MSDynamicsWorld: Where does BI leave off and Corporate Planning pick up? Do you find that Dynamics 365 or ERP customers have tried their out-of-the-box capabilities before talking to deFacto?
In reality, they are actually complementary technologies. We use BI tools like Power BI to help with data visualization analysis. The way deFacto data is organized using SSAS technology allows tools like Power BI to consume it freely, but still keeping the data properly structured for business use and consistency.
Unlike BI, corporate performance management products focus on collecting, analyzing and managing structured data. So as you might imagine, financial reports are very structured; there are rules and regulations and generally-accepted accounting principles about how one would build a profit-and-loss statement or balance sheet.
In BI there are no such standards, it’s much more ad hoc. BI is good for slicing and dicing data and letting users decide how they’d like to structure it. deFacto can do those things also, but we also conform to generally-accepted accounting principles on how to structure those financial reports, so an analyst, your tax accountant or the IRS all understand your information.
In addition, BI tends to have a good view on historic data, where Corporate Planning tends to focus on current, actual activities and predictive analytics focuses on future.
So collectively between BI using historical data, and corporate planning using historical, present and predictive analytics for future data, you get a 360-degree view, a past, present and future view of your organization. That’s how deFacto Planning works.
Your customer base is very broad; what would be your most out-of-the-ordinary vertical? How do they use deFacto Planning?
AT&T Mobility is our largest customer, and I would say they’re out of the ordinary. We get our share of Fortune 500 global corporations, but our customers tend to be mid-market and larger companies.
AT&T uses deFacto to make almost every single operational decision of their business. They’ve modeled every single cellphone or handset out there, anything that drives traffic in their network. They use those models to simulate growth technology usage, and use that to create budgets and forecasts by projecting out over the next three to five years the technologies they need to invest in, where to build cell towers, the pricing mechanisms – all things involved with traffic that’s going to flow over their network. They have even use deFacto to analyze bids and acquisitions, such as for T-Mobile and DirecTV.
So they probably are a standout user in that they use deFacto extremely strategically.
So everything from the customer level to the corporate long-term strategic planning level?
Let’s look at the more typical customer; are there characteristics of companies or verticals that especially benefit from deFacto Planning?
We focus on the financial organizations within companies, where there is more similarity than not across industries. That partly accounts for our very diverse customers, because in finance, they all speak the same language, and the toolsets that work in one industry work in another.
It’s when you move into the operating areas, manufacturing and services organizations, that they’re very different.
Another good example of how customers use deFacto’s modeling capabilities isPrivate Equity companies. They use deFacto to model their acquisitions and divestitures as well as manage funds. As you might imagine PE firms are very strategic in their thinking and need to be able to model and make decisions quickly. deFacto has made this possible.
It seems that demand-based industries like retail, seasonal manufacturers and energy would be common users.
The way most companies forecast today is to use rudimentary, non-predictive forecasting techniques. They might ask their salespeople or sales managers to give them estimates, and many times they’ll just look at what they did last year, and maybe increment it or decrement it by whatever they feel is appropriate.
But there are so many other factors that influence a forecast – weather for retail, interest rates for banks – and you want to factor those into the equation, but it’s difficult to do that manually.
So when you move into predictive analytics, machine learning tools really begin to shine. They are very good at integrating external data sets into the model and reflecting various conditions, global conditions, into your forecasts. No one thinks “Next year’s going to be warmer so we should sell more T-shirts than jackets” when they write a sales forecast. Machine models do think of that.
It sounds like a segment of Dynamics partners and customers want what corporate planning offers, but hasn’t embraced it.
Unlike the enterprise world that has a much greater awareness of how comprehensive products can be, and what performance, scalability and full-featured products mean toward an organization, a lot of Dynamics customers have never been exposed to it. They’re exposed to simpler tools like Microsoft FRx and Management Reporter. So their expectations tend to be tactical.
A larger customer or an individual with broader experience with enterprise-level tools typically come to thinking strategically, and beyond just budgeting and reporting. They roll these capabilities into finance, then into marketing and sales and other parts of the organization.
So we have truly a single unified platform where managers can all have a single point of reference when making decisions for their business unit, they can better understand how it affects their business units and the overall business. A manager in California and one in New York both want to make the right decisions for their markets, but also for the overall business. Without a single point of reference, they’ll never achieve that.
Last question: you have the ear of Satya Nadella for just a minute, is there anything you’d tell him?
Definitely, I’d discuss deploying a fully-integrated Microsoft strategy to larger customers, and how integral we can be to that process.
As a point of reference, when Microsoft today comes up against SAP or Oracle, many times they’ll call us in because they know that those guys will roll out an enterprise-quality Corporate Performance Manangement product or planning product, and there’s nothing in the Microsoft ecosystem that can really go toe-to-toe with them other than deFacto. We’ve definitely helped win deals for Microsoft.
So I would tell him we have that ability to win a deal by leveraging a wide range of Microsoft technology, and representing to the customer a fully-integrated Microsoft story.