most from this trend include the cloud-based performance management pioneers Adaptive Insights and Host Analytics, as well as the newer cloud vendors focused on large enterprises - Anaplan and Tidemark, and XLerant focused on smaller organizations. Tagetik and Vena Solutions have largely moved away from their on-premise options (unless pressed) and now lead with their cloud versions. SAP and Oracle Hyperion have introduced new native cloud planning solutions in the past year as well.

 

Availability of Pre-Built Solutions

This is a trend that has really been picking up steam. The idea is to pre-package specific processes or industry-specific needs so as to reduce the time and effort required to configure your new performance management system. The offerings are referred to by many different names. They include: blueprints, shell systems, templates, best practices, apps, starter kits, accelerators, solutions, etc. They have one primary goal - to demonstrate how to set-up the system to accomplish a specific task or series of tasks, and in so doing to reduce the time and cost involved in implementation,  shorten the time to payback, and ultimately lower the total cost of ownership. Those benefits help to explain why numerous vendors have recently introduced their own versions of these pre-packaged solution sets.

Vendors that benefit most from this trend include IBM Cognos who led the way with their blueprints, Anaplan with their application models, deFacto Global by including pre-built functionality unique to particular industries in the core product itself, Longview with their Smart Client apps and pre-packaged content, OneStream Software with their self-service app store, and Tidemark with their packaged processes. There are three other vendors with unique approaches worth noting. While most of these packages are free Adaptive Insights charges for theirs. The reason is that to make their solution more useful they bundle in some best practice consulting time. AxiomEPM does something similar by bundling in embedded best practices in the form of management consulting delivering what they call 'software with a point-of-view'. On the other end of the spectrum from these pre-packaged solution sets is Altius. Instead of providing templates for you to follow or bundling in some expert consulting they go quite a bit further. They bundle in all the consulting you may require to customize their product for your particular needs at no additional cost.

 

While there were many other trends we observed in 2015 that will continue into 2016 we think these three are the most significant. They will help reshape the vendor landscape once again creating new leaders and laggards, and therefore should be taken into consideration when you evaluate solutions.


Posted December 22, 2015 10:10 AM
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When Longview Solutions was acquired by Marlin Equity last summer they expressed excitement that they could now focus on both organic growth and strategic acquisitions. Last week they announced their first strategic acquisition. It was actually positioned as a merger between Longview Solutions, a Canadian performance management vendor, and arcplan, a German business intelligence and performance management vendor.

On paper at least, the deal makes a lot of sense. Longview is strong in North America and arcplan is strong in Europe and Asia. Longview offers robust budgeting, planning, consolidation, tax planning, and financial reporting. arcplan offers powerful analytics, data visualization, data integration, and performance dashboards. As we mentioned in our predictions for 2015, adding analytics and data visualization to performance management application suites is a key requirement. Vendors have approached this challenge in different ways. IBM, SAP, and Oracle all offer both performance management and business intelligence capabilities that were developed in-house or acquired over the years. Adaptive Insights acquired myDials several years ago so it could do the same. Host Analytics packages Birst BI with its performance management applications. Tidemark focused on analytics and data visualization right out of the gate alongside budgeting capabilities and later consolidation. This move by Longview is beneficial to customers and essential to stay competitive.

Now to the challenges. Having been through a less than pleasant East Coast/West Coast U.S. merger myself while at Hyperion, I have to wonder about the merging of a 20+ year old German company with a 20+ year old Canadian company, both successful and both probably fairly set in their ways because of that success. There is also the matter of product integration. On top of that there is some significant product overlap. arcplan Edge, although it has not had much traction in the U.S.,  appears to target the same FP&A need for budgeting and planning applications as Longview does. There are clearly some tough decisions to be made.

The net of it though is that the challenges can be addressed, the reasoning behind the merger is sound, and the end result is definitely a stronger competitor in the performance management space. We have not heard enough details yet to determine the short-term impact on customers and prospects other than that both companies will continue to sell their existing product sets for the foreseeable future. We'll post an update when we learn more.


