ACG Business Analytics Blog

Rob Harag

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IBM Planning Analytics Version 46 - Key Release Updates

Posted by Rob Harag on Thu, Oct, 10, 2019 @ 07:46 AM

IBM Planning Analytics Version 46 will be released on October 15, 2019. The release includes a number of exciting enhancements to IBM Planning Analytics Workspace as well as fixes and updates to IBM PAX (Excel) and the system overall. Key highlights are the following:

Numbers formatting in IBM PA Workspace

The ability to set format directly from the front-end is being added. This makes it much easier for users to pick the right format in their specific views and reports. A set of pre-defined formats as well custom formatting options are available.

Drill-up on Visualization in IBM PA Workspace

A feature that allows drilling up on a visualization is finally available – until now drill-up was only possible using the “Undo” button, this feature will provide more flexibility in navigating and analyzing individual tables.

Additional technical enhancements to IBM PA Workspace

  • Ability to unload a cube from memory - this allows for temporary reduction of RAM use during times of high usage or issue resolution
  • Setting of thresholds and alerts for individual databases in the Administration page - this simplifies configuration and facilitates unique threshold and alert settings for each database
  • Combining system resource thresholds and alerts in a single configuration page - this simplifies configuration in all environments, both cloud and local, plus provides greater control in monitoring multiple agents in PA Local


Click HERE to find more detail and information on the above items as well as all IBM PA Workspace releases by version.

In addition to the above, 15 fixes and defect corrections that are released in IBM PA Version 46, including IBM PAX and general system issues please click HERE


IBM Cognos Controller 10.3.1. Released

Posted by Rob Harag on Sun, Dec, 03, 2017 @ 10:35 AM

The latest version of IBM Cognos Controller is now available and features integration with IBM Planning Analytics Workspace. This provide tighter integration and opens up possibilities for better insight, analytics and provides more power to the hands of users.

IBM Planning Analytics is a powerful interface that facilitates reporting, visualization, analytics and planning / forecasting. With a better integration to Controller, it can be further used as a common interface for both the Record-to-Report as well as Report-Analyze-Model-Plan cycles.

A high level overview of the integration capabilities can be viewed at the link below

IBM Cognos Controller is a robust application to support Financial Consolidation and Close. It is a finance-owned solution that is managed and maintained by Finance and offers out-of-the-box consolidation capabilities without need to do any programming or scripting. With its pre-built capabilities to manage the close process including workflow, review and reporting, it is a system that vastly simplifies and streamlines the month end process and provides a robust foundation that improves control and compliance.

IBM Cognos Controller is available with equal functionality for on-premise as well as cloud based deployment. It offers over 260 pre-built and packaged reports to facilitate ease of adoption and maximize ROI.

Some additional capabilities off the Controller 10.3.1. Release include the following:

  • Improved data import in Controller Web
  • More efficient remediation of import errors in real time during the import
  • Drill from data entry forms to the source level detail in the import file
  • A number of other popular customer enhancement requests
  • Limited use license for PA Local & WORKSPACE
  • Support for click to run

Publicly accessible knowledge center site is

Topics: IBM Cognos Controller, FInancial Consolidation and Close

Trends in Enterprise Performance Management...

Posted by Rob Harag on Sun, Jun, 07, 2015 @ 06:13 PM

Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) systems are becoming more powerful, user friendly and more accessible - that is the core theme of an article published recently by CFO Magazine. Advances in technology allow EPM systems to process larger quantity of data on-demand and thus increase their analytical capabilities. Wider choice of specialized products and new features such as compatibility with Excel, predictive analytics, cloud computing or mobile access are transforming the way users interact with the applications and thus help advance many traditional functions and business processes.

While IBM, SAP and Oracle command about 70% of the market, there are plenty of sophisticated systems to choose from in the remaining 30%. Reversing a prior trend of industry consolidation, more companies are entering the market and provide interesting capabilities that are often tailored to a specific market or industry segment. Examples of such focus areas include budgeting, forecasting, profitability optimization or scenario modeling.

Gartner categorizes EPM solutions into two main buckets: Office of Finance Processes and Strategy Processes. Most of today's solutions, however, aim to combine financial and operational data across the company and provide a fully integrated view of the company's performance. Such increased transparency and insight into underlying trends and drivers facilitates a higher focus on key factors affecting financial performance. This in turn helps to more effectively execute a company's business strategy.

