Host Analytics showcases functionality, helps elevate the finance function

SUMMARY:

Host Analytics is adding a slew of much needed functionality that removes the drudge work from financial compliance, freeing up the professional for helping work through business imperatives.

Host Analytics annual user conference showcased a number of new innovations and partnerships. For those unfamiliar with the brand, Host Analytics is a CPM (corporate performance management)/EPM (enterprise performance management) vendor. Their solution includes a number of consolidation, budgeting, forecasting and other financial capabilities.

Before we get to the show announcements, let’s cover the big thematic points that CEO Dave Kellogg and others made at the show. These included:

  • The vision for CPM is changing radically. It’s more than a basic planning/consolidation tool. When technology was constrained and expensive, CPM was limited in its capabilities. Now, CPM/EPM can utilize big, non-transactional data to make forecasts more accurate.
  • Timely (almost instantaneous) re-forecasting is now possible via new, more powerful underlying technologies.
  • Re-keying and manual manipulation of data is going away. Smart tools can do a lot of the non-value added work that many accounting/finance professionals abhor.

A quick recap of the technology relationships announced at Host Analytics World 2017 included:

  • Host Analytics and Workiva are integrating their solutions. In one demonstration, Host Analytics presenters showed how a business can consolidate financial results across various ERP and divisional solutions and then pump the results into Workiva. At this point, Workiva mapped key financial data into SEC reports and included the appropriate XBRL. Workiva has solutions in a number of financial niches (e.g., Audit Management, SOX Compliance and Regulatory Reporting) although how far the two solutions are integrated is not immediately clear.  A Workiva executive characterized the relationship as one that ‘creates a full end-to-end solution for completing the last mile of finance’. For reference, Workiva also has partnerships with cloud ERP vendors Intacct and Oracle.
  • Prevedere and Host Analytics are linking their solutions. Prevedere is a provider of predictive analytics technology. In a keynote demo, customers saw how a company could validate its forecasts/models with macro-economic data and tools from Prevedere. Specifically, the demonstration showed how a company could determine if expected sales growth was possible given a number of consumer buying behavior and economic data points. Host Analytic customers should be able to generate more predictive forecasts based on data sourced from outside their company. for example linear extrapolations of past sales transactions or educated guesses from sales professionals).

There were other products/integrations showcased as well. Like most every software conference this year, we saw Alexa fetching data from the vendor’s system.

We also saw products like Slack and a brain computer interface. The former technology I get but the latter tool seemed a bit too sci-fi and too light on business benefits for me.

Host Analytics also announced a tighter relationship with NetSuite. In the Spring 17 release, Host Analytics software will appear as a selectable item under the NetSuite ERP EPM tab. The integration includes single sign-on for both solutions. A NetSuite data connector is also available to make it easier for joint customers to move NetSuite data into the Host Analytic application.

This is an interesting development on a couple of levels. Previously, Host competitor Adaptive Insights has enjoyed this level of connectivity with NetSuite. At the recent Oracle/NetSuite SuiteWorld, Adaptive doubled-down on this relationship. Today, NetSuite customers and prospects will have choices: Host, Adaptive and Oracle’s Hyperion EPM solution. I’ll have more to say on this after Adaptive’s user conference in a few weeks. Bottom line: NetSuite will do whatever it takes to win net-new customers and if their customers desire an EPM/CPM solution from a non-Oracle source, then so be it.

There were other product announcements:

  • Virtually all Host functionality is now available on most desktop and mobile browsers
  • Employee data (in the Workforce Planning functionality) can now be updated via mass edits. Users caught a glimpse of this in the keynote.
  • Host now possesses something called breakback allocations. From what I saw, it appears to let users make big changes to plans without a ton of re-work. For example, a user could accelerate a capital spending program (and all of its component steps, dates, costs, etc.) in a couple of clicks.
  • Users can save different ownership, legal structure and other consolidation hierarchy information and apply these to different accounting periods.

My take

I’m an operational and strategy executive. If there was something I hated, it was burying my head into budgeting/forecasting spreadsheets. I loathed this activity as the spreadsheet was only somewhat better than doing the task via paper. Worse, after all my work, some executive above me would want the plan tweaked – a task that meant a tedious review of every line item and every assumption.

