Cognos Revamps Enterprise Planning Tool

Product improves insight into corporate performance management by incorporating financial and operational planning processes into BI and scorecarding.

Corporate performance management (CPM) is a diverse art, and Cognos Inc. yesterday introduced an updated version of its Enterprise Planning designed to help corporate financial officers get more out of its diverse CPM solution stack.

Cognos says that Enterprise Planning 7.2 integrates with its business intelligence (BI), enterprise reporting, and scorecarding tools to give financial executives more insight into CPM by incorporating financial and operational planning processes into BI and scorecarding.

Company officials argue that enterprise planning brings accountability to BI and CPM. “Enterprise planning is the means by which companies articulate what they want to achieve and how they’re going to get there,” says Doug Barton, vice-president of enterprise planning product marketing with Cognos. “Think of planning as kind of preparing the targets for those metrics [of a scorecard], in terms of ‘How are we going to know if we’re on or off track?’ So it brings an element of accountability to the whole BI foundation.”

Proponents say that enterprise planning typically involves three tasks: business modeling, the creation of business scenarios, and the establishment of key business drivers. After all, without realistic business models and scenarios, and in the absence of clearly defined business drivers, the data provided by CPM solutions will be of little use to financial officers. “Companies often find out far too late that revenues are off expectations, so that things they would otherwise try to slow down or stop, they’re already committed to spending,” Barton explains.

Cognos’ Enterprise Planning product incorporates software that it acquired from Adaytum—a UK-based provider of enterprise performance planning solutions that was founded in 1990—in December of 2002. In January of last year, Cognos touted some early integration between its own product line and that of Adaytum, including the rebranding of the Adaytum products and the creation of links between Cognos’ Upfront portal and Metrics Manager products and Adaytum’s software. In addition, Cognos announced that it would ship its PowerPlay ad hoc query and analysis tool with the Adaytum products, in place of a competitive solution from Business Objects SA.

Officials say that the new Enterprise Planning 7.2 fully incorporates the Adaytum technologies and boasts a number of new features, such as support for real-time reporting, enterprise reporting—via integration with Cognos’ ReportNet solution—and single-sign-on capabilities across all of Cognos’ products.

Cognos also revamped Enterprise Planning’s Active Planning component, bolstering it with new commands that are said to more quickly translate typical planning data changes—such as increasing sales by 10 perccent or decreasing a value by two percent—into direct-entry commands. In addition, the latest iteration of Active Planning features an audit trail, which Cognos says lets users and reviewers understand the business thoughts in arriving at a final plan.

Delbert Krause, director of enterprise planning product marketing with Cognos, claims that the new reporting enhancements in Enterprise Planning 7.2 will be warmly received by financial officers who must often make use of spreadsheets to accomplish their planning needs. “We’re breaking through a barrier that they had sort of been held back by, and that barrier was a reliance on spreadsheets [for enterprise planning],” he argues, citing estimates that between 50 and 70 percent use spreadsheets for planning purposes. “There’s a problem because spreadsheets are not interconnected. They’re file based, so it’s an arduous process to update them, and that caused people to do it infrequently, which has caused dysfunction in companies.”

To that end, Krause cites Enterprise Planning’s integration with ReportNet and the rest of Cognos’ BI stack, which he says enables real-time information delivery and reporting. “By real-time, we mean pointing directly at the live planning data with our planning solutions, so there’s no IT involved, there’s no building of additional BI solutions,” he asserts. “So we’re removing the latency and delay in reporting and analyzing financial information.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.