Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

About the Analyst

Robert Kugel

Rob heads up the CFO and business research focusing on the intersection of information technology with the finance organization and business. The financial performance management (FPM) research agenda includes the application of IT to financial process optimization and collaborative systems; control systems and analytics; and advanced budgeting and planning. Prior to joining Ventana Research he was an equity research analyst at several firms including First Albany Corporation, Morgan Stanley, and Drexel Burnham, and a consultant with McKinsey and Company. Rob was an Institutional Investor All-American Team member and on the Wall Street Journal All-Star list. Rob has experience in aerospace and defense, banking, manufacturing and retail and consumer services. Rob earned his BA in Economics/Finance at Hampshire College, an MBA in Finance/Accounting at Columbia University, and is a CFA charter holder.


Recent Posts

Workday Planning Improves Control and Visibility

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 21, 2016 8:58:54 AM

Ventana Research recently awarded Workday a 2016 Technology Innovation Award for its newly released application, Workday Planning, because it simplifies and streamlines the budgeting and planning processes while facilitating collaboration, deepening visibility into spending and enabling tight fiscal control. These capabilities can help a variety of user organizations in several ways.

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Topics: forecasting, Marketing, Budgeting, planning, In-memory, Accounting, CFO, Workday, controller, demand, Financial Performance Management, financial reporting, FPM, Integrated Business Planning, fund accounting

SYSPRO Advances with Collaboration and CRM

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 10, 2016 7:21:58 AM

SYSPRO is a 35-year-old software vendor that focuses on selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configurations to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, SYSPRO adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy. The company’s development efforts follow a design philosophy that balances its target customers’ need for software capabilities that are on par with larger enterprises with their resource constraints (chiefly limited financial resources and technical staffs).  Its software can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

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Topics: SaaS, ERP, forecasting, Governance, close, Cloud, Continuous Accounting, reporting, CIO, Collaboration, Accounting, CFO, CRM, analytics, CEO

Intacct Advances Subscription Billing and Reporting

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 9, 2016 7:32:13 AM

Intacct, a cloud-based ERP vendor focused on midsize companies, recently held its annual user group meeting. Two of its products that were covered in the keynote are worth noting. One, already available, enables companies to manage their order-to-cash process in a continuous fashion, from the time a salesperson begins to engage with a prospect to the time funds are collected. The other is a custom report writer, to be available in the first quarter of 2017, that will provide business users with the ability to create even complex reports from any data that resides within Intacct in a straightforward, interactive fashion that is similar to building reports in a desktop spreadsheet. The company also presented modules that will facilitate compliance with the new revenue recognition standards.

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Topics: SaaS, Customer Engagement, ERP, Marketing, NetSuite, Billing, customer life cycle, reporting, revenue recognition, streaming, subscription, Customer Service, Accounting, billing software, invoicing, recurring revenue, sales

Oracle Adapts Business Applications Intelligently in the Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 31, 2016 9:30:19 AM

The annual Oracle OpenWorld user group meeting provides an opportunity to step back and take a longer view of business, industry and technology trends affecting the company. Last year, after listening to Larry Ellison’s and Mark Hurd’s vision for the future of IT, I wrote that Oracle had to continue shifting its focus to business applications because the accelerating shift to cloud computing would lead corporations to outsource their IT infrastructures, services and security to third parties. Eventually, this would substantially shrink the market for corporate IT departments, which has been Oracle’s strength. At this year’s conference the company demonstrated how it is applying its technology strengths to create a competitive advantage that it can apply to its broad business applications portfolio.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, SaaS, Artificial Intelligence, ERP, Cloud, Accounting, analytics, integration, PaaS, iaas

Ditch Presentations to Improve Corporate Governance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 25, 2016 4:41:29 AM

The topic of corporate governance received renewed attention recently after the publication of an open letter signed by 13 prominent business leaders, including Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway and Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase. The first principle the group advocated in the letter is the need for a truly independent board of directors. To achieve that aim, the letter suggests having the board meet regularly without the CEO and that the members of the board should have “active and direct engagement with executives below the CEO level.” From my perspective, translating this idea into reality would be helped by a change in the dynamics of most board meetings. I would eliminate the standard presentation of results and begin the meeting with questions and observations from the board members directed to company executives related to its financial and operating results and any other matters on the agenda. This could take place with or without the CEO.

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Topics: Mobile, Governance, Consolidation, Reconciliation, reporting, Accounting, CFO, CEO, board of directors, accoumting close

Processes and Software Make Long-Term Planning and Investing More Effective

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 14, 2016 8:58:30 AM

Effective capital planning and capital investment are vital to a company’s long-term success. The choices a company makes in this regard – how much to invest and in which facilities or projects – almost always have a profound impact on its competitiveness and performance. Because they have limited financial resources, well-managed companies take pains to ensure that these decisions support their long-term strategies and are made as rationally as possible. To do this they must have a disciplined approach to assigning priorities to capital investments within the context of the company’s specific strategy and objectives, as well as the ability to easily identify and eliminate unnecessary projects or excessive spending. And since business environments are dynamic, companies must also continually review their investment portfolios to assess their performance to plan and their strategic value while they also consider new investments to support and expand the existing long-term portfolio.

