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A transformed finance function - OneStream, but multiple announcements

Brian Sommer Profile picture for user brianssommer May 31, 2024
Summary:
Not content to be a one-note user conference, OneStream made sure there was plenty to digest at their recent OneStream Splash event.

OneStream

I’ve covered several OneStream user conferences in recent years. During that time, the company:

  • has grown significantly in revenue and headcount. The company added approximately 250 new customers in 2023.  (To underscore the growth observation, employee count has grown from around 300 in May 2019 to around 1,100 two years ago. It’s now at 1300 or so today.)
  • grew from 300 customers in May 2019 to over 950 two years ago. Today, it counts around 1,400 customers. YoY growth here is 20%.
  • had ARR of approximately $450MM in 2023 up from $300MM in 2022 and $200MM in 2021.
  • has added a number of implementation and other partners. At this show alone, I noticed a presence from KPMG, BDO, PWC and The Hackett Group to name a few.
  • pioneered a number of machine learning/AI technologies in recent years with a flurry of announcements at this conference.
  • convinced solutions partners to create 40+ product extensions, integrations, etc. with their platform. Some of the recent innovations that are now on the OneStream Solution Exchange include:
  • AIQOS – Lease Accounting
  • AMCO – Advanced Tax Connect
  • Asperitas – HomePage Builder
  • Black Diamond – Accordion Rolling Forecast & Simple Code
  • Inlumi – Enterprise Tax Reporting
  • MindStream Analytics – Accrual Manager – ASC 606 Deferred Revenue

The OneStream audiences are different from those of many other financial software vendors. While financial software events are usually attended by accountants, their reactions, as a whole, are often subdued and reserved. They don’t excite easily nor are they boisterous. Instead of wild enthusiasm, you’ll likely see polite clapping. Yet, OneStream’s audiences buck that trend. Their crowds clap, yell out “Woo-Woo” and actively react with the speakers. I point this out as the main keynote this year was full of advanced technology and other announcements that prompted a lot of spontaneous and loud approvals from the audience. The audience this year was in the 3000-person range.

OneStream’s focus

The firm’s new tagline is “Take Finance Further™”. It positions the firm’s products with its target buyers (i.e., top Finance executives) as a means to free up accounting staff time from non- or low-value-added tasks/processes/activities and help Finance team members provide more value to the operational parts of their firm.

But that wasn’t the only soundbite to pop up repeatedly at the show. We also heard:

  • Uniquely Unified (It’s how OneStream will link all of its tools and data together)
  • Get Down to Zero (It’s the direction OneStream intends to help clients reduce the number of moving parts used in Finance processes so that value can be realized more expeditiously)
  • Nail Down the Core and Then Do More (OneStream’s approach to adding functionality to apps)
  • Infinite Extensibility (self-explanatory)

There’s one other angle regarding the take finance further messaging. OneStream is not interested in (or diluting its sales/marketing efforts by) chasing leads in other areas of a prospect (e.g., Sales, Operations, etc.). This narrow focus is intentional and helps them avoid diluting their efforts, capital, product direction, etc.  OneStream does not aspire to be a jack-of-all-trades tool vendor. They will develop and sell solutions primarily to Finance and the groups they support.

The conference news

In short order, OneStream executives rattled off a number of AI and other announcements. In a signature move by OneStream, they always seem to have more material than the keynote can support. In this year’s event, the 1.5 hour keynote was overrun by a half-hour of additional content. That’s actually a good thing as several software events are content light and lard up their keynotes with marching bands, banal staged faux customer interviews, and, lectures about how much the world changed since the pandemic. OneStream’s event was 97% product news focused.

AI

OneStream’s been doing the AI tech for some time now.  In fact, in September 2021, OneStream CEO Tom Shea laid out what he saw as the challenges and opportunities for software vendors/customers re: AI. This diginomica piece covers his remarks then and is interesting in light of its still spot-on relevance.

And then, almost exactly two years ago, I documented a machine learning presentation from their user conference in May 2022: 

OneStream did put together one great joint OneStream/customer presentation re: their new Machine Learning capabilities. The customer was Polaris, the outdoor vehicle maker, and they are using new OneStream products to better predict demand for their various outdoor products.

What made this presentation really work for so many in the audience is that Polaris and OneStream explained how a ML application works and removed the black box knowledge barrier that other vendors hide behind. I saw all kinds of accountants (i.e., the largest segment of attendees) photographing slides that explained different kinds of planning algorithms, test results between actual and algorithmic expected values and more. They discussed the different libraries to choose modelling templates from and showed how they ran several years of actual data against approximately 65 different models to find the best two performing models. They also quantified the kinds and magnitude of savings that were possible both financially and operationally.

