Adaptive 2016.2 Product Release: More Data, More Analytics, More Visualization

Compass on the Beach

Hali Lindbloom, our senior director of development and one of Adaptive Insights’ founding engineers, shared a product requirements document with me from Adaptive Insights’ earliest days. The first thing that impressed me was its heft: 46 pages. Robert S. Hull and the founding team had quite a lot to say about corporate performance management right out of the gate.

But what hit me on further reflection is that Adaptive Insights’ true north is unwavering. Now with over 3,000 customers, we are still about empowering finance teams to move the needle and become more strategic—to drive better decisions faster by achieving excellence in core FP&A processes, engaging more deeply with adjacent functions, and converting more data into actionable insights.

Watch the webcast “Effective CPM: Integrating Finance and Operational Planning”

Our latest product release—the Adaptive Suite 2016.2 announced today—boasts important capabilities that serve the evolving needs of the strategic finance organization. These include:

  • Continued innovation on our purpose-built self-service data integration platform for finance
  • New capabilities that move the industry further along the path to pervasive analytics
  • Even tighter integration with Microsoft Office, enabling users to work the way they want to work

Self-service data integration for finance

The extension of our Adaptive Integration platform across the Adaptive Suite puts business users in control of the data they need to complete their work, while providing unparalleled access to data across the organization. They can now stage data from a variety of preconfigured adapters and then get it just right for modeling and analytics. Tasks like merging columns, joining within and across data sources, filtering, and converting data types are a snap and require no coding. In addition, it’s now possible to automatically push forward-looking data from the Adaptive Suite and into external systems.

We are, of course, users of our own software. Tom Peff, an Adaptive Insights power user in finance and a fellow blogger on this site, called the new Adaptive Integration capabilities “life changing” because, for the first time, he was able to access and load all the data he needed from source systems like Salesforce and NetSuite without having to rely on technical services. It was self-service for Tom.

Figure 1: Self-service data integration for finance

Figure 1: Self-service data integration for finance

Bringing analytics into planning

Does this scenario sound familiar? You’re a financial analyst and you’re preparing a deck for executive review. You find an unfavorable $40,000 variance in engineering. You prepare an Excel workbook with numbers, charts, and annotations, and email it to the head of engineering, who replies with some clarifying questions. So, you tweak your analysis and send it over again. Two days and seven iterations later, things settle down and you get going on creating a deck with the final results.

Good ol’ email and Excel—they are sometimes unavoidable, but almost always inefficient and error-prone. So, with the advent of powerful corporate performance management solutions, why does this process remain so manual? An important reason is that the process spans not only people and functions, but also organizational levels. To wit: Financial analysts often live in a highly detailed model world, while other decision-makers, like line of business managers, rely on summarized visualization of data. The fact that finance folks increasingly branch out to adjacent functions and incorporate their data only aggravates the problem.

What if analysts could use the detailed modeling system where they work every day to generate analytic views for decision-makers and then share those views with decision-makers in an environment tailored for them?

This is just what we’ve made possible with the new Adaptive Suite 2016.2 release. Now, analysts can select ranges of data in their planning environments and chart them with a single click. They can fine-tune their results by layering in additional plan versions and accounts just as easily. But here’s where it gets really interesting: Analysts can publish their visual results to the Adaptive Discovery dashboarding platform for sharing with line of business leaders—again, with a single click. This means that instead of being limited to the contents of a static Excel workbook, business leaders are invited into a visual analytics environment where they can easily dig deeper into relevant data themselves.

The benefits of this approach are significant. Analysts can spend less time building one-off models, thereby reducing errors. The communication channel between finance and the lines of business will be more meaningful, precise, and efficient. Line of business managers can get more engaged because they can work in a visual analytics world tailored for them. And ultimately, they will make better decisions, faster.

Figure 2: Single-click analytics

Figure 2: Single-click analytics

Anytime trend analysis

We’ve introduced another neat feature in this area called Active Sparklines. Edward Tufte, the inventor of the sparkline, called it a “small, intense, simple, word-sized graphic with typographic resolution.” They’re standard fare in Excel and financial websites these days. Now added to Adaptive Planning, they give planners an at-a-glance read as to how their key figures are trending. Active Sparklines can even be used to trend multiple plan versions.

But wait, there’s more! Sometimes in planning, it isn’t about coming up with an amount down to the penny for your projected legal expense. Instead, you want to be able to quickly adjust numbers so that they track within a range and follow a general trend. That’s why we created Active Sparklines. They let you do exactly this—you zoom in to an Active Sparkline, select the points that need adjustment, and simply drag them to where they should be. The system automatically updates the underlying values in the sheet.

Figure 3: Active Sparklines

Figure 3: Active Sparklines

We believe these capabilities are not only needed by the market, but are also very differentiating—not to mention patent pending! Plus, they continue to demonstrate the technological and market leadership we’ve become known for. We’re looking forward to continuing to innovate and evolve our platform, breaking new ground in CPM software, and ensuring that users have the tools they need to be agile, data-driven decision-makers.

Work in your environment

Usability is a cornerstone design principle at Adaptive Insights. With the Adaptive Suite 2016.2 release, we’re continuing to expand our lead as the most user-friendly planning tool on the market by letting people work the way they want, in the environment they prefer. Indeed, as finance folks collaborate more and more with people from adjacent functions, it’s increasingly important to streamline the adoption process.

A key development in this area is the introduction of a new Excel interface for planning. We already have a reporting solution for the Microsoft Office suite. Our new Excel interface rounds out the offering by encompassing the planning part of the process.

The new interface employs an author-once-deploy-anywhere model by leveraging the same familiar set of sheet definitions. It coexists with OfficeConnect, so planners will be able to support complete planning workflows with workbooks that contain both planning sheets and reports. Finally, it’s totally integrated into the suite. For example, it supports our popular cell explorer feature, which allows planners to see details about every data element in the system.

Figure 4: Excel interface for planning

Figure 4: Excel interface for planning

Upshot

The Adaptive Suite 2016.2 release enables three primary capabilities:

  1. Self-service data integration for finance—enables finance folks to enrich their models with more data from more sources—largely untethered from IT
  2. Visualization in planning—brings analytics into the planning process for in-context visualization of data and faster decision-making
  3. Flexibility to work the way you want—provides an environment that is not only easy to use, but enables users to work where and how they want to work

Judging by reactions from our customers and industry analysts alike, this new release will deliver real and differentiated value to our users.

Author bio: Matt Shore, Vice President of Product Strategy, Adaptive Insights
Matt is currently vice president of product strategy at Adaptive Insights, where his charter is to articulate and guide product vision and direction across the Adaptive Suite. Matt spent the past two decades in the data management and analytics space in R&D, strategy, and solutions delivery. He started two analytics software companies and made seminal contributions to the product offerings of Oracle, Hyperion, and Adaptive Insights. He also drove several large-scale CPM implementations in high tech, bio-tech, and CPG industries.

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