Islands in the OneStream – making accountants smile in a world of not-so-pretty financial apps

Corporate/Enterprise Performance Management (CPM/EPM) provider OneStream held its user conference last week, again as an in-person event, in San Antonio. As a result, there were breakfast tacos, plentiful BBQ, and Dr Pepper everywhere. For that alone, I would give it a 10 out of 10.

OneStream Software is a relatively young company (founded in 2010) in a market that has been around for about four decades. And, even though budgeting and consolidation solutions have been around for a while, many show attendees told me that they had only recently moved away from outdated spreadsheet or CPM solutions (which were supplemented with hundreds of spreadsheets) to go with OneStream.

OneStream took a significant equity stake in KKR in 2019. OneStream has grown from 300 customers in May 2019 to over 950 today. Likewise, the number of employees has grown from around 300 in May 2019 to around 1,100 today.

The company has shown a huge panoramic slide of crisp new logos over the past four years. OneStream has definitely recruited a number of big branded companies as new customers.

The product offering has also expanded and now mirrors that of a large CPM/EPM suite. Specifically, the company offers:

    • Financial consolidation
    • Planning and budgeting
    • Lease Accounting
    • Statutory reports
    • Management reports
    • Cash forecast
    • Profitability
    • Long term planning
    • Reconciliation of accounts
    • Tax provisions
    • Operational planning
    • And more

The OneStream software also supports the use of very large datasets. The product line supports a Snowflake feature for customers using big data in their forecasting and other applications. I listened to a customer using Snowflake with the new OneStream Machine Learning (ML) feature (see below). A few others were also using or planning to use Snowflake. Snowflake, while not blatantly marketed at the event, was noticeable in several presentation slides. This is notable because many on-premises customer data centers and RDMS tools may not be able to support large-scale datasets or analyze them without affecting system performance.

I briefly covered OneStream’s new ML capabilities in this diginomica article in 2021.

Product Management

Where many vendors are long on vision and short on delivery against it, OneStream was, in my opinion, pretty underrated in terms of its future plans. Most of the threads were full of short-term product improvements or useful information on implementation and usage. There were sessions on moving from older competing products to tips and tricks for getting the most out of OneStream apps.

OneStream hosted an excellent joint OneStream/customer presentation regarding its new machine learning capabilities. The client was Polaris, the outdoor vehicle manufacturer, and they are using new OneStream products to better forecast demand for their various outdoor products.

What made this presentation really work for so many in the audience was that Polaris and OneStream explained how an ML application works and removed the black box knowledge barrier behind hide other providers. I’ve seen all kinds of accountants (i.e. the largest segment of attendees) photograph slides explaining different types of scheduling algorithms, test results between actual and algorithmic expected values, and so on. They discussed the different libraries for choosing modeling models and showed how they ran several years of real data on about 65 different models to find the two best performing models. They also quantified the types and magnitude of possible savings both financially and operationally.

This talk was a very digestible, entertaining and highly educational session that cleared up the mystery behind ML. I only wish other sellers had seen this and would make it a feature of their sales events and presentations.

Well done, OneStream.

OneStream Splash – conference atmosphere

The OneStream Splash event was a love-in. I tried – and failed – to find dissatisfied customers or frustrated business partners. Instead I found accountant after accountant who when asked about their decision to go with OneStream always breathed a big sigh of relief and told me scary spreadsheet or nightmare of consolidation that they no longer have to relive. The feeling I believe these customers were expressing was a mixture of relief and great satisfaction, two values ​​that I don’t hear much about from software buyers.

In these event anecdotes, I learned how many OneStream customers have many diverse business units, operate across multiple national borders, have made (and will make more) acquisitions, and are drowning in low-value work including outings were often too late. for operational leaders to derive practical use from it. They fixed this world. And, all the time they were telling me these stories, they were smiling. Their world of work has been improved. Any technology that can make an accountant smile has to be a winner.

