The best FP&A Tools for 2021 and why to adopt them

If anyone needs further proof of how quickly cloud computing has become the norm rather than the exception in the world of Financial Planning and Analytics (FP&A), consider how the landscape looked only six years ago.

The Best FP&A Tools for 2021 and why to adopt them

Back in 2015, the American Productivity & Quality Center was talking up the fact that a whopping 25% of survey participants were using cloud technologies to do their finances and a further 22% were considering a move to the cloud within the next year. The ability to store data and resources in an online server rather than on a local hard drive was clearly the next big thing.

Well, the next big thing is now the done thing, with APQC research in 2019 showing more than three-quarters of participants across its financial management surveys were leveraging cloud computing and the majority of the remainder were planning to move to the cloud in the future.

No doubt this percentage has increased in the last year.

While some on-premises offerings still exist, the FP&A solution market is all about the cloud in 2021. As a result, architecture is typically easier to use and maintain than traditional methods of compiling and analyzing a company’s financial strategy such as developing manual spreadsheets and reports.

No matter how big or small a company, nor how complex its financial nature, there is a cloud financial planning and analysis solution to cater for it. From budgeting and modeling to performance reporting, there is no longer a need to debate the actual merits of adopting a cloud-based solution. These days it is a simple case of accessing the best FP&A tool to meet business needs.

It is imperative that FP&A specialists ensure they are across the latest cloud solutions, especially given the evolving nature of the technology. The cutting-edge aspect of cloud computing solutions means new platforms are constantly launching and those that already exist are being updated. That is why practitioners need to adapt their thinking and strategies to meet what is on the market. Transitioning to new platforms can be a hassle but the benefits of finding one’s right place in the cloud far outweighs the negatives.

SaaS solutions reduce application support costs and increase application flexibility. Boasting global accessibility, ease of implementation and continual upgrades, modern cloud solutions allow FP&A teams to compile and deliver executives with the information and reports they need more easily and cost-effectively than ever.

So, which solution is best for your business?

FP&A tech provider Vena Solutions describes modern financial planning as “an art and a science”, a world in which “FP&A professionals gather information, build data models and transform information.

into clear reports that drive strategy and business decisions”. It also highlights that the world is not perfect and FP&A teams can find themselves hamstrung by the tools they use.

With providers of all shapes and sizes offering FP&A software, selecting the right platform for your unique needs can be daunting. That is why we have compiled this list of the top FP&A tools on the market– what it is, how it can benefit you and where you’ll find it. With a growing list of products on the market, it is only a selection of what’s on offer but it represents the cream of the crop.

  1. Anaplan
    “Convert change to competitive advantage in finance”

    Anaplan is hyperscale computing applied to operational insights, forecasts and business strategies. Tailored to relatively large and complex customers, it offers a cloud modeling and planning platform that supports financial planning and forecasting and differentiates itself by supporting complex financial modeling while connecting to and blending operational use cases.

    Ideal for modeling any type of planning requirement and level of complexity – including incorporating data down to transactional levels - Anaplan is considered one of the leading solutions for complex financial budgets and plans, integrated financial planning and solution flexibility. Leading research and advisory company Gartner reports that the vast majority of Anaplan customers upgrade to new versions as soon as they are available, with the vendor rating highly for reliable cloud architecture and version release processes*.
  2. Board Cloud
    “Analyze. Simulate. Plan. Spark your business imagination”

    A SaaS version of Board International’s all-in-one platform, Board Cloud makes it easy for users to analyze, plan, simulate and forecast. Backed by Microsoft Azure, it ensures that cloud Board International solutions and cloud CPM applications are up and running fast while providing security, reliability, scalability and performance.

