Nucleus Research, an independent IT market research company specializing in investigative research and ROI analysis of technology deployments, recently released the results of a study that looked at how users used corporate performance management (CPM) tools, what kinds of functionality they found most useful and also at the strengths and weaknesses of some of the top products in the market. There are many data analytics tools on the market and it can certainly be overwhelming to figure out which one is the right one for a company.
Nucleus found that there are two types of categories that users of CPM tools fall into — those that love Excel and those that, well, don’t. A CPM tool can be extremely powerful and functional — but it’s only useful to a company if the users in front of the computer understand its interface and actually use it.
Finance users love Excel. They’ve used it and studied it for years, understand its power and its user interface. They’re happier using the CPM tools that have been tightly integrated with Excel or use an Excel-like user interface.
But not all people who need to do data analysis for their businesses love Excel. After all, it takes the finance users years of use and study to harness its full power. Those who haven’t would probably prefer one of the tools that has a reimagined user interface, one that’s not Excel based.
Aside from user interface concerns, there’s also the new age-old (is that a thing?) question – to be on the cloud or not be on the cloud? Nucleus found that cloud-based products (also called software-as-a-service or SaaS solutions) are less reliant on internal IT departments because the heavy lifting is done by the vendor. Because of this, almost all CPM companies have moved towards at least some kind of SaaS option, including some hybrid models.
The study found three main critical areas that users need in their CPM software, which are: embedded analytics, enterprise resource planning (ERP) integration and flexible deployment options. As data becomes more important to all sizes of businesses, many users also want integration with more data-gathering systems and software so it’s easier to streamline their businesses.
To help users figure out which tools match their needs, Nucleus puts out what’s called a CPM Value Matrix, which maps out the various offerings according specifically to their usability and functionality as a CPM product.
IBM stood out as what Nucleus describes as a Leader in the CPM product market. They have a huge userbase still using its local software, but launched within the last few years a SaaS-solution and offer a hybrid model. They also offer assistance to customers in moving to the SaaS product from the local software.
The inclusion of Watson Analytics is a huge plus, which allows for “causal understanding and more dynamic ‘what if’ functionality,” which many users find essential. IBM also has many partners that can provide additional integrated functionality.
Nucleus also says that IBM has worked to “keep the comfort of Excel with the improved power of the IBM engine.” Recent changes to the product and user interface also allow people to customize their dashboards, offering a “greater diversity of individual users” to use its product.