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Financial Consolidation, Close, and Reporting: Challenges and Priorities

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

Most performance management research studies have tended to focus primarily on budgeting and financial planning, usually targeting the FP&A team for responses. This is beginning to change though as several vendors with a primary focus on financial consolidation have commissioned their own research to better understand the challenges and needs of the Controller’s department.

Let’s take a look at highlights from two of these recent vendor surveys, as well as our own BPM Pulse, to better understand what the challenges and priorities are when it comes to Financial Consolidation, Close, and Reporting.

Talentia Consolidation and Financial/Management Reporting Survey Results

Here are a set of facts from the Talentia survey that clearly tell the story:

55.5% say that the team frequently works extra hours to deliver monthly, quarterly, and annual reports

70.1% say that the internal cost to meet financial and management reporting requirements has increased over the past 3 years

50.4% still use Excel for financial consolidation and reporting

 (Source: Talentia)

The economic volatility of the past few years has made it necessary to update data and reports more frequently, respond more quickly to ad hoc information requests, and generally operate with greater agility. This of course has required the already overburdened reporting team to put in more hours to get the job done, which in turn has increased the internal costs. The fact that half of the organizations are relying on Excel and a labor-intensive manual process does little to address this challenge and may in fact be the primary cause of the time demands on the team which in turn generates additional cost.

Fluence Survey on the State of Financial Consolidation, Close and Reporting Among Mid-Market Firms

In the same vein here are some data points from the Fluence survey:

55% said consolidating financial data is more time-consuming and difficult than it needs to be 

72% of those surveyed are still suffering through manual processes to some degree 

69% of those surveyed said the post-COVID hybrid work environment has caused them to re-evaluate their financial consolidation and reporting process

 (Source: Fluence)

Respondents to the Fluence survey expressed similar concerns to those raised in the Talentia survey. They also highlighted the fact that the evolving approach to the office/home work model was an opportunity to revisit the entire process. 

BPM Partners 2022 BPM Pulse Survey

From the vendor survey results it is clear that change is needed, and would be welcomed by the participants in this process.  The BPM Pulse survey can help us understand what that change might look like.

Question: Where Should Financial Consolidation Take Place?

(Source: 2022 BPM Pulse)

The data shows that the majority believe financial consolidation (and by extension close/disclosure management and financial reporting) should be included as part of a performance management system alongside financial and operational planning. This makes a lot of sense since having the processing of the actuals in the same system that is already home to the planning data will make actual vs. plan performance reporting more seamless and less error-prone.

Question: What is Important in a Financial Consolidation Solution (5= Most Important)?

(Source: 2022 BPM Pulse)

Those that still believe their ERP or ledger is the best pace for consolidation should look at the top results for this question where  respondents rated the importance of various aspects of a financial consolidation solution (on a 1 to 5 scale). The top 2 responses in particular are not traits you would usually associate with ERP systems. Elsewhere in the Pulse survey more than half of respondents said they have more than one ERP/GL system. Consolidating data from multiple source systems is a core feature of performance management consolidation systems and not something easily accomplished in any one  ERP system.

Conclusions

Financial consolidation and reporting is an important area that companies recognize needs to be improved upon, is taking longer and costing more than it should, and is probably leading to both reporting errors and employee burnout. There is a solution, and it is not a standalone spreadsheet nor an ERP system. We believe that a modern, cloud-based performance management system that unites budgeting, planning, and forecasting with financial consolidation and reporting is the best choice to address the challenges highlighted by these recent surveys.

Source Material:

Talentia – Controllers; Consolidation and Financial/Management Reporting Survey Results

Fluence – Survey on the State of Financial Consolidation, Close and Reporting Among Mid-Market Firms

BPM Partners – 2022 BPM Pulse Research Study

Further Reading:

BPM Partners Financial Consolidation and Reporting Buyers Guide

The Top Rated Budgeting, Planning, Consolidation and Reporting Solutions for 2022

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

Now in its nineteenth year, BPM Partners’ BPM Pulse is the longest running survey of trends and customer satisfaction relating to budgeting, financial and operational planning, modeling, forecasting, consolidation, reporting and analytics, and performance dashboards (collectively referred to as performance management, EPM, CPM, BPM, xP&A or FP&A solutions). Over the years thousands of companies have relied on these ratings as part of their vendor selection evaluation criteria, ultimately impacting purchase decisions for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of performance management solutions.

Now it’s time to acknowledge the top tier of vendors that earned the highest overall satisfaction ratings from their customers in 2022. You can learn more about them including their actual numeric rating, industry success, current offering information, latest news, analyst reviews, articles, blogs,  and current job openings by clicking on their name which will take you to their PerformancePlace page on this site.

 

These vendors received an Overall rating from their customers of 4.75 or above, out of 5.

