IBM Unfurls Business Planning App in the Cloud

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The Planning Analytics On Demand service enables organizations to dynamically update forecasts as rapidly as new data becomes available.

IBM today added a Planning Analytics On Demand service that provides easier access to a business planning application a time when there hasn’t been more economic uncertainty in recent memory.

Based on a TM1 online analytics processing (OLAP) server, the multitenant service gives executives an alternative to spreadsheet tools to surface trends that is also easier to update and maintain, says David Marmer, vice president of offering management for planning analytics.

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Priced at $45 per user per month accessing a single 2GB database, the latest IBM service makes it simpler for organizations to keep business forecasts current on a rolling basis, says Marmer. Each subsequent user added to the service is $40 per month.

In the wake of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, business leaders are discovering that spreadsheets are not an effective tool for planning when business conditions are changing rapidly, says Marmer.

The Planning Analytics On Demand service enables organizations to dynamically update forecasts as rapidly as new data becomes available, notes Marmar. That approach enables business leaders to make better decisions faster at a time when every minute now counts more than ever, adds Marmer.

“Time is now an enemy,” says Marmer. “That’s the new reality.”

IBM, of course, has been offering on-premises editions of its business planning software for years to enable organizations to identify patterns, surface insights, and construct what-if scenarios. Business users can, for example, designate specific outcomes such as number of employees employed as being sacrosanct when running what-if scenarios to better reflect limitations the business might face, notes Marmer.

IBM business planning software also makes use of machine learning algorithms to make it possible to import data residing in existing spreadsheets more easily into its application, adds Marmer.

It’s too early to say to what degree the current economic downturn might induce more organizations to finally give up reliance on spreadsheets. With business planning applications readily available in the cloud it doesn’t make much sense to continue to rely on two-dimensional spreadsheets that are often outdated to run a business.

In fact, the biggest challenge with transitioning to a business planning application to visualize relevant business trends has little to do with the technology anymore. Rather, simple cultural inertia results in business executives continuing to rely on spreadsheets that are often loaded with conflicting data. Most finance departments waste an inordinate amount of time rolling up spreadsheets from various departments in the vain hope of establishing a single source of truth about the state of the business. Unfortunately, even before that process is completed the data being compiled is already out of date.

There’s no doubt challenging times lay ahead for every business. Organizations of all sizes are now tracking revenue and expenses daily. Depending on the vertical industry, some organizations are in a better financial position than others. However, in this climate business conditions can change overnight, especially given the current shortage of liquidity many organizations are facing. Organizations that rely on spreadsheets to navigate this crisis are for all intents and purposes flying blind.

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