Some aspects of planning are easier to handle than others. For example, large majorities of companies in our Office of Finance benchmark research said that they handle the basic functions of accounting (83%) and external financial reporting (78%) well or very well. In contrast only half (49%) said that they perform strategic and long-range planning well or very well. One reason for the discrepancy may be the tools that they use. Almost all (91%) companies said they use spreadsheets to manage their long-term planning and investment processes. Spreadsheets are the wrong choice for any repetitive, collaborative company-wide processes such as strategic and long-term planning. For example, tracking and revising projects and major company initiatives over time in desktop spreadsheets is time-consuming because they lack capabilities designed for these purposes, such as the ability to manage projects as a set of resources and activities along a time dimension. With such capabilities planners are able to see quickly the financial and operational impact of delaying or accelerating a capital project. Unlike spreadsheets, software dedicated to planning often includes built-in analytics and visualizations that help executives formulate plans and assess performance. Spreadsheets don’t make it impossible for companies to plan and manage strategic and long-range projects and investments, but doing that is so time-consuming organizations may not have time to do more valuable work – for example, comparing the impacts of different economic or business scenarios on a set of investment alternatives, or performing side-by-side assessments of existing project portfolios. Dedicated software can enable a company to gain agility in adapting its portfolio of projects and investments. By shortening planning and review cycles and being able to examine the impact of different scenarios on the fly, decision-makers can do more frequent in-depth reviews and reassessments of investment performance or priorities.

Dedicated planning software also can improve executives’ ability to do long-range planning to ensure they have the right strategy to succeed in the markets they serve and the right assets to support their strategic objectives. To achieve those goals they must allocate investments in those assets as optimally as feasible and possess sufficient resources (both financial and other, such as personnel with the appropriate skills) to support those investments. These are the key activities in the long-range planning process:

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Topics: finance, Business

Cryptic Data: Challenges and Rewards in Finding and Using It

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 18, 2016 7:18:11 PM

Using information technology to make data useful is as old as the Information Age. The difference today is that the volume and variety of  available data has grown enormously. Big data gets almost all of the attention, but there’s also cryptic data. Both are difficult to harness using basic tools and require new technology to help organizations glean actionable information from the large and chaotic mass of data. “Big data” refers to extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially those related to human behavior and interaction. The challenges in dealing with big data include having the computational power that can scale to the processing requirements for the volumes involved; analytical tools to work with the large data sets; and governance necessary to manage the large data sets to ensure that the results of the analysis are accurate and meaningful. But that’s not all organizations have to deal with now. I’ve coined the term “cryptic data” to focus on a different, less well known sort of data challenge that many companies and individuals face.

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Topics: Big Data, data science, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, forecasting, FP&A, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Budgeting, Connotate, cryptic, equity research, Finance Analytics, Human Capital, Kofax, Statistics, Analytics, Business Analytics, Hadoop, Business Intelligence (BI), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, Datawatch, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Kapow, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), import.io

The Office of Finance in 2016

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 14, 2016 11:40:09 AM

The imperative to transform the finance department to function in a more strategic, forward-looking and action-oriented fashion has been a consistent theme of practitioners, consultants and business journalists for two decades. In all that time, however, most finance and accounting departments have not changed much. In our benchmark research on the Office of Finance, nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for finance departments totake a strategic role in running their company. The research also shows a significant gap between this objective and how well most departments perform. A large majority (83%) said they perform the core finance functions of accounting, fiscal control, transaction management, financial reporting and internal auditing, but only 41 percent said they play an active role in their company’s management. Even fewer (25%) have implemented a high degree of automation in their core finance functions and actively promote process and analytical excellence.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, forecasting, Governance, GRC, Mobile Technology, Budgeting, close, Continuous Accounting, Continuous Planning, end-to-end, Human Capital, quote-to-cash, Tax, tax data warehouse, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, CIO, Cloud Computing, In-memory, Uncategorized, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, CPQ, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Aria Enables Effective Recurring Revenue Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 7, 2016 8:36:14 PM

Aria Systems provides companies with software for managing subscription or recurring revenue business models. A recurring revenue business models includes three types of selling and billing structures: a one-time transaction plus a periodic service charge; subscription-based services involving periodic charges; or a contractual relationship that charges periodically for goods and services. Aria’s cloud-based software addresses key requirements of users in the marketing, sales, operations and accounting functions in this type of business.

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Topics: SaaS, Sales, Customer Engagement, ERP, Marketing, NetSuite, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Recurring Revenue, Billing, customer life cycle, streaming, subscription, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Aria Systems, billing software, invoicing

Transforming Tax Departments into Strategic Entities

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2016 8:26:11 AM

The steady march of technology’s ability to handle ever more complicated tasks has been a constant since the beginning of the information age in the 1950s. Initially, computers in business were used to automate simple clerical functions, but as systems have become more capable, information technology has been able to substitute for increasingly higher levels of human skill and experience. A turning point of sorts was reached in the 1990s when ERP, business intelligence and business process automation software reduced the need for middle managers. Increasingly, organizations used software to coordinate activities as well as communicate results and requirements up and down the organizational chart. Both were once the exclusive role of the middle manager. Consequently, almost every for-profit organization eliminated management layers so that today corporate structures are flatter than they once were. Technology automation also eliminated the need for administrative staff to perform routine reporting and analysis. Meanwhile, over the course of the 1990s, the cost of running the finance department measured as a percentage of sales was cut almost in half as a result of eliminating staff and because automation enabled companies to scale without adding headcount. During the last recession, companies in North America and Europe once again made deep reductions to their administrative staffs, relying on information technology to pick up the slack.

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Topics: Sustainability, ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, Human Capital, legal, LongView, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax, Thomson-Reuters multinational