    Users are huge fans of Board’s self-service report building and visualization capabilities, along with its capabilities in relation to complex data modeling and integrated financial planning. It features an intuitive drag-and-drop user interface that allows users to easily build reports and analyze without help from IT, while Board’s 11 data centers across five continents mean a convenient location from which Board Cloud is hosted is only a click away – and thus low latency at minimal cost.
  3. IBM Planning Analytics
    “Plan for anything, be ready for everything”

    IBM Planning Analytics is an integrated planning solution that uses AI to automate planning, budgeting and forecasting and drive more intelligent workflows. Built on TM1, IBM’s powerful calculation engine, this enterprise performance management tool allows users to quickly and easily drive faster, more accurate plans for FP&A, sales, supply chain and more.

    While IBM’s customers have traditionally tended to be large and rather complex, the release of IBM Planning Analytics on demand has signaled a move into increasingly serving the needs of small and midsize organizations. The release of new predictive forecasting capabilities has been welcomed by users – even those without data science skills – as it allows them to harness the power of algorithmic

    forecasting, while its AI-powered planning solution means businesses can augment human intelligence and see their employees spend less time manually aggregating data and more effort into analysis and higher value work.
  4. Jedox EMP Software
    “Build your future success with shorter budget cycles, more accurate plans and deeper insights”

    Jedox EMP Software allows FP&A teams to plan, analyze and report on one integrated platform. Self-service budgeting, planning and forecasting combine with intuitive analytics and BI dashboards, bringing joy to users in any department from finance to sales and human resources as they can create integrated plans and reports based on the same data model business logic.

    Operating on the Microsoft Azure platform, Jedox’s cloud solution is highly compatible with Microsoft solutions such as Excel, Power BI and Dynamics 365. The software’s flexibility is considered a key strength and it can support a range of customer sizes, highlighted by a Gardner survey that showed 60% of customers were from organizations boasting more than $1 billion annual revenue*. The Jedox Mobile application and its integrated collaboration features are creating strong engagement for users who relish the ability to seamlessly access information and dashboards from any device.
  5. OneStream Software
    “A modern, unified platform for corporate performance management”

    OneStream XF unifies planning, budgeting and forecasting by replacing spreadsheets and legacy applications that provide limited flexibility and lack integration with financial reporting and other solutions. Along with using the familiarity of Microsoft Excel and Guided Workflow, it leverages one unified financial planning software system to support financial and operational planning, budgeting, forecasting and reporting.

    Focusing on selling to large, complex enterprises, most of its customers are based in North America and 10% of those that participated in a Gardner survey had more than $10 billion in annual revenue*. Such heavy-hitters rate OneStream’s ease of use, complex financial budgets and plans, integrated financial planning and management reporting and analytics. All of OneStream’s customers surveyed by Gardner would recommend the software “without qualification”, with the ability to purchase third-party developed solutions for purpose-built processes another positive for many of them*.
  6. Oracle Cloud EPM
    “Gain the agility and insights you need to outperform in any market condition”

    Oracle Cloud EPM is a SaaS Enterprise Performance Management platform for enterprise-level financial and operational planning, reporting, consolidation and close, enterprise master data management and more. It also provides visibility into organisation-wide financial information by consolidating relevant data into one system. These capabilities make the software ideal for line of business users to expedite the periodic reconciliation and close process, and generate routine and adhoc reports and analysis.

    Oracle offers two editions of its Cloud EPM service – ‘Standard’ for midsize businesses and ‘Enterprise’ for larger organizations. With a rapidly growing customer base, it is regularly applauded for its global reach, large implementation partner ecosystem and industry coverage. It also rates highly for its interoperability of solutions, with both Oracle Fusion Cloud ERP and NetSuite ERP integrating tightly with the solution. Oracle Cloud EPM also allows enterprises to use centralized data to create an organization-wide view of costs and profits including surfacing hidden costs and profits, such as calculating the costs of shared services and infrastructure.
  7. Planful Continuous Planning Platform
    “Modern finance calls for modern tools”

    Planful provides an end-to-end cloud FP&A platform that offers financial planning, consolidation, reporting and analytics in one place and is accessible regardless of one’s location. It makes it easy to automate and accelerate everyday processes to increase the frequency of decisions, accelerate insights and shorten the time it takes to turn those insights into action. In the words of Planful CEO Grant Halloran, the software means “the finance team can spend more time driving strategic recommendations for the business, whilst navigating ever-changing business environments with greater accuracy, speed and confidence”.