Thankfully, CPM/EPM tools exist and much of that drudgery is gone. The enhancements to Host’s solution continued to chip away at the less fun aspects of planning/forecasting and make the value potential of these tools grow in importance to the business as real world planning aids.

I especially liked the inclusion of external data that Host now brings to its users’ forecasts. They could have done a whole keynote session on that alone. I also liked the Workiva integration – the SEC reporting enhancement was a great add to the product line. Hint: just ask CFOs how tedious regulatory compliance is these days.

I like the direction of this space. Host and others are freeing finance professionals from the low/no value-add world to a more strategic contributor to the firm. That’s something we can all appreciate….

Image credit - via the author

Disclosure - NetSuite and Oracle are premier partners at time of writing.

    Comments are closed.

    1. Nate says:

      The Oracle PBCS product, which will soon be available to NetSuite customers, already has all of the core functionality mentioned here. With the ongoing development investment in aligning the PBCS product with NetSuite customer needs, and verticalizing the solution to match the NetSuite GTM approach, it is going to be difficult for Host, Adaptive or other CPM/EPM vendors to continue to build market share in NetSuite accounts. The longer term play for Host and Adaptive is to buddy up with Intacct, or some other ERP with some scale. Host is on shaky ground technically (the majority of customers are on their old technology, not the new stuff they showcase at conferences) and Adaptive doesn’t have a clear exit strategy with N and ORCL off the table as potential buyers and other CPM/EPM vendors taking center stage as potential IPO candidates.

    2. says:

      The previous commenter is correct that NetSuite has discontinued its resale relationship with Adaptive Insights as a result of the acquisition of NetSuite by Oracle. I believe his views are optimistic regarding Oracle’s ability to meet the needs of NetSuite customers with PBCS and that while Oracle selling in any category creates as “tax” on the overall market (i.e., they get some natural share due to indifferent buyers who just take what’s in the box), that there is no reason to assume (nor any argument presented) as to why Oracle will automatically take over EPM in NetSuite accounts.

      In fact, we already know that how reselling worked with NetSuite because they already did it with Adaptive. Adaptive (aka NetSuite Planning) picked up some natural market share but did not dominate because (1) many buyers seek best of breed solutions and just don’t take what’s in the box, (2) Adaptive continues to have scalability problems that limit its ability to function / perform in more complex environments, (3) specialists like Anaplan focused on areas like Sales Planning that may attract interested customers in that direction, and (4) EPM is somewhat inherently cross-platform as many companies have multiple GLs and prefer to use EPM as a central integration point.

    3. Nice article Brian. The partnerships with Workiva and Prevedere were well-received at Host Analytics World, as were the other new features we introduced. Great point about NetSuite customers having choices for EPM solutions that are integrated with NS ERP. This allows them to select the solution that best matches their requirements and budget.

    4. Ryan Cummins says:

      I’m looking forward to the updated functionality and continued improvements Host Analytics makes!

      1. Megan says:

        I am as well! Looks to be continuously improving!

    5. Cassandra price says:

      Always enlightening attending the Host conferences. It makes you aware of the giant leaps being made each year to improve the product to allow the maximum return on your software investment.

    6. Lee Johnston says:

      I think that one of Host’s most exciting new functionalities is Excel Based Reporting. This was a substantial leap forward in my opinion, adding freedom and flexibility to report creation and dissemination – easy access to a single version of your data (via a simple, in-cell database query) with all the functionality of excel.

    7. Edward says:

      The conference gives me the comfort that they not only support the products they have, but are continually striving to improve their products and services!

    8. Jean Dnae says:

      I am looking forward to seeing how the relationship with Prevedere develops, as the ability to use predictive analysis as a tool in forecasting and risk analysis is fast becoming the norm.

    9. Lauren says:

      Host has helped my company tremendously with reporting (our FRP was previously a 100 tab excel model) and is now 3 report collections.

    10. Jamie says:

      I think that one of Host’s best functionality is Excel plug ins but also integration into the Google suite. It allows us to work seamlessly as a group and has been a great help in speeding up our planning cycle.

    11. Kate says:

      It’s exciting to be able to integrate solutions. The best of the best!