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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!

Another acquisition in the performance management space, but this one  doesn't lead to consolidation. Kaufman Hall, a management consulting company focused primarily on financial performance management in healthcare organizations, has acquired Axiom EPM, a leading performance management software provider. We think overall this a net positive for Axiom EPM, its customers, employees, and performance management prospects.


- Bigger company

- Deeper financial backing

- Synergies with performance management consulting practice

- Clear leader in healthcare


- Loss of key talent: some founders will be leaving, but most of the current management team will remain in place.

- Loss of focus on non-healthcare business: management assures us this is definitely not the case. As a matter of fact, they believe things will go the other way - this acquisition will enable  Kaufman Hall  to expand its focus beyond  healthcare.

As with all acquisitions, only time will tell how it all works out. Based on what we know today our advice:

- For current  Axiom customers: sit tight, with Axiom EPM's reputation for outstanding customer satisfaction we don't think they are going to change now and start neglecting their customers. In addition, unlike many other performance management acquisitions, the purchaser (Kaufman Hall) does not own any similar software that they would want to migrate Axiom customers to. So, we expect that the product will continue to be supported and enhanced.

- For Axiom prospects: proceed with your evaluation. The company is now bigger and stronger than in the past, with the same software, and most of the same team. While we  believe this makes Axiom a stronger option for all companies, the biggest upside right now is clearly for healthcare organizations who should move Axiom to the top of their list of vendors to consider.

Axiom EPM will become a wholly owned subsidiary and be known as Axiom EPM, a Kaufman Hall company.


Posted April 23, 2014 6:56 AM
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Based on our consulting work with clients and vendors  in 2013, as well as the results of the most recent BPM Pulse survey, we believe the following are the most likely next steps for performance management in 2014.

#1: Cloud becomes the dominant solution approach for Performance Management

This is a logical extension of what we are seeing today. The number of companies saying no to cloud are few and far between. Many companies, particularly in the midmarket where they are resource constrained, have a preference for cloud. The rest are indifferent. In those cases cloud often wins simply based on cost as opposed to the technology itself. The main hold outs still appear to be the largest companies. While security is still an issue (more perception than reality) for some, it is really the need for robust functionality that until recently was lacking in the cloud-based solutions. That issue is going away as the cloud vendors have been aggressively working to close the features/functions gap. The on premise vendors are also working hard to cloud enable their solutions. The end result is that finding a cloud based solution that meets the needs of the largest companies will become a non-issue over time.

#2: Mobile becomes an important differentiator

In our work today we are seeing a mobile access capability as a 'must have' for a handful of companies. It is usually a senior executive that wants/needs access to the latest reports on his tablet. In those situations mobile capability becomes a hard and fast requirement and vendors without it are excluded. For most though, mobile is still a nice to have capability. The focus is also still heavily on consumption of data, not creation. All other things being equal, offering a mobile capability is a way to stand out from the pack.

#3: Vertical solutions will be included in more evaluations

We say this every year and each year we are closer to being right. Customers always want a product and vendor that speak their language and understand their business. The benefits are many - reduced learning curve, industry-specific functionality, reduced customization required/reduced consulting cost. This past year we have seen this more than ever. Companies that were looking for and/or selecting industry-focused solutions came from manufacturing, retail, insurance, healthcare, utilities, and banking. Prospects are also willing to overlook quite a bit if the vendor focuses on their industry. They will look at smaller vendors they never would have otherwise considered. In addition, they will accept less than state of the art solutions (i.e. out dated user interface, older technologies, etc.). Holding back this trend has been the limited availability of solutions for a wider range of industries. We are now seeing vendors that have had success in one or two industries branching out to new sectors. In addition, some of the more established vertically focused vendors are updating their products to make them more competitive.

