In a market flooded with business planning and management tools, enterprises are struggling to find a robust solution to control and manage IT cost-effectively. To address the exigent demand for IT financial management (ITFM) solution, Align Financials offers a unique combination of ITFM tools, process excellence, and subject matter expertise to solve challenges around budgeting, forecasting, and procurement, among others. The firm is geared to enhance efficiency, cost visibility, quality, and decision-making capability of the CIOs and other leaders through their pioneering ITFM solutions. According to Eric Van Blarcum, President of Align Financials, the lack of a robust ITFM solution and a suitable process methodology often lead to ambiguous planning and modeling of IT. In an exclusive interview with CIO Applications, Van Blarcum explains how their cutting-edge financial planning and financial modeling tools and a consultative strategy helps ITFM organizations achieve IT cost visibility and increased ROI.
What are the challenges facing Align Financials in the ITFM space?
The seismic shift in the IT processes from on-premise to the cloud in the last decade has driven tremendous complexities in the way IT organizations approach overall financial management and planning in general. Although the financial toolsets have changed, the methods, procedures, and mechanisms that help to realize IT ROI have remained unchanged. In today’s era, most enterprises still utilize classical ‘lubricants’ such as spreadsheet and pivot tables to perform IT financial planning, budgeting, forecasting, and more. However, these traditional tools are ineffective as they fail to provide sufficient collaboration, workflow, and insight into actuals. We bridge the gap between process and tool with our extensive ITFM experience, process excellence, innovative toolsets and collaborative approach combined with consultancy.
“What makes us stand out from the crowd? Align fosters a collaborative environment for both IT and Finance. Using this proficiency, we leverage years of experience in ITFM to provide a positive outcome for our clients, helping them realize increased ROI in a timely manner.”
How has the ITFM space evolved over the years?
Although some modern ITFM solutions help with budget and forecasting, most of the cost savings opportunities exist in CapX and OpX. Moreover, successful implementations require experts with significant experience in finance to manage and control the IT cost framework. From the transformation perspective, there are numerous cost-saving opportunities, allowing enterprises to streamline existing services rather than invest to set up or redesign existing infrastructure. Generally, executives—CIOs and CFOs—across organizations have ITFM tools, but they don’t necessarily have the real-time visibility and flexibility to channelize and manage IT cost. As we evaluated the reasons, we found that there was a lack of integrated toolsets, process methodology, and the collaboration to achieve cost transparency. Typically, the process involves enterprises turning budgets into contracts, contracts into procurements, procurements into inventory, and inventory into business unit expenses, requiring organizations to spend additional resources to trace and manage them. ITFM is no longer a support service; it’s actually ‘the cog in the wheel’ that drives the business. Companies can get tremendous benefits from compartmentalizing end to end expenses and ensuring discreet cost centers procure goods/ services based on individual projects, not on obfuscated information. Driven by investor expectations, this provides CFOs with the ability to push SG&A expenses into the costs of each business unit.
Can you elaborate on the tools you use and the approach/process you follow to deliver ITFM solutions?
Our innovative solutions are delivered on ServiceNow’s application platform-as-a-service. The uniqueness of the pre-integrated ServiceNow’s platform is that it can seamlessly accommodate diverse sets of financial data and allows enterprises to build new features simply and scalably. Harnessing ServiceNow’s extensible capabilities, Align Financials can create a cohesive solution that supports budget and demand, procurement and consumption, tracking, maintaining, and eventually retiring contracted items. Our solution allows organizations to determine the comprehensive IT cost that supports both internal and external customers for the delivery of IT services. Further, we provide both the finance and IT teams a collaborative environment to address the economic concerns. Align’s solutions improves service, delivery, and quality and helps achieve results that are more predictable, profitable, and accurate. By streamlining the budgeting, forecasting and governance processes throughout the enterprise, teams have real-time visibility into financial metrics, which improves the understanding and confidence of decision makers. Eventually, the process yields our clients with significant improvement in planning, execution, and audit of IT expenses. The process starts by laying out a 24-month plan to implement our solutions, and the initial effort is devoted to training the leadership team to understand processes through a collaborative meeting. We spend a significant amount of time to foster awareness and train decision makers on how to implement the ITFM solution with the right approach. Additionally, what makes Align stand out from the crowd is our experience, communication, and collaborative style that we leverage to ensure that our clients are able to maximize the potential ROI.
Can you provide a case study to illustrate the benefits provided by your solutions?
One of our clients had a lengthy budgeting process for a budget that was more than a billion dollars a year. The client was dependent on a single person to articulate and prepare the budget which made creating, editing, or reviewing it very time-consuming. It took nearly six weeks for all the executives to get access to the budget until we stepped in. At the onset, our first goal was to address their short and long term department objectives which included assessing and updating their existing processes. Once we had buy-in on the new processes, we put together a roadmap that addressed the needs and value-drivers for the organization. From there, we followed a best-practices framework for the implementation. After training the core team, we helped them operate the first budget cycle. They knew the new processes enhanced the quality of the information they were able to report on. But, the biggest surprise was how vastly improved their team efficiencies were. They completed the entire planning process and delivered their budget on time–something that had not been able to accomplish in the previous five years.
What is the roadmap for the company?
We want to facilitate the expansion of the ITFM community so that customers and other interested parties can reach out and share ideas, concepts, roadmaps and strategies with others. Traditionally, ITFM has been viewed as scary or boring but lately, we’ve been seeing tremendous enthusiasm and excitement that gets us even more excited about the prospects for extending the value around ITFM. Our best ideas come from our customers and we want to help them help each other appreciate the value that ServiceNow ITFM brings to customers of all sizes.