Finding the Right Planning and Budgeting Software To Suit Your Needs

What is the best planning and budgeting tool? What do users think of their planning tools? Is the best planning and budgeting software also the right one for my business? Which are the most important criteria when comparing products?  And how highly do independent analysts rate various planning solutions?

Comparing planning and budgeting tools is not straightforward, especially as there are so many products on the market, all promising they will deliver business benefits and simultaneously solve all manner of problems.

To make the search for a suitable planning and budgeting tool easier, this article offers a balanced view of what software users – as well as BARC analysts – have to say about the leading products on the market.

By combining our in-depth knowledge of current planning software tools with one of the largest databases of user reviews of planning software, we aim to guide you through the first steps to finding the best planning tool for your company.

We believe a combined view of user feedback and in-depth analyst perspective is necessary to fully appreciate how planning and budgeting software tools compare against each other, and to understand which are the best fits for your company.

This article will reveal:

  • what are the best planning and budgeting tools as rated by users in 2017 (Planning Software User Review Matrix)
  • how BARC analysts compare planning and budgeting products (BARC Score: Integrated Planning and BI DACH)
Reviews from planning and budgeting products


User Compare Planning and Budgeting Software Products

The Planning Survey: User Reviews

No one knows more about how a planning and budgeting tool performs in the real world than the customers already using it. They are the first people to find out when a product doesn’t live up to expectations, or when the support provided by the vendor turns out to be substandard. In short, few things are more valuable than user reviews when comparing software.

The Planning Software User Review Matrix displays user ratings of planning and budgeting software based on the business value the software provides (x-axis), user experience (y-axis), customer satisfaction (color) and competitiveness (circle size). See below for more information on the data, the KPIs and the peer groups used.

To see the comparison in action, please select a peer group.

The Planning Software User Review Matrix

Check Out the BI User Review Matrix

The Planning Survey 17 is based on findings from the world‘s largest and most comprehensive survey of planning software users, conducted from November 2016 to February 2017. In total, 1,687 people responded to the survey with 1,299 answering a series of detailed questions about their usage of a named product. Altogether, 18 products are analyzed in detail.

This edition features a broad range of planning software tools, taking in products from international software giants as well as specialist tools from much smaller providers.

Only products with about 30+ user reviews are included in the detailed analysis.

Since not all planning tools are alike, we use peer groups to ensure similar products are compared against each other. The groups are designed to enable fair and useful comparisons of planning and budgeting tools that are likely to compete.

Why we use peer groups

Not all planning and budgeting tools are the same. The Planning Survey 17 analyzes user feedback from a variety of different planning, budgeting and forecasting products so we use peer groups to help identify those that are most likely to compete. Some products appear in more than one group. Each peer group has been defined by BARC analysts, based on their experience and judgment.

The point to the peer groups is to ensure that the product comparisons we make in The Survey make sense. The products are grouped together as we would expect them to appear in a software selection short list.

To make a proper choice, a buyer should first segment the market into the types of product that match his or her organization’s requirements. Peer groups are intended to help with this task.

Peer group segmentation is based on three key factors:

  • Flexibility – Is the solution development-oriented or does it provide predefined planning content (e.g. for financial planning)?
  • Specialization – is the vendor a performance management/planning specialist or a software generalist?
  • Geographical reach – does the vendor have a truly global reach? does it have a presence in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland)?

The KPIs

The Planning Survey 17 examines planning and budgeting product selection and usage among users in categories (KPIs) including business benefits, project success, customer satisfaction, user experience, innovation and agility. There are 22 KPIs in total.
Readers will have their own views on which of these KPIs matter the most. For instance, some will regard planning functionality as critical, while others may consider price-to-value to be more important.
Condensing all the KPIs into one overall score would be too simplistic and wouldn’t provide much value for the reader. In our view, there are at least four crucial KPIs when it comes to comparing BI tools from a user perspective. They are made up from 18 individual root KPIs:

‘Business value’ is among the most important KPIs in The Planning Survey, focusing on the bottom-line benefits of planning projects. Any planning and budgeting software that does not deliver broad business value is superfluous.

The ‘Business value‘ KPI indicates just how successful planning and budgeting software products are at providing benefits in the real world. This aggregated KPI combines the ‘Business benefits’, ‘Project success’ and ‘Project length’ KPIs.

Since the market is highly competitive, delivering a superior user experience is more important than ever. Planning and BI professionals demand flexible, feature-rich products that offer comprehensive planning functionality for an integrated enterprise planning approach enhanced by inherent reporting and analysis functionality. However, they don’t want to spend a lot of time figuring out how the product works, attempting to learn complex interfaces or waiting around for planning calculations to finish. With the current vogue for agility, ease of use and self-service capabilities in business departments, and the need to access source systems for transferring actuals, user experience is an important consideration for many organizations evaluating planning tools.

To calculate the quality of user experience of a planning tool, we combine the ‘Planning functionality’, ‘Reporting/analysis functionality’, ‘Performance satisfaction’, ‘Predefined data connections’, ‘Ease of use’, ‘Flexibility’, ‘Self-service’ and ‘Integrated planning’ KPIs.

