IBM Planning Analytics - Why you should put it on your accounting software shortlist

Learn about IBM's capabilities for sales planning, activity-based costing, strategic twenty-year plans, project planning, operational planning, inventory modelling, sustainability reporting and planning, and understand the importance of methodology and scalability.

IBM xPnA WhitePaper

1. Scalability and power

Let’s start with scalability.

Thanks to a lightning-fast multi-dimensional database, IBM Planning Analytics can easily take care of thousands of users. What’s more, a powerful rules engine can handle the most complex calculations at the drop of a hat. 

On top of this, IBM has added wonderful features over the last few years. The new Excel add-in and web interface, in particular, are world class.  

You have the option of the embedded Excel add-in version (called Planning Analytics for Excel, or PAfE), or going browser based with Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW), or both (at no additional cost). Either way, there are few simulations that this software can’t handle, meaning you’re in the driver’s seat. 

Scalability was one of the drivers for Fletcher Residential choosing IBM PA. It was able to bring all Fletcher Residential’s operational and financial data, reporting and forecasting into one structured platform, in which assumptions are globally assigned and the approach is consistent across the division. Data integrity, transparency and having a single source of truth enabled better business decisions and outcomes across one of New Zealand’s largest businesses. 

2. Financial planning and forecasting is just the start

The most common use for IBM Planning Analytics is as a financial planning and forecasting application. Typically, users will run multi-version, multi-year views of their Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet and Cash Flow, supported by detailed personnel modelling and Capital Expenditure. This is all good, essential stuff that calls for software that’s fast, reliable and powerful.  

So lots of boxes ticked there. 

But limiting it to that is like owning a Ferrari that you only use for grocery shopping. IBM Planning Analytics can support you with sales planning (by product, region, channel, etc.), activity based costing, strategic twenty-year plans, project planning, operational planning, inventory modelling, sustainability reporting and planning, and a whole lot more. 

3. You're the boss

Now before you assume I’m saying IBM Planning Analytics is the answer to everything, let me make one important proviso.  

No software will solve every problem on its own. To perform at its best, it needs a partner.  


More precisely, it needs the right methodology.   

Nel Botha, our Planning & Analytics Consulting Manager

We asked Nel Botha, our Planning Analytics Consulting Manager to pick up the conversation. He advises “this is so important that I’d go so far as to say that the right methodology on lesser software will usually deliver a better result than poor methodology on the best.  

One of the things I like a lot about IBM PA is that it’s not prescriptive in its methodology. That means that in the hands of the right implementation partner, the optimal solution can be crafted in a fairly short time.  

That’s as it should be. No organisation should have to shape their planning practice to fit their planning software; it’s the software’s job to allow the organisation to work according to their requirements. 

I also like IBM PA’s modular approach, which allows you to start small and get quick wins on the board before you take on the world. 

If your current pain point is HR and salaries, start there. Or, if your most pressing challenge is to do what-if scenarios around sales planning, start there. 

As you do this, you may initially identify more issues than you solve. For example, your planning platform (whether it’s IBM PA or something else) may challenge many of your assumptions, including some you didn’t make consciously. It will also probably identify missing or unclean data.  

Don’t be disheartened by this. It’s an indication that you are on the right track."

Great for dummies and experts alike

Planning Analytics Workspace (PAW) comes with a powerful and flexible web interface. If you’re an administrator, you’ll love the options it provides. If you’re a user, you’ll love its intuitiveness.  

An example of this is that even a relative newbie can publish robust applications in a preset format that allows such good things as powerful cube browsing (think pivot tables on steroids) and a wide range of visualisations. You don’t even have to be an expert to intuitively develop other formats with minimal handholding. 

At the same, the feature-rich visualisations are a skilled power user’s dream – likely faster than other software in this space for anything from the traditional charting selections to geospatial mapping. 

The sandbox capability enables authorised users to test changes and their impact through the database without committing to anything. This is similar to making changes in Excel without saving the file. Once you’re satisfied with the data, a single click is all you need to make these changes permanent. 

Many organisations start with a high level, top-down budget before moving to a detailed bottom-up budget.  

IBM PA offers a lot of assistance here. Its long-standing spreading functionality has been perfected over the years, enabling the end user to scale a large selection of numbers up or down (either by a percentage or by balancing to a new fixed number after first identifying any numbers that should not be changed). 

Initial deployment does not need to take months. Once user requirements are defined, the first phase of a typical project should be about 2 to 3 months for both cloud and on-premises versions. (Although we highly recommend the cloud offering, there are business cases that call for an on-premises option.) 

IBM Planning Analytics has been recognised by these organisations in 2022. 


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IBM xPnA WhitePaper
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