Over the last two years the Dow Jones Industrial Average has ranged between 14,000 and 6,600 and the cost of oil has ranged between $140 and $35 per barrel. Corporate finance types have barely kept up. No sooner are budgets and projections created than they end up in the digital equivalent of a waste basket.
Aiming to provide better coping mechanisms, IBM Tuesday introduced improved IBM Cognos tools designed to support faster, more flexible financial analysis. The elements of the three-part release include new scenario-planning options, new financial consolidation capabilities, and new pre-built models for vertical-industry scenarios.
It has always been possible to create scenarios in the IBM Cognos TM1 in-memory analysis tool, but Tuesday's upgrade supports unlimited, dynamic hierarchies that let planners consider a range of possible scenarios in their budgets and forecasts.
"It's very common for companies to consider new groupings of products, product lines and market areas to focus on growth and profit," said Doug Barton, vice president, financial performance management at IBM. "Before you make any final decisions, this new TM1 capability lets you look at multiple scenarios to consider all the financial implications."
A key point is that these scenarios can be retained in a personal sandbox environment or shared with others to encourage collaboration. They can also flexibly become the adopted approach to organizing budgets and plans. The scenario approach lets executives quickly respond as conditions change.
The new financial consolidation capabilities delivered in the IBM Cognos 8 Controller release include enhanced allocation and formula-calculation features said to make for easy financial reporting.
In addition, the vendor has also gone beyond conventional, pixel-perfect "blue book" reporting by enabling financial results to be published through the TM1 analysis engine. "This will enable analysts to use TM1 to derive new insights on operations so they can look at trends in detail," Barton said.
The new pre-built blueprints address product profitability analysis, demand planning for the consumer packaged goods industry, and development of executive dashboards for insurance underwriting. The blueprints give companies a head start on building company-specific analytic solutions, but are they extensible and upgradable as the underlying BI tools change?
"When we release a new version of TM1, the models customers have created with their own hierarchies and data based on these blueprints will automatically upgrade as customers would expect," Barton said. "If we create a new version of a blueprint to introduce new capabilities, that's when it will be up to the customer to decide whether they want to rebuild to weave new capabilities into their solutions."
IBM Cognos customer Quiznos, a fast-growing restaurant chain with more than 5,000 outlets, is using the TM1 analysis engine to simplify financial reporting and planning. "With the new IBM Cognos software, all of our business units will be able to use the same assumptions and the same drivers when building budgets and making key financial decisions," stated Michael McConnaughey, financial systems applications developer at Quiznos. "Teams will also be able to view business variances and use predictive insights to understand the impact on the organization."
The IBM Cognos TM1 and Controller upgrades, and the new industry templates are all available immediately.