BI And Planning: Integrate It Or Suffer Forever

Carsten Bange

The need for integrating BI and planning on one common software and data platform has been one of the most stable and relevant trends in the market. Many companies and users know that there is no reporting without plan data and no planning without supporting functionality for reporting, data analysis, and predictive analytics. Organizations benefit largely from an integrated approach to BI and planning.

An integrated database for actuals and plan data, represented in a consistent data model, forms the solid basis for integrated software solutions for BI and planning. This technical feature leads to business benefits: Time-consuming and error-prone data transfer processes between software systems can be avoided and centrally harmonized master data provides a single, common data basis for BI and planning, as well as other performance-management processes such as risk management and financial consolidation. The consistent data model also allows for flexible modeling of enterprise and departmental data views supplemented by flexible time horizons for short-term operational, mid-term tactical, and long-term strategic considerations. The effects are higher agility and flexibility, lower cost, and overall better data and decision quality.

BARC’s market research regularly shows that companies using integrated software platforms for BI and planning experience far fewer problems than companies that address BI and planning separately with different software tools. As BARC’s “Planning Survey 14,” with its over 350 respondents, has unequivocally shown, serious problems like “insufficient data quality,” “software systems insufficiently comply with requirements,” and “simulation and scenarios not displayable in software tool” are more likely to occur when using separate software tools for BI and planning instead of one integrated product. In contrast, 17% of companies using professional, integrated software platforms for BI and planning report they have no significant problems, compared to only five percent using separate tools.

integrated versus separated software tools

Biggest problems in the planning process, differentiated by usage of an integrated platform for BI and planning vs. using separate software tools. Source: BARC The Planning Survey 14, n=358.

Software solutions must address several requirements to optimally support the complete performance-management process. They have to support the whole management cycle (planning, monitoring, reporting, and advanced analysis), provide one single integrated technical platform based on a consistent data basis, and offer seamless integration of BI and planning functionality.

If products are not evaluated thoroughly against these requirements, major problems could arise down the line when using the solution. This could be a lack of speed and agility due to latency between creation and analysis of data, or the need to integrate actuals and plan data before being able to carry out planning, reporting, and data analysis tasks. Another problem might be data quality problems, foremost inconsistencies when trying to connect data and data structures for actuals and plan data held in different databases and applications.

Furthermore, different user interfaces and user experiences for BI and planning can lead to a loss in productivity and user satisfaction as well as additional effort on training and supporting users. Poor integration and functionality could not only require additional effort to manage data transfer processes between BI and planning environments, but also increase IT costs from running several software systems and server environments; maintaining security; dealing with user problems; managing update processes; and so on. And companies could also end up paying additional licensing costs for different BI and planning environments. So, whatever integration plans you may have, don’t forget to clarify your requirements first.

In a nutshell, taking an integrated approach to BI and planning is an important piece of an overall framework of supporting decisions in enterprises. Organizations benefit largely from an integrated approach to all decision support tasks, including company strategy as well as operational processes. We will present such a decision support framework in a subsequent blog post.

Learn more about the benefits of an integrated approach to BI and planning. Download the BARC Research white paper “The Benefits of an Integrated Approach to Business Intelligence and Planning,” detailing findings from its recent study. 


Carsten Bange

About Carsten Bange

Dr. Carsten Bange is founder and managing director of the Business Application Research Center (BARC), an IT market analysis and consulting group he founded in 1999 and later merged with Le CXP and PAC to form CXP Group, the largest European IT analyst group. Carsten holds a PhD in management information systems, is a frequent speaker at IT conferences and seminars and has served as an analyst and management consultant on business intelligence, data management and digitalization strategy, organization, architecture and technology selection for over 20 years. He can be reached at cbange@barc-research.com.