FP&A Lite

July 2023

The benefits of FP&A Lite for Unit4 Financials

Unit4’s add-on, FP&A Lite enables you to perform ad-hoc, self-service analysis on your profit & loss, balanced sheet, and cash flow statements on a central, secure, and connected environment. All are tightly integrated with your financial data source, Unit4 Financials by Coda, to boost trust and agility in analysis and decision-making.

Read on to discover the benefits of this easy-to-use, easy-to-deploy analytics solution for your finance function and for the wider business.

The go-to analysis tool for many organisations is Microsoft Excel. So, for instance, if you are a Unit4 Financials user and you want to interrogate your underlying financial data, the old way of doing things tends to involve using the Excel add-in to connect to the solution, pulling the data out, and then applying Excel’s filters, pivot tables, formulas, diagrammatic representations, and other tools.

Analysis through Excel is, however, a largely manual process; one that’s often both time-consuming and resource intensive. No matter how careful you are with validation, errors are pretty much inevitable. Even a minor mistake (e.g., the wrong input in the wrong cell or accidentally swiping over a range) can have major consequences for decision-making, resource allocation and, ultimately, your bottom line. Meaning you are unable to trust the data on which you base the financial health of your organisation.

Financial analysis is a collaborative process involving multiple team members. Excel, however, was devised primarily as a personal productivity tool; it was never designed to support multiple users working with the same data simultaneously. Multiple users working simultaneously on spreadsheets, increases the risk of versioning issues, questions over accountability, accidental cell changes and other errors, to name a few.

FP&A Lite delivers an effective and efficient alternative to this common business critical challenge. Instead of having to manually extract data into Excel, the solution provides a single, fully integrated platform for analysis. FP&A Lite reports directly on both actual and budget data from your Unit4 Financials system and seamless drill-through to underlying transactions comes as standard. No longer do finance team members need to contend with Excel’s structures and calculations. Instead, you get a self-explanatory, easy-to-access framework for analysis and reporting where complex data is simplified into meaningful insight for better decision-making.

Gartner defines self-service analytics as a form of business intelligence (BI) in which users are “enabled and encouraged to perform queries and generate reports on their own, with nominal IT support”.

This approach to analysis is focused squarely on data democratisation, i.e., giving finance and line-of-business professionals the ability to drill into the data – even if they do not have a background in statistical analysis and devising formulae. Ultimately, it’s about giving users instant answers to queries and rapid insight into critical business trends to boost productivity and agility.

Legacy systems – particularly those reliant on spreadsheets – are often a barrier to self-service. The lifting and shifting of data is often a cumbersome, time-consuming, and error-prone process; not what you need if you’re looking for rapid answers on a tight timescale. What’s more, the ability to carry out effective analysis is limited to those members of the team who are confident in using Excel’s formulas and toolset.

FP&A Lite opens the door to self-service analysis. Self-explanatory dashboards give you an instant and varied view of what’s happening across your various profit & loss, balance sheet and cash flow statements. Alongside this, a choice of various dynamic, interactive visualisations supports native drill-through to the underlying transaction data to truly gain an understanding of outliers and data behaviour. All of this makes it much easier to make sense of the information behind your statements, to spot trends, generate reports and make better-informed decisions – all without the need for specialist IT intervention or logging in and out of multiple systems where data can often become stale.

One of the core benefits of Unit4 Financials is its “no compromise” approach to financial management. We’re talking about true, trusted, and integrated financial visibility.

The moment you start lifting and shifting your data into other applications for the purposes of analysis, you start to lose the benefit of this integrated approach. The concept of the ‘single source of truth’ can become eroded, and questions can arise e.g. Where did these figures come from? How up-to-date is this information? What’s more, if there are multiple participants involved in the analysis process, version control issues can make it difficult to determine whose version of the truth you are looking at.

One of the best things about FP&A Lite is that it extends Unit4’s “no compromise” approach to financial management into the sphere of financial analytics. By giving you a single, fully integrated platform for analysis and reporting, you can always be confident that you are dealing with trustworthy, error-free data, viewed through a single lens. You can finally trust the numbers – and apply them with confidence to your decision-making.

This type of question is all too common with spreadsheet-based analysis and reporting. The absence of accountability and audibility can be a real headache for anyone with responsibility for internal compliance. As we all know, it’s incredibly easy to alter a spreadsheet by mistake, and the absence of adequate tracking functionality makes it hard to spot when those changes have been made.

The beauty of being able to carry out analysis and reporting natively within Unit4 Financials is that you can bypass all of those Excel-related headaches. In their place, you get the full benefit of Unit 4’s governance frameworks controlling user data access rights (e.g., single sign-on and ‘need to know’ access restrictions).

Usefully, FP&A Lite also allows you to make a distinction between Storytellers who can create new public and private Dashboards and edit or delete existing Dashboards and Analytics Users who can view public Dashboards and create, edit, or delete private Dashboards.

In short, not only does FP&A Lite significantly enhance your analytics capabilities, it also gives you greater control over how those capabilities are deployed – and by whom.

The potential benefits of financial analysis are obvious in theory. After all, few CFOs would dismiss the opportunity to gain a better understanding of financial performance and greater insight into trends. In practice, however, the thought of having to overhaul your data architecture and make a significant new addition to your tech stack might be too painful to contemplate. This is especially the case in the current climate, where budgets are under strain.

There’s also the learning curve aspect to consider. The last thing you need is to make a significant investment in FP&A only to find that the new solution is too complex or counter-intuitive for ordinary business users to put to work day-to-day.

The ‘plug and play’ nature of FP&A Lite speaks directly to all these concerns. The solution is deliberately pared down to focus on what matters most to finance teams: i.e., being able to drill down and draw workable insights from your financial statements and the data that underpins them. Native integration with your existing Unit4 Financials system means you can be up and running with FP&A Lite in as little as five days.

So far as the user experience goes, the emphasis is on self-explanatory, easy-to-access reporting and analysis. It’s about building on your existing tech investments, without having to reinvent the wheel – and without a huge outlay in terms of cash and time.

Supporting your digital transformation journey

We know that ambitions are high within finance departments. According to PwC, 53% of CFOs say they plan to accelerate digital transformation this year by exploring initiatives such as data analytics, AI, automation and cloud solutions.

But how do you get to your end goal – which may ultimately include capabilities such as predictive models and scenario analysis capabilities – from a standing start? When change seems too big – or too expensive – to contemplate, stasis can easily set in.

It can be useful to approach digital transformation in bite-sized, consumable chunks; focusing on the areas that are going to have an immediate impact, to begin with, before looking at more ambitious projects at a later stage. This is a further area where FP&A Lite really comes into its own.

FP&A Lite is only the first step on your journey. As we’ve seen, the emphasis of FP&A Lite is on analysis and reporting linked to core financials. It’s an easily deployable solution that gets your people used to drilling into the data and generating answers on-demand in a user-friendly way. Post-implementation, the next logical step is to consider boosting your planning capabilities with Unit4’s more comprehensive FP&A solution. The solution, therefore, becomes a useful first step in building a data-driven culture and in building a bridge between legacy processes and next-gen planning and analytics capabilities. Upgrading to the full FP&A solution is easy and straightforward. Planning, budgeting, forecasting, scenario analysis, and more capabilities can simply be “switched on”.

Want to learn more about FP&A Lite?

Take a look at our earlier article: “what is FP&A Lite and how can it improve my Unit4 Financials system” by clicking the button below.

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