The list is organized by target market and is in alphabetical order.

 

Target Market: Enterprise

Board International

JustPerform

Wolters Kluwer CCH Tagetik

Target Market: Midmarket/Large

deFacto Global

Fluence Technologies

XLerant

 

These vendors received an Overall rating from their customers in the range of 4.50 to 4.74, out of 5.

The list is organized by target market and is in alphabetical order.

 

Target Market: Enterprise

Acterys

Anaplan

OneStream Software

Syntellis Performance Solutions

Target Market: Midmarket/Large

IBM

Place

Prophix

Vena

Bonus: Top Rated Vendors (4.50 – 5.00) by Functionality:

PerformancePlace Filter: Top Rated for Budgeting and Financial Planning

PerformancePlace Filter: Top Rated for Operational Planning

PerformancePlace Filter: Top Rated for Consolidation

PerformancePlace Filter: Top Rated for Reporting

You can add additional filters to sort these Top Rated vendors by target market, price range, and more.

For each vendor’s complete chart of 15 detailed BPM Pulse ratings, plus Recommendation Rate, read the 2022 Vendor Landscape Matrix report, or request free Vendor Snapshots.

Focused Acquisitions for Fluence and Syntellis

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

While big acquisitions get all the attention, sometimes it’s the focused ones that add the most value for customers and prospects. This type of acquisition allows a vendor to further build on a unique strength, or close a gap in their offering. As a plus they usually come with minimal product overlap and business disruption. Two recently announced acquisitions exemplify this approach.

Fluence Technologies Acquires Sturnis365

Fluence Technologies has announced their acquisition of Sturnis365. Fluence is a fast growing leader in financial consolidation and reporting. They started with a robust consolidation and close product built by the same architects behind many of the well-known names in consolidation software.  Fluence then developed their own account reconciliation solution, acquired XLCubed last year for enhanced financial reporting capabilities, and now with Sturnis365 have added collaborative disclosure management and narrative reporting to the mix. In just a few short years, thanks to targeted acquisitions coupled with strategic in-house development, the breadth of their offering in this key area of performance management now equals or exceeds that of their competitors. Learn more about Fluence here.

Syntellis Performance Solutions Acquires Stratasan

With their just announced Stratasan acquisition, Syntellis Performance Solutions is building on a key differentiator – industry specific data analytics. Syntellis, through its Axiom Software suite, offers rich budgeting, planning, and reporting functionality coupled with extensive content for the banking, healthcare, and higher education markets. While other vendors have recently started to adopt a verticalized approach to the performance management market, Syntellis is way ahead of them when it comes to targeted data and analytics. Two years ago (while part of Kaufman Hall) they acquired Change Healthcare’s Connected Analytics which provides a range of data solutions for healthcare organizations and a set of tools that can be expanded to other industries. Syntellis has also delivered their own Syntellis IQ solution which is essentially a data science engine that collects market data from financial and operational source systems across more than 1,000 sites and applies AI/machine learning to deliver predictive and prescriptive insights to customers.  Stratasan focuses on strategic planners in healthcare organizations and delivers market intelligence coupled with advanced analytics to enable hospitals to understand where they fit in their marketplace and identify opportunities to better serve their patients and profitably grow their business. This latest acquisition further extends Syntellis’ lead in healthcare planning coupled with data and analytics capabilities. Learn more about Syntellis here.

Vendor Selection Advisory Services for FP&A Groups and Controllers

As the performance management vendor landscape continues to rapidly evolve with acquisitions, new entrants, and product line extensions it is more important than ever to leverage an expert when selecting your own budgeting, planning, consolidation, reporting and analytics solutions.  Learn about our offerings here.

Fluence Technologies Acquires XLCubed

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

It’s another exciting week in the performance management world. The space itself is hot, but the financial consolidation segment is on fire.

Fluence, a top-rated North American consolidation and close vendor for the midmarket, has announced the acquisition of European-based XLCubed, a specialist in financial reporting and analysis leveraging Excel. As one of the newer vendors in the consolidation market, but already a key player, Fluence was looking to accelerate its development roadmap and increase its global footprint. This acquisition helps them achieve both goals.

Details

Fluence gains many new customers, an office in the U.K., and an Excel-centric enterprise class financial reporting, analysis, and dashboard solution designed for Finance self-sufficiency, to complement its Excel-centric consolidation and close solution. XLCubed offers many leading edge capabilities that companies are either looking for today, or will be looking for shortly, such as IBCS compliant reporting templates and models, web-based instant and interactive report distribution to any user on any device, governed real-time access to multiple data sources in addition to Fluence including SAP HANA, Oracle Essbase, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM TM1, and  Microsoft Power BI. The combined products will deliver a comprehensive and unified Finance-owned consolidation, close and reporting solution for the midmarket and upper midmarket.

