IBM Planning Analytics Update: New Capabilities Explained


The case in favour of IBM Planning Analytics adoption has just become even stronger. Highlights of the October 2020 PA Workspace release (SC57) include impressive new visualisation capabilities, guided planning, in-built predictive forecasting, as well as an updated user experience. 

So what could this mean for your organisation? Mark White, MHR Analytics Financial Performance Management specialist, gives the lowdown on what IBM has dubbed “the most significant update to the product ever”.

Redesigned Interface

IBM’s user interface for Planning Analytics is known as the Workspace. This is essentially your one-stop-shop for reporting and analysis, building data models, accessing planning processes, as well as for administration. 

The Workspace has been refreshed along the lines of IBM’s ‘Carbon Design’ open source design system. The purpose is twofold. FIrst off, it makes for a more streamlined, intuitive experience. Design-wise, it also brings Planning Analytics in line with other products in the IBM stable. So, for instance, if you are making the transition between Cognos and PA, you will notice a similar look and feel to both products. 

The improvements are most noticeable in the Workspace Homepage. Quick Launch tiles (e.g. for Reports and Analysis, Data and Models and Administration) are dynamically displayed depending on role. 

Thanks to the new Favorites and Recents tabs, you can now assign any asset to your personal Favorites collection for easy retrieval. The Recents tab is automatically populated with your most recently accessed items. 

For administrators and business users alike, all of this is a welcome refresh. It makes it easier to quickly access your key applications and plans, recent and favourite items and generally get to the places you need to be. All of this can be customised for your specific role within the Workspace. 

Enhancements to Books

Creating a new book in IBM PA makes it easy to collect, arrange, analyse and present your data. You can bring together cube views, charts, scorecards, dimension selectors, graphics, videos, and embedded links to web pages. 

The latest PA Workspace version introduces a variety of enhanced visualisations, including waterfall, bullet and multi-column/line charts. 

Actually putting together a visualisation is easier, too. When creating or editing charts for example, you can now select, drag and drop dimensions, data sets and individual elements from the Data Tree directly into the chart object. 

Navigation is also improved. Previously, if you had a book open, you had to go back to the landing page to open other books. Now, thanks to a new navigation panel, you can access content from any shared or personal folder within the book you happen to be working on.

Guided Planning

Budgeting and planning is never a one-person job. When an updated operating plan is due, it’s typically a case of all hands on deck for the finance team. On top of this, information usually has to be requested (and invariably chased up) from across the wider business. 

To avoid a stressful, last-minute scramble, finance managers with responsibility for planning should pay special attention to the new guided planning capability within IBM PA. 

With this new feature, managers can build their very own multi-step, multi-participant plan. They can delegate tasks effectively, while keeping track of the entire process. 

You start with a plan and then define your process steps (e.g. verifying the actuals and entering expenses). Next, you can allocate steps to specific individuals or groups and assign due dates. You can provide each user with a tailored interface, complete with access to the right assets and annotated guidance. From a single dashboard you can monitor the progress of each step, add more participants and change the dates. Staying in full control of the planning process has never been easier. 

Self-service Predictive Forecasting

Predictive forecasting - i.e. leveraging historical data to predict future events - isn’t new. The real gamechanger with the latest version of IBM PA is that it finally puts this capability in the hands of ordinary users. 

The solution is designed to give you dependable, evidence-backed forecast values, assuring that you can trust the forecast. Under the bonnet of the new tool are eight exponential smoothing algorithms. Submit a product or account for analysis, and the system automatically applies the most appropriate algorithm to predict a future value. 

This means you can now produce a predictive forecast from within the PA workspace without having to rely on external solutions - or indeed, on input from a data scientist. All of this gives you a significantly improved ability to identify and assess trends, improve accuracy and reduce the time required to produce an accurate forecast. 

Discover More

Thanks to enhanced forecasting capabilities and multiple improvements to the user experience, for any organisation committed to finance transformation, the potential value of IBM Planning Analytics is impossible to ignore. 

MHR Analytics has produced a range of resources designed to help you explore the full capabilities of IBM PA. This includes a pre-built reporting accelerator for finance teams, a deep-dive proof of technology session for administrators, as well as a guided trial for end-users. To discover more, head over to our Financial Planning & Analytics Resource Hub

Mark White Headshot

Mark White

Financial Performance Management Specialist