It’s not a pretty world of financial apps

But underneath all that product satisfaction, those same customers also talked about how their businesses lagged in:

  • Upgrade or implementation of new/modern/more powerful ERP software
  • Get all their applications, including ERP, in the cloud
  • Rework their chart of accounts to be more responsive to new ESG realities, cost accounting, IoT and other new business realities

These comments are quite notable because they suggest that:

  • Finance transformation initiatives aren’t done (to any degree of imagination) and won’t be for some time
  • Service companies will be busy for a long time CORRECTLY implementing new ERP/financial applications (and not just ‘modernization of the ERP technical platform’).

It is also important to note that companies still struggle to operate as real-time entities because their data takes too long to aggregate, integrate, translate, analyze, report, etc. Worse, the volume of data entering organizations is increasing exponentially as finance, IT, and operations groups attempt to solve small parts of the problems through incremental and derivative efforts. They don’t transform.

New data, new tools (like the ML solution described above) are now on the market, but software buyers must have the courage to adopt these products despite their novelty and the challenge they represent for old methods, processes, schedules and business processes. Anything less is a capitulation to its more nimble and daring competitors.

ESG and OneStream

I attended another great session at OneStream Splash. This featured a mix of thought leadership and product announcements from OneStream and a PwC (accounting/advisory firm) practice leader on ESG (environmental, social and governance) features and requirements. . The PwC component was excellent and set up the speakers and the OneStream product wonderfully.

ESG, and in particular sustainability, is to 2022 what multitenancy was to cloud software in 2007. It’s hot and will likely remain an important component of new ERP and CPM/EPM software selections for many years to come.

OneStream presented its new ESG reporting tool. It’s actually a multifaceted and detailed tool designed to replace the mostly manual, annual process that many companies do through spreadsheets. For a first offer, it looked good.

But that won’t be the last word on ESG as OneStream’s customers will have a lot of work to do on their legacy ERP, operational and other systems to incorporate better, more granular, timely and informed data into these tools. I’ve already experienced this firsthand with a major client and will write more on the subject for diginomica. I’m even considering a book on space.

And after?

Earlier in this report, I listed some of OneStream’s top products. These solutions complement a large CPM/EPM suite. I’ve already talked about their entry into ML-powered planning tools and new ESG reporting capabilities.

So where will OneStream go next? I haven’t had any official visibility on this, but the consensus opinion of others I spoke with indicated that OneStream would do well to expand into process automation and process mining (a la Celonis ). These may be adjacent markets where OneStream could cross-sell and increase its CLV (Customer Lifetime Value). I don’t really see them getting into traditional financial applications (e.g. accounts payable) unless they offer fully configured RPA (Robotic Process Automation) solutions. RPA and process mining are big white spaces that have many unrealized business value creation opportunities.

It’s also conceivable that OneStream will continue to expand its ML skills and capabilities to accelerate a variety of financial tasks, forecasting, decision recommendations and more.

The ERP and EPM/CPM spaces used to clash somewhat in the areas of budgeting and financial consolidation, but now compete strongly for dominance of the Office of the CFO. This effectively doubles the competition in this critical back office space and is expected to spark a huge amount of new innovation, especially in the use of advanced technologies, for the back office. Customers will be the main beneficiaries of this surge of innovation.

my catch

It was my first time attending Splash. Splash concerns customers/prospects first and then partner companies. It’s not really for analysts or the press, so I’m just grateful for access to sessions and clients.

I stated at the top that CPM/EPM was an older technology space and many, many customers prefaced their presentations by mentioning which old CPM solution they came from”retired/replaced’. Legacy on-premises CPM tools were mentioned by half (around) of customers as the first to get started. Some newer solutions were also being removed, but I couldn’t get any info on what drove those decisions. Maybe next time I will.

I mentioned it was a love-in and I stand by that characterization. Of course, with a show full of accountants, the appreciation responses are going to be muted, the applause respectable, and so on. It’s not a crowd tweeting every speaker’s words and slides (in fact, almost no accountants do!) that these folks loved the products. And that, I guess, is the bottom line.


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Edward L. Robinett