BI, CPM and budgeting survey 2014

Our annual survey of the leading business intelligence and corporate performance management systems.

Business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) have been around for years – long enough for plenty of systems to come on the market. Nevertheless, people are still confused about what the terms actually mean.

BI is defined as transforming data into information to make decisions. It might include online analytical processing (OLAP), dashboards, scorecards, visualization (graphical representation), ad hoc query, a report writer and predictive modeling. CPM includes consolidation, budgeting and forecasting, financial reporting and strategy management. CPM often includes reporting tools that would overlap with BI.

Here, you'll find a survey of many of the leading BI and CPM systems, as well as an overview of current trends, and a synopsis of what two vendors had to say about their product and costs.

Survey

Our attached vendor list contains hundreds of questions about target customers, cost and features. The results are available in pdf form by clicking on the survey chart below. You can also complete an online survey about your requirements, then view the 10 best systems for your needs based on percentage fit calculations, at http://www.180systems.com/tools/systems-analysis-tool/cpm/. As with all our surveys, we were unable to validate the information supplied to us by the vendors. However, we don't think there will be that many intentional mistakes, partly because the vendors will lose credibility if they are caught making false claims.

CPA Magazine 2014 Business Intelligence and Corporate Performance Management Survey Chart

Trends

Today we are almost drowning in information, but BI vendors offer many ways to stay afloat.

First and foremost is a dashboard that contains just the information needed for a particular role in an organization. Ideally, the dashboard can be easily configured without requiring programming assistance. It should be real-time, which can be a challenge for some organizations with lots of data.

  • Many BI vendors offer what is called in-memory technology so that data can be crunched a lot more quickly. Another way to speed things up is with solid-state drives (SSD), which are much faster than hard-disk drives (HDD) but also a lot more expensive.
  • The dashboard should also be connected to the underlying data so that you can drill down to the transactions. This is a challenge for BI that is not embedded in an application such as an ERP system. Another way to manage the information is to make it easy to access. So we have self-serve tools that not only allow nontechnical people to create reports and analyze information but also to gain access to the data no matter where it is stored.
  • BI should make it possible to create an unstructured interface, where a user can easily modify the information — for example, by using drag and drop to change a dimension or clicking to get a graphical view and clicking again to drill down for details.
  • Big data is still a big trend — at least according to many pundits and vendors. We have read that 90% of the world's data was created in the past two years. But whether that data comes from hundreds of thousands of health records, clicks on websites or comments on social networks like Facebook, the challenge is to use it to make better decisions. And the trick is to uncover correlations that can help predict what will happen in the future. But this can be a daunting task that may require data scientists. It can also consume big amounts of time when a more common-sense and intuitive approach might be more helpful. The best approach is a blend of BI and human insight whereby you use your own opinion but not your own facts.
  • Another continuing trend is mobile BI. The idea is that BI is at your fingertips on an iPad or on a cellphone anywhere and anytime. Mobile BI would be useful for staff members who are not stuck in the office — who might need to get the latest information on their client or prospect in a taxi en route to a meeting or might want to show off the latest results over a meal with a client. Mobile BI will also appeal especially to the millennium generation also known as Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000). This generation is very connected and adept with their cellphones. Just watch how fast they can enter or find information.
  • Last but not least is cloud computing. Just about every vendor has now jumped on the cloud in one way or another. Some offer a public version where multiple customers share the same cloud, while others offer a private version.

Thoughts from vendors

We asked two very different vendors (IBM and TGO re True Sky) for their thoughts on trends, unique features and costs. IBM is one of the leading BI and CPM vendors worldwide and TGO is relatively small and a new vendor in this space. Would these very different firms have similar perspectives on BI and CPM?

TGO got into the BI/CPM game because it has a long history of implementing and customizing ERP systems, and found most of its clients required BI and CPM as well. It tried selecting and implementing a number of systems for its clients but got frustrated when the products were no longer supported. So it took the bold step of creating its own CPM system, which now includes planning, budgeting and forecasting. Its guiding principle was to create a product with an Excel front-end (user interface) that could be used by the finance department without IT involvement.

TGO believes organizations should not go through the budgeting and forecasting exercise once a year. Therefore, its True Sky product offers rolling forecasts and "what-if" scenarios, and allows more individuals to be involved in the budgeting process. TGO said the average licence cost per user is $1,500 (with about 100 users on average and that services would be from 0.5 to 1.5 times the cost of licence, depending on the scope of work.

IBM said its premise in its multiple BI and CPM systems, collectively known as Business Analytics, is to provide a spectrum of solutions that will allow the finance department to respond to today's heightened volatility, uncertainty and risk. The idea is that with the right tools, finance can play a bigger role in enterprise decision making. IBM believes it has unique features that allow clients to address three significant trends: big data, the cloud and social/mobile users. It thinks that big data extends beyond an ERP system to other systems such as CRM. It also extends outside the organization to include, for example, econometric and social media data. IBM has tools that allow clients to access and analyze the big data. As for social/mobile users, IBM's take is that users don't just need to read data from mobile devices. They also need to be able to enter data to update forecasts and perform other tasks. That's why their tools offer that possibility. Other notable IBM features include workflow for submissions and approvals as well as social collaboration tools. For a 25-user on-premise deployment, the average cost for licences and implementation services would be approximately US$75,000, according to IBM.

A rosy future for BI?

IBM and TGO showed some similarity in their target markets — namely, the finance department — and in their efforts to make the tools easier to use. They both indicated an underlying effort to give the finance department a more proactive and strategic role in decision-making.

There might be some lingering confusion about the meaning of BI and CPM. But using spreadsheets, as many organizations still do, brings its own set of problems. There are many good systems out there. Good hunting.