That talk was a very digestible, entertaining and highly educational session that wiped away the mystery behind ML. I only wish other vendors had seen this and would make this a hallmark of their events and sales presentations.

I’m taking you down memory lane as it is clearer than ever that OneStream has been and continues to be focused on advanced technologies like ML/AI/Generative AI/etc.

OneStream announced the following last week:

  • OneStream Sensible Gen AI: Combines the power of data from business processes and workflows with gen AI — including a built-in chatbot — for users to query and interact with their company’s enterprise information and assets. The chatbot’s business context enables it to cite where information is being pulled from efficiently and effectively.”  The ability to cite sources for the information and provide textual responses (via generative AI) was a big hit with customers. These tools require companies to connect the tools to their historical financial accounting (and possibly other) data so that the generative AI can be trained. This training may vary by company and the costs could vary as a result. This tool also appears to be able to generate textual notations about financial data in financial reports, briefing books, etc.
  • OneStream Sensible AI Library: Makes it easier for finance teams to consume and interact with enterprise data by creating AI-powered workflows on top of existing business processes that solve key reporting challenges — such as detecting anomalies or cold start forecasting — across assets and locations.”  This was another crowd favorite. This tool can anticipate where a transaction or activity should move to next based on a standard workflow that gets enhanced if the AI tool detects something different/anomalous with the data. For example, it could route a transaction to different people for reviews based on the size of the transaction, where the transaction originated, etc. Theoretically, it could also detect which transactions might represent potential fraudulent events and send them to specialized personnel for a more detailed review.
  • OneStream Sensible ML Scenario Modeling: Quickly generates real-time, AI-driven “what-if” scenarios that isolate key business drivers — such as interest rates or inflation — so FP&A teams can test their impact across forecasting and planning areas.” This capability seems to build on the functionality OneStream demonstrated two years ago with a key customer. This helps customers improve the quality and speed of forecasting by allowing customers to plug in a number of variables, simultaneously to see which ones generate the most useful forecasts.

The transformed finance function

Another cluster of announcements centered on how OneStream is simplifying/unifying Finance operations. These announcements focused on:

  • Centralized Narrative Reporting – This capability taps into performance measures that OneStream has populated on its platform plus others that customers possess. This is a huge time saver for users as it pulls together the data, calculates the metrics, and, crafts a narrative that not only describe what it means but how it relates to the business. It can even cite its sources and works with Microsoft Office.
  • A New UX for the OneStream products that works across all kinds of computing devices (phones, tablets, PCs).
  • Simplified CPM execution a.k.a. CPM Express – From what I gathered, this pre-configured solution integrates & simplifies all kinds of financial processes (e.g., consolidations, closes, reporting, etc.) into a single set of tightly integrated capabilities and workflows.    

OneStream had other announcements, too, including:

  • The OneStream products run on Microsoft.  OneStream relies on a Microsoft stack. It runs on Azure and is optimized for Microsoft 365 and Microsoft Teams. OneStream is even available on the Azure marketplace and is a MACC (Microsoft Azure Consumption Commitment) product.  OneStream also announced it has a Certified Connector to Microsoft’s PowerBI tool. OneStream describes this connector as a no-code seamless integration.
  • InfinitySPM’s Sales Performance Management software is now on the OneStream platform. While it is not a Finance tool per se, it does connect to Payroll, forecasting and budgeting applications. A OneStream press release noted: 

Built on the OneStream platform, SPM for OneStream expands Finance-led business planning efforts by ending the data wrangling across multiple tools and data sets, unifying crucial enterprise insights into one process, strategically aligning sales goals, metrics, incentives and compensation plans with comprehensive revenue forecasting, budgeting and financial planning.

My take

Attending these events over the last several years provides an interesting perspective. While OneStream mostly emphasized AI capabilities at this show, I also noticed how much it has grown and matured.

OneStream’s approach to AI has been evolving over the years and their initial ML capabilities were impressive. The audience certainly warmed up to the new capabilities and I’d be surprised if a large number of them didn’t sign up for these in short order. Larger customers will likely adopt new AI capabilities first. OneStream may need to provide more information re: AI pricing to customers/prospects though.

The focus on Finance is likely a great one to have for the next couple of years. I suspect that, in time, customers will start using some of the new AI/modeling/forecasting/etc. tools in ways and areas that OneStream did not anticipate or fully support. But, that’s the nature of technology: people are always looking for ways and places to re-purpose it.

Lastly, the customer reaction to everything was positive – very positive. And, that is the reaction every vendor dreams of at a user conference but not everyone gets this. Ah, how I miss the rare conference where a customer heckles the CEO keynoter. Guess I’ll have to catch a different vendor’s event for that.

Let’s see what new things OneStream can trot out in 2025….

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