Clarity Systems has released a new version of its flagship financial performance management suite, Clarity 7, which offers a set of enhancements including functionality and manageability. Clarity 7 is an integrated suite of applications designed for finance departments and includes, planning and budgeting, forecasting, reporting, scorecards, analytics and modeling as well as statutory consolidation (performed under either for US GAAP or International Financial Reporting Standards – IFRS – rules).
From the start, Clarity has positioned its software as easier and less expensive to implement and maintain. It has emphasized its use of Microsoft’s core technologies. The software was one of the first to employ an “enterprise spreadsheet” capability: an Excel interface to give users a familiar look-and-feel but coupled with back-end enterprise software to eliminate the shortcomings of desktop spreadsheets. Notably these include the automatic and near instantaneous consolidation of data submissions, multi-dimensional analysis and reporting, more flexible graphics for dashboards and scorecards, drill-down and drill-around to see underlying data. Its administrative functions allows users to manage access to data as well as the ability to support a higher degree of collaboration by enabling those managing processes to keep track of each individual participant’s status. For reports, it can automate the creation and distribution of reports. In modeling, it facilitates creation of multiple scenarios, makes it easy to define conditional, flexible business rules and use goal seeking (such as working back from a given top- or bottom-line value). For consolidations, the software supports complex ownership structures, maps multiple general ledgers from different sources into a common view, and automates handling of inter-company balances.
The software is available either installed on-premises or on-demand (software-as-a-service or SaaS). The Saas version makes the software more accessible to midsize companies that do not have the IT resources to manage an on-premises implementation but want the software’s capabilities. I expect companies will increasingly use SaaS in areas that they might not have considered in the past because of security concerns.
Since our inception, Ventana Research has focused on the use of performance management to enable a company to operate more efficiently and effectively. We have stressed the importance of information technology in supporting performance management efforts. And, our research has repeatedly pointed out why desktop spreadsheets are fundamentally flawed in supporting repetitive, collaborative enterprise processes such as planning and budgeting, reporting, score carding and consolidating multiple general ledgers. Desktop spreadsheets are error prone, and they have a limited ability to handle dimensions (such as products, customers, organizations structures and time) so it’s harder than it needs to be to get to underlying data behind a piece of analysis (in exactly which regions/product combinations were sales stronger than expected?). They are notoriously difficult to consolidate. Desktop spreadsheets are the right choice for individual or small group use in on the fly processes; they are the wrong choice for budgeting and planning, forecasting, reporting and consolidations. Overcoming their deficiencies is a time consuming process – time that most companies do not have.
The financial performance management suite addresses many of the needs in finance as I laid out as important in 2010 (See: “Essential Priorities in Finance Departments in 2010”). Especially for midsize companies or similar size divisions of larger corporations that are using desktop spreadsheets to do their performance management/planning and budgeting, I recommend looking at Clarity 7 as a replacement that will make your company’s performance management efforts more effective.
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Robert Kugel – SVP Research