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Blog Posts from the team at Budgeting Solutions

Separating out the wheat from the chaff can be challenging and sometimes the right facts are hard to find.  Our blogs contain a wealth of information gathered from many years of experience by our consultants dealing with everyday issues in projects on client sites.

They may provide clear insight on particular problems or act as a launching pad to clarify your thoughts on issues with how to deliver robust performance management solutions.

Main Posts

How to embrace—not replace—your spreadsheets with IBM Planning Analytics for Microsoft Excel

Posted by James Salmon at 9/9/2019 11:20:50 AM

Many planning professionals, whether in finance or line-of-business roles, have a love/hate relationship with their spreadsheets. They love the flexibility and the familiarity of a tool that’s been around for decades. But when they try to use spreadsheets for large-scale planning and performance management, multiple issues arise. Errors creep in when data is keyed in or numbers are cut and pasted from one cell to another. Version control is a nightmare. And when users want to include more participants in the process—a well-established best practice in planning—the process can become cumbersome and unwieldy.

Embrace, don’t replace your spreadsheets

In a recent blog we outlined these and other problems with using spreadsheets for enterprise planning. But we also noted that, those problems notwithstanding, spreadsheets are still useful and popular as an individual productivity tool. So today, we’d like to discuss how the spreadsheet and its familiar interface can be used for complex, large-scale planning environments by leveraging its capabilities within IBM Planning Analytics for Microsoft Excel. If you’re not familiar with this solution, you should know that this convenient add-on enables you to smoothly integrate your Excel spreadsheets with IBM Planning Analytics, the planning, budgeting, forecasting and analysis solution powered by IBM TM1®.

t’s a perfect complement—not a replacement—for your spreadsheets. It gives you better scalability, powerful modeling and analytics capabilities, and the ability to share plans easily while maintaining better control. Here’s a quick rundown of how and why IBM Planning Analytics works so well with your Excel spreadsheets.

Functionality to fit your needs

IBM Planning Analytics for Excel lets users take advantage of full Excel functionality and formatting, including graphing and built-in functions. From simple drag and drop creation of reports to highly formatted reports with complex calculations, the solution can be configured to fit your unique business needs. Easier reporting is just a few clicks away.

Deeper insights

Valuable business insights could be hiding in plain sight in the rows and columns of your spreadsheets. IBM Planning Analytics for Excel helps reveal those insights and enables users to explore data from IBM TM; and other sources for deeper analysis than is possible with spreadsheets alone.

Better integration and control

Reports created in IBM Planning Analytics for Excel can be easily published in Workspace, the customizable interface of IBM Planning Analytics. This allows web-based collaboration on highly-formatted reports while maintaining better control. Key business logic and calculations are stored in a secure application, where changes are made only by designated administrators and are immediately replicated to all participants, eliminating errors and conflicting data. You can also create an audit trail to identify where and when changes were made and thus avoid the version control issues that lead to arguments over whose numbers are correct.

Ease of adoption

Finally, the familiar, user-friendly environment of the Excel interface eases buy-in for users accustomed to Excel. A product review on G2 Crowd, the peer-to-peer review website put it this way:

“IBM Planning Analytics for Excel is the killer app for finance and accounting users… because finance and accounting professionals love Excel and hate any initiative to pull them out of Excel, no matter how benevolent the cause.”

Users both inside and outside of finance appreciate the fact that the Excel interface lets them stay in their comfort zone, leading to higher adoption rates (and faster ROI) across the organization.

1,000+ planners can’t be wrong

But don’t just take our word for it. The Planning Survey 19, the annual report from the Business Application Research Center (BARC), which is based on “the world‘s largest survey of planning software users,” gave IBM Planning Analytics top ranks in user experience. Extolling the solution’s Excel integration, BARC said, “The Planning Analytics Excel front end offers easy-to-use capabilities for creating content (e.g., modeling, templates) in a familiar environment and publishing it to the web.”

The IBM Planning Analytics Roadmap 2019

Posted by James Salmon at 22/7/2019 9:14:12 AM

This guest post is written by Ronnie Rich, Senior Offering Manager for IBM Planning Analytics.

IBM Planning Analytics has a diverse, worldwide community of customers, and more are joining every day. Today, we are sharing a quick introduction for those new customers as well as a reminder for those who have been with us a long time about where to find answers to questions and resources to stay current on the latest news.

Let’s start with the product roadmap. Roadmaps provide valuable guidance for any journey, especially when you’re planning the future of your software deployment. A few weeks ago we presented our latest product roadmap at the Think 2019 conference in San Francisco.