Our Assessment

This combination is a no-brainer. What’s consolidation without comprehensive financial reporting, and vice versa?

Fluence and its customers:

  • Fluence picks up a European office, expert staff, a global partner network, and over 700 additional customers
  • Fluence should be able to sell their consolidation solution to a sizeable number of those new customers
  • Fluence now is also able to offer a standalone solution for financial, management, and operational reporting that can lead to consolidation and close sales down the road
  • Existing Fluence customers gain dramatically enhanced reporting capabilities at least 18 months ahead of schedule (if Fluence had developed it themselves)

XLCubed and its customers:

  • XLCubed joins a rapidly growing organization that offers a complementary solution, and the combined companies can reach a greater market than either could alone
  • XLCubed customers will continue to see their products enhanced
  • XLCubed customers gain access to a feature rich Excel-centric consolidation solution to complement their Excel-centric financial reporting product

Midmarket/Upper Midmarket Buyers of Performance Management solutions:

  • By broadening its product set and global presence, along with an increased customer count, Fluence becomes an even more formidable competitor

This is where we usually talk about downsides, but there are no obvious ones. There is minimal product overlap. The common Excel-centric approach will make integration easier.  The industry veterans at the helm of Fluence have been involved in many mergers and acquisitions over the years so I have every confidence that they will avoid most of the typical merger pitfalls. We believe this is a good combination for all concerned.

We know its difficult to stay on top of everything that is happening in performance management. It’s important though, to make sure you have the most current information as you embark on your next project. We can help. If you would like to discuss midmarket planning and consolidation solutions, or anything else performance management related, you can reach us here.

Further Reading: Prophix Acquires Sigma Conso, Two New and Noteworthy Vendors, 10 Key Requirements for Next Level Financial Consolidation, Leveraging Financial Consolidation to Manage Through Uncertainty

The Best Midmarket Budgeting and Planning Solutions for 2020

Top Rated Midmarket Vendors

 

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

The midmarket has historically been underserved when it comes to having a wide range of top-rated and robust options for budgeting, planning, and reporting (also known as performance management: BPM, CPM, or EPM). Midmarket Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) managers have struggled to find an Excel replacement that is easy to use, cost-effective, yet comprehensive in terms of its functionality. That is no longer the case. Today there are many good solutions available that target this market segment. Existing midmarket vendors have enhanced their offerings with new capabilities, while at the same time making them easier to use.  Other vendors who had previously only focused on larger companies have now made their full-featured solutions available to this market as well. Lastly, new vendors (either brand new or new to the North American market) have also been added to the mix. If you are a midmarket organization (US$ 50 million to US$ 1 billion) and are looking for a budgeting, forecasting, planning, reporting, or financial consolidation system you now have a large number of viable options to choose from.

The following list is based on three key criteria:

  • Vendors offering products that are designed and priced for midmarket companies
  • Vendors receiving top “overall satisfaction” marks from their customers (4.5 or higher out of 5 in our 2020 BPM Pulse Research Study)
  • Validation in BPM Partners’ field work with hundreds of FP&A departments selecting and successfully deploying budgeting, planning, and reporting solutions from these vendors

Top-Rated Midmarket Budgeting, Planning, and Reporting Solutions for 2020:

Note: Clicking on each vendor’s name will take you to their PerformancePlace page which will display their overall BPM Pulse rating, latest developments, resources, analyst reviews, and even job openings.

In alphabetical order:

deFacto Global – a Microsoft-based FP&A solution that handles complexity, leverages AI, and integrates business intelligence for additional capabilities

Jedox – complete FP&A focused offering with an Excel UI, coupled with business intelligence and an extensible platform and library of supplemental applications

Planful – robust planning solution with powerful modeling and consolidation capabilities and a dynamic interface tailored to user role

Prophix – comprehensive financial and operational planning solution that selectively leverages AI, with low TCO

Vena Solutions – pairs Excel with a full FP&A solution that turns the spreadsheet into a secure, centrally -controlled, and extensible platform linked to a visual workflow engine

XLerant – easy to use budgeting and planning solution with a unique wizard-driven interface and low TCO

Bonus Top-Rated Vendors:

Although these vendors don’t focus primarily on the midmarket, they have been successful in this segment by offering additional capabilities.

CCH Tagetik – for more complex needs this budgeting, planning, and consolidation solution is highly-scalable and supports global regulatory requirements

Syntellis Performance Solutions – this vendor focuses exclusively on budgeting, planning, and reporting for healthcare, higher education, and financial institutions and provides value added content and data

If you would like to learn more about any of these vendors, or find out why some well-known names are missing, speak with one of our experts. For detailed BPM Pulse vendor ratings (overall plus 15 attributes)  read the 2020 Vendor Landscape Matrix report, or request free Vendor Snapshots.