If a vendor has lots of happy customers, it usually means they have a good product. We combine the ‘Price-to-value’, ‘Recommendation’, ‘Product satisfaction’, ‘Vendor support’ and ‘Implementer support’ KPIs to calculate an aggregated ‘Customer satisfaction’ KPI. These factors are interlinked: If one is lacking, then the importance of the others is accentuated.

The ‘Competitiveness’ KPI gives an insight into how planning and budgeting tools perform in a competitive selection process as well as the strength of a product’s market presence. It combines the ‘Considered for purchase’ and ‘Competitive win rate’ KPIs.

An understanding of which tools have fared well (or not so well) in other organizations’ product selections is a valuable commodity that enables users to eliminate ‘losers’ at an early stage in the selection process.

The KPI rules

Only measures that have a clear good/bad trend are used as the basis for KPIs.
KPIs may be based on one or more measures from The Planning Survey.
Only products with samples of at least 20 – 30 (depending on the KPI) for each of the questions that feeds into the KPI are included.
For quantitative data, KPIs are converted to a scale of 1 to 10 (worst to best). A linear min-max transformation is applied, which preserves the order of, and the relative distance between, products‘ scores.

The peer groups

DACH-focused planning vendors have a presence in the DACH region. They may also focus on other geographies, but they are not considered to be global vendors.

Development-oriented solutions allow customers to implement totally individual planning requirements.

These are flexible planning and budgeting solutions but also provide predefined planning content (e.g. for financial planning).

Global planning vendors have a truly global sales and marketing reach. They are present worldwide, and their planning products are used all around the world.

Products from software generalists who have a broad portfolio including most (or all) types of business software.

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Analyst Comparison of Planning and Budgeting Software

BARC Score – Integrated Planning and Business Intelligence DACH:
The Analyst View

The BARC Score report for Integrated Planning and BI focuses on the planning and BI market in the DACH region (Germany, Austria and Switzerland). It analyzes the strengths and challenges of all the leading vendors as well as several smaller vendors that often have less visibility, but still offer outstanding value to their customers.

Every vendor is evaluated on two dimensions: “Portfolio Capabilities and “Market Execution. Each represents one axis on the Score chart. These two dimensions include the following sub-criteria.

In general, portfolio capabilities reflect functional criteria (e.g. planning, formatted reporting, ad hoc query, analysis, dashboarding and predictive analytics) and architectural criteria. A special emphasis is placed on the integration of planning and BI functionality within the vendors’ product portfolios. An additional important evaluation criterion is ease of use for business users

‘Market Execution’ takes into account the vendors’ product, sales and marketing strategies as well as certain organizational, financial and geographical considerations.

There are two main inclusion criteria for this BARC Score: the first is associated with each vendor’s products and the other is linked to the financial results relating to those products.

Functionality for planning (including write-back of planning data to a central database and other advanced planning features like workflows, simulation, etc.) is the entrance ticket to be evaluated in this BARC Score.

Moreover, a vendor has to supply additional functionality for all four technologies from the following platform portfolio in a solution not merely focused on one industry or use case:

  • Formatted Reporting
  • Ad hoc Query and Reporting
  • Analysis
  • Dashboarding

In addition, the vendor has to generate a minimum of 3 million EUR in license revenue per year with the above product set in German-speaking countries (Germany, Austria and Switzerland).

Vendors with an open source business model are evaluated by their total revenue because they charge an annual subscription fee rather than a license fee for their products.

BARC Score – Integrated Planning and Business Intelligence DACH

BARC Score Integrated Planning and Business Intelligence DACH

Score Regions

Dominators are vendors that drive both technology and market adoption in a highly influential manner. They possess both a broad portfolio of market-leading products with a strong brand as well as a robust commercial prowess through best-in-class sales and marketing programs, an extensive ecosystem of business partners and alliances, and a rock-solid financial position. Dominators are considered a contender in virtually every planned implementation.

Market Leaders are well established vendors that drive strong market adoption, supported by technology innovation and strategic acquisitions and by leveraging robust account management and a solid track record. Their portfolio enjoys high brand awareness in the market, covers an extensive range of technologies and services with only few gaps. Market Leaders typically have a large market share, making them a viable contender in almost all implementation scenarios.

Challengers come in various shapes and sizes. They can be large vendors tapping into a new market by acquisition and pushing their way in with force, small innovative companies with a promising portfolio but limited sales and marketing resources, or vendors that attempt to disrupt a market with a new technology approach or different business model.

Specialists are smaller vendors with a portfolio focused on a specific market segment. Vendors can be either limited in their technical capabilities by concentrating on certain features and functions, or the company isn’t a global enterprise and focuses on particular geographic regions.

Entrants are usually startups that have limited reach and visibility in the market. Their product capabilities are incomplete when compared to the competition, and the vendor’s long-term market potential is still unproven.