Considering Planful or looking for alternatives? Learn more about your options below.
Considering alternatives for Planful? We’re here to help.
Markets are less predictable than ever. The last few years, in particular, have seen companies face unprecedented uncertainty with regards to global logistics, regulatory shifts, technological changes, and even social expectations that send strategies in entirely new and unpredictable directions. Forecasting multiple possibilities, data, and prioritization are critically important.
Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) skills are more crucial as business leaders lean on their CFOs and financial managers to provide insight into volatile operating environments. Finance professionals must present fast, accurate, and actionable reports and information to key stakeholders to improve risk awareness and collaboration.
To do this, they need the right tools for the job: agile, flexible, and accurate FP&A solutions.
Planful (formerly Host Analytics) is one of the most popular end-to-end financial tools on the market. Launched with the promise of streamlining organization-wide planning, budgeting, consolidation, and analytics for CFO and financial professionals, Planful is a robust solution for enterprise-level companies. Having said that, Planful is not without its limitations and has received mixed reviews from users.
This article will examine why some organizations are moving away from Planful to alternative solutions and then dig into the alternatives.
Most users are happy with the reporting capabilities of Planful, but the UX is less than ideal. Formatting in reports is time-consuming and inefficient compared to Excel, and some users report that formatting doesn’t pull through during the export to Excel.
Planful uses a dropdown menu to add rows and columns, which is not intuitive and challenging to manage. Some users find it difficult to set up a report template, and not all modules have the same reporting tools, yet you cannot do calculations without setting up a template, causing delays. The UI is a little dated for a modern application, and some users experience lag when scrolling in the template, making for a less than ideal user experience.
Users have mentioned that there is no control over notifications. Every complete job sends native notifications automatically, flooding inboxes with unnecessary notifications that you cannot turn off. The proliferation of notifications may mean that users miss a vitally important notification among the less useful alerts they receive.
Planful has come under fire for its lack of training materials, especially considering that the tool isn’t as user-friendly as its competitors. Similarly, others have said that the implementation partners failed to mention all of the available features and could not find information online to supplement their training.
While you can become Planful certified, users have to attend live, in-person classes, which are not convenient for all users and do not add enough value to justify attendance. Planful has announced the launch of a new platform called Engage that should address these issues, but until then, users are largely in the dark.
While Planful is a robust tool, data pulls are not immediate, which can cause frustration, particularly when inaccuracies slip in. Collaboration must occur online as the individual models can be quite fragile, making for a slower and less than ideal user experience. Planful works best when companies have their own data warehouse and infrastructure; mid-level organizations may find their experience frustrating.
One of the primary issues that users have is that Planful requires the additional expense and time investment of an implementation partner. Even companies with the necessary internal IT resources find Planful challenging to implement without professional guidance, and the experience can vary from one implementation to the next.
While Planful is a generally stable solution, new features and cross-browser support don’t always function as they should. Mac and Chrome users are most likely to report bugs, errors, and limited functionality while using Planful. Like the dated UI discussed above, the underlying technology architecture that Planful runs on is now several decades old. That means the Planful R&D focus is much heavier on maintenance than innovation, compared to newer solutions.
To summarize, some of the key reasons why you might want to consider alternatives to Planful includes:
Planful works best with large enterprise companies with the implementation and infrastructure resources. If your company is looking for something more user-friendly and intuitive, you may want to consider the following alternatives.
Suppose you like the functionality and features of Planful but don’t have the internal resources and budget of an enterprise-level company. In that case, OnPlan may be the most suitable alternative for your business. OnPlan has a similar goal to Planful — streamlining sales forecasting and budgeting. Unlike Planful, OnPlan uses simple predefined dashboards and templates to create specific financial models across various departments in the organization. Like Planful, the app integrates directly with spreadsheets like Google Sheets and MS Excel. This allows financial executives to work within a familiar setting, implementing Excel formulas and downloading forecasting reports — or even better, linking them in presentations that update automatically — to share with stakeholders.
Whereas Planful requires considerable adaptation and has a steep learning curve, OnPlan aims to speed up the realization of time-to-value. Onboarding takes place in a matter of days, and its innovative tech platform ensures reliable, fast performance at all times.
Perhaps the inherent benefit of OnPlan is that it was designed by financial professionals, which has given the company unique insight into the data modeling requirements of a modern finance department. It’s cheaper to run than Planful without compromising on speed and features.
OnPlan makes FP&A easy, with powerful visualization tools, immediate budget-variance analysis, simple roll-overs, and truly collaborative features. Unlike Planful, users can make changes themselves without support, wherever necessary. Finance users can build models in Google Sheets and sync them with a single click to OnPlan. The UX/UI is attractive and easy to navigate.
OnPlan is an excellent solution for companies that want the familiarity and flexibility of Excel and Google Sheets, with the speed and ease of a modern app. In terms of features, OnPlan’s product offering is probably closer to Adaptive Planning than Planful but at a lower cost. Adaptive Planning is locked into the Workday ecosystem, which OnPlan is not.
Use Vena as an FP&A solution to manage annual budgets, forecasting, and actuals. It gives department heads insight into their budgets and improves collaboration among teams.
The tool is helpful for variance analysis, catching errors and excess spending, and providing a centralized, clear view of the organization’s financial operations. Built around Excel, it’s a flexible and easy-to-use solution that most financial professionals will find easy to use. Companies can develop models and manage workbooks in a foolproof way.
However, one common complaint that users have about Vena is its setup times. Many users also report an over-reliance on customer support and that deployments can take a considerable time to implement. Like Planful, companies find that they require the assistance of consultants to use and modify Vena.
Anaplan is another popular planning solution for very large enterprise-level organizations. Anaplan enables dynamic, collaborative, and participative financial planning and feedback across an organization to improve business performance.
Anaplan utilizes a cloud-based environment, making it scalable and adaptable. Unlike Vena, OnPlan, and Planful, Anaplan uses its own proprietary language, which is not as familiar to financial executives as spreadsheets are. This is perhaps the most significant pain point for companies using Anaplan as they need to devote a good deal of time familiarizing themselves with Anaplan. The initial setup and onboarding can take weeks, unlike OnPlan, which can be utilized nearly instantly.
Workday Adaptive Planning focuses on the planning, consolidation, and reporting functions in the cloud. Adaptive Planning is highly flexible when modeling across different functions, including projects, capacity, and operational planning. The user interface is similar to an Excel spreadsheet, with drag-and-drop functionality that improves ease of use.
Adaptive Planning uses an on-demand SaaS-based model to enhance collaboration and real-time updates. It integrates with several cloud-based ERP solutions, including Sage Intacct. On the downside, Adaptive Planning is relatively expensive and slow compared to other solutions on the market. The design and general user interface are less intuitive than OnPlan and Anaplan, and users may find the learning curve frustrating.
Like Vena, the initial setup can be time-consuming, and it may take some time to realize the return on the investment made.
Planful is a robust tool suited to enterprise-level organizations with a thousand employees or more and a solid, internal infrastructure. The tool requires ongoing investment and support from implementation partners, which doesn’t make it suitable for small and medium organizations. Before deciding, weigh up the alternatives regarding features, performance, and user-friendliness.
Ed note: Want to dive deeper into essential FP&A topics? Check out OnPlan’s most popular posts of all time here:
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