anaplan hub + hawThis month I was fortunate enough to attend both the Host Analytics and Anaplan conferences in San Francisco. Although these organizations are both tackling Corporate Performance Management in unique ways, I learned, through conversations with clients and prospects, that their clients shared a common theme. It is clear that the office of the CFO is still struggling to get beyond daily operational tasks such as closing financial books or managing their financial planning cycles. The reason, however, is not what you might think. It is not that they are too busy with core operational tasks. Instead, it is because the data, information, and insights required to get beyond core functions is being unintentionally, yet knowingly, siloed.

CFOs need data now more than ever. The pressure is on. Competition across all industries is becoming ever more data driven, digital, and disruptive. In order to remain competitive, many organizations are relying on the office of finance to become a strategic advisor to the business. Identifying new opportunities in the marketplace requires an understanding of what drives the entire ecosystem of an organization. It requires integration across your supply chain, your lines of businesses, and your systems. Everyone whom I spoke with this week agreed that there is one common system keeping them from achieving the highest echelon of ubiquitous insights; some even referred to it as a virus. This “virus” has been around since 1985, is often overlooked, is leveraged by all, and is readily accessible – it is the one, the only – Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet.

Yes, that same spreadsheet that has been front and center in your daily life for the past 20 years and is the ultimate nugget of data insight, is siloed. Don’t believe me? Think about how you use it. Every day, on almost every desk around the globe, someone is using a spreadsheet to build business models through Excel formulas and functions. This places business rules and knowledge in a file that only a small number of colleagues have access to or even understand. Regardless of whether your company has a Corporate Performance Management system, I guarantee that within every line of business the data that enters the enterprise organization is a watered down version or output of an Excel model from which it was built up. This immediately renders the information gathered less insightful and less competitive.

So how do you address this virus? Well, there are differing opinions in the marketplace. For example, Anaplan and Host Analytics each believe they have the answer, both providing intriguing solutions. There are others too, all of which approach the challenge differently. Although there are different approaches to solving the problem one thing remains clear. In order to gather insights beyond what you can manage in siloed Excel spreadsheets, you must look outside the monolithic systems of yesteryear and see what can be done with today’s cloud-based solutions. Going a step further, addressing data integration and data management issues should be front and center, as a necessary means to the end. It’s not an easy road to travel, but the first step in growth is admitting you have a problem. Seeing this message unfold over the week was not only inspirational but exciting. On all fronts, it feels like the birth of a revolution.

Leave a comment if you agree, disagree, or are currently dealing with any of these challenges at your organization.

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Sandy Estrada

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