BARC comment on insightsoftware acquiring Power ON

Authors: Dr. Christian FuchsStefan Sexl

What happened?

insightsoftware has announced the acquisition of Power ON, an US-based provider of planning solutions integrated into Microsoft Power BI:

insightsoftware has become a well-known consolidator in the CPM space. Backed by several private equity investors, its most prominent acquisitions in the past three years include IDL, Longview, Viareport and Certent – and many others in the wider data and analytics space including LogiAnalytics, Magnitude and most recently, the Germany-based BI vendor Cubeware.

Power ON has been one of the pioneer vendors that has converted the idea of using Power BI as a platform for planning into a product. Like many other CPM start-ups, the company has its roots in Europe. The development team is still located in Hungary, while the headquarters for the international marketing of the solution has been moved to the US.

Forecasting in Power ON

Why is it important?

The segment of Power BI-based planning solutions is a relatively young one. Most of the players in this field such as Acterysdefacto globalK4 Analytics and ValQ are rather small start-ups trying to increase the credibility of Power BI-based planning solutions as an alternative to established CPM platforms with their own front ends.

Forced by the rapid spread of Power BI in the market as well as the strategies of their user companies, most of the market-leading CPM vendors are integrating Power BI now as an additional option to interact with the solution’s data. Typically, these efforts are focused on leveraging Power BI’s strengths for reporting, analysis and dashboarding, but also the first vendors are now enabling data input through the Power BI user interface into the CPM platform’s data model (e.g., Jedox).

With the growing popularity of Power BI as a data and analytics front end, this option is more frequently evaluated by customers using Power BI for reporting already. BARC has experienced extremely high traffic on its webinar series about that market segment in the past two years. 

What is interesting about it?

In our opinion, this is an interesting move as the integration of planning and analytics (BI) has been a widely debated topic in the industry for decades. Both the opinion that planning is a separate application and that it is part of BI have their supporters. BARC has always preferred the view of considering the CPM market segment as part of an integrated data and analytics solution.

Now, as customers are clearly putting pressure on CPM vendors to integrate more closely with leading reporting platforms, this seems to validate the benefit of bringing planning and reporting & analytics closer together.

Especially for light planning scenarios (e.g., collecting forecast data from sales people or simple budget data from cost center managers), existing generic reporting solutions such as Power BI, Qlik and Tableau are interesting options, as many of the key users are already familiar with the interface – and have often licensed the product already. Some start-ups like Accobat are addressing that scenario with Power BI add-ons for data collection.

For more advanced planning scenarios as well as for business power users in the office of the CFO doing modeling, simulations and the administration of complex planning applications, more comprehensive application-specific solutions might remain the option of choice in many cases.

Background and technological fit

  • In recent years, insightsoftware has acquired several CPM vendors with significant functional overlaps (especially for reporting, planning and budgeting, and financial consolidation and close). insightsoftware’s future product strategy circles around investing in its high growth products while continuously optimizing the portfolio and adding new products in desirable segments. The solutions can be used independently or in combination and are offered on the basis of customer requirements and strategic direction (e.g., global or local orientation of an organization, company size, connectivity to source systems, etc.). Until now, insightsoftware has pursued the goal of keeping the individual approaches and acquisitions alive in parallel, offering some sort of ‘best of breed’ strategy in its own portfolio.
  • As of today, there is no logical ‘first priority’ CPM solution from a technical and functional standpoint with which Power ON could be integrated first. However, looking at the existing customer bases and base technology used, we think that IDL, Longview, Bizview and Calumo could be the first solutions that will be enhanced with Power ON’s capabilities for data input through Power BI’s user interface.

Potential negative effects for customers

  • Power ON is known as a solution that is quite simple to deploy and roll out with short implementation cycles. It will be interesting to see whether that approach will be continued under the new ownership or the integration into the more comprehensive CPM platforms with larger existing customer bases such as IDL will be a priority for insightsoftware.
  • Like many other solutions in its market segment, Power ON has quite an attractive price point. Potential harmonization of price lists could make the solution less affordable.
  • The market segment of Power BI-based planning solutions is young and developing very fast. There is a lot of innovation going on and the solutions are being extended quite quickly with new functionality and technological integrations. The question is whether the organizational integration process in the new environment will slow down that innovation speed within Power ON. In our experience, the breadth of insightsoftware’s product portfolio is a major challenge for the vendor to ensure continuous further development, integration and unification of the overall portfolio.

Potential positive effects for customers

  • Power ON could be upgraded from a niche solution with limited global support to a globally available product with a big organization behind it. This could reduce the hurdles to a further and more global roll-out for international customers.
  • The existing customer base of already acquired solutions such as IDL, Longview, Calumo, Bizview, etc. will probably have the option to use Power BI to collect data via Power ON quite soon.
  • Using a generic reporting solution such as Power BI for collecting planning and forecasting data is a quite new and sometimes irritating concept in many large organizations. However, the acquisition of one of these solutions by a giant like insightsoftware could make the concept more credible and might make it easier for early implementers to roll it out more broadly across the company.

Strategic outlook

This acquisition could be the starting point for converting a small niche market for Power BI-based planning applications into a more broadly available option for planning solutions. We also see other large vendors currently considering extending their offering in the direction of leveraging Power BI for data input.

Also, for the two other large reporting platform giants Qlik and Tableau, several data entry solutions already exist. However, they gain less attention than the Power BI market space, where third-party extensions have an even more important and established role in the ecosystem.

We believe that a comprehensive integration with the three leading reporting platforms Microsoft, Qlik and Tableau will become a more frequently requested requirement in the future when selecting a CPM vendor. In most cases, the focus will be on enhanced reporting options, but we think the option to use these platforms for data input scenarios as well will become more popular in the future.

Further Material

Eight different Power BI Planning vendors in short live presentations

In our “Planning in and with Power BI” webinar series we had 8 vendors presenting their solutions in compact 20 minute presentations. See all recordings here.

Power ON Live Demo

Presentation of the Power ON solution by Michael Marotta, VP of Sales during the BARC webinar “Planning in and with Power BI”