Findings from the 2019 BPM Pulse Survey

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

While most people focus on the individual vendor customer satisfaction ratings that are part of our annual BPM Pulse survey, they tend to gloss over the other useful information that makes up the bulk of the survey. Let’s highlight some of those key findings that would otherwise be overlooked.

The Three Main Reasons Products are Selected Over Alternatives

When asked why they purchased the performance management vendor they did, one answer rose to the top, regardless of which vendor they actually selected: Product Flexibility. This of course assumes that the product also met their business requirements. All other things being equal  though flexibility was a key selection criteria. In second and third place respectively were Ease of Use and Scalability/Complexity Handling. If a product is flexible, easy to use, and can handle large, complex problems it should come out on top more often than not. The problem is some easy to use products are not very flexible, nor can they handle big challenges. On the other hand, some very flexible products that can handle anything thrown their way are not as easy to use as they should be.

Dashboards Are Not Meeting Expectations

Survey respondents were asked to rate their own vendor’s functionality in several areas: budgeting, reporting, consolidation, analytics, and dashboards. One clear trend emerged – regardless of the vendor, dashboards received comparatively low ratings across the board. Why is that? The survey data didn’t provide much additional insight, but we know from our field work what the general complaints have been. Customers are looking for more interactive dashboard solutions (as opposed to the static Executive Information Systems of days gone by). They want to be able to drill down as many levels as it takes to understand why a particular metric fell short of the target. They want to be able to insert commentary to explain variances. They want the dashboards to be even more visual and intuitive. Based on the survey results there is clearly work to be done here.

Performance Management Solutions are Sticky

When asked how much longer they were planning to keep their current performance management solution 80% of respondents said they had no plans to change. This is consistent with another question which asked ‘what is the useful life of a performance management solution?’ and a third of respondents said 9 years or more (and another third said 6-8 years).  A couple of takeaways a) these systems must be doing something right to have so few purchasers expecting to change any time soon (or it is so painful to change that  it may just be easier to stick with a sub-optimal solution), and b) you better make sure you get the right solution because whether it is for good reasons or bad, you will be living with it for years to come.

Want to see more results? Get your own copy of the 80-page 2019 BPM Pulse Survey Results whitepaper.

Top Rated Performance Management Vendors 2019

Craig Schiff , President and CEO, BPM Partners

Overview

We have been running the BPM Pulse survey for 16 years now. What I find most amazing is the consistency of results from year to year. When we ask questions such as ‘which components of performance management are you focused on?’, the number one answer year in year out has been ‘budgeting’. Similarly, questions about the key drivers of the initiative always end up with ‘improve management reporting’ somewhere near the top. There are of course questions that have seen dramatic changes in responses over the years such as ‘would you consider a cloud-based performance management system?’. The ‘no’ answers have virtually disappeared.

Vendor Ratings

While the survey contains many questions about performance management itself, the section where customers rate their vendors garners the most attention. It too has been largely consistent over the years. Highly rated vendors tend to remain highly rated vendors, mid-rated vendors tend to stay mid-rated, and low-rated vendors mostly continue to be low-rated, although some have moved up into the mid-rated category (perhaps after taking corrective action upon seeing their lower ratings). To make things interesting this year we have added some new rating categories. What used to be just a single rating for ‘product functionality’ has been broken into five ratings: ‘budgeting functionality’, ‘consolidation functionality’, ‘reporting functionality’, ‘dashboard functionality’, and ‘analytics functionality’. We are already seeing meaningful results. Even the most highly-rated vendors are not getting high marks across the board. This new level of detail will enable buyers to select vendors based specifically on the satisfaction ratings in the areas most important to their business requirements. In addition, we have been surprised by the fact that in one of these functional areas none of the vendors received high scores.

Top Rated vendors received a customer rating of 4.5 or better out of 5.0 in the category listed.

Top Rated Vendors for 2019 in Key Categories

Overall: XLerant, OneStream, Vena, Jedox, Longview, Host Analytics, Prophix

Budgeting/Planning Functionality: XLerant, Vena, Jedox, Adaptive Insights, Centage, IBM, Prophix, OneStream

Financial Consolidation Functionality: OneStream, Vena, CCH Tagetik, Host Analytics, BOARD, Axiom Software, Jedox, Prophix

Ease of Use: XLerant, OneStream, Vena, Jedox, CCH Tagetik

Finance Self-Sufficiency: Vena, Host Analytics, OneStream, XLerant

To see additional customer ratings for these vendors and others watch the on demand Pulse 2019 webcast, read the 2019 Vendor Landscape Matrix report, or request free Vendor Snapshots.