Gartner, the leading research firm in the technology industry, has published its annual Market Guide to corporate planning applications – management software designed to link the financial and operational aspects of commercial performance. Planning is only part of the capability we offer at Metapraxis, but it is a very important part, and we’re pleased to be reviewed in Gartner’s guide for the second year running.
Quite apart from the very favourable coverage of our technology, the report was interesting for its insights on what buyers of this type of technology are looking for. The report’s authors highlight several key trends that we have been noticing for some time in our conversations with clients and prospects.
Chief amongst these was the observation that many more CFOs and other users of performance management software are looking to increase the level of detail in their business analysis. This is something we have observed for some time in our own work. Being able to switch between a top-level, strategic view and specific key details, is crucial to understanding the links between operational and financial performance. As Gartner’s Guide points out, this is a relatively rare capability, and something very few technology providers can offer.
Another interesting point was the reported increase in CFOs using applications for planning and forecasting. As these are core capabilities of the majority of planning applications (and a very basic capability of Metapraxis’ Empower) this suggests that few CFOs are even using the full capabilities of the technology they already have, let alone of the technology on the market. Automating planning and forecasting are very much the low-hanging fruit of efficiency gains. With the technology available, there is very little excuse for a team that cannot remove tedious and repetitive manual input from the process of creating a financial plan.
But plans, as has been noted, seldom survive contact with the enemy. Indeed, the ability to plan for what may happen, as opposed to what we hope will happen, should also be high on the list of capabilities for a modern finance team. In times of uneconomic uncertainty, the ability to model the impact of potential changes in market and economic conditions is highly desirable, if not actually essential.
That is where another development noted by Gartner, that of in-memory computing, gains its relevance. The maths representing a detailed financial plan for a complex organisation can require considerable computing power to handle. It takes even more to flex the internal and external inputs of that plan, to describe potential scenarios and produce a revised set of outputs. In-memory computing makes it possible to do that on a near-instant basis. In fact, it can be done during meetings, so business leaders can use the plan as a direct, objective test of the ideas under discussion.
Gartner’s latest look at this sector confirms that finance leaders have only just begun to exploit the technology available to them – and that doing so will dramatically increase the strategic value of the finance team.