METRICS: BPM May Push Excel Aside

Many companies are moving away from Excel and embracing more flexible, Web-based planning tools to handle business performance, planning and reporting, according to a recent survey.

Meta Group says 85 per cent of respondents to its recent business performance management (BPM) survey indicated that they will have a BPM solution underway within the next 18 months. Just 15 per cent indicated they had no plans for BPM. Meta Group defines BPM is an integrated management approach that includes Web-based analytical applications (to gather and analyse data), business plans to achieve desired metrics and the necessary reporting and forecasting to ensure performance goals.

Before BPM tools came along, many of these functions were handled with simple spreadsheet software like Microsoft's Excel. Meta Group Vice President John Van Decker says that the emergence of new tools is helping drive interest in BPM. "Clearly the Web-based tools are enabling organisations to get more folks involved in business performance process," Van Decker says. "Historically, planning and reporting has been an Excel-based process. Companies are trying to get away from that."

Roughly 76 per cent of the survey respondents said they were diving into BPM because they believed it would allow them to make better decisions. Two-thirds (66 percent) of respondents said BPM would improve the efficiency of their reporting and planning processes (bye-bye Excel), while 58 per cent said BPM would allow them to allocate their resources better. Fourth on the list at 44 percent, and a point that Van Decker takes particular note of, is the role that executives believe BPM will play in increasing levels of accountability and transparency in the enterprise. Van Decker says regulations such as those in Sarbanes-Oxley will require companies to be more diligent about their reporting. Web-based BPM tools make it easier for organisations to share data among business units and line managers so they can mark any red flags.

"In a lot of cases companies would just sign reports that come out of their ERP solution," Van Decker says. "These tools can provide alerts or notification when anomalies are detected, before they are booked as part of the accounting record."

Van Decker says CIOs will play a role in BPM as they help the finance group evaluate and choose tools that will integrate with existing applications and infrastructures. "Over the next three to five years organisations will be requiring that there be a deeper level of integration," Van Decker says, "That's where IT needs to ensure that this can be brought together."

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