What is the current state of business performance management (BPM) in your organization? Undoubtedly, your response will be that you have planning and forecasting capabilities and that management reporting for your organization has been consolidated. Mike Morini, president of OutlookSoft in North America, challenges that response - one he hears quite frequently as he visits Fortune 1000 companies throughout the United States. "What we're seeing is that while most organizations have processes in place for financial and operational planning, forecasting and reporting, many are dissatisfied with their underlying software and systems. Common gripes center on data quality, accessibility and management. There are also several external forces that are causing executives to look for better BPM systems. One example is the new Sarbanes-Oxley legislation, which requires more transparent and timelier reporting. That's why companies are calling on OutlookSoft for what we term unified business performance management," explains Morini.
Morini continues, "What it comes down to is a company's ability to trust its results. Factors such as data transparency, accuracy, consistency and accessibility are key. Given this, companies are demanding absolute confidence in their numbers and data - the proverbial 'single version of the truth and facts.' This is the promise that a unified approach to BPM delivers on - and then some."
The Unified Solution
OutlookSoft provides Everest, their flagship solution for unified business performance management. What exactly do they mean by "unified?" Morini explains, "Functionally speaking, it means a single application layer, leveraging a centralized database, that's equipped to support the broadest set of BPM processes. These include planning, budgeting, forecasting, consolidation, reporting, analysis, scorecards and dashboards. And with a unified solution, you never have to buy and support more than a single product. As you know, most companies today rely on numerous applications and databases to get the job done. It doesn't have to be this way anymore," explains Morini.
"Technically speaking, unified means a single performance database, a single set of meta data and business rules, a single security sign-on, a single point of maintenance and a single application to learn and administer. Again, companies today are increasingly challenged by the complexity of their planning and reporting systems. They've become unwieldy, if not unstable, and the accuracy of the resulting data is often in question. Again, it no longer has to be this way, as a unified system works to solve these issues," continues Morini. "Of course, unified also means a single licensing and maintenance agreement that covers it all - a fact our customers really appreciate. These are the primary advantages of unified - ease of deployment, ease of administration and pure simplicity all around," adds Morini.
"Of course, I'm always being asked how a solution such as Everest works with existing information technology investments. After all, you'd be hard-pressed to find a company not using a solution like SAP, Oracle, Siebel or PeopleSoft to handle a piece of their financial or operational process, be it transactional or otherwise. A solution like ours addresses the 'big picture' issues surrounding corporate health, governance and financial and operational performance," explains Morini. "The aim of what we do is to centralize key decision-making data within a unified, accessible environment and make that information available to business users everywhere. As such, the value of Everest and BPM in general lies in its ability to access, centralize, leverage and extend ERP-based data to the masses for planning and performance management purposes. This so-called 'data liberation' enhances the usefulness and relevancy of transactional and historical data, transforming it into powerful and actionable decision-making information that enables our customers to better understand, predict and leverage business performance," notes Morini.
The Window to Data
Microsoft Excel is the de facto language of business planning, reporting and analysis. However, companies tend to shy away from Excel for enterprise-scale tasks given its inherent limitations in process management, workflow and collaboration. OutlookSoft understands Excel's popular, if not ubiquitous presence with business users, and has worked to capitalize on that with its Everest solution. "Everest provides customers with a 'best of both worlds' solution, one that combines the flexibility and familiarity of Excel with the standardization and control of a packaged BPM solution," Morini explains. "What is unique about our solution is that if you know Excel, and you know your standard Web browser, then you know how to use our product," states Morini. "Excel is our window to live data, and we have patents on top of Excel that have it running over the Web. Everyone who knows Excel can be up and running on our product very, very quickly," stresses Morini.
In the Beginning
Craig Schiff and Charles Cho, both formerly of Hyperion, founded OutlookSoft in 1999. "Craig and Charles identified the need for a next-generation business performance management product, and they wanted the freedom to create it on the latest technology in an open environment, building on their years of experience in the industry. Craig was the entrepreneurial leader and Charles was the product visionary. I was brought in to help build out the operational side of the business, to ensure the right people and processes were in place to guarantee success," comments Morini.
