Other enhancements reflect top priority being given to mobile optimization and to bringing more of a consumer software experience into FP&A software.
Corporate performance management [CPM] software vendor Vena Solutions has unveiled its new quarterly product release. The major enhancements here are improvements to Ad Hoc Analysis, improved ease of use in the Vena Manager Interface, particularly in mobile environments, and new efficiencies in the Mapping Summary.
“This is our regular quarterly release of our FP&A [financial planning and analysis] software,” said Rishi Grover, Vena Solutions’ chief solutions architect. “These releases typically have a theme, and the theme of this one is intuitive and insightful data analysis. We normally add between 20 and 40 features in each quarterly release, some of which are major, and some minor. The big ones in this release are the improvements to Ad Hoc Analysis, an improved Manager Interface, which adds some new features for power users, and improved data mapping efficiencies.”
Ad hoc Analysis handles a non-repeatable query designed to answer a specific business question.
“Our software automates the holistic budget process, but once the budget is actually done, this is where Ad Hoc Query comes in,” Grover said. “A CFO might ask a financial analyst what caused variances to exist, and if there is no existing report that will give that answer, Ad Hoc analysis lets you slice and dice to determine that variance. Also, if someone is ahead of budget or behind budget, and they have to make adjustments to forecast, Ad Hoc analysis lets you navigate through data set and find opportunities where there isn’t a report that answers the question.”
Grover said that ad hoc analysis reflects the fact that once a budget is built, it immediately becomes stale.
“How often it is used will vary company by company, and industry by industry, but it is a significant feature,” he stated.
The improvements to Ad Hoc Analysis involve a net-new design that builds on Vena’s support for Office 365.
“Microsoft has created a way for vendors to create add-ons that they call Office Apps, and we have embraced that,” Grover said. “This new technology is agnostic for devices and operating systems, and is fully supported for Online Excel. We have also improved the user experience of Ad Hoc reporting, so that you can easily drag your dimensions and render all the results on an Excel Grid. Other software solutions tend to do it in a browser, or on something else.”
The new Vena Manager interface reflects some significant changes in Vena’s design philosophy.
“We are redesigning different aspects of our software to make sure we are completely mobile-supportive, which involves redesigning the user interface and the underlying code for mobile response,” Grover indicated. “That’s a fundamental thing. The other is that the product road map team is consumerizing the way that the applications work, reflecting the fact that consumer software has changed the way that people interact with apps. We want to bring that to the FP&A world. The changes to the Vena Manager interface reflect this. There is more intuitive placement of buttons, and fewer clicks required to get your information. We have also optimized our Interactive Status Tracker, which provides a single view where you can see the entire process. There are now more searches, and a whole new calendar view which is optimized for handsets, reflecting the mobile philosophy. All the new code that we are developing will be mobile optimized, which includes enhancements to existing features.”
Enhancements to the Mapping process also reflect the greater intuitiveness theme.
“There are more efficiencies for the power user that takes an Excel template and maps it to the application,” Grover said. “When they map rows and columns, there are a lot less clicks, which is especially useful in more complex templates. There is also a new concept of automapping. When you highlight cells, the system will identify things to ignore and automap. Before, the user had to find accounts and drag them. The other efficiency here is that we have a new mapping summary view that shows the user in an intuitive way how things were mapped, and who made specific data saves, so that they don’t to have it documented separately.”
This release also makes some enhancements in data exports that allow more determination of where a specific number came from, and how it was created.
“We did some improvements on how we bring in data from the source system and load it in,” Grover said. “Because you might need to transform it, we have optimized some of the transformational capabilities. You can also now drill into calculations, to see if a number came from a data input or a calculation, and see how it was calculated and the whole lineage as to how the number was changed. This is more for power users.”
Vena’s new software release is available now.