Integrated software solutions

BI, Analytics & Reporting

- 5 min read

Demands on Modern Software for Digital Corporate Management

This article is the final blog in a series exploring the theme of Digital Decision Support.

In addition to investments in improving business processes, investments in data processing and modern software applications for business intelligence (BI) and analytics are particularly necessary to successfully accomplish the digital transformation of corporate management and governance. The use of professional, supportive software solutions is a decisive factor for the lasting success of data-based, forward-looking corporate management. In addition to greater agility in the supply of information for decision-makers, increased precision and availability of data for decision-making are central to software support.

Well-founded and integrated

To avoid time-consuming and error-prone data transfer processes between software systems and department-specific data silos, an integrated, scalable database of actual and plan figures, represented in a consistent data model, should form the solid foundation of integrated software solutions. Centrally managed and harmonized master data provides a single, common data basis for BI and analytics as well as further performance management processes such as planning, strategy management, consolidation, etc. (single point of truth). In order to enable fast ad-hoc analyses and to create acceptance, solutions should have high-performance options for data processing (e.g. in-memory).

Building on this, it is important to develop a consistent data model that flexibly allows the (driver-based) modeling of company-wide and department-specific data views, supplemented by flexible time horizons for short-term operational, medium-term tactical, and long-term strategic considerations.

This data model can then be populated with data from (operative) source systems using defined data integration processes (ETL). Technical possibilities to flexibly connect additional source systems and new data sources (both structured and unstructured) or to expand or redevelop data models should be part of the standard functionality.

Comprehensive and flexible

To provide a truly integrated user experience and to optimally support the management cycle of planning, management, and control described in part 2 of this blog series, both BI and analytics functionality as well as comprehensive planning and forecasting functions should be available in an integrated platform (see also improvement potential for performance management processes in part 1 of this blog series). Core functions that should be user-friendly, programming-free, web-based, and cloud-ready include:

  • Standard BI functionality, e.g. for cyclical standard reporting, short-term ad-hoc analyses, or individual dashboards.
  • Advanced BI and analytics functions (e.g. predictive analytics, data discovery, or support for big data sources) with the option to communicate results (data storytelling).
  • Functional and flexible support for top-down and bottom-up planning, centralized and decentralized planning approaches, as well as operational and financial planning processes.
  • Simulation and analysis of scenarios as well as needs-based creation of (automated, rolling) forecasts and predictive driver models.
  • High level of user-friendliness and self-service functionality for business users with options for process-supported cooperation (workflow, collaboration).
  • Options for regulating data access and functions (governance).

The overarching goal for a corresponding use of tools is a broad, integrated, and flexible support of various application scenarios (platform), instead of creating problem-specific individual solutions. Device-independent access to the solution (e.g. via web, mobile devices, Microsoft Office) ensures the flexibility required for users to work with the tool and thus contributes to its acceptance.

User-friendly and self-service

As the demands on BI, performance management, and analytics as well as decision support generally change rapidly in the context of digital transformation, many business departments are striving to increase flexibility in data handling and achieve independence from central IT (self-service). Software tools must therefore allow easy operation (e.g. including management using natural language), without significant training being required to achieve quick results.

If one were to take the previously outlined self-service concept further, the use of solutions via the cloud would be the logical conclusion. Since IT-centric organizations often struggle to meet the challenges of rapidly changing requirements and adequate response times due to a lack of resources, the procurement of software via the cloud is one possible solution for business departments to operate more independently. There are many obvious advantages to this, such as immediate usability without long hardware procurement or installation times, flexible use of hardware resources (scalability for users and data), or constantly up-to-date releases and usually shorter release cycles.

Future-proof and expandable

Investment and future security play an important role for many companies when making decisions about investing in software solutions. For this reason, organizations should ensure support from market-tested and market-leading technologies. Not only does this secure the investment, but also (extensive) technological consulting know-how is generally available on the market. Features of future-proof products include, for example, a clearly defined roadmap for functional and technical development, an appropriate degree of maturity and level of development, as well as widespread distribution on the market.

However, in order to be open to future needs, a solution should also offer flexible possibilities for adaptation, growth, and development. This is especially important if companies want to start with only part of the overall task in an initial step.

Conclusion and recommendations

Quick, data-centric, automated, and forward-looking planning and management are essential requirements for digital corporate management. An important precondition for the lasting success of digitalization projects in this context is the use of professional software solutions that integrate BI, performance management, and analytics in one comprehensive solution. Only a cross-system, cross-process view of data paired with user-friendly options for its analysis and use enables the more agile corporate management and governance required.

In order to find and select a suitable solution for your individual requirements, you should heed the following recommendations:

  • Define the goals of your digital transformation strategy and determine its technical, business, and organizational aspects.
  • Carefully define and weigh up your requirements from a software solution for digital corporate management. Ensure that all persons currently involved, or who will be in the future, are included in the process and, where possible, also look at potential future requirements that could become relevant in the medium term. Figure 4 shows, by way of example, the top 10 reasons why companies currently choose to purchase planning and performance management software solutions.
  • Analyze the software market based on your needs and create a short list of suitable solutions. Carry out a comparative evaluation of these solutions and test their performance in a scenario that is typical for your company (proof of concept) to make a confident decision.

Taking this approach and the points highlighted above into account, there is nothing to stop you from successfully selecting a solution that meets your requirements for the digital transformation of your corporate management.

Top 10 reasons for purchasing planning and performance management software

Figure 4: Top 10 reasons for purchasing planning and performance management software (source: BARC study “The Planning Survey 18”, n=808)

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