There are three primary drivers that are currently changing the way people and companies interact with and deploy EPM solutions:

Speed – with the increased use of in-memory computing, systems are more nimble and flexible to complete calculations in real time and are able to handle the ever increasing quantity of data. The improved performance facilitates a number of benefits such as usability, collaboration, integration and others. These capabilities are further changing the role of Finance and help it to be a more effective facilitator of change, trusted advisor to the business and a driver of value.

Usability – there have been great advances in user friendliness and usability of the tools as vendors continue to make significant investments into more intuitive and easier to understand user interfaces. Dashboarding, visualization, integration with Excel, web-based capabilities and templates are some of the key focus areas. Cloud computing plays an important part in increasing adoption through better flexibility of use. Finally, mobile computing facilitates more distributed data collection and reporting with the ability to drill down directly on the mobile device, typically an iPad.

Integration – EPM systems are becoming increasingly more integrated with solutions expanding far beyond the traditional financial planning and reporting. Operational planning, sales performance management, strategic planning are only a few examples of such new use cases. Integration of these systems and processes provides a higher quality output and facilitates collaboration across groups and departments, which yields more efficiency and improves performance. Predictive Analytics, while still in early stages, is further pushing the frontier on the type of insight and depth included in financial information involved in decision-making.

Topics: Business Forecasting, Performance Management, Financial Planning and Analysis

4 Reasons Why Financial Planning & Analysis Is Not Effective

Posted by Rob Harag on Fri, May, 01, 2015 @ 09:40 AM

Considering how important the Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) function is in providing critical business insight to company CFOs and CEOs, it is surprising how low its capabilities are still regarded amongst business executives. According to a recent study published by APQC, only 40% of 130 executives surveyed described the FP&A function as effective. Given all the talk and focus in the industry on business analytics and insight, as well as the availability of numerous systems and solutions from niche players and mainstream vendors, it is surprising that the FP&A function is still rated this low. Based on our observation and experience, there are four primary factors that drive this outcome:

1. Continuously raising the bar on expectations

The demand for meaningful business insight and analysis has been growing continually over the past years. Economic uncertainty, regulatory scrutiny, increasing competition, changing weather patterns or geopolitical pressures keep creating new and more urgent demand for information that FP&A needs to satisfy. Even as the FP&A capabilities, processes and technology improve, the FP&A groups are under increasing pressure to respond to more and more ad-hoc requests from many different groups and stakeholders. As a result, they spend most of their time scrambling to respond to requests under rapid fire and often do not have the ability to step back and develop capabilities that would bring them to the next level. What was working well yesterday is not good enough today.

2. Playing catch-up with technology

Today’s finance and planning infrastructure is typically complex as a result of aggressive growth and multiple mergers and acquisitions. Often times the reporting and analytics relies on information from multiple legacy or department level systems. Excel typically plays a significant role in arriving at the end product. To further complicate matters, the demand for business driver detail and modeling require information residing in transactional systems that are outside finance. Even though companies continue to invest and integrate the various systems, ongoing business evolution continues to fuel more changes at a rapid pace, thus creating a moving target. As a result, Finance spends most time pulling information together from various systems and compiling reports or explaining variances at a high level (vs budget) rather than analyzing data and providing value add insight.

3. Slowly adopting advanced planning techniques

Majority of companies still rely on a fairly static process for budgeting, forecasting and reporting. While some of the advanced techniques such as rolling forecast or driver based planning are slowly creeping in, they are not the prevailing methodology yet. It is not uncommon for a large organization to spend 6 months preparing the annual budget and for the budget to be obsolete shortly after it has been completed. Forecast is often times the result of a finance process (YTD Actuals plus Budget) and includes little real time insight from the business. Reporting tends to be backward looking, focused on results to-date and explaining variances to plan or forecast. As such, financial planning is not sufficiently flexible and aligned with business strategy and is slow to adapt and accommodate changes in business conditions.

4. Advanced Analytics still in early stages

While predictive analytics, demand planning and other capabilities are all the buzz these days, they are at a very early stage of adoption. Even if they exist, they are typically not integrated with the overall financial performance management framework. They are usually performed by a dedicated group of people, many times statisticians or other similar functions, in isolation and focused on a specific area / problem. The result is then used as an input into the planning process for further processing. Tremendous upside exists in integrating the forward looking capabilities into financial planning from both systems and procedural perspective, however it will take some time until this practice becomes mainstream.

Topics: Business Forecasting

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