Board International: Taking Budgeting and Planning to a New High

CIO VendorGiovanni Grossi, CEO Giovanni Grossi, CEO of BOARD International, is a golf enthusiast who believes that golf is one of those rare sports where rationality and control of mind is fundamental to score. To hit the ball straight off the tee into the hole with one stroke requires complex decision-making and execution abilities that can be influenced by many parameters. “I think that for finance to function effectively it is a bit the same— one needs to carefully analyze and understand everything that impacts the business in order to make good decisions.

You can’t know everything, nor can you influence everything that impacts the business, but you need to know as much as possible to have the highest chance of success!” exclaims Grossi.

Founded in 1994, BOARD today offers the industry’s only programming-free toolkit for rapid and cost-effective development of Corporate Performance Management (CPM) and Business Intelligence (BI) software applications that aid financial planning and analysis. BOARD Management Intelligence Toolkit, the flagship product of the company, is like a Swiss Army knife for finance, allowing for the implementation of critical finance processes, and if required, have them fully integrated to operational processes such as sales planning and forecasting.

The Toolkit is not only noteworthy for having all data in one central place, but it is unique because BOARD requires zero programming. Development is performed using a simple drag and drop methodology so valuable time can be spent on business modeling, and building applications that improve processes rather than spending time coding and debugging. This simple approach makes it possible to develop and implement game-changing finance applications in record time, thus providing companies with incredibly short deployment times, low cost of ownership and very high ROIs.

A Picture Perfect Financial Plan

The financial unit of organizations spends considerable amount of time collecting and reconciling data from various sources and checking for consistency. In addition, the functionaries often struggle to get down to details as information exists in silos in different systems, which means running between multiple tools to plan, simulate, monitor and report. BOARD identifies this weak nerve and brings a distinctive approach to seamlessly integrate financial planning data with actual data.The company has built a tool that allows for both planning and actual data to reside in the same system in which customers can exactly model their unique finance data and processes.The Toolkit helps companies improve their business results through better decision-making. For some companies, this might mean improving the budgeting and planning process; for other companies might mean linking finance with operations; yet for others, it could be
implementing a financial consolidation process across multiple countries and subsidiaries. It really depends on the specific issues of the customer. BOARD’s Toolkit approach is fundamental as every company is different and requires a flexible solution that can adapt to its specific situation. BOARD is not a rigid solution that clients need to adapt to.

“The flexibility of the Toolkit approach means that we can provide solutions for customers no matter how unique and complex they are or which industry they operate in. We can do this because the Toolkit allows us to easily model the customer’s business in BOARD and quickly build an application that supports the process—all without a single line of code,” says Grossi. BOARD’s solution is applicable across all industries and is used by customers to consolidate financial statements from multiple international subsidiaries; to simulate the impact of raw material price increases on the P&L; and to make financial planning and cash-flow analysis.

BOARD has impacted the performance of many companies globally and among all industries. For example, an international hotel and leisure group, a client of BOARD, was looking to create the worldwide budgeting process for more than 30 independent business units that unified forecasting, profitability analysis and reporting. The goal was to improve business performance through better planning and understanding of cost and business drivers. With the implementation of BOARD, the customer now has a fully integrated planning cycle, capable of providing a detailed understanding of profitability through the whole organization—from sales and operations planning of any business unit to the group P&L. The solution enabled collaboration of more than 300 users from different units and departments, with different lines of business, and provided a near real time consolidated view of the P&L at a group level.

“It’s really important for us that our customers’ projects develop succinctly and that they work as planned once they are in production. Therefore, our consulting/ implementation team engages with the customer from day one,” says Grossi. This very fact differentiates the company from most of its competitors, as it is actually BOARD’s technical consultants that do the traditional pre-sales role—the consultant who will ultimately be on the project is part of the sales process and, in most cases, actually provides answers to RFIs and RFPs, demos the product, and develops and presents custom demos and POCs (proof of concepts). Through this approach BOARD ensures that they are not selling solutions that cannot be implemented.

Reaching Diverse Horizon

BOARD facilitates financial functions across borders, both geographically and organizationally, with its latest version of the industry’s only fully integrated BI and CPM solution, BOARD 8.1. Increased competitive pressure and globalization, intercompany departmental assimilation, and augmented regulation and compliance have all revolutionized the finance function. These fundamental economic trends have strongly influenced our offering, giving finance a solution that seamlessly integrates planning data with actual data that can reflect the unique way in which each business works: from planning, to execution, to monitoring and reporting. With globalization, companies are able to compete against each other in more markets from every corner of the world.
To stay competitive, customers today look for software that supports both multi-currencies and multi-languages for efficient financial management. For finance this also means that you cannot rely on the monthly report. Finance needs access to KPIs on a daily basis, and depending on the industry, even hourly. Also, more intense competition means that finance must be able to provide faster and better scenario planning.

This also dictates that the finance function be much more integrated into operational functions. Whether that integration is in the sales planning and forecasting process or the demand planning process, many companies have reached out to us for help on how to better integrate finance with operations. Finance can benefit from having weekly sales forecasting integrated directly in to the P&L forecast. And because it is all integrated, finance can drilldown directly into the details to better understand why the forecast has changed and what the impact will be on results.

Increased regulation is something that influences finance in particular, e.g. GAAP reporting, and many other regulations that of course our software has to support. But we are also seeing a growing trend in terms of internal compliance: the monitoring of who uses the systems, what transactions are taking place and by whom. In BOARD we have enhanced the system logging and reporting capabilities so our customer can monitor and report on all transactions, including setting alerts if compliance rules are in danger of not being met.

The company, however, does not rest with these innovations and explores new frontier of in-memory BI and CPM. Revolutionizing BOARD’s performance is its new hybrid-in-memory technology—Hybrid Bitwise Memory Pattern (HBMP)—that gives customersa competitive edge by manipulating virtually unlimited datasets without performance loss. Hybrid means that the customer can decide what data they want to store in-memory for ultrafast analysis and access, and what data they want to store on a disk for more occasional access. Data that is used on a daily or weekly basis could thus be stored inmemory, whilst more historical data could be stored on disk. For example, a finance department could do all the planning and simulation for the fiscal year at HQ level in-memory as this provides best performance, and if finance simultaneously needs to review some of the details, like the sales by product for a customer, they would drill into the data stored on disk without experiencing any difference in performance or going into another application to review the data. Supporting full write-back and multidimensional calculations, BOARD’s HBMP benefits the finance department from the speed of in-memory computing for simulations and ‘what-if’ analysis.

Glorious Past Paving a Bright Future

Grossi deems the relatively conservative growth strategy of the company as one of the reasons for success compared to other software vendors. Under his expert management, BOARD balances growth with profitability and customer satisfaction.

“The past two decades have seen a revolution in the way IT solutions support the finance functions, and ultimately help finance improve business performance through better decisionmaking. But, in my opinion, we are just at the beginning of a revolution where finance, operations and all functions critical to the success of a company can work seamlessly together with a single version of the truth,” reflects Grossi.

Board International

Lugano, Switzerland

Giovanni Grossi, CEO

Provider of the industry’s only programming-free toolkit for rapid and cost-effective development of Corporate Performance Management and Business Intelligence software applications.