Vendor wants to be 'Wikipedia for finance'

Financials meet social networking in Adaptive Planning's 5.0 release, announced Monday

Adaptive Planning has added a set of collaboration and community-building features to the 5.0 release of its budgeting and reporting software.

In July, the company will roll out "private team collaboration spaces" for customers, which incorporate familiar features like discussion forums and document sharing.

In the meantime, a public Web portal called the "Financial Best Practices Community," containing articles on best practices, polls, forums and videos, is set to go live Monday. Once users also add content, Adaptive Planning hopes the portal will result over time in a "Wikipedia for finance."

As for core functionality, the 5.0 release features a refreshed user interface and financial modeling tools that are easy for an average employee to use, according to the company.

The company targets companies that have outgrown spreadsheets and have between 100 and 2,500 employees, said CEO Bill Soward. "Most of those companies are doing their financial reporting in Excel. At some point, that doesn't scale," he said.

The new collaboration features can add real value and are not merely an attempt to jump on the Web 2.0/social-networking bandwagon, he suggested: "Budgeting is not just about numbers and spreadsheets. It's about all the commentary around it," he said.

However, one Adaptive Planning customer, who is not yet live on the 5.0 release but has used previous versions since around 2005, said he is "optimistic" but unsure how much his team will actually adopt the new features.

"I think there are some aspects that are going to help to keep the discussion and dialogue about budgeting in one central repository," said Sean Kelly, director of finance and administration for Purolator USA, a Jericho, New York, logistics company. "The challenge is that people are so in love with their e-mail system. You're asking them to move that dialogue to another medium."

Purolator now has about 13 workers using the software after starting with two seats, he said.

Overall, the software has fit his division's needs, Kelly said. He had been using spreadsheets and looking for a tool with more automation, but had limited resources. "I am a subsidiary of a large corporation. I can't go to Oracle and Hyperion and ask them to install a budgeting and planning product," he said.

But some work remains for the vendor, according to Kelly.

"I use SAP as my general ledger system," he said. "All of the information that I upload into Adaptive Planning is first a download out of a general ledger system. To be able to integrate a general ledger into Adaptive Planning would eliminate a data entry issue."

That capability is being developed along with a third-party vendor now and will be available later this year, according to an Adaptive Planning spokesman.

Adaptive Planning 5.0 is available in both on-demand and on-premises form. Pricing starts at US$500 per user per year for "full" users -- administrators and anyone else who is involved in entering information. "Review only" seats, which allow users to view data and create reports, start at $200. Adaptive also offers a free, open-source Express edition of the product.

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