Overall Satisfaction with Planful (formerly Host Analytics)
Four years ago, we started out using Host Analytics as a tool to get our finance team out of Excel hell. We just had our forecasting team (4 individuals) using the system to prepare the annual budget and quarterly forecasts. It was also used to generate monthly variance reports. Since that time, others have seen the powerful reporting capabilities within the tool and have requested access. We now have 50 users in the system from across almost all departments in the organization. For us, we primarily use Host Analytics to disseminate financial information to management in a quick, efficient fashion and allow analysts within each department to create ad-hoc reports as needed.
- Strong reporting capabilities. We like to view our financials in several different ways, and the reporting module is intuitive to get almost any thing we are looking for rather quickly.
- The budget module allows you to document all of your assumptions, so there's no guesswork on what was used for a budget vs. a forecast.
- User security can be determined in several stages, so everyone can see what they are supposed to see and nothing more!
- The workflow in the budget module doesn't quite work for our organization, as there's no way to forward individual budget templates. The entire entity must be forwarded for approval, which includes allocation templates that don't need to be seen anyway.
I used Prophix at a previous company, although more as a user than an administrator. Budget expense templates in Host Analytics can mirror what we used in Prophix. Better than that, though, we use "drivers" to move expenses based on revenue, headcount, etc., which I don't know that we could have in Prophix. The Workforce Planning module in Host Analytics is miles above what Prophix had at the time. We managed all personnel assumptions in an Access database and imported the expenses to Prophix. Workforce Planning is seamless in Host Analytics.
Host Analytics may not be appropriate for companies with a large number of allocations. We find allocations to be somewhat overly burdensome, especially if it is based on percentages that are constantly changing, yet not able to be referenced in Host Analytics. Also, if you need precise workflow, this may not be the right tool.
Planful Feature Ratings
Planful Features and Attributes
I am often able to solve my problem before the support team does (granted, I'm a rock star).
While there is still room for improvement (and I know they are working on it), I think Host Analytics is very user friendly, overall. Breaking the modules down, I give Reporting an A. It's very easy to learn, especially for those already familiar with Excel. The Budget model is a solid B as it takes a bit longer to learn.
Using Planful (formerly Host Analytics)
50 - Our 50 users are a mixture from all across the organization. Finance represents the larger user group, as many use it for ad-hoc reporting and variance analysis. Marketing is the next largest group as they are the first group outside of Finance to use the Budget capabilities - all field marketing managers input their program estimates in Host Analytics. Other groups include Sales Ops, Product Management, and our Services organization.
3 - Our budget and forecasting team provides all support to internal users. Since they use every facet of the product, they are able to train and troubleshoot most problems, which are typically how to configure internet settings when getting started and how to create their own reports. These individuals are analysts by day, so they naturally have problem solving skills.
- We have used statistical accounts to capture headcount by location and then used those accounts to determine allocations for our forecast.
- We use 6 different scenario substitution variables for different reporting purposes, and a time substitution variable to identify the budget year (for use when we are working on next year's budget).
- We use an attribute on our Account segment to identify GAAP vs Non-GAAP differences for internal reporting.
- We hope to use the Financial Package Publisher to create Board reports.
- We are looking to use the Cloud Schedule to automate sending out our variance reports each month.
- We hope to integrate Workforce Planning with Workday to streamline staff planning.
Evaluating Planful (formerly Host Analytics) and Competitors
Yes - Prior to Host Analytics, we were using Budget Maestro for staff planning and personnel related expenses. Everything else was done in Excel.
- Product Usability
We needed a tool that requires very little resources from IT. The only involvement IT has with the Host Analytics application is with regards to our Boomi integration with Microsoft Dynamics AX, which is just to monitor the connection in case it goes down. Everything else is managed by 3-4 people in Finance.
Planful (formerly Host Analytics) Implementation
After going through the initial implementation with Host Analytics and a re-implementation with Cervello (due to an ERP change, not due to a poor initial implementation), I've learned that you really must rely on your internal staff to bear most of the implementation burden. Use the vendor or partners for ideas and best-practice suggestions, and some of the easy-but-time-consuming work. Since you will ultimately be using and maintaining the application, you should be able to do most of it yourself.
- Vendor implemented
- Professional services company
We have actually had two implementations. We used Host Analytics to implement the first time around and Cervello on the second implementation.
Change management was minimal - Change management was not a big issue for us as it was initially only used by a very small team.
- Going from Excel-based budgeting to using a system caused issues because we still weren't quite sure how our process needed to change. We were basically trying to do everything that we were doing in Excel, just in Host Analytics. That caused a few setbacks.
- As great as our partners were during the implementation, nothing could substitute the knowledge that we had of our company. We initially relied too heavily on partners to create reports for us and we had to go back to correct them ourselves.
- Overall, Host Analytics is a versatile tool, but you really need to understand how things work and what best practices are before hand. You can't just go in without a plan and implement the system ad-hoc. That will create a lot of re-work.
Planful (formerly Host Analytics) Support
Kept well informed
Immediate help available
Support cares about my success
Quick Initial Response
Problems left unsolved
Yes - Having premium support allows allows us to have four admin users instead of two, which is helpful when considering people take vacations and are not always available. Having 4 admin (on a Host Analytics admin distribution list) means that if anyone has issues (such as getting locked out of the system), there is always someone to help out.
Using Planful (formerly Host Analytics)
Like to use
Easy to use
Technical support not required
Quick to learn
Feel confident using
- Reports are easy to learn - they work very similar to a pivot table in Excel
- Budget templates are easy to create and manipulate. They are very Excel-like, so it doesn't take long to train new users.
- Segment Hierarchies allow you too roll up accounts quickly and easily, which aides in report creation.
- Data Loads can be cumbersome as you must make sure the column settings have been adjusted for each forecast. For example, a budget will often have 12 columns of values and the next quarterly forecast will only have 9 columns of values.
- Setting up new users with unique security requirements can be difficult. It's much easier when you can mirror someone else's settings, however.
- Unused budget entities remain in the admin's view, which can cause a bit of clutter after multiple re-organizations.