IBM Planning Analytics

Planning Analytics (TM1 Cloud) Review

Late in 2015 IBM released the SaaS version of TM1 called Planning Analytics. They have dropped the name “TM1” and are just calling it “Planning Analytics”. This is to sit it beside “Cognos Analytics” and “Watson Analytics”.

What is Planning Analytics?

IBM Planning Analytics is an amalgam of technologies from TM1 and analytics presented as a cloud based solution. It has a new front end that is visually and functionally consistent with both Cognos and Watson Analytics and is very easy to create workspaces for planning and analytics that utilise high speed TM1 cubes in the background.

What’s Behind the Scenes?

Pure TM1 is what drives Planning Analytics. The likely method for building a Planning Analytics model is still via TM1 Architect. You still need to create dimensions, build cubes, define rules and create views. So you still have the power of TM1 driving the model.

Can I Still Use TM1 Perspectives?

Yes. And no.

Yes, in that it is installed on the server and can be used to create Excel based reports that can be published as TM1 web sheets for users to then contribute to.

No, in that your users cannot use Perspectives to build their own reports. The reason for this is that Perspectives is designed for local usage only. So if you have TM1 on a server in your physical location, then it perform brilliantly. Put it on a remote location and performance drops off as it downloads a lot of data to prepare the local report. Planning Analytics is cloud based and therefore, by definition, remote, so performance of perspectives would be poor.

IBM have addressed this however by the expansion of CAFE (Cognos Analysis for Excel) to work with TM1 cubes. This is specifically designed for remote use and it does a good job with most aspects of Excel based TM1 reporting. However it does not, at time of writing, allow you to create Active Forms – and this is a major weakness that IBM is addressing.

Guided Exploration

Guided what? Guided Exploration is where you can ask TM1 (sorry, Planning Analytics) a natural language question and it will provide you an answer based on the data available.  For example you could ask “what is the volume by channel and product”. Planning Analytics will interpret this request and provide the answer using a combination of dimensions and elements within those dimensions. So our question included elements in red and dimensions in blue “what is the volume by channel and product.

Visualisations

Planning Analytics VisualisationThe visualisations in Planning Analytics are great and responsive to the questions being asked. Using the question from above (“what is the volume by channel and product”), we are presented with this visualisation. This is Planning Analytics interpretation of the best way to present the answer to us. Of course we can then manipulate this visualisation as we see fit with a few simple clicks on the workspace. Ask a different question, get a different visualisation with your answer.

Getting Data to the Cloud

One of the areas that many TM1 consultants were skeptical of was how to get on premise data to the cloud efficiently and securely. IBM have resolved this with three alternatives for moving that data that include one that allows secure, encrypted direct querying of on premise ERP systems (including SAP). Also, they have Planning Analytics available at two Australian data centres – Sydney and Melbourne.

Why Would I Use Planning Analytics?

The use case for Planning Analytics is simple. You don’t need your own server. You don’t need to manage that server. You don’t need a Windows licence. You don’t need to pay up front for licences and you don’t need to pay annual maintenance. You get a significant improvement in user experience for the web interface and (when CAFE is updated) at least as good for using it with Excel.

Cognos BI?

You’d think that with Cognos Analytics also released last year that the bundled version of BI included with Planning Analytics would be version 11, aka Cognos Analytics. Nope. I don’t know why, but although yes you do get Cognos BI with Planning Analytics for use with the TM1 cubes, it is version 10, not 11. Say no more.

Prepackaged Models

IBM have prepared a set of what they call “blueprints” – pre packaged models that are available to you when you sign up that can then form the basis of future models that specifically address common business issues that clients want. These include Budgeting and Forecasting, Customer and Product Profitability analysis and Risk Adjusted planning. New blueprints are also being regularly added.

What if We Already Own TM1?

IBM want to move their clients to the cloud. Why? Well it locks them into a new platform and provides great ongoing revenue. To make this more appealing they have a Bridge to Cloud program where you can use your annual TM1 renewal to pay for a new SaaS instance that (currently) gives dual entitlement (so you can use it both on premise and in the cloud) for an agreed period. Then you have that period to migrate your on premise TM1 to the new cloud platform.

Where to From Here?

Obviously his is the future of TM1. The current modelling tool (Architect) is likely to go and be replaced by a graphical tool that works and allows significantly easier business based modification to rules and structures. Cafe will be enhanced to replace Perspectives and we expect eventually to have predictive capabilities built right into the modelling environment. Oh, and also obviously IBM will update it to include Cognos Analytics soon as well.

What About the Cost of Planning Analytics?

Let’s be frank here. Planning Analytics is not cheap when you buy using the list price. Currently it is about $A205 per user per month with a minimum of 11 users. So, that’s about $A2250 per month or $A27k per annum. That’s a lot by anyone’s estimation and not overly competitive with the alternate cloud based players like Adaptive or Anaplan.

Here’s the rub though. IBM have by far and away the largest market share of the enterprise planning space with TM1. They have been somewhat slow to respond to the new players until Planning Analytics. With Planning Analytics they have a Ferrari under the hood of a great web front end and it will be hard to beat. They were, however, slow to market and now need to catch up so it is very likely that you will be able to negotiate significant discounts to the purchase price. If, and it is a big if, you were able to get a 50% discount off the purchase price, then that annual price comes down to $A13.5k for 11 users. Over five years that would be $A67.5k. Compared to the purchase of an 10 user plus 1 admin purchase of Cognos Express plus annual maintenance for the additional 4 years, that would have cost $56k plus the cost of the server, the OS, managing that server etc.

That makes it compelling and competitive with other vendors on price and, functionally it’s TM1 so you’re way ahead!

Demos and Trials of Planning Analytics

If you’d like to take Planning Analytics for a spin with an interactive demo, please click here and you will be taken through to an IBM server where you will need to use your IBM ID to signup. From here you will be able to check it out. If you then want to sign up for a trial, please click here.

Questions?

If you have any questions, please post them here and we will do our best to answer them.

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