Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Predictive Analytics: Examples, Advice and Shortcuts


Everyone is throwing around the term “analytics” – about as much as they’re throwing around the term “big data.” While I might put big data on my list of the Most Overused Phrases, analytics gets a pass. As companies realize the amount of insight and value they can glean from their ever growing volumes of data, there has been a surge in analytics initiatives. The goal of these projects is to use data to analyze trends, the effects of decisions, and the impact of scenarios to make improvements that will positively impact the company’s bottom line, improve processes, and help the business plan for the future.

In order for analytics to remain relevant and always provide value, organizations must continually up their game. One way to do this is with predictive analytics, which is becoming more mainstream every day. If you stick around to the end of the article, I’ll tell you a simple way to bypass its complexity and still get the predictions you need.

Gettin’ Predictive With It
Ventana-predictivePredictive analytics involves making predictions about the future or setting potential courses of action by analyzing past data. A 2012 benchmark study by Ventana Research revealed that predictive analytics is currently used to address a variety of business needs, including forecasting, marketing, customer service, product offers and even fraud detection. While predictive analytics used to be in play in only a small number of companies, two-thirds of companies participating in Ventana’s survey are using it, and among those, two-thirds are satisfied or very satisfied. These results indicate the maturity that predictive analytics has undergone over the last few years, as technology has advanced to make it less expensive and more approachable, and therefore easier for more areas of the business to make use of. At this point, it’s safe to say that most Fortune 500 companies are churning out predictive insights on a regular basis, but that doesn’t mean smaller companies without “big data” can’t do the same thing. They can supplement their internal data with external data from social media, government agencies, and other sources of public data to get the insights they need.

In Practice
Let’s take a look at finance institutions, which have predictive analytics down to a science….

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CFO Magazine CPM Conference Recap


CFO CPMThe challenges facing today’s finance leaders

I returned from CFO Magazine’s Corporate Performance Management Conference last week with a sense that many finance leaders are experiencing similar problems when it comes to achieving a holistic view of company performance. I like to reflect on the common themes after a conference, and after this one, I kept coming back to the theme of “one shared challenge.” As a vendor who exhibits at several conferences per year, we’re used to hearing about a multitude of BI/analysis/data issues, but at this event, everyone seemed to be on the same page.

arcplan sponsored the CPM Conference, held around the corner from our US headquarters at the Loews Philadelphia. It brought together 150 CFOs, VPs of Finance, Directors of FP&A, Controllers, and Analysts for three days of workshops, case studies and networking. We had plenty of time to speak with attendees, and it was remarkable how many times I heard the same challenge:

I can’t connect all of my data on one screen.

I talked to many people using IBM Cognos, SAP, Oracle, and other systems simultaneously with no method to make them all work together. The inability to easily share critical business insight across the organization was a hot topic during every networking break. Again and again I was asked how arcplan could solve the issue of everyone spending their time of the process of monthly data gathering and not on the analysis…

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How to Perform Perfect Planning


4elementsToday, arcplan put out a press release about the 4 elements of a perfect planning process – and no, it’s not fire, earth, air, and water. You may have just emerged from your budgeting and planning season wondering if there’s a better way to go about it next time, if you can make it easier and more repeatable, or if you can help add value to the process. If so, read on. This press release covers how and why automation, linkage to corporate goals, rolling forecasts, and analytics are the keys to perfect planning.

The 4 Elements of a Perfect Planning Process

Planning can be the most dreaded activity or the most lauded, depending on how effectively the finance team manages it. But it is undoubtedly one of the most important exercises a company undergoes, as it lays out the future finance situation, which in turn should drive efficiency, improve performance, and unite everyone behind a common vision of success. As more companies around the globe deploy arcplan for budgeting, planning and forecasting, this international solution provider has compiled a list of best practices its customers follow to ensure planning perfection.

1) Automation
For many companies large and small, the planning process begins in Excel and involves a lot of manual data consolidation and time spent reconciling multiple versions of spreadsheets. This error-prone process is an incredible waste of time; planning in this way is inefficient and detracts from time that should be spent analyzing plans and working towards company goals. Automation is a better approach to aggregating plan data and has positive effects like improved consistency and time savings. A solution like arcplan Edge streamlines the consolidation process by simultaneously connecting to multiple data sources. This enables the system to act as a central repository with data entry and write-back functions, eliminating the reliance on spreadsheets by allowing planners to interact with live data in an Excel-like web interface. It also provides automated alerts based on user interaction, such as alerting managers when direct reports have completed a task in the budgeting workflow. Automation is hugely beneficial to the planning process because it enables timely completion of plans and diverts focus from the mechanics of the budgeting process to actual analysis.

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Planning Done Right at IMAX


planning-arcplan-imaxBudgeting, planning and forecasting is a critical process for organizations of all sizes who want to ensure profitable operations and well, plan for the future of their business. For finance teams who haven’t mastered the art of effective planning, month-end financial reporting and year-end planning is a chore. Those who have their financial processes down to a science enjoy timely completion of plans, plans that align with corporate goals, rolling forecasts, and the ability to analyze and dissect data as needed to make better decisions.

Aberdeen’s research study on Improving S&OP with Planning and Forecasting Technology provides insight on how best-in-class companies address key financial and business planning objectives. IMAX Corporation – the immersive motion picture technology company – was featured in the report. They’re an arcplan customer and a great example of a company that has fine-tuned sales and operations planning in order to improve business outcomes. IMAX is reaping the benefits of planning done right. Here’s how they made it happen:

1) They use technology to consolidate and analyze data.
Finance teams can waste many hours, days and even weeks consolidating data from various sources to create monthly and quarterly reports, leaving no time to analyze that data and make forecasts. IMAX overcame this problem by implementing an arcplan financial planning solution that…

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Building Your BI Dashboard Foundation: A Developer’s Guide


Over the last couple of years, the growing hype around big data analytics has rekindled interest in data visualization and a long-standing BI tool – the dashboard. BI dashboards are an avenue for presenting pertinent chunks of information at a glance, and in 2013, they can present more complex, insightful representations of data than ever before. But the key to making your dashboard usable and long-lasting is to keep it simple, organized, and intuitive.

In other words, the way to address the growing need for better analytics and visualization is not to build prettier, more animated charts. A solid foundation has to precede these bells and whistles. Here are 2 foundational dashboard elements that developers should master before moving on to the fun stuff:

1) The Path of Analysis
There are many ways to dissect and analyze data, but the first step is determining how to make the path of analysis most intuitive for users. Your options include:

  • Functional Breakdown: This is a very common way for arcplan customers to organize dashboard data. In this structure, sales reports, operations reports, or financial reports – along with their corresponding KPIs – are grouped together, providing a dedicated area for members of each department…

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