"Craig has since moved on from OutlookSoft to found BPM Partners, a privately held professional services firm with an exclusive focus on BPM solutions. Given his experience and industry presence, we continue to collaborate and consult with Craig on BPM-related issues and we share common customers between us. Charles remains as a senior executive at OutlookSoft and is currently our executive vice president of advanced applications. In addition to spending a great deal of time getting to know and understand our customers, Charles leads OutlookSoft's advanced applications group which, through innovation and creativity, continues to keep our product leading-edge and ahead of the competition," says Morini.
One of the key strengths of OutlookSoft Everest is that the founders developed it as a 100 percent "Pure Microsoft" product, and OutlookSoft is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner for Business Intelligence. "Our close partnership with Microsoft enables us to become an early stage participant in the formulation, development and testing of new Microsoft technologies and standards. Even more importantly, this partnership allows our customers to better leverage and extend their investment in Microsoft technology in meeting their BPM needs and requirements," states Morini.
The Path to Success
Improved productivity, better decision making, greater accountability, closed-loop business management and reduced training requirements are commonly realized benefits for companies using OutlookSoft Everest. "We often see large organizations purchase Everest on a divisional basis, especially when they have a specific BPM pain that needs to be solved very quickly, be it budgeting, forecasting, reporting or scorecards. Our ability to solve the pain, quickly and cost-effectively, catalyzes the adoption process and helps get the word out on Everest. As soon as the first division that we sold to achieves success with our product, they spread the word about Everest to other divisions. This is what's happening now with a number of our customers including Dell, Gannett and Telecom Italia. Everest is initially deployed to solve a divisional need, and then before we know it, it's being rolled out enterprise-wide," says Morini.
Year Founded: 1999
As a result of successful deployments, OutlookSoft has experienced significant growth. "Approximately two years ago, we had about 30 customers. Today we have approximately 220 customers, and we're on track to expand our base significantly by year's end. Moreover, according to our most recent satisfaction survey, our customer referenceability rate is in the 90th percentile. This is astounding in the software business. These are all contributing factors to the growth and advancement of OutlookSoft," emphasizes Morini.
Low Training Costs
Morini notes that another compelling aspect of its Everest solution relates to end-user training. This is evidenced by Winn-Dixie, a large OutlookSoft customer that shaved ninety percent off its estimated training budget. "When Winn-Dixie put together their budget for a performance management solution, it included a substantial amount of money for training because they needed to deploy the solution to all of their supermarkets - 1,100 locations in total. However, given Everest's Microsoft-centric architecture and standard, user-friendly Excel and Web browser environments, Winn-Dixie's training costs came to just ten percent of what they had originally budgeted. Because Everest is a very intuitive product - giving users access to live data through a familiar interface - user adoption is very high and training costs are very low," adds Morini.
"IDC shows that the business performance management - also known as corporate performance management and/or enterprise performance management - market grew at a rate of approximately ten percent in 2003. However, OutlookSoft saw ten times this growth. It's orders of magnitude in terms of our growth versus the market's growth. Everyone at OutlookSoft has a singular focus," says Morini. "Our core focus is customer success and satisfaction, and we achieve this by delivering the best product and service possible. We are focused on logical growth, growth in the best interest of all OutlookSoft stakeholders, because this is a marathon for us, not a sprint," says Morini. "This is the first time I've ever been part of an organization where everyone knows what we do and why we're winning. There's a lot of passion here. We use our own product just like our customers do, and we're growing at a faster clip than the rest of the market. It's fun to come to work in the morning, and we're committed to delivering success for our customers. With that, all we ask of potential clients is the chance to show what we can do, to prove our company, products and services like we've done time and time again - a fact that our global customer base can attest to."
Last Book Read: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown
OutlookSoft continues to gain industry-wide acceptance and recognition. In Gartner's "Hype Cycle for Corporate Performance Management, 2004" report, OutlookSoft was recognized as the selected vendor for providing continuous predictive analytics and budgeting. According to Gartner, this is a high-benefit component of corporate performance management. Gartner also identified OutlookSoft as a visionary leader in its annual "Magic Quadrant" analysis for corporate performance management. Given this, OutlookSoft is clearly succeeding in delivering visionary, market-leading solutions to its customers - solutions that make it faster, easier and more cost effective for companies to deliver on the promise of effective BPM. Morini adds, "Your company's BPM goals and objectives should never have to be an uphill climb. OutlookSoft, with its innovative Everest product, makes sure you're just a step away."
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