Adaptive Live 2017 is a wrap! Held last week in San Francisco, this 2017 edition of our annual user conference drew 1,400 attendees from 580 organizations representing more than $200 billion in revenue. Attendees traveled from five continents to learn, to network, and to exchange ideas and best practices as they move along the path to active planning.
Now that I’ve had a few days to process what went down last week, I’m left with some indelible impressions from an action-packed event. Here are the major ones.
1. It’s a great time to be in finance. If you attended Adaptive Live and missed this point, then you probably spent a little too much time playing the game in the conference app to score the cool fidget spinner prize. But I doubt this crucial observation escaped many attendees. It was the overriding theme of Adaptive Insights CEO Tom Bogan’s opening keynote, driven home by a powerful rumination of just how much time, effort, late nights, missed Little League games, and … well, life has been systematically stolen from finance professionals by static planning tools and processes. Tom made the case for how modern FP&A platforms are elevating the role of finance, while returning hundreds, if not thousands, of people-hours to finance teams to instead spend on strategic projects, process improvements, or bike rides with the kids. “Times are changing … fast,” Tom told Adaptive Suite users, noting that the blistering pace of change in business means none of us can hope to keep up if we’re still using decades-old tools. “Just a year ago, could anyone have imagined the market cap of Tesla would exceed that of Ford or GM?” he asked. With FP&A tools evolving just as rapidly, he argued, finance professionals find themselves in the cockpit during a time of true transformation, and that’s a good place to be.
2. Collaboration can lead to stellar results. NASA rocket scientist Adam Steltzner piloted a TED-style guest keynote address, carrying a packed house along with him to the surface of Mars, and in the process revealing how great ideas can take flight when people work as a team. Steltzner, who headed the effort to design, build, and execute the landing sequence that proved decisive to the success of the Curiosity Mars rover mission, described how collaboration was the only way to pull together the interests and efforts of thousands of stakeholders across government and industry. As Steltzner described it, collaboration is itself a kind of exploration, because we are trying to discover the unique strengths and talents of others. “When we explore, we’re asking questions about ourselves,” he told an enthralled audience. “We’re searching for the edge of us.”
3. Adaptive Suite users want to bear the torch. With more than 1,900 members in our online Torchbearer customer community, we headed into Adaptive Live 2017 with a highly engaged user group. But hundreds of new customers joined Torchbearers right there in San Francisco, motivated by what they could gain from and contribute to the community’s learning, product feedback, and peer discussion forums. And if attendees were looking for a Torchbearer role model, they certainly had one in Sarah Sebby, this year’s Torchie Award winner for Torchbearer of the Year. Sebby, the financial planning manager at environmental sciences and services firm Clarke, has been a consistent contributor to Torchbearer discussion forums, and has spoken at Adaptive Live and our roadshow events. Active across all Torchbearer activities, Sebby has earned more than 10,000 points for participating in the early software access program, earning certification on the Adaptive Suite, attending learning webinars, and more. “It’s fun and I learn new things,” she told attendees in her Torchie Award acceptance video. “It’s changed the way I learn here at Clarke.”
4. Finance professionals really respond to innovation. Halfway through his opening keynote, Adaptive Insights Chief Product Officer Bhaskar Himatsingka was met with spontaneous applause when he showed off a feature called Model Overview, which visualizes—in a simple and utterly intuitive way—how data flows within a model. That moment was mirrored by many others during the week when attendees suddenly saw how they could engage in self-service analytics, view variances in waterfall charts, personalize dashboards with their own KPIs, and so much more. Our new-product sessions were filled with actively engaged customers eager for hands-on training with our latest innovations. And we were delighted to oblige.
5. No one inspires finance heroes like a fellow finance hero. Every year, we honor Adaptive Insights customers who achieve outstanding results in various aspects of their business using the Adaptive Suite. Make no mistake—with so many uniquely creative and driven finance heroes in our midst, choosing a winner in each category is growing harder and harder. But the Torchies are a tradition that burns bright. This year, we presented the coveted trophies to these remarkable customers, and once again we offer our warmest congratulations to them all:
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island: Planning Beyond Finance Award
- Callidus Cloud: Modeling and Planning Accuracy Award
- Clarke, Sarah Sebby: Torchbearer of the Year Award
- Comvita New Zealand: Modeling Ingenuity Award
- Epcor: Guy Bridgeman: CFO Leadership Award
- Fastems: FP&A Efficiency Award
- Room To Read: Business Partnership and Collaborative Planning Award
- Sioux Steel: Strategic Impact Award
6. Finance is ready to push beyond finance. It’s clear from conversations with customers last week that incorporating operational data and KPIs into plans and forecasts is an aspiration for a lot of organizations. Whether soon or over the long term, customers are interested not only in bringing operational users into active planning environments, but also in using operational measures to help their organization perform better and make smarter business decisions. It’s a natural part of a maturing finance operation, noted Adaptive Insights CFO Jim Johnson in a breakout session on the evolving role of the CFO: “Companies trust finance as keeper of the data because finance is the only function that doesn’t have an agenda—other than ensuring all the information is accurate.”
These takeaways from Adaptive Live 2017 bear out how the world of FP&A and corporate performance management is evolving at breakneck speed, and how innovative finance professionals around the world are relying on the Adaptive Suite to help them manage that change so they can plan and adapt without compromise.
Rest assured that we’ll be spending the next year ensuring that Adaptive Live 2018 will be even more educational and engaging. You’re not standing still, so neither can we. Let’s keep evolving together.