Financial services firms are a favorite target since they always seem to be acquiring new businesses, meaning they have systems that don’t talk to each other, even if they come from the same vendor. When Bank of America acquired Merrill Lynch, both were running SAP.
“But you can’t consolidate across them. Just because they run the same software doesn’t mean that any of their requirements match. They have thousands of discrete requirements, and some requirements contradict others.” They could try to harmonize the two systems, said deVera, but they would never get the job done.
“We have the ability to take schedules in Excel or Web-based forms and reconcile the data from those schedules. We are not reaching into systems of record, though. If I have a country controller in Hong Kong who is submitting into the arcplan system and the numbers are outside our guidelines, they have to attest to the accuracy; I can’t drill down into the numbers in Hong Kong.” One large customer had more than 100 general ledgers around the world; it is unlikely to ever consolidate all of them into a single system.
He said arcplan can provide enterprise dashboards and scorecards, full-blown budget planning and forecasting solutions and customized industry-specific solutions for financial service.
“We are in the report business, but we also provide the ability to enter commentary and contextual analysis. Users can also submit planning data in a bi-directional way for any data platform we support including SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and Teradata.” It is one of the few companies to support Teradata’s OLAP Connector in addition to the relational interface.
It is popular among users of SAP, Oracle and IBM, according to a recent survey by the Business Application Research Centers (BARC).
As deVera describes arcplan’s appeal, it is especially strong at companies running several or all of those systems.
“As long as you are in the walled garden of SAP, your life could be okay, although very expensive,” he explained. “But if you aren’t in the SAP walled garden and have a division running Oracle as well, this is where there is a mismatch and a great opportunity for arcplan. We have the flexibility and independence to do what is needed to fix the problem without getting into an internal geo-political fight over handing a piece to Larry Ellison.”
Even though large enterprises have invested tens of millions in business intelligence (BI) systems they still run their company on a bunch of spreadsheets, he added.
“Excel is the most popular analytical platform on earth; it really runs the business of corporate America from what we have seen. Companies have made lots of technology investment in BI and planning platforms, but in the end people really run the business with Excel. When Excel gets too unmanageable, then you look for a platform that can bring some order from chaos. A decent part of our product line runs in Excel. That allows transparency and governance. If you are connected to an arcplan-enabled spreadsheet, it is directly connected to the systems and available on tablets and Web browsers.” The newest version, arcplan 7.5, allows users to drag-and-drop their BI application from a browser into Excel.
With arcplan, users can develop once and deploy anywhere — across laptops, tablets and smartphones with the click of a button, he added, which cuts the time to deploy mobile applications. Live Screenshot Widgets in arcplan can display important metrics with real-time data, similar to what Microsoft is doing with its live tiles, but with graphics. The application also supports automated risk reporting.
While it is used on tablets, deVera has some concerns about the spread of iPads as an executive tool.
“A tablet as a personal computer is horrendously underpowered. You can’t do real calculations or math on your tablet and it has all kinds of problems — not a lot of storage, not a lot of calculation capability plus security problems.”
In spite of all those drawbacks, deVera said tablets represent the future of how business people will work.
“If your work is more information consumption and decision-based, rather than authoring content, the tablet connected to your corporate systems is the perfect device.” Whether that will remain the iPad or whether Microsoft’s Surface will become the standard for the enterprise, remains to be seen.
In financial services, the ability to drill down into data and find something that is out of whack on a mobile device and then send an email will be prized. No one is going to wait to get back to a desktop to draft an email deVera said.
“The horse has left the barn for IT. There is no IT organization that I have seen which has effectively mandated control over global devices. Senior executives bought iPads and no CIO is going to say they can’t use them. You need to make the system work on the device and with a Web platform you can do that.”
While Microsoft Windows 8 on Surface could ease security concerns and provide direct links to Office apps such as Excel, deVera is skeptical about its chances.
“They are third to the market. On one ever remembers who was third. Steve Jobs dis a masterful job of getting to the market first.”
arcplan has mobile apps in Apple and Android and will fully support Windows 8, including a GUI that has right angles and sharp edges to fit the Microsoft tile style, while its Apple interface is all rounded corners, the Apple style.
Internally, arcplan uses all the devices, from MacBook Airs to Apple iPad Mini to Windows 8 and Apple TV.
“We embrace cloud-based technologies and web services, so for the most part the individual apps in Android or Apple are just shells calling out cloud services,” added deVera who works on a MacBook Air but also has a laptop PC getting Windows 8 installed.
By Tom Groenfeldt, EPM Contributor, from: http://www.forbes.com/sites/tomgroenfeldt/2012/11/28/arcplan-makes-chaos-comprehensible/2/
I write about finance and technology, which can range from supercomputers to iPhones and iPads, which have made inroads into enterprise computing in the last year. It’s a fast-moving world with just a bit of hype, so figuring out what’s real is a challenge, and spotting emerging trends is a feat that often comes from listening and deciphering themes amidst the chatter. For a change of pace I turn to photography — I like shooting on the streets of New York, and when I am home in Wisconsin, I turn to our dogs for inspiration, as you can see on Facebook. Tom writes for Banking Technologies in London, and for Forbes, at blogs.forbes.com/tomgroenfeldt. See Tom’s articles on EPM Channel here.