Posted April 6, 2015 2:14 PM
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It's that time of year again when we are  pressed to make predictions about the next steps in the evolution of our chosen field of expertise. I feel very confident about this year's predictions, and many trends noted below are already in progress. If I missed anything major or you disagree with my assessments, feel  free to add a comment.

            Ease of Use

After many years of adding new capabilities today's performance management products are feature-rich, but more complex, and therefore somewhat more difficult to use. We expect to see more of a focus in the coming year on ease of use, which will lead to greater adoption. How is ease of use accomplished? By redesigning user interfaces to be more intuitive, and to speak the language of the end user, not IT. Unified all in one solutions are also important to ease of use by providing a single interface to learn and reducing the need to move and maintain data amongst several standalone modules. We have seen certain buyers making ease of use their top purchasing criteria. This is specifically true in the higher education vertical, as well as midmarket companies in general.

 

Vendors leading this trend: XLerant, whose primary selling point is its wizard-driven front-end,  Longview, OneStream, and Tagetik who provide powerful, but unified solutions, and AxiomEPM who offers industry-specific solutions that speak the language of the users.

 

Embracing MS Office

 

Since many companies are trying to move away from spreadsheet-based systems, vendors  have interpreted this to mean they are looking to get as far away as possible from spreadsheets themselves as well as other Office tools. This is simply not the case. These companies are looking to move to a real industrial-strength system, but there is still an important role for the familiar and powerful Office tools. As a matter of fact, in our most recent BPM Pulse survey 79% of users said they still planned to use spreadsheets even after implementing a new performance management system. So, what's the answer for vendors? Embrace Office documents. Tie them to a centrally controlled and secure system, but let users take advantage of their interface of choice. They can leverage their familiarity with these tools, take advantage of advanced and flexible functions that may not exist yet in their performance management applications, and maintain compatibility with existing models they have built over the years.

 

Vendors leading this trend: Vena Solutions utilizes Excel as its primary user interface and has seen significant momentum in the market because of this design choice. deFacto Global and Altius have taken a similar approach. Adaptive Insights released its OfficeConnect solution to great fanfare this year which lets users update Office documents with Adaptive Insights data in real time. Host Analytics took a different approach with its AirliftXL capability which lets users move models created in Excel into native Host Analytics models with minimal effort.

 

      Analytics and Data Visualization

 

With the large amounts of data that have been collected in performance management systems, there needs to be a better way to understand the story behind the numbers. Standard reports, and even dashboards, are fine for the monthly reporting package. Those users in Finance that typically receive these reports are familiar with them and can easily find what they are looking for. As performance management systems spread throughout the company they reach a more diverse end user community. For those users to understand what they are looking at they need the information presented in a way that is more graphical, more intuitive, and more interactive. Even in Finance, if they are being charged with improving forecast accuracy they need better tools, such as predictive analytics.

 

Vendors leading this trend: The big vendors such as SAP, Oracle, and IBM have an arsenal of business intelligence (BI) tools that they can apply to their performance management solutions. Other vendors such as Tidemark have developed their own robust  analytics and data visualization capabilities. Still other performance management vendors have acquired/licensed and incorporated BI solutions into their performance management offerings. Examples are Adaptive Insights with myDials, Centage with BI Metrix, and Host Analytics with Birst.

 

Collaboration

 

This term has been thrown around for years. For most vendors it has meant something straightforward and simple such as being able to attach a document to a budget submission to help explain things to anyone reviewing the submission. Other vendors focused on collaboration in the last mile of finance: disclosure management. While this is all fine and useful, it didn't go far enough.  According to the most recent BPM Pulse survey users want collaborative capabilities across all areas of performance management: budgeting, forecasting, strategic planning, consolidation, performance reporting, etc. They also want a range of collaboration features: the aforementioned document sharing, but also submission, review and feedback workflow, insertion of text commentary in reports and dashboards, notifications and alerts, and in-context threaded discussions. As performance management has reached wider and deeper across the organization these capabilities have taken on added importance.