#4: Growth of packaged operational analytics

Operational analytics is a major area of potential growth for performance management. Once you have tackled corporate budgeting, consolidation, and reporting, the next step is to bring the pillars of performance management: strategize, plan, measure, act to each area of the business. This enables tighter management of the core business functions, and also results in a more holistic view of the entire business and cross-departmental impacts. The challenge has been that for many years you had to build these solutions yourself from business intelligence toolsets. We have seen significant growth recently in packaged analytics applications for one area in particular - sales performance management. This is also the area most in demand from prospects so it makes sense. There are now a wide range of solutions available that focus on revenue recognition,  incentive compensation management,  forecast accuracy or some combination. We expect this segment of the market to grow and perhaps branch out to other areas of the business beyond Sales.

#5: Predictive analytics will continue to slowly gain steam

We know that predictive capabilities could add tremendous value to performance management solutions, but it still seems a little early in terms of acceptance. The prospects are still a little confused as to how it works and what the value is, while the vendors themselves offer an inconsistent range of functionality under the predictive analytics banner. The result is a missed opportunity for all. It is a sophisticated and powerful tool that involves complex mathematical algorithms which is part of the reason it is not well understood by the average prospect. Predictive analytics can lead to more accurate forecasts, or at least a better and more realistic understanding of the probability of a forecast coming to pass. What is needed is some degree of standardization - a consistent definition of what is included in this module or feature, regardless of vendor. In addition there needs to be clear messaging and education as to how it is used and what the real benefits are. This is exactly the situation that performance management itself was in about 10 years ago until a group of us (consultants/vendors/analysts) came together to address this challenge. The results were dramatic and led to the successful and mainstream performance management market we have today. This area could use the same kind of focused attention to increase the rate of adoption.

#6: Big Data will not have a major impact on Performance Management

You can't read an IT article or blog without some mention of Big Data and related analytics. There's no question that this is an important area that can provide real value to most companies. The question is, how does this relate to performance management? Most data tracked by performance management systems is financial in nature. There may be a lot of numbers but this data does not usually fit the definition of 'Big Data' - a tremendous volume of semi-structured and unstructured data from inside and outside the company that is too large for traditional databases and analysis tools. There is a role for Big Data to play though: as a leading indicator. For example analyzing social media data may indicate customer dissatisfaction that can translate into fewer renewals or reduced new sales. How this analysis makes its way into the performance management system can vary. For most, this analysis will take place in a separate system designed to handle this type of data. This will then become another source system, much like ERP or CRM systems,  for the performance management system. Alternatively some performance management vendors, particularly the newer  cloud-based vendors, can provide built-in Big Data analytics capabilities.

#7: There will begin to be a focus on execution

At this point in time most performance management solutions do a solid job of measuring performance. They allow you to define strategic objectives, put together a long-range plan to achieve those objectives, and create detailed budgets and forecasts to measure progress against.  As actual data comes in from source systems the performance management systems tracks performance and highlights significant variances. Taking action to address those variances usually takes place outside of the performance management system. There are two reasons for this. First of all, more detailed operational data is usually required to determine the appropriate course of action, and that data is contained in other systems. Secondly, other than sharing a common view of the results it is still cumbersome to have a group of people discuss what action to take from within the performance management system. As we monitor the vendor landscape we are seeing newer solutions that attempt to tackle both of these areas. These new solutions include more detailed monitoring of operational activities (down to the plant floor level), as well as tools to facilitate collaborative decision making. As these solutions mature they should be able to address the last big missing piece of performance management, and possibly the most important, helping a company successfully execute on  its strategy.

Posted January 7, 2014 10:51 AM
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As IT focuses on the cloud, mobile, and Big Data, business users are still focused on improving budgeting, forecasting, and reporting. How do these technology trends and business needs come together? What are customers in 2013 looking for from their performance management/business intelligence/business analytics vendors? How happy are they with the vendors they have? What devices and operating systems do they expect to use for mobile access to this data? This year's BPM Pulse survey attempts to get answers to all of these questions. To particpate in the survey and see the results for yourself go here. The survey will be closing mid-April and the results will be made available at that time.

