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Best 3rd Gen FP&A Software 2024 Guide

The recently released Version 2 of The FP&A Market Guide - A Guide to 3rd Generation FP&A Tools, discusses how third-generation Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) software stands out for its user-centric design and affordability, offering features such as swift implementation, self-service capabilities, and seamless ERP integration.


Paul Barnhurst, Wouter Born, and Anders Liu-Lindberg put together the report. These third-generation FP&A tools were tailored to cater to businesses of all sizes and provide a cost-effective solution while being optimized for agile companies aiming for rapid ROI.


Let's go over the key takeaways from the report and talk about some of the most unique and popular 3rd gen FP&A software.


1) AI is Reshaping FP&A


FP&A software has been greatly transformed by Generative AI technologies, setting new industry benchmarks. This evolution leaps financial data management forward, making interpretation more efficient and insightful for professionals.


The integration of AI into FP&A solutions is not a mere trend; it's becoming a foundational element. A review of the current FP&A software offerings reveals that most companies have embraced AI and its role in the future of financial tools. Four areas, in particular, stand out for their AI-driven enhancements, each contributing to a more refined and effective FP&A process.


  • Predictive Forecasting is redefining how businesses approach their financial strategies. By analyzing historical data, AI offers more accurate predictions about future financial trends, enabling companies to make well-informed decisions.

  • Natural Language Interaction transforms the user experience by allowing financial professionals to interact with software using conversational language. This innovation has made data analysis more intuitive and significantly reduced implementation times.

  • Automated Insights Generation uses AI to sift through financial data, identify patterns, and generate comprehensive narrative summaries. This revolutionizes how complex financial reports are interpreted, facilitating quicker and more informed decision-making processes.

  • Scenario Analysis & Planning Support leverages AI to simulate various business scenarios, automate forecast adjustments, and provide insights into strategic decisions' potential outcomes. This not only streamlines strategic planning but also enhances its effectiveness.


As we progress into 2024, the impact of AI on FP&A is undeniable. Through these enhancements, AI is not just reshaping FP&A software but also the very nature of FP&A itself. This transformation heralds a new era of efficiency and strategic insight for financial professionals worldwide.


2) Insights of the Planning Software Core Components


The report on 3rd Generation FP&A Tools (Version 2) underscores the four core elements of a planning tool showcased in the accompanying graph, illustrating how AI enriches the tool's capabilities.


Effective planning software should streamline the work of planning experts and empower finance professionals to deliver astute strategic advice. Choosing the ideal planning software is no easy task, where precision in data, sophisticated modeling, clear reporting, and seamless teamwork are paramount. By intelligently integrating AI, finance professionals can save time, minimize errors, and gain profound insights. 


Data Management

True efficacy in planning starts with seamlessly aggregating data from diverse sources like ERP, CRM, and HRIS systems. AI and Machine Learning (ML) step in to refine this process. This layer is not just about storing data but transforming it into a strategic asset ready for insightful analysis.


Modeling

Here, the flexibility to construct and iterate complex financial models is paramount. AI supports this phase by offering predictive analytics and scenario planning, providing finance professionals with the tools to accurately forecast and assess various business outcomes.


Dashboards and Reporting

The third pillar addresses the visualization and dissemination of information. It automates and streamlines the process to cater to various needs, from board presentations to month-end financials. The aim here is not just simplification but enabling a higher quality of reporting that can drive decisions in real time.


Workflow and Collaboration

In today’s interconnected corporate environment, facilitating a smooth workflow and encouraging cross-departmental collaboration is indispensable. This involves managing approvals and tasks, and fostering communication through features like commenting and threaded discussions, ensuring that every stakeholder is on the same wavelength.


Graph Courtesy of: The FP&A Market Guide – A guide to 3rd Generation FP&A Tools


5 Unique FP&A Software that Stood out in the Report


Datarails – Best AI Software


Product Type: Advanced AI and Spreadsheet Native

Target Customer: Industry agnostic, revenue <$1B, 50-1,000 employees, focus on US, UK, and Canada

Average Implementation Time*: 2 – 6 weeks


Datarails emerges as a groundbreaking force, transforming the traditional uses of Excel into a structured, highly efficient platform. Founded in 2015, Datarails started with the vision to revolutionize Excel's application, aiming to integrate Excel data within a structured database. Today, Datarails stands as a pioneering AI FP&A platform, and is dedicated to reinforcing Excel’s significance as the finance department's "operating system".