In a session titled What’s New with IBM Planning Analytics Workspace, we highlighted the latest innovations and functionality in IBM Planning Analytics Workspace as well as upcoming innovations for IBM Planning Analytics for Microsoft Excel, IBM Planning Analytics Modelling, and IBM Planning Analytics Administration.

Here’s a small sample of the new capabilities and functionality we covered:

  • Action buttons: You can now configure IBM Planning Analytics Workspace to run a TurboIntegrator process with the click of a button. You can create prompts to ask for parameter values when the process is executed or configure default parameter values to run the process without prompting.
  • Administration enhancements: Monitor and administer your TM1® databases in IBM Planning Analytics Workspace Local using the IBM Planning Analytics Administration agent.
  • More efficient modelling: We’ve made it easier to get data into your models with drag-and-drop import of Dimensions and Attributes, as well as data from file. We also added efficiency tools like Rules Tracing, Autocompletion in Editors, and a Time Dimension Wizard.

You can find the roadmap for IBM Planning Analytics and other solutions in the IBM Analytics Roadmaps web page.

IBM Planning Analytics and its predecessor, IBM TM1, are long-time favourites of the finance crowd, who use it for essential budgeting and forecasting as well as sophisticated financial planning and analysis. It can meet the challenges of enormous data volumes, like Ancestry.com’s “super-cube” of 51 quintillion cells and large numbers of users, like the 6,000 at Germany’s national railroad, Deutsche Bahn.

But for years innovative organisations have been using the solution in a variety of non-finance use cases, such as supply chain planningsales planning, and workforce planning. And people are finding more ways to use it every day. Along with different use cases, IBM Planning Analytics offers deployment on cloud or on-premises. We’re proud of the fact that, with IBM, customers get to choose the deployment method that fits their needs.

How does IBM Planning Analytics meet the demands of finance transformation?

Posted by James Salmon at 19/11/2018 10:30:24 AM

Finance transformation aims to create a financial analytics solution infrastructure that can unlock significant value across the offices of the chief financial officer (CFO), the chief operating officer (COO) and beyond. Such an infrastructure allows users to easily and readily analyse and manage financially relevant operations and activities. It enables users to:

  • work in a self-service mode
  • work in (near) real-time when needed, leveraging very high data volumes and data granularity
  • coordinate with related upstream and downstream business processes and functions, including Operations, Sales, Marketing, Risk, Treasury and regulatory frameworks
  • integrate with hybrid-cloud infrastructure to apply predictive analytics and other cognitive computing methods to unlock further value previously hidden in the data


 Make data accessible to the non-technical among us

The need for self-service analysis creates a particular demand on your financial analytics software infrastructure: every user — even non-technical ones — must be able to access the data tier via an easily understandable semantic layer that uses plain language. In other words, the semantic layer needs to map technical and often complex data models to familiar business terms and concepts such as Accounts, Products, Customers, Locations, Regions, Time, Currency, etc. IBM Planning Analytics, by virtue of being an online analytical processing (OLAP) solution platform, provides non-technical end-users with an easily understandable semantic data layer based on cubes, dimensions and hierarchies.

 Let users choose the interface they prefer

For analysis and reporting, the semantic layer should be exposed via a Web user interface (UI) as well as, ideally, the familiar Microsoft Excel UI. Web UIs have the benefit of providing convenient, platform-independent access, plus they have a low infrastructure footprint. Meanwhile, Excel UIs provide the most convenient access for both financial and business analysts, simply because Excel is and will likely continue to be their most important and pervasive day-to-day tool.

IBM Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW) is the latest-generation WEB UI for self-service analysis of IBM TM1 data, and for contribution and collaboration in the planning process. In parallel, IBM Planning Analytics for Excel (PAx) is the optional interface that features latest-generation Excel desktop analysis and contribution capabilities for both cloud- and on-premises data sources, and also provides interoperability with PAW.

The need for real-time analysis — against potentially very high data volumes — demands fast performance in real-world scenarios. Ever-changing fact-data, meta-data, master-data and very high data volume should not be a constraint.

IBM Planning Analytics easily meets these demands. It calculates and aggregates data on-demand and hence in real time. It does not store ‘null-values’ (non-populated cells), and it employs parallel processing capabilities to maximize the use of available hardware resources. This means that queries against even billions of new records can be resolved in seconds.

Collaborate across business functions

Last but not least is the need to consider how the planning solution integrates across the organisation. On the operations side, this means enabling collaboration across related upstream and downstream business processes and functions such as Operations, Sales, Marketing and more. On the IT side, it means having a flexible architecture that is compatible with hybrid-cloud infrastructures so you can apply predictive analytics and other cognitive computing methods at scale.