    Formerly known as Host Analytics, Planful acts as a single source of truth by capturing financial results at a consolidated level for all entities of an organisation and makes it simple for finance, accounting and business teams to speed up financial planning and reporting. The built-in workflow, which is located in the consolidation control panel, provides a visual snapshot of what work is yet to be done, while fiscal year-end dates can also be customized based on how and when one wants to close the books. On a technical level, Planful also rates extremely well in Gardner surveys for customers not requiring ongoing support related to maintenance or updates*.
  8. Prophix
    “Transform the way you budget, plan and report”

    Primarily targeting small and medium-sized customers with annual revenue of less than $1 billion, Prophix’s innovative, cloud-based Corporate Performance Management (CPM) software automates budgeting, forecasting and reporting across multiple industries including manufacturing, retail, healthcare, hospitality and banking. With AI innovation that flexes to meet its users’ strategic realities, more than 1,500 global companies have turned to Prophix to transform the way they work.

    The Prophix Automation Center is ideal for finance departments wanting to leverage the software to string together multiple processes and ensure critical steps are never missed. Users can automate repetitive business processes such as data imports, report generation and allocations, along with logically and consistently creating budget plans, and forecasts by easily pre-populating data using pre-built functionality. With its applications normally used on a business unit or departmental basis, Prophix customers overwhelmingly praised the software’s solution flexibility in a recent Gardner survey*.
  9. Vena Solutions Budgeting, Planning & Forecasting
    “The comfort of Excel in an enterprise-class budgeting solution”

    An easy-to-deploy solution for budgeting, planning and forecasting, Vena is a single, web-based solution that leverages users’ existing Excel spreadsheets and the company-specific models within them. Rather than sacrificing the ease of use and power of Excel for a controlled, secure environment, the software combines native Excel with the collaboration, workflow, security and analytical capabilities of a traditional CPM solution.

    Vena brings the leading-edge capabilities of Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Power BI to its planning capabilities, which is evidenced by the AI capabilities now available to its customers. ‘Speed to go live’ is considered a key benefit, with customers surveyed by Gardner also identifying the software as needing minimal ongoing support relating to maintenance or updates. Vena has also won praise for its ability to create real-time, long-term forecasts in minutes – based on data from a single source of truth.
  10. Workday Adaptive Planning
    “Enterprise planning software built for a changing world”

    Formerly called Adaptive Insights, Workday Adaptive Planning serves more than 2,500 customers as a cloud-only solution that supports financial planning, workforce planning, sales planning, operational planning, modeling, performance reporting, dashboards, analytics and collaboration. The company says its enterprise performance management (EPM) solution can leverage company-wide planning capabilities to plan and report at all levels, reduce reporting times by 70% and adapt to changes without coding, scripting or support from IT.

    With a traditional focus on medium-sized organizations with annual revenues of $50 million to $1 billion, Workday Adaptive Planning has improved its scalability and performance capabilities in recent years via its Elastic Hypercube Technology. Boasting the intelligence to only calculate changes when needed, the technology is a winner for FP&A teams as it accelerates results for even the largest and most complex models as there is no longer a need to wait for the whole model to recalculate again. Customers also benefit from two levels of pricing - a per-seat subscription model and an enterprise subscription model exclusive to users of other Workday products and which provides unlimited access by a large number of users.

    Just as the importance of a quality FP&A team cannot be understated, so too is the need to empower that team with the best cloud solution to meet their needs. This list is just a small sample of the products on the market and which to ultimately invest in is a big decision. To find the best solution to meet your needs, take the time to research each solution to see if it is fit for purpose. Some key factors to consider are user experience, security, capabilities and customer experience.

    To find out more about how artificial intelligence (AI) and the cloud are impacting the accounting industry, read this blog.

    * GARTNER. ‘Magic Quadrant for Cloud Financial Planning and Analysis Solutions’. 6 Oct. 2020