In a modern, fast-paced world, CEOs and CFOs lean heavily on their corporate FP&A teams to support the important decisions they have to make — sometimes at a moment’s notice. FP&A professionals add value through budgeting, forecasting, cash flow optimization, variance analyses, return on investment analysis, and gathering information across different teams and departments to provide holistic insight into the business.
However, not all financial and business planning tools and platforms have the features and data processing capabilities you need to remain agile and informed in today’s world. Some tools, created long before the Big Data explosion of the 2010s, are rapidly aging out of the market. Others are tightly integrated into spreadsheets, giving the impression of rapid time-to-value, but rely heavily on expensive consultants to maintain and adapt them. And a few tools have speed and performance and flexibility, without costing an arm and a leg for your small or midsize business to buy and maintain.
In this article, we’ll compare two well-known solutions, Workday Adaptive Planning (formerly Adaptive Insights) to Vena Solutions, as well as a newer but exciting entrant to the space: OnPlan. This should give you greater insight into the solutions available on the market and food for thought that will help you make a final decision.
Adaptive Planning (then Insights), founded nearly 20 years ago in 2003, was one of the first Corporate Performance Management platforms on the market to take advantage of emerging cloud technology, delivering an on-demand financial planning platform that reduced costs and implementation time for companies This deployment model made Adaptive Planning particularly competitive and accessible for clients of different sizes.
Adaptive Planning uses a modeling engine called Elastic Hypercube Technology (EHT) that can run complex, high volume forecasts, and lets customers adjust models according to business needs. Adaptive Planning can connect to many different ERP, HCM, Sales, and CRM systems like NetSuite, Salesforce, and others, but it’s best suited to customers heavily invested in other Workday software like Workday Financial Management or Workday Human Capital Management. While Adaptive Planning was initially seen as fast and affordable, attracting mid-sized and even small businesses to the company, the technology has become dated, and the price point has gotten considerably higher than most SMBs and many midmarket companies are willing to spend (considering the alternatives).
Vena Solutions is a web-based, native Excel planning platform with flexible solutions for budgeting, forecasting, analytics, planning, reporting, and accounting processes. Like Adaptive Planning, Vena targets mid-sized and large companies around the world.
Vena’s interface is embedded in Excel. It also provides workflow builders and many integrations, and it’s relatively easy to use once configured.
Vena and Adaptive Planning have similar reporting, forecasting, and modeling features and share an ideal customer profile in terms of the finance teams and tiers they are targeting. Finance professionals may struggle to decide between the two, considering these similarities. However, there are differences between the two and several areas where both solutions lag behind some of the newer entrants to the market.
Given that Adaptive Planning is nearly two decades old, the company has a much wider and more diverse customer base than Vena. They have thousands of customers in several countries, ranging from small businesses to enterprise-level organizations. However, due to performance degradation and continual maintenance issues, as well as price hikes (both actual and rumored to come), the company has lost favor with many smaller and mid-sized companies that need more affordable solutions that can grow alongside their own businesses.
In comparison, Vena has fewer than a thousand customers worldwide.
When Adaptive Planning launched, its out-of-the-box deployment model reduced implementation time (and cost) considerably. While this was revolutionary compared to on-premises solutions popular at the time, modern agile organizations tend to value customization and adaptability that lets each organization create a tailored solution according to their needs. Implementation for Adaptive Planning is much easier than Vena, but the trade-off is that there are limitations to their out-of-the-box packages. Adaptive Planning starts at $15,000 per user, but can rapidly increase depending on options.
Vena does not share public pricing information, but reviewers state that their pricing is “average.” But software is only the start of total cost of ownership, and Vena customers are heavily reliant on expensive consultants for deployment, maintenance, and customization over time as their business needs evolve. Worse, Vena’s customer service is rated quite poorly.
A comprehensive finance and business planning solution has to have the right features and functionality to support the processes, reports, and workflows that matter to your business.
Vena has several useful CPM features, including version control, budgeting and forecasting features, an audit trail, OLAP, project budgeting features, dashboards, and performance management. Adaptive Planning comes with ad-hoc analysis and reporting features, automated and scheduled reporting, dashboards, and robust forecasting and budgeting features, as well as a useful task management system called Process Tracker.
Both Adaptive Planning and Vena Solutions use familiar Excel-like spreadsheets that reduce the learning curve for finance teams, but while Adaptive Planning is a little dated, it’s much easier to use than Vena, whose customers say that the tool isn’t as fast or intuitive to use as advertised, particularly when it comes to basic template changes. Many customers have complained that they needed to pull in consulting support to make the most of the tool.
Adaptive Planning’s calculation engine was built on older cloud technology, and it tends to bog down and even become unstable when working with large data sets, leading to frustration. Vena has similar issues. Creating complex templates can take a long time to set up and use, and retrieving large data sets can take minutes and minutes. Unlike Adaptive Planning, there is no drag-and-drop functionality between columns, and individuals working with large files find the copy-pasting is cumbersome. Transitioning to Vena isn’t easy, especially for Mac users who suffer myriad compatibility issues.
Vena is the more flexible of the two solutions, using the familiarity and power of Microsoft Excel with powerful accounting and finance processing features used for planning, forecasting, analytics, and more. Adaptive Planning is easy-to-use but not as flexible, especially when it comes to non-Workday-related and non-financial use cases. Adaptive Planning tends to lock users into the Workday ecosystem to enjoy its full benefits, and while Vena has some integration issues, it outperforms Adaptive Planning in that regard.
Adaptive Planning is less scalable than Vena. While it also leverages the cloud, it’s an aging technology and has prioritized maintenance over research and development. The tool restricts the dimensions available to use in your planning and forecasting processes, which may make it less suitable for rapidly growing mid-sized companies. Vena is more adaptable but not quite up to the challenge posed by large data sets, which can lead to issues when companies are expanding or scaling.
Both systems offer integrations to many commonly used systems, though Adaptive Planning works best for companies using Workday financials and HR software.
Vena is robust, but battles performance issues, bugs, and integration errors that lead to downtime and frustration.
Adaptive Planning is generally ranked more favorably than Vena by its customers, and is stable and robust, but more expensive, more rigid, and reliant on rapidly aging technology from nearly 20 years ago.
Small to mid-sized companies with ambitious growth and expansion plans need a flexible, robust FP&A tool that is easy to implement, easy to master, easy to customize, and affordable. They should consider OnPlan.
Like Adaptive Planning and Vena, OnPlan uses spreadsheets but comes with powerful scenario modeling and forecasting capabilities not previously available outside of heavy-duty, extremely expensive enterprise systems.
Like Vena, OnPlan can integrate with most enterprise resource planning and accounting tools, including Intacct, NetSuite, SAP, Xero, Quickbooks, and more. You can use OnPlan to test opportunities, risks, and threats with powerful what-if scenario planning tools that provide results and insights in seconds. But unlike Vena, OnPlan remains stable, fast, and reliable, even when completing complex and data-heavy calculations. OnPlan is customizable, adaptable, and powerful — but easy to use, so that finance teams can use the system and start enjoying the benefits of the system right away.
There are several business planning and performance management tools on the market. Some, like Adaptive Planning and Vena Solutions, have been around for more than a decade. Their experience and reputation might reassure new customers that they can deliver, but in practice, they often fail to live up to their brand promises. Other solutions are newer, faster, and more affordable. They are willing to grow with your business and ready to meet new challenges alongside you. Companies like OnPlan are powerful enough to meet modern business needs and are focused on innovation and long-term growth. Before making a final decision, consider the current performance of your software and where you would like your business to go in the future.