The recent emphasis on AI stands as a testament to Datarails' commitment to innovation. The introduction of AI features, including FP&A Genius and FP&A Storyboards, marks a significant leap forward. FP&A Genius leverages AI-powered natural language chat to promptly answer data queries, making financial data more accessible and understandable. Similarly, FP&A Storyboards utilize AI to assist in crafting compelling narratives and presentations based on data, enabling finance professionals to convey the story behind the numbers powerfully.



With its robust AI tools, Datarails stands out in the report as the leading AI FP&A software. It not only simplifies data management and analysis but also helps finance departments articulate and visualize their data's story, ensuring strategic, data-driven decisions across the board.


Fiplana – Best BI Software


Product Type: Integrated BI Planning tool

Target Customer: Industry Agnostic, 200-2,000 employees

Average Implementation Time*: 1 – 3 Weeks


The integration of planning and analytics into a seamless platform is not just an advantage; it's a necessity. Recognizing this need, INFORM Datalab GmbH has redefined the landscape of business intelligence planning tools. Originally developed as Write! Plan and rebranded in 2023, Fiplana represents the evolution of Qlik extensions for enhanced editing, write-back, and planning functionalities.


At the heart of its innovation, Fiplana is a BI-based planning platform that makes its mark by seamlessly integrating with Qlik. This integration is not a minor feat, as Gartner’s 2023 Magic Quadrant recognizes Qlik as a leader in the BI sector. Fiplana unleashes nearly 400 data integrations through this collaborative effort, ensuring businesses, regardless of whether they use Qlik as their primary BI platform, can benefit from streamlined data consolidation. 



One of Fiplana’s most compelling features is its advanced what-if analysis capability. This feature is powered by predictive algorithms capable of generating forecasts from YTD actuals to meet full-year budget expectations.


Vareto – Best Enterprise Software


Product Type: Web App with Medium Spreadsheet Integration

Target Customer: Industry agnostic, $25M+ revenue, 250+ employees

Average Implementation Time*: Several weeks


Founded in 2020 by visionaries Kat Orekhova and Lalit Singh, Vareto has swiftly filled a noticeable gap in the midmarket and enterprise FP&A software sector. Their approach combines the scalability and intuitiveness of modern platforms with the cherished flexibility and visibility of traditional tools like Excel. This unique blend positions Vareto as an indispensable ally for finance teams looking to upraise their operations.


Vareto's platform is ingeniously crafted around three core components: Planning, Reporting, and Explorer. Each is designed to seamlessly integrate with an organization's existing ecosystem, including ERP, HRIS, CRM, and other systems. The platform's reporting function revolutionizes how finance and business executives consume information, blending automated BVA analysis with narrative storytelling.


Meanwhile, the planning tool leverages a sophisticated multi-dimensional calculation engine, coupled with both custom and pre-built modules, without losing the essence of familiar spreadsheet functionality.


Drivetrain – Best Spreadsheet Replacement Software


Product Type: Web App designed for Spreadsheet Replacement

Target Customer: B2B SaaS and subscription services with 5M+ in revenue and 50+ employees

Average Implementation Time*: 4 Weeks


Drivetrain was started in 2021 by a progressive team led by Alok Goel. Drivetrain positions itself as the best spreadsheet replacement software for companies looking to imbue their planning and decision-making processes. Its profound emphasis on integration and versatility sets it apart from conventional spreadsheet software. 

By expanding support to BI platforms like Tableau and tools such as AWS Cost Explorer, Drivetrain ensures thorough business planning and decision-making. Drivetrain’s over 100 pre-defined metrics and the robust what-if analysis tool enable businesses to visually understand the implications of their decisions across all operational facets.


Jirav – Best for Small Market


Product Type: Web App with Medium Spreadsheet Integration

Target Customer: Small to Mid-Market businesses, industry-agnostic with a strong focus on CPG, Investment Mgmt., Life Sciences, Manufacturing, and SaaS.

Average Implementation Time*: Up to Weeks


Martin Zych and Steve Turner started Jirav aiming to fill a critical gap in the market. Jirav's inception was a direct response to the demand for a more sophisticated tool to support financial modeling, capital raising, and the streamlining of accounting processes.


Jirav offers an impressively intuitive interface, making financial planning and modeling accessible and straightforward. This commitment to simplicity makes Jirav particularly attractive for small market businesses. By addressing the unique challenges faced by small business owners and providing tailored solutions, Jirav positions itself as not just a tool, but a partner in financial planning and decision-making.



By focusing on enhancing advisory services, Jirav has quickly become the go-to FP&A solution for CPA.com. The platform's recent $20M Series B funding back in 2023 is a testament to its potential and growing importance in the industry.


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