The finance team from National Aquarium is here at Adaptive Live, our annual user conference, and they’re ready to be inspired.
Freshly minted Adaptive Insights customers (they’re just a week into their Adaptive Planning implementation), the National Aquarium team is anxious to break free of the boat anchor that is static planning. Megan Riley, vice president of finance for one of the nation’s revered and extensive aquariums, described how in her career, she has seen simple formula errors in spreadsheets add up to severe budget variances. She’s eager to prevent this from happening to National Aquarium.
Riley and her team believe the best protection comes from adopting an active planning environment that’s continuous, comprehensive, and collaborative. And to them, Adaptive Live is the perfect place to start. “We want to learn as much as we can about what’s coming,” said Riley.
Riley and her colleagues are not alone. Adaptive Live is packed with 1,400 finance professionals representing 580 organizations in 35 industries on five continents. And each and every one of them recognizes that finance is changing, dramatically and forever: The errors and compromises of static planning are best left where they belong: in the past.
Change is in the air
Walk among them in the expo or in breakout sessions, and you can’t escape the sense that a tectonic shift is taking place in finance. It seems everyone here is gunning to enact their own transformation, to change the way their own organizations take control of plans, budgets, and forecasts. They’re here because for them, the age of burdensome, laborious tools is over. And because it’s just a great time to be in finance.
It’s also clear that for many, active planning is a brand new initiative. In his opening keynote address—where the air above the audience bristled with a sense of excitement—Adaptive Insights CEO Tom Bogan asked for a show of hands from first-time attendees, and two-thirds of the audience reached toward the ceiling in response. They—along with Adaptive Live veterans who return every year to learn, share, and network—are in San Francisco to grasp the changes happening now in finance, and what it means for them.
Bogan likened this moment to his introduction to VisiCalc, the first spreadsheet for PCs. Despite limitations that today seem mind-boggling (the application was bound by the limits of the 96K of RAM on Bogan’s computer), Bogan immediately recognized its impact. He recalled thinking at the time, “This is going to change the world.”
Of course he was right. Spreadsheet applications have changed the world. But it’s been 38 years since the debut of that first spreadsheet program. And over the decades, finance professionals have learned to work around the limitations of those tools, suffering the results of easily compounded errors and unwieldy consolidations. They are, by now, overdue for another “a-ha” moment. And if Day One of Adaptive Live is any indication, that’s exactly what they’re getting.
Customers’ success, Adaptive Insights style
Consider the stories shared here by our customers, like the University of Arizona, who spent years in austerity mode after the state slashed its funding from 35 percent of the school’s budget to just 10 percent. “It was a really tough time,” recalled Barry Brummund, assistant vice president for FP&A. But working with Adaptive Insights, the U of A team has managed not only to pull the university out of the stagnancy of non-growth, but they’ve implemented a genuine active planning environment along the way, cutting the time they spend on various projects by 80 percent.
“Plan and adapt without compromise,” urged Bogan, echoing the theme of this year’s gathering and underscoring the empowering ethos of active planning itself. Moments of inspiration were plentiful, especially when founder Rob Hull, dressed in a superhero costume to reflect how he views Adaptive Insights customers, announced some of the winners of the annual Adaptive Torchie Awards, including Room to Read, Comvita, and CallidusCloud. These forward-thinking businesses have used Adaptive Insights to strategically transform financial planning and analytics and better position their organizations for success.
Then there’s P.F. Chang’s, which operates nearly 500 restaurant locations worldwide that generate $1.5 billion in sales. With the Adaptive Suite, the company was able to align individual restaurant operators with corporate finance. P.F. Chang’s CFO Jim Bell prodded attendees to extend their vision beyond the edges of what they once thought was possible. “There’s a constant evolution happening right now,” he said, noting that it’s up to each person in the capacity crowd to seize on the opportunities brought by that evolution.
Curiosity got the best of him
In an exhilarating pivot, the stage was commandeered by guest keynote Adam Steltzner, a NASA rocket scientist, who directed the successful—and flat-out jaw-dropping—landing sequence that placed the Mars rover Curiosity safely onto the surface of the red planet. Showing actual footage shot from the “sky crane” landing craft and broadcast hundreds of millions of miles to Earth, Steltzner eased the audience into a TED Talk tale of physics, innovation, collaboration, and curiosity.
Day One also featured 25 packed breakout sessions covering topics such as KPIs, dashboarding, data integration, Board reporting, sneak peeks at upcoming product features, and more. Demos of new capabilities from the just-announced Adaptive Suite 2017.2 filled the day, with veteran and new customers alike keen to see how the future will come together—delivering tacit proof that once again, Tom Bogan was right.
It really is a great time to be in finance.