Host Analytics gets its identity in sync with its platform and what’s most important to customers.
I have yet to meet anyone who says they do “corporate performance management.” But I have met plenty of people who say they’re financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals. Indeed, if you search the Internet, you’ll quickly find FP&A certification programs and plenty of online resources for corporate financial planners.
What’s in a name? Grant Halloran, the instigator of the change and Host’s CEO since July 2019, points out that the new name is a real word. I looked it up, and Merriam-Webster has two definitions for planful: 1: full of plans: resourceful, scheming and 2: according to a plan: persistent and arousing of the mind. I’m not sure about the scheming part, but what finance executive would not want to be described as “full of plans, resourceful, persistent” and “arousing of the mind?” Better still, it’s every FP&A professional’s objective to have things go “according to plan,” unless, of course, they could “exceed all plans.”
The company wanted to get away from “Host” for the obvious reason that the word is a relic from 2001, the infancy of cloud tech and the year the company was founded. As for the focus on planning, I myself having been advocating a move away from corporate performance management – an aging name for the technology that users never really adopted.
Last summer I changed the name of our “Constellation ShortList for Corporate Performance Management” to the “Constellation ShortList for Cloud-based Planning Platforms.” As I explained back then, the name change reflected “broad strategic and operational use [of the tech] outside the boundaries of finance” as well as “end-user adoption of ‘financial planning and analysis’ as the name of the discipline that they practice.”
What, exactly, will change with this rebranding? I was glad to hear it’s mostly about messaging and the conversation with customers rather than the vendor’s product, which has been on my ShortList for years (despite the dated moniker). In another brand tweak, the platform’s modeling capabilities will be renamed “Dynamic Planning.”
Importantly for customers, the company will continue to invest in all aspects of the platform. Financial consolidation and reporting, for example, will “continue to be an anchor and differentiator,” Brian Martell, director of product marketing, told me. “Solid figures from consolidation and reporting are the bedrock of accurate plans and are critical to driving more agile planning cycles.”
Planful execs also talk about helping to “elevate the financial IQ of the entire organization.” That happens when organizations spread planning outside of finance and when finance leaders collaborate more effectively with budget owners. Planning platforms also help companies to drive toward continuous planning, accelerating from annual and quarterly planning to monthly, weekly and event-triggered planning cycles that enable companies to quickly adapt, pivot and innovate. Planful reports that customers moving from manual, spreadsheet-based methods to its platform shorten planning and forecasting cycle times by up to 50%, reduce reporting time by 90%, and reduce average time to close by up to 75%.
Amen to acceleration. As I wrote in “Why the Digital Era Demands Agile Planning,” my latest report on this category, “All too many business and financial leaders rely on months-old budget projections and lagging financial measures to gauge the state and direction of their businesses.” Cloud-based planning platforms give companies better visibility into the latest business conditions while agile planning and forecasting capabilities help them to innovate and be the disruptor instead of the disrupted.
The cloud and digitization have leveled the playing field for midsize companies and upstart innovators in many respects, but these advantages can be forfeited when relying on siloed, spreadsheet-based financial planning and analysis methods that are anything but agile. Modern FP&A professionals know there’s a better way.