Business Intelligence Blog from arcplan

Perks of a Good Planning Process


It’s that time of year again – when quarter- and year-end obligations have finance departments frantically crunching numbers to wrap-up their annual reports and create plans for the upcoming year. Some endure the same budgeting, planning and forecasting frustrations year after year, including too many spreadsheets and lack of strategic insight, with little or no plans to make things better for the next cycle. Why fall victim to Einstein’s definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results) when there’s so much more to gain from taking charge of your planning?

Here’s what you can look forward to with a software-enabled budgeting and planning process:

1) Timely, accurate plans and reports
Planners are often plagued by disjointed information from various sources and multiple spreadsheets, where no “single version of the truth” exists and for all the numbers piling up, there’s no supporting text. As a result, they spend a great deal of time consolidating and reconciling data, which is half the job but takes up 100% of the time. Many planners experience the misfortune of completing a plan weeks or even months too late, negating its validity and rendering the idea of replanning as conditions change totally impossible. It’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t yield a lot of value to the organization.

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Persistence in Your BI System – Does It Always Pay Off?


In an earlier entry, I talked about using Excel as an integral part of a budgeting and planning application. In that example, Excel was connected to the database of record and presented the users with the ‘actuals’ data (YTD #s) they needed to enter the budget for the upcoming cycle. Although this is a simple use case for Excel in a BI application, it opens the doors to many more sophisticated deployment strategies.

One way of categorizing an application deployment is persistence, defining the way users are actively attached to your application at any one time. A purely browser-based application must keep track of all the users attached to the system at all times. While this isn’t as big a deal in a reporting environment, it becomes resource-intensive when the application allows write-back (e.g. budgeting and planning systems). One possible solution is to bulk up on hardware or create server farms that can balance the increased demand for both application and DBMS connections. This type of persistent connection will eventually become too expensive. Persistence doesn’t always pay off.

An alternative solution is to implement non-persistent connections to the system which allow users to only take up space on the application when they need the resource and disconnect when finished. In fact, many budgeting and planning users prefer to massage their budget and come up with optimal numbers before they submit them to the system. Many of these users would rather not be stuck at their desks through the entire budgeting process and they are more comfortable navigating and crunching their numbers in Excel. On the other hand, their organizations would like to keep the central and consistent management of these users’ activities.

Of course, I wouldn’t be thinking about the advantages of integrating persistent and non-persistent connections in a business intelligence system if arcplan didn’t have a product to meet this need. To keep it short, arcplan Edge allows both types of connections to allow users to do their budgeting and planning ‘offline’ in Excel and then connect back to the system when they’re ready to submit their numbers.