Planning Analytics

Better Planning Outcomes with IBM Planning Analytics

By Justin Croft posted Thu October 22, 2020 09:21 AM

  

IBM recently released version 2.0.57 of its Planning Analytics Workspace environment. Planning Analytics Workspace is an enterprise tool for the creation, collaboration, and consumption of planning and analysis content. Organizations large and small depend on Workspace for their planning and decision-making processes, which is more important than ever in these uncertain and dynamic market conditions. The new features and capabilities introduced by IBM will help QueBIT deliver better planning outcomes for our clients and IBM’s customers.

The new features add polish and capability to an already full-featured application. Three areas in particular will benefit from the recent release:

  • Better control of the planning process
  • Easier analysis and visualization
  • Confidence through forecasting with machine learning

Let’s examine each of these outcomes and how Workspace can help clients become more resilient through better planning.

Controlling the Planning Process

IBM has introduced a guided planning feature to make it easier for both budget leaders and budget participants to reach the finish line. The new component allows you to create a “plan” that consists of one or more Workspace workbooks a user needs to enter data into and then submit. Each step in the process can be assigned to one or more users based on security groups. End users see a clean, polished interface showing them critical details like due dates, announcements, and links to required books.

Guiding the planning process is easier and more transparent than ever, with these enhancements from IBM.  That is critical because we’re seeing clients planning more frequently and at a lower level of detail than ever before, in response to the pandemic and the current economic situation. Clients with a staid annual planning process are struggling to adapt to a world where decision-makers need near weekly forecasts as conditions change. The guided planning process is helping administrators and end users clearly define and manage the planning process with more transparency and speed than ever before.


Easier Analysis & Visualizations

Communicating about data through visualizations is one of Workspace’s strong suits, and the recent changes move IBM further ahead. IBM has added a number of additional tools and chart types to make data speak for itself. Three in particular are already making an impact:

  • Waterfall Charts: The quintessential chart for explaining budget to actual variances (and more!) for FP&A (Financial Planning & Analysis) professionals is now native to Workspace. These charts illustrate the components that contributed to a given number’s net change, telling a complete story at a glance.
  • Gridlines: Details and appearance matter. Users increasingly expect perfection, and developers want to give it to them. The new gridline feature in Workspace’s edit mode make it easy to precisely align charts and widgets to fit any design.
  • Smart context menus: previous versions of Workspace placed some features in obscure pop-up menus. The latest version does a great job of surfacing relevant options in a context-aware sidebar menu. These “smart menus” are intuitive, making the design process in Workspace seamless.


Confidence with Machine Learning Forecasting

For the first time, Planning Analytics now has native machine learning tools to aid in the planning process. Previously users had to leverage tools like Watson Studio or SPSS Modeler to create time series-related forecasts. IBM has brought that feature set directly into Workspace so that end users can benefit from this sophisticated predictive modeling technology.

Directly within a Workspace book, users are presented with a new “forecast” option. The forecasting process walks the user through creating a time series forecast by learning from historical data to project future values. Workspace does the heavy lifting by selecting the right algorithm and tracking accuracy across forecast versions. Users just select the historical data (either base or consolidated) on which to base the forecast, and Workspace  reports back the details, including accuracy and confidence intervals.

Users can plan with confidence, knowing that the machine learning aspect has been automated by Workspace . It is now easy to create a baseline statistical forecast on which to layer any adjustments or changes.


Summary

At QueBIT we see clients working diligently to react to the latest challenges, be it a wildfire, economic stimulus, or swell in demand from recent changes in consumer behavior. How well each client reacts to changing conditions is largely a function of their planning process and ultimately their planning systems.  IBM Planning Analytics and these new features are already helping our clients emerge more resilient in these uncertain times.

 

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