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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

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