IBM Planning Analytics meets all of these demands. It employs a multi-cube architecture with a shared-dimension model, meaning that it can naturally grow and mature along with your business and your processes. It is available as both a cloud and on-premises solution, and it integrates with best-in-class cognitive computing solutions and analytics platforms, such as Cognos Analytics and SPSS. 

If you are interested to see a demonstration of IBM Planning Analytics click on the link below and a member of the team will be in touch to arrange a suitable time.

Request Demonstration

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions

Posted by James Salmon at 3/9/2018 9:49:18 AM

IBM has been ranked as 'Leader' in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis solutions. Below you will find Gartners perspective on IBM Planning Analytics. 


• IBM has many large customers, a global reach, a large implementation partner ecosystem and an extensive service organization, with broad business domain and industry expertise.

• IBM Planning Analytics is based on TM1, and has had many improvements to enhance functionality, usability and flexibility. IBM's reference customer scores for solution flexibility were above average.

• IBM has a diversified customer base. The vendor tends to be used by large organisations for complex, enterprise-wide applications — 58% of reference clients had over $1 billion in annual revenue, and 17% more than $10 billion. At the other end, 25% of reference clients had less than $1 billion in revenue.


• Survey respondents rated IBM below average in 10 of the 11 key areas surveyed, although few individual ratings were especially weak. It had bottom-quartile scores for ease of implementation and maintenance, application governance/life cycle management, overall experience with vendor, and meeting needs vs. money spent.

• IBM is in this Magic Quadrant's bottom quartile for reference customers needing ongoing support for upgrades related to maintenance or updates, with almost half requiring it.

• A clear majority of IBM customers surveyed would recommend the vendor without reservation; however, a material number would do so with minor qualifications. These qualifications generally reflected some dissatisfaction with support responsiveness.

London South Bank University choose Budgeting Solutions

Posted by James Salmon at 11/5/2018 5:27:57 PM

London South Bank University choose Budgeting Solutions and IBM Planning Analytics to drive educational excellence with smart financial planning - Read the case study here: https://goo.gl/b6CRZE

Nucleus Research ranks IBM Planning Analytics #1 for Corporate Performance Management (CPM)

Posted by James Salmon at 2/8/2017 2:51:02 PM

IBM Planning Analytics is the next generation of cloud or on-premise CPM solutions. It is a unique blend of widely used, deeply proven, feature rich, immensely fast and scalable technology combined with the latest user-friendly, optimised cloud architecture. The solution is built on the TM1 analytics platform, which has tens of thousands of users within the UK. It also leverages IBM’s full cloud architecture, reaping the benefits of a huge and vastly experienced Research and Development arm focused entirely on cloud development on a global scale.

To download the research paper click here.

Find out more here: http://www.budgetingsolutions.co.uk/products/ibm-cognos-solutions/ibm-planning-analytics/  

Retail sales planning with IBM Planning Analytics

Posted by James Salmon at 17/3/2017 4:35:17 PM

Challenges often arise in planning product sales when Head Office sends down high level figures that need to be achieved by regional entities or product managers.

These targets are usually set at a Product Group, Division or even Regional level. The challenge is to push these numbers down the product hierarchy to the product or SKU level. Once the projected sales figures are at product level, they can then be rolled up according other hierarchies for planning purposes. For realistic sales planning it is important to show the sales figures by other groupings such as Customer, Territory, Sales Rep etc. It is only when we see the figures by these dimensions that accurate sales planning can be achieved. For example, it is easy to take last year’s product sales and apply an uplift factor to achieve Head Office targets but what do these figures mean in terms of how much is to be sold in each territory, by each Sales Rep and to which Customers?

Using spreadsheets, it is very easy to roll-up or aggregate figures by any number of criteria but very difficult to make changes to these figures at aggregated levels and push the results back to the lower levels of detail. When using a multi-dimensional planning tool such as IBM Planning Analytics, Companies can realise top down and bottom up planning at any level of the Product or Customer hierarchies. The fact that in Planning Analytics this top down/bottom up planning happens in real time means that it becomes possible to carry out many more iterations of the planning process at a far greater level of detail in a much shorter period of time than with manual systems.

For those in the Retail sector, IBM Planning Analytics supports 4-4-5 week Calendars for both planning and reporting and has the flexibility to configure planning systems for Open-to-Buy (OTB), weekly sales, stock and intake (WSSI) and Comp Store analysis. IBM Planning Analytics also has the option to rollout sales planning across regional entities in different currencies and languages if required with a configurable workflow in place to control the planning and approval process.

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