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Feature

Finance In Focus

Adaytum app allows collaborative planning.
Earlier this year, Ford Motor Co. was forced to write off $1 billion of the value of its inventory of palladium and other precious metals used to manufacture auto-emissions parts. The problem? While new engineering designs called for less palladium, Ford's purchasing department continued to stock up on the pricey metal. Then the price of palladium dropped, leaving the carmaker with a huge inventory.

Such are the dangers of poor collaboration and lack of access to real-time financial information. This week, Adaytum Inc. will unveil Adaytum e.Planning 3.0 at its user conference in Orlando, Fla. The financial-planning application will bring businesses closer to the Holy Grail of real-time financial planning, Adaytum officials say. The software will provide new collaboration capabilities to connect more of a company's work-force into the planning process and integration features for cross-functional planning within large companies.

Most companies use slow manual methods for developing and communicating financial plans or business changes, says Bruce Richardson, an AMR Research analyst. The problem is that financial planners often do their work with little or no collaboration with sales, marketing, purchasing, manufacturing, and human-resource managers, he says, citing the Ford example.

"Planning is too important to leave to just the finance department," Richardson says. And the lack of access to up-to-date information makes setting and executing business strategies difficult. "You can't make changes to your organization's direction unless you have a snapshot of where you are," he says.

L-3 Communications Inc., which develops secure communications systems for the military and other government agencies, is using an earlier version of e.Planning to do rolling monthly forecasts of program costs and other financial information. "It gives us a precise picture of how the programs are running," says Fred Carl, financial planning manager at L-3's Camden, N.J., operation. That's especially critical for fixed-cost government contracts. "If you start running over, it's your nickel," he says.

Adaytum isn't alone in its enterprise push; Cognos Inc. recently outlined its performance-management product plans, encompassing planning, budgeting, reporting, and analysis capabilities.

Adaytum e.Planning 3.0 includes modules that let financial analysts, line managers, and executives participate in enterprise planning. The software combines top-down planning and financial modeling with bottom-up data collection, sales forecasting, budgeting, and workflow capabilities. That helps companies link strategic plans to operational initiatives, Adaytum CEO Guy Haddleton says.

The software's e.PX extensions framework will let Adaytum develop modular, customized features for companies.

The e.Planning application can be linked to Adaytum's e.Planning Reporter or Microsoft Excel for real-time business intelligence. The system includes a data warehouse for storing planning data and XML Web-services support. Adaytum e.Planning 3.0 will be available later this year; pricing hasn't been set.