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IT directors love technology projects; business analysts love
strategy. But in between the two a great gulf may be fixed: Relationships
between these departments are often strained, and sometimes acrimonious.

planning has historically been a bastion of the finance department with
strategists using the now ubiquitous Microsoft Excel to store, manipulate and
forecast business performance data. It’s not that there is anything
fundamentally wrong with this approach—it has served banks around the world
very well for many years—it’s just that in today’s on-demand, data driven,
real-time commerce, it’s knowing where a business is, where it was, and where
it is heading that is driving competitive advantage.

This same
commercial landscape is increasing the requirement for banks to make split-second
decisions that will often directly impact their financial and operational
success. It requires the ability to store and compare huge amounts of data.
That data must be accessible so that it can be used to derive forecasts and other
custom metrics and make informed decisions based on the latest facts.

Don’t get
me wrong, Excel is a great tool for data management, as thousands of financial
departments around the world would lay testament to. Moreover, people are
comfortable with it. Excel is however, a static, single-dimensional application
that was never designed to deliver this volume of information, so that it could
be shared or evaluated in the way that strategists are now demanding.

So if not
Excel alone, what is the answer? An increasing number of companies are turning
to BPM software in order to manage the increasing amount of data available to
them. It enables multiple users to get answers to many performance questions
from a single data store.

Many of
the leading BPM solutions, from companies such as Applix and Hyperion, actively embrace Excel, but
deliver increased functionality. Using Excel as the user interface ensures that
any BPM software will be more readily adopted than a completely new solution.

BPM software has been around for longer than you might think; Applix, for
example, has been around since 1983 and the solutions have evolved over a
period of time to deliver tangible benefits to thousands of businesses

allows us to analyse past performance, anticipate future needs, and provide
consistent reporting across the organization,” says Michael Dinsmore, CFO,
Bank Services, First National Bank of Lexington. “We are now able to
review data on a daily basis that up until now was difficult. With its
ease-of-use and ability to distribute across the organization quickly, it will
become even more valuable as we expand its use in the near future to include both
budgeting and forecasting.”

The other
important advantage of BPM software is in bringing together IT departments and
business strategists in order to drive success. Business Performance Management
software that embraces Excel delivers tangible business benefits by ensuring
that IT acts as a value added service to the business, using technology to
drive the strategist’s vision by providing business critical data. It is
neither technology for technology’s sake, nor a way to develop strategies that
are not practical to implement.

BPM is
helping to align the goals of IT with those of the business strategists. For
banks, this rejuvenated cooperation will reap greater benefits than simply
successful BPM projects alone. It may even be heralding a new maturity in the
application of IT as a driver for businesses, integrating it into the very
heart of business performance.