Posted April 1, 2013 3:39 PM
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Of course they do, but you wouldn't know it by looking at many of the companies we meet with while they are in the process of selecting a performance management solution. A company we worked with a few months ago illustrates this point perfectly.

When we walked in the door they were far down the path with a particular vendor and they just wanted us to 'validate' their decision. In other words, did we believe their assessment was right that this vendor could meet their requirements. Well, we'd have to see those requirements first. The good news is that on the technology side they had a decent set of requirements outlining required interfaces, supported databases, desired performance/responsiveness, remote access needs, security, etc. It was a 12 page document and also included a project timeline.

On the business side, it was a paragraph someone had sent as an email. It went something like 'need to implement a system to replace Excel-based planning and reporting'. Now of course the finance team and business unit leaders involved had a lot more thoughts on what they wanted, but it was all in their heads. It was not clear that they had even discussed it with each other. There was no way this was going to end well. So, we recommended they step back for a moment and let us help them develop detailed requirements.

They put together a team of 40 key stakeholders and we interviewed all of them (some in departmental groups, others individually). The end product was a nearly 60-page document reviewing the current status of their systems, related challenges, and required functionality of the new system. While the raw interview data was maintained, the requirements were summarized by product functionality area and prioritized by frequency of request. One of the first things that became apparent was that they were looking at capabilities that went far beyond just planning and reporting.

The end result of all of this was that the vendor they were about to purchase was now obviously not a fit. Using these new detailed requirements we helped them identify several vendors that could potentially meet their needs. They went on to evaluate four of them against their specific requirements. They then scored them according to their ability to meet each requirement and went into contract discussions with the top two scoring vendors.

Without detailed business requirements you could easily select the wrong solution, as almost happened here. In addition how can you compare vendors without knowing what specific criteria you are using for the evaluation and scoring? There is also a hidden benefit to this requirements process. Those 40 people that were interviewed now feel that their voices were heard and their input was taken into account. While it is unlikely that 100% of their requests will be met by the new solution, because they were part of the process they will help support a successful rollout and accelerate user buy-in and adoption.


Posted February 26, 2013 2:32 PM
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Last year was a good one for performance management.  Vendors continued to add customer-focused enhancements, they acquired or partnered their way to broader suites, new vendors appeared with surprisingly well developed offerings, and the pace of end user adoption accelerated. Where do we go from here? Hopefully we'll see more of the same plus some growth in specific functional areas and utilization of the latest technologies. Here are my 5 predictions for performance management in 2013.

1) Focus on Forecasting

While almost every vendor that offers budgeting also offers forecasting capabilities, it is clearly not their focus. In fact it is more of an afterthought. More and more users though are looking for solutions optimized for forecasting. This means specific functionality, such as predictive analytics, as well as not having to be burdened by the overhead of menus, options, and functions better suited for budgeting. In our 2012 BPM Pulse Spotlight survey on budgeting, planning, and forecasting the most requested product capability was support for continuous forecasting. While most organizations are not actually there yet, it is clearly a direction they expect to be moving in. What really brought this home for me was a conversation I had late last year with a large telecommunications company. They informed me that they had abandoned their budgeting process four years ago because it couldn't possibly keep up with their market realities. Now all they do is forecast at a fairly summary level. They had looked at the usual performance management vendors and were struggling to find one that had a strong forecasting focus. We pointed them to two smaller vendors that might meet their needs, but the fact remains that there is room for improvement in the forecasting solutions offered by the mainstream vendors.

What we expect to see in 2013: vendors will start to flesh out their capabilities in this area and perhaps even begin to package and price this functionality separately as opposed to just bundling it in with budgeting.

2) Increased Importance of Financial Consolidation

While budgeting and performance dashboards have been at the top of most organizations must-have performance management lists for year, financial consolidation has been near the bottom. Last year many projects, even those ostensibly focused on budgeting, added some consolidation functionality to their requirements. In some cases it was driven by the need for intercompany matching and eliminations, in others it related to currency conversion and partial ownership, and for some it involved the ability to make journal entries in their performance management system. For the vendors the opportunity is large for two reasons - not having basic capabilities can cause them to be eliminated even if it is not the focus, and financial consolidation led deals tend to be larger than budgeting deals. The largest multi-million dollar project we worked on last year was primarily focused on consolidation.

