SOURCE: BPM Forum

April 14, 2008 08:00 ET

BPM Forum Survey Shows Finance Lacks Speed & Accuracy, Hampering Critical Corporate Agility in Challenging Economic Times

Finance Pros Experience Significant Delays and Frustration Due to 'Spreadsheet Sprain'; Highlight Desire for New Technology, Best Practice Processes, and Enhanced Collaboration

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwire - April 14, 2008) - Companies are ill-prepared to budget, forecast, and report efficiently and to keep up with changing conditions, and they're largely off-base in budget and forecast numbers, according to the findings of a Business Performance Management (BPM) Forum study report released today. Financial professionals and company staff are spending too much time and inappropriate levels of resources to tackle budgeting and forecasting, sacrificing the agility necessary to keep up with the tumultuous economic climate. However, a vast majority are planning to make changes in 2008 -- adopting new technology, improving underlying business processes, and enhancing collaboration -- in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing environment and manage growth effectively.

The Perfect How You Project study, an online survey of over 340 financial professionals across a wide range of industries and company sizes, was conducted by the BPM Forum and sponsored by Adaptive Planning. It underscores the critical challenges to corporate financial managers guiding their companies. Key findings include:

--  70 percent are spending inappropriate amounts of time on budgeting
--  44 percent are involving too many or not enough resources in financial
    processes
--  Only 16 percent of respondents say they are coming in on target for
    budgeted expenses - and even fewer for revenues at just 11 percent
--  75 percent are still mired in the inadequacies and inaccuracies of
    spreadsheets
--  The top challenges they face are poor access to information, lack of
    collaboration, and rapid business change
--  In order to respond to dynamic market conditions and manage growth
    effectively, 73 percent are planning to make changes in 2008
--  Key 2008 initiatives include adopting new technology, implementing
    best practice processes, and embracing collaboration
    

"Spreadsheet Sprain" a Core Problem

76 percent of respondents are still dependent upon Excel spreadsheets for their budgeting, forecasting, and reporting -- a startling number given the collaboration and accuracy challenges associated with these simple personal productivity programs. Nearly one-third of midsized and larger companies use more than 100 spreadsheets in their process. Cumbersome spreadsheets were cited as one of the top pitfalls delaying or disrupting the budgeting process. This widespread "spreadsheet sprain" is causing huge levels of anxiety and resource drain -- companies that are dependent upon spreadsheets have a 50 percent higher rate of expressing anguish than those who are not dependent, and report that budgeting is a huge time and resource drain at a four times greater rate.

"Financial professionals are telling us that budgeting, forecasting, and reporting processes are too rigid and constrained to deal effectively with rapidly changing business environments," said Dave Murray, Director of the BPM Forum. "This should act as a wake up call to a vast majority of companies mired in traditional, cumbersome methods that are struggling to keep up."

Agility & Adaptability Are Low

Nearly 70 percent of respondents feel their organizations have little or no agility or adaptability in their planning and reporting. Almost half say there are either too many or not enough staff involved in budgeting and forecasting within their company. More than half also report that the budgeting process is too burdensome and time consuming, with 20 percent saying "hugely so."

Bigger Business Means More Pain

The pain is particularly acute in the mid-size and larger business category, where surprisingly even more (78 percent) are dependent on spreadsheets than the overall population. Perhaps as a result, a full three quarters of the mid-size and large company population characterized their financial processes as only "somewhat adaptive" or worse. And these larger companies cited difficulty in collaborating with others as a number one pitfall that derails or disrupts the financial planning process.

It's Time for Change

Financial professionals realize that change is necessary, and they point to specific areas where they plan to make improvements this year. Change in the form of new technology, better collaboration, and better processes were the top priorities for 2008. 23 percent of midsized and larger companies plan to move beyond spreadsheets for a purpose-built solution in 2008. These areas of change are those in which companies felt they could make some significant strides in the coming year, perhaps because there is more awareness that better options are now available to them.

"These survey results echo what we hear in the market -- that CFOs and other business executives are hobbled by an over-reliance on spreadsheets, difficulties in collaborating effectively across organizations, and issues with changing outdated and inadequate business processes," said William A. Soward, CEO of Adaptive Planning. "Particularly in mid-sized and larger companies, organizations that effectively address these challenges will be able to enhance their agility and compete more effectively in turbulent times."

The Perfect How You Project - Assessing Diligence and Discipline in the Planning Process report is available at http://www.bpmforum.org/request_form_perfect.asp.

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