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.
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.