Analytics Software Simplifies Deployment of Planning Applications

Cognos Express Planner Helps Midsize Organizations Automate Planning Processes

IBM has launched new business analytics software called Cognos Express Planner which is designed to help midsize organizations drive a more integrated, automated and collaborative approach to building timely financial plans, budgeting, anticipating performance gaps, prioritizing resources, and gaining insights into profit and growth.

"What we set out to do with the Express family is to help overcome the barriers to adoption that midsize organizations had," Dan Potter, product marketing executive for the IBM Business Analytics team, tells 5 Minute Briefing. These organizations need solutions that are easy to install, configure and keep running; that help them overcome budget barriers with not only lower price but also a modular approach; and that provide their users with self-service capabilities, he explains. Targeted at organizations with between 100 and 1,000 employees, or departments and divisions with similar characteristics, Cognos Express Planner is the fourth module in a family that spans integrated reporting, analysis and planning capabilities, Potter says.

As opposed to manual spreadsheet planning processes with limited analytics, the new analytics software enables businesses are intended to help automate the planning process, allowing business users to define and deploy new planning, budgeting, and forecasting applications quickly and without any IT assistance.

For example, says Potter, when a finance manager wants to revise a budget, instead of emailing out Excel spreadsheets and asking users to contribute to that, Cognos Express Planner provides a web-based interface and a managed way in which users can see exactly what is  expected of them, customize the view of the information,  enrich it with scenario-modeling capabilities for their own best-case and worst-case scenarios, decide how they want to contribute into that plan, and also see what the impact on their piece of the business looks like as they submit it as part of the larger plan. "All of this is based on an in-memory read-write OLAP engine so as people contribute to the plan, it gets written in real time and dashboards and reports are all updated in real time," says Potter.

As the economy recovers, midsize organizations are shifting their focus from cost-cutting to areas in which they can grow and invest, observes Potter, pointing out that it  is the office of finance that often "leads that charge," making an automated system critical.

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