Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

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

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

Steelwedge Enables Actionable and Continuous Planning

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 16, 2015 10:30:30 PM

Supply and demand chain planning and execution have grown in importance over the past decade as companies have recognized that software can meaningfully enhance their competitiveness and improve their financial performance. Sales and operations planning (S&OP) is an integrated business management process first developed in the 1980s aimed at achieving better alignment and synchronization between the supply chain, production and sales functions. A properly implemented S&OP process routinely reviews customer demand and supply resources and “replans” quantitatively across an agreed rolling horizon. The replanning process focuses on changes from the previously agreed sales and operations plan; while it helps the management team understand how the company achieved its current level of performance, its primary focus is on future actions and anticipated results. Adoption of S&OP has increased as software to support the process has become more powerful and affordable and as a growing list of companies demonstrated its value in producing meaningfully improved business results. Even without adopting a full-scale S&OP management approach, companies can benefit from better coordination and collaboration between their supply and demand functions. Software plays an important role here, too, in facilitating this coordination and collaboration.

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Topics: Planning, SaaS, Sales, Forecast, Mobile Technology, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Human Capital, Supply Chain Planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Business Performance Management (BPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Sales Planning, Supply Chain, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Demand Chain, Integrated Business Planning, SCM Demand Planning, S&OP

Workday Financial Management Gains Momentum

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 2, 2015 11:37:53 PM

Workday Financial Management (which belongs in the broader ERP software category) appears to be gaining traction in the market, having matured sufficiently to be attractive to a large audience of buyers. It was built from the ground up as a cloud application. While that gives it the advantage of a fresh approach to structuring its data and process models for the cloud, the product has had to catch up to its rivals in functionality. The company’s ERP offering has matured considerably over the past three years and now is better positioned to grow its installed base. Workday recently added Aon, the insurance and professional services company, to its customer list (becoming its largest customer to date) and reported that its annual contract value (ACV – the annualized aggregate revenue value of all subscription contracts as of the end of a quarter) has doubled since the second quarter of this year, albeit from a low base. This is an important milestone because for years the company’s growth has come from the human capital management (HCM) portion of the business, not financials. Workday has around 160 customers for its financials (more than 90 of which are live) compared to more than 1,000 customers for HCM.

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Topics: Microsoft, SAP, ERP, FP&A, NetSuite, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, Reconciliation, report, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Amazon, BI, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct, scorecard, spreadsheet, treasury

Evolving to the Next Generation of ERP Systems

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 29, 2015 1:19:13 PM

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP also can help plan and manage inventory and logistics. Some companies use it to handle human resources functions such as tracking employees, payroll and related costs. Yet despite their ubiquity, ERP systems have evolved little since their introduction a quarter of a century ago. The technologies shaping their design, functions and features had been largely unchanged. As a measure of this stability, our Office of Finance benchmark research found that in 2014 companies on average were keeping their ERP systems one year longer than they had in 2005.

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Topics: Big Data, Microsoft, SAP, Social Media, ERP, FP&A, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, Reconciliation, report, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), BI, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct, scorecard

Tidemark Enables More Effective Business Planning

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 12, 2015 10:22:49 AM

Tidemark Systems offers a suite of business planning applications that enable corporations to plan more effectively. The software facilitates rapid creation and frequent updating of integrated company plans by making it easy for individual business functions to create their own plans while allowing headquarters to connect them to create a unified view. I coined the term “integrated business planning” a decade ago to highlight the potential for technology to substantially improve the effectiveness of planning and budgeting in corporations, and it remains true that integrating business planning can produce superior results. Companies that maintain direct links between functional or departmental plans more often have a planning process that works well than others. Our next-generation business planning benchmark research shows that two-thirds (66%) of those that maintain such links have a planning process that works well or very well, compared to 40 percent that copy information from individual plans into an overall plan and just 25 percent in which plans have little or no connection.

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Topics: Planning, Reporting, Budgeting, Human Capital, user experience, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Planning, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Tidemark, Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Demand Planning, headcount planning marketing, Integrated Business Planning, Predictive Analytics, Project Planning

Oracle Must Pivot to Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 10:26:32 PM

Whatever Oracle’s cloud strategy had been the past, this year’s OpenWorld conference and trade show made it clear that the company is now all in. In his keynote address, co-CEO Mark Hurd presented predictions for the world of information technology in 2025, when the cloud will be central to companies’ IT environments. While his forecast that two (unnamed) companies will account for 80 percent of the cloud software market 10 years from now is highly improbable, it’s likely that there will be relentless consolidation, marginalization and extinction within the IT industry sector driven by cloud disruptions and the maturing of the software business. In practice, though, we expect the transition to the cloud to be slow and uneven.

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Topics: Microsoft, SAP, ERP, FP&A, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, reconciliations, report, Tax, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Amazon, BI, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct, Predictive Analytics, scorecard, Spreadsheets, treasury

Continuous Accounting Enables a Strategic Finance Department

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2015 9:51:54 PM

Many senior finance executives say they want their department to play a more strategic role in the management and operations of their company. They want Finance to shift its focus from processing transactions to higher-value functions in order to make more substantial contributions to the success of the organization. I use the term “continuous accounting” to represent an approach to managing the accounting cycle that can facilitate the shift by improving the performance of the accounting function. Continuous accounting embraces three main principles:

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Topics: ERP, FP&A, Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, reconciliations, report, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud, Collaboration, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), BI, Financial Performance Management, FPM, scorecard, Spreadsheets, treasury

Finance Transformation Requires Strong Leadership

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2015 8:34:11 AM

The theme of transforming the finance organization is hot again. The term “finance transformation” refers to the longstanding objective of shifting the focus of finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic activities such as providing the rest of the organization with forward-looking analysis. I focus on the technology and data aspects of this type of business issue in these analyst perspectives because they are usually essential to achieving some business objective. However, technology rarely fixes a problem by itself. If it were a simple matter of just buying software or having better data stewardship, it would be relatively easy to achieve finance transformation. But it’s not simple at all. When it comes to changing how the finance and accounting organization operates, there’s no substitute for leadership. Doing that requires changes in the habits of the department, which include the CFO changing how the department works with the rest of the company.

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Topics: Performance Management, continuous improvement, Controller, Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM)