Evaluating Collaborative Enterprise Planning Solutions

Michael Coveney

Part 9 in the 10-part “Collaborative Enterprise Planning” series

There are many planning systems available today, each promoting the need for collaboration. However, it’s easy to be misled by a slick demonstration or flashy marketing that causes misunderstanding about what the proposed system can and cannot do.

Evaluations need to be carefully planned, and predicated on stakeholder agreement about which elements are essential and which are “nice to have.” Here’s a summary that you can use as a baseline for developing a detailed list for your vendor and product evaluation.

Evaluation areas

Platform – Does the vendor offer a platform that supports multiple data models that can share both data and metadata? Can these be presented to users via collaborative workflow capabilities that support strategic and operational planning as well as forecasting, reporting, and analysis? Is the platform automatically connected to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution to integrate with real-time information?

Data model How are dimensions and dimension members managed? Can structures be imported from a master metadata capability? Can a data model be easily set up that interacts with other data models? How does the data flow between them?

Functionality Do the models support driver-based planning, and do they allow users to override any value generated? What statistical data-generation capabilities are provided, and do they include trending and correlation? Is machine learning embedded in the solution to provide augmented analysis?

Workflow – How are users led and directed through the various management processes? Are these dynamic – can individual processes be triggered by exceptions? How can those in charge of the whole process see where users are in the different management processes?

Reporting capability What types of reports does the system support? Does this include scorecards, dashboards, and strategy maps? What’s involved in defining a new report and giving users access to it? Can reports be grouped into “books,” allowing a range of reports to be produced and distributed at the same time? Does the solution come with embedded business intelligence and visualization tools, or is that a separate purchase?

End-user analysis What types of analyses can users generate for their own use? What types of charts are supported? Can these be shared with other users?

Security – How are users defined to the system in reference to their roles and the data they can see? What controls are in place that prevents unauthorized access?

Audit capabilities Can changes to data and structures be tracked? How do users know if the data submitted for a particular process is complete and has been locked against further changes?

Maintainability – What’s involved in adding new variables and reorganizing departments? What else has to change for the system to continue operating?

Collaboration – What capabilities exist for sharing comments among users and attaching notes to particular data items?

Exception alerting – How does the system alert users when an exception has occurred? Are there escalation capabilities if the user ignores the exception?

End-user devices – What types of device are supported – tablet, smartphone, disconnected PC? Can users access the system, security permitting, from any device and any location at any time?

Vendor ability What other organizations will potentially use the system, and does the vendor have the capacity to support additional functions?

The next blog concludes this series with a look at what the future holds for using technology to plan and manage performance.

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Michael Coveney

About Michael Coveney

Michael Coveney spent more than 40 years in the software analytic business with a focus on transforming the planning, budgeting, forecasting, and reporting processes. He has considerable experience in the design and implementation of business analytic systems with major organizations throughout the world. He is a gifted conference speaker and author. His latest book "Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning In Uncertain Times" is published by J Wiley. His articles have also appeared on www.fpa-trends.com, encouraging innovation in FP&A departments.