Finance and accounting professionals don't have time for "mundane processes" said Alex Ortiz, head of Product Marketing for Host Analytics. Alleviating the heavy workloads of F&A pros is one of the major goals of the latest release of Host Analytics' enterprise performance management software, which emphasizes process automation.
"Finance and accounting professionals are in a continual race against the clock to produce frequent and reoccurring reports and analysis. For example, they must produce weekly flash reports for executives, monthly P&Ls for business unit managers and quarterly consolidated financials for the board, SEC, banks and other stakeholders," Ortiz said via email. "In order to find the time to produce the high quality analysis that their business partners value, finance and accounting needs to shave time off of mundane processes like moving data from their ERP system to Host Analytics."
The new Host Analytics release provides deep integration with Box, which will enable organizations to streamline data processing by giving users the ability to automatically and securely move and load financial information from flat files stored in Box into the Host Analytics Cloud Platform with no need for third-party integration platforms.
Leveraging this integration, a feature called the Cloud Scheduler enables users to upload, email or sync files to the Box cloud environment, and then Host Analytics automatically uses pre-configured rules to integrate the data.
The release also introduces a feature called Report Collections that gives F&A pros a way to automate the generation and distribution of reports. For example, in larger organizations with many P&L managers, finance typically has to manually assemble monthly reports customized for each business unit manager. Report Collections streamlines this process so finance can focus on providing more strategic insights.
According to Ortiz, future software releases will automate various other time-intensive tasks such as financial consolidation, closing the books, financial package assembly and distributing reports.
Analytics and Reporting
In addition to new automation capabilities, the release includes a new dashboard for CFOs that provides a summary of key metrics, delivered via a combination of charts, reports and narratives. Key features include self-service business intelligence, 24 chart types and interactive drill-down. CFOs can get information and analysis on areas like what-if scenarios, customer churn and recurring revenue. The CFO Dashboard also provides analysis capabilities on bookings, revenue, headcount, customers, operations and billing.
The company has also tweaked its Business Analytics, adding trellis charts that make it easy to compare several smaller charts along with 24 existing chart types. Users also can now leverage hierarchical views of data and enjoy access to drag-and-drop report selections, new aggregation options and expanded drill-down capabilities.
Host Analytics also added additional drill-down and drill-through options to Dynamic Reports, a report generator that combines ad hoc and presentation-quality reporting. Now, customers can drill on any combination of groupings like operational expenses by GL account and sub-account, roll-ups like total expenses and drill through to transactions on time roll-ups like year to date.
According to Ortiz, dashboards are "a seamless part of our application," which differentiates the product from competitor Oracle, which offers a business intelligence platform called OBIEE that is sold separately from its Hyperion enterprise performance management software.
"From a functional comparison perspective, OBIEE requires an IT professional versed in scripting to design and modify dashboarding," he said. "With Host Analytics, business users can design and modify dashboards themselves by using drag-and-drop features. In this release, we are adding more features that make it even easier for business professionals to design and use dashboards. Those features include new data aggregation options and new drill-down options which make it easy to discover the drivers behind a dashboard."
Another new feature called Time Sets makes it easier for organizations to conduct strategic planning over longer time horizons. Instead of inputting data like forecasted revenue or operational expenses in monthly time-spans, customers can enter data in quarterly and yearly time frames for longer-term views. Host Analytics customers can now create multi-year plans that utilize a monthly time set for the first year, quarterly for the next two years and annually for the remaining years. The new release also allows customers to re-use time sets across a variety of models.
Rick Odom, senior manager Financial Planning and Analysis at Host Analytics' customer Welch Allyn, said his company plans to use the new Time Sets feature to input at the quarterly level for the out months of its 18 month rolling forecasts. "Since we re-forecast quarterly, this will save us time," he said in a statement.
Host Analytics offers a suite of financial applications for planning, consolidation, reporting and analytics. Its customers include NEC, Burlington Coat Factory and Sanmina.