 

Vendors leading this trend: Decisyon makes collaborative decision-making the focus of its performance management offering.  Adaptive Insights, Host Analytics, Longview, OneStream, Tagetik, Tidemark,  SAP, IBM, and Oracle all offer advanced capabilities in this area.

 

New Era of Competition

 

The move to cloud-based solutions is no longer a prediction for performance management, it's a reality. The prediction is how this shift will change the relative standings of the vendors in the performance management market. For many years the largest vendors in this market (IBM, Oracle, SAP) won many deals based on the robustness of their offerings developed over the course of many releases, and their deep reference base that could speak to the ability of these solutions to meet almost any size and type of company's needs. The other vendors usually won deals based on price, ease of use, or specialized functionality. Things are beginning to change however. As  the big vendors start to introduce hosted or true multi-tenant cloud versions of their performance management solutions they lose their two main advantages: deep feature sets and a large reference base. Their cloud-based products are version 1.0 with reduced functionality compared to their older products, and few live users. As more and more companies look for cloud-based performance management solutions it is the existing cloud-based performance management vendors that have the upper hand. They have several years of product releases under their belts, hundreds, and in some cases thousands of live references, all coupled with their competitive pricing and ease of use.

 

Vendors leading this trend: Adaptive Insights, Anaplan, Host Analytics,  Tidemark, and XLerant are all true multi-tenant cloud performance management solutions that have gone through several product versions and have a sizeable and happy base of references with live systems.

 

I view all of these trends as positive for end users, as well as the majority of vendors. It looks like 2015 has the potential to be another great year for performance management.

 


Posted December 15, 2014 12:58 PM
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Longview Solutions, one of our 'core performance management vendors for 2014', has been acquired by Marlin Equity Partners.  Their previous parent, Exact Holding, had purchased them in 2007 and let them run fairly independently. However, as often happens with acquisitions anticipated synergies never materialized and strategies changed. Exact ended up placing Longview into a Specialized Solutions group with other non-core businesses and essentially started looking for a buyer. During this period of time there were constraints around business changes Longview could make and limited funds available to invest in new opportunities. With their acquisition last week by Marlin, all that has changed. Marlin Equity sees Longview as a platform for growth in the performance management space and plans to invest in organic growth as well as strategic acquisitions.

We view this a net positive for Longview and its customers. For quite some time now Longview has been doing fairly well in spite of  its position within Exact.  With Marlin at the helm we expect to see much more activity and a more aggressive Longview Solutions.  This should also lead to an expanded product portfolio. Let's not forget though that the  likely goal of Marlin, like most private equity firms, is to invest in and grow the business so they can ultimately sell it or take it public. This is certainly several years down the road,  but something for prospective purchasers to be aware of.


Posted July 7, 2014 12:02 PM
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We just announced our annual list of core vendors for performance management. While dozens of vendors lay claim to the space, this list identifies the real players that are winning deals, and more importantly, being successfully implemented. In addition, we also name our 'Best New Vendor(s) of the Year' and 'One to Watch'. These are up and comers that will most likely show up in the core list a year or two down the road.

Core Vendors for 2014: Adaptive Insights, Axiom EPM, Centage, Host Analytics, IBM Cognos, Longview, Oracle, Prophix, SAP, Tagetik, Tidemark, Vena Solutions

Best New Vendors: deFacto Global, Decisyon

One to Watch: OneStream Software

To see what each vendor offers along with their customer satisfaction ratings, you can watch the replay of the webcast where we announced these lists: The Pulse of Performance Management 2014.

In addition, we also share the results of our annual BPM Pulse survey that looks at the intersection of performance management and technology. This year we included research on use of mobile, cloud, big data, collaboration, and predictive analytics with performance management solutions.

 


Posted June 2, 2014 7:34 AM
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