Cloud-based services now provide a way for companies to plan ahead without relying on cumbersome spreadsheets. But what's a boon for smaller companies is disrupting the market for higher-end solutions.
It may not look like a crystal ball, but Microsoft's venerable spreadsheet software, Excel, is often used as one by businesses trying to peer into their financial future.
The problem is that many companies have so many different budgets and divisions that many different spreadsheets need to be linked together. Errors crop up if formulas are off or different departments have different budgeting styles. That makes it difficult to “drill down” from one spreadsheet to the next, or to come up with a financial forecast for the whole enterprise.
Yet for many companies, this low-cost option made sense compared with the traditional alternative: sophisticated but expensive packages from giant vendors such as SAP, IBM, and Oracle. Those typically require new IT equipment and training that can send total costs for big companies into the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars.
Now, a third path has opened up—thanks to a new class of cloud-hosted forecasting services that are sold through subscriptions that cost about $500 per user, renewable each year.