Host Analytics showcases functionality, helps elevate the finance function

Profile picture for user brianssommer By Brian Sommer May 21, 2017
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.

2017 blog - HAI user conf pic 8

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….