Overall Satisfaction with Planful (formerly Host Analytics)
At Acciona Energy we have leveraged Host Analytics to improve our budget and forecast processes tremendously. Streamlining our backend processes using Host Analytics has enabled the finance team to spend more time with decision makers and record a clearer picture of the drivers impacting our business and how to adjust to them. The reporting module has given us the flexibility to provide managers with better information on a more timely basis to better run the business.
- The templates in Host Analytics used for budgeting and forecasting are structured so that budget owners can record information is a way that is meaningful to them. The ability to enter notes, sub-line detail and attached supporting documentation ensures that users can understand inputs months or years after the budget/forecast has been completed.
- The best part about the reporting module is that it is owned by the finance team. When unusual or ad hoc requests come in, the tool allows finance personnel to quickly customize a report that is accurate and meets the needs of the end user. This eliminates the need to wait in an IT queue or perform complex manipulations in Excel.
- The ability to easily create multiple scenarios and update forecasts with actual results provides multiple views of the future to be managed simultaneously and simplifies versioning.
- The consolidation module simplifies the process of consolidating companies and provides strong workflow capabilities to ensure proper review.
- On occasion the quarterly updates can be disruptive. While there is definitely a benefit to free upgrades and new functionality, they come regularly, sometimes when it isn't convenient for the business to make the necessary adjustments.
- The Host Analytics budget model has enabled the budget team to reduce man hours spent during the budget cycle by 80%. By eliminating the need to compile a budget in Excel and providing users direct access to the tool, we have greatly reduced the time spent managing a model and increased the time spent interacting with decision makers and analyzing and reviewing budget inputs. This efficiency has allowed us to reduce the overtime spend during budget season and maintain the size of the finance department while experiencing a 1000% increase in company revenues.
While searching for a solution we looked at OutlookSoft (subsequently bought by SAP), Hyperion and Cognos. Hyperion and Cognos appeared to require a fairly high level of customization and requirement definition before and during implementation. While the systems seemed robust, the time to implementation, resources required, and costs were prohibitive. Outlooksoft and Host Analytics had similar functionality in 2007 when we were making our decision. Ultimately, Host Analytics had a shorter implementation time, and because it was a SAAS product with no large upfront costs, the 5 year NPV was significantly less. The other benefit is that because Host Analytics is continuously improving their product, the tool we use today is significantly better than the tool we purchased originally. That would not have been the case with the other products, which were all on premise solutions.
Frequently companies are looking for very complex solutions, but they haven't thought through how to implement them at a detailed level prior to selecting a product. Host Analytics Cloud EPM Suite is, to some level, an out of the box ready to use product. It provides the flexibility to report financial and non-financial information and do so fairly simply. It also allows the user to change or add information to the system as the need arises or as the business gains a better understanding of what they want to create in terms of reporting and data capture. In most instances, having a tool that is easy to implement and provides the ability to evolve over time without the need to hire expensive consultants, is better than a highly customized tool that doesn't provide flexibility down the road. For me, Host Analytics is the tool that has provided that ability to evolve and grow over time.