The most important, but perhaps hardest to obtain, ingredient in planning and budgeting is accurate, up-to-the- minute data. The next: A system that will let a finance executive know about a problem in time to fix it before damage is done. Ottawa, Ont.-based business intelligence and performance management software provider Cognos Inc. hopes to put an end to what seems, at times, a futile quest. In October, the vendor is releasing Cognos 8 Planning 8.2, a scalable solution that allows finance to ask--and answer--the key questions in real-time: How is the enterprise performing? Are we on track? And if we're off track, what do we do to get back on track? Planning 8.2 can be rapidly deployed across an enterprise and provides improved integration with SAP, Oracle eBusiness and PeopleSoft ERP systems so data can be imported easily. Planning 8.2 also offers a Microsoft Excel interface for executives who are most comfortable in Excel. It is also easier to input information, add attachments and insert commentary into forecasts and budgets.
Another strength is the application's improved fit into Cognos' platform. "Especially for a company that already uses Cognos for BI, there are a lot of common components. You don't have to repeat things multiple times, which has been one of the flaws in the past," says John Hagerty, who covers business performance management (BPM) vendors for AMR Research. Also, adds Hagerty, reporting is speeded up. "It's one thing to use Planning 8.2 as a way to capture information and massage it. It's quite another thing to be able to report off of it and do it quickly," says Hagerty.
"Good planning means more than just raw numbers. It often requires statistics that reside in HR and other systems. There's much greater capability of bringing clean data into the planning process, since it's not being manipulated by 800 different Excel spreadsheet users," says Kathleen Wilhide, research director for BPM at Framingham, Mass.-based IDC. "That's why Cognos continues to be on the short list of key solutions that companies are considering."