 What we expect to see in 2013: at least one leading performance management vendor will introduce their first financial consolidation module, while other vendors will continue to enhance their existing capabilities in this area.

3) Expansion of Cloud-based Performance Management

Performance management has been a bit of a laggard in the acceptance of cloud-based solutions. The primary reason has been perceived security issues and the nature of the data stored in these systems. Of course any company that has been passing around spreadsheets loaded with confidential data has much bigger security issues than any hosted solution could ever have. In fact, unlike many systems and processes in use today by these companies, the leading cloud-based performance management solutions meet very stringent security standards. However, what is beginning to really turn the tide is the reality of overwhelmed IT departments. We have seen numerous organizations move to cloud-based performance management in the past year primarily because their IT groups told them they would have to get in line and wait for IT support for any new systems. The next issue to arise is that there is general confusion in the end user community when comparing true cloud-based solutions and single-tenant hosted versions of on premise solutions. In the end though, most organizations looking for cloud-based solutions have been purchasing products built from the ground up for that environment.

What we expect to see in 2013: the cloud-based vendors will see continued growth in demand, and several on-premise vendors will begin to develop their hosted offerings to more effectively compete with full cloud solutions. While we don't expect any short-term re-architecting for the cloud, we do see pricing, marketing, and branding that will enable them to be taken more seriously.

4) New Choices

Several years ago there were a sizeable number of independent performance management vendors to choose from. Then came the great wave of acquisitions and we were left with a handful of mega vendors and a much smaller number of performance management focused application vendors. I personally thought it was going to stay that way because the barriers to entry seemed so high (how could a new vendor compete with the marketing clout of the big guys and the established track records of the remaining independent players). Apparently, I was wrong. Several impressive new performance management vendors have emerged  in the past year or two. They are run by management teams made up of people that came from many of those companies that got acquired several years ago, so they clearly know what they are doing. Some solutions are simply incremental improvements upon what has come before, while others are truly innovative. Either way, more choice is always a good thing for end users. It also helps to keep the other vendors on their toes and constantly moving forward.

What expect to see in 2013: more new vendors! The year is young and we have already met with two vendors new to the performance management market. They continue the pattern of having seasoned management teams with deep experience in the space. One is somewhat innovative, the other is a new and improved version of a unified performance management solution. Both should be solid options for organizations looking for solutions this year. We will share more details as we spend more time with these vendors.

5) More Due Diligence

While performance management is no longer the Wild West of its early days when unsubstantiated marketing claims were flying all over the place and buyers had limited relevant knowledge and experience, it is still a challenge to get it right. By getting it right I mean: getting the best solution, at the best price, in a timely manner, with end user buy-in and a successful roll-out. While there are still many organizations that go off on their own, do some web research, and buy a product based on a canned demo, there are many more that are doing it the right way. They put together a team of internal stakeholders, prepare a long-range roadmap, gather detailed requirements, look at multiple vendors that could potentially fit, put them through scripted in-depth custom evaluations, score them against their ability to met the prioritized and weighted requirements list, and aggressively negotiate the price with the finalists. Since BPM Partners provides tools and expertise to guide companies through this process we get to see this first-hand. In 2012 we worked with more organizations than in any year in our history.

What we expect to see in 2013: the continuation of this trend. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is the abundance of viable options to evaluate and choose from. Another is the fact that companies that have waited until now to move forward with performance management tend to be more risk-averse. In addition, list prices are higher than ever and finding a more cost-effective solution or knowing where and how far to push in price negotiation is critical.

Those are our thoughts. Now share yours: take the BPM Pulse 2013.

Posted January 28, 2013 2:38 PM
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