Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

NetSuite Rides Wave of Cloud ERP Adoption

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 29, 2014 11:52:54 PM

Like other vendors of cloud-based ERP software, NetSuite offers the key benefits of software as a service (SaaS): a smaller upfront investment, faster time to value and potentially lower operating costs. Beyond that NetSuite’s essential point of competitive differentiation from is broad functionality beyond financial management, including capabilities for customer relationship management (CRM), professional services automation (PSA) and human capital management (HCM). These components make it easier for businesses to manage processes from end to end (such as quote- or order-to-cash) as well as to have transactions and business data available in a single system in consistent forms and synchronized. This in turn facilitates real-time reporting, dashboards and the use of analytics that integrate a wider set of functional data. Midsize companies are most likely to benefit from this integration because typically they have smaller, less sophisticated IT staffs than larger ones. A side benefit of having a single, integrated data source is improvement of situational awareness and visibility for executives and managers. It also enables organizations to reduce their use of spreadsheets for stitching together processes, doing routine analyses and reporting. These sorts of activities waste valuable time and reduce an organization’s agility.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Operational Performance Management (OPM), communications, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, process, PSA, reseller, Sage Software, UI, Unit4, user experience, Analytics, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Social, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Plex, Professional Services Automation, Workday Collaboration

Epicor Faces a Challenging Future

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 2, 2014 9:46:32 AM

Epicor used its recent user group conference to explain its strategic direction and product roadmap. The company is the result of multiple mergers of business software corporations over the past 15 years; its target customers are midsize companies and midsize divisions of larger organizations. Its most significant products are Epicor (ERP software aimed mainly at manufacturing and distribution companies) and Activant Solutions (software for small and midsize retailers, including a point-of-sale system). The company also has software that manages CRM, HR and human capital and supply chains,  and provides financial performance management (FPM) and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) capabilities. These components of the software suites are adequate for the needs of many of the company’s target customers and are not intended as stand-alone applications.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Operational Performance Management (OPM), communications, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Epicor, process, reseller, Sage Software, UI, Unit4, user experience, Analytics, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workday, Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Social, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Plex

Finance Can Get a Big Advantage from Big Data

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 16, 2013 8:22:39 AM

All the hubbub around big data and analytics has many senior finance executives wondering what the big deal is and what they should do about it. It can be especially confusing because much of what’s covered and discussed on this topic is geared toward technologists and others working outside of Finance, in areas such as sales, marketing and risk management. But finance executives need to position their organization to harness this technology to support the strategic goals of their company. To do so, they must have clarity as to what big data can do, what they want it to do, and what skills and tools they need to meet their objectives.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Fraud, Governance, GRC, audit, Controller, process, Analytics, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Operational Intelligence, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Management (IM), Risk, Financial Performance Management, financial risk management, operational risk

Social Collaboration Is in Finance’s Future

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 10, 2013 11:00:10 AM

Finance departments don’t immediately come to mind in conversations about social collaboration technology. Most of the software used for social collaboration that I’ve seen demonstrated focuses on the sales process or for broader employee engagement. The Facebook-style interface may cause finance department managers and executives to roll their eyes, especially if they’re over 40 years old. Yet business and social collaboration is an important set of capabilities that has been taking hold in business. Our benchmark research shows it ranking second behind analytics as a technology innovation priority. It will gain adoption over the next several years as software transitions from the rigid constructs established in the client/server days, which force users to adapt to the limitations of the software, to fluid and dynamic designs that mold themselves around the needs of the user. Perhaps because most of the attention so far on the benefits of collaboration has focused on front-office roles, there’s less awareness of the potential in back-office and administrative functions. Indeed, the same research reveals that those in front-office roles five times more often than those in accounting and finance roles (21% vs. a mere 4%) said that business and social collaboration are very important to their organization. However, I assert it’s just a matter of time before the finance group understands that social collaboration has substantial potential to improve its performance.

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Topics: ERP, Operational Performance Management (OPM), communications, process, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), CRM, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Social, FPM

Software to Fend Off Earnings Restatements

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 15, 2013 9:51:03 AM

I’m wondering whether the rapid rise in earnings restatements by “accelerated filers” (companies that file their financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that have a public float greater than $75 million) over the past three years is a significant trend or an interesting blip. According to a research firm, Audit Analytics, that number has grown from 153 restatements in 2009 to 245 in 2012, a 60 percent increase. What makes it a blip is that the total is still less than half the number that occurred in 2006 as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act began to take effect. As well, the number of companies restating is still less than one percent of the total. Yet it’s a blip worth paying attention to, since the consequences of a restatement pose a serious professional challenge to finance executives. The right software can help address some of the underlying causes that lead to the need to restate earnings.

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Topics: Governance, GRC, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, process, process management, report, Tax, tax data warehouse, tax provision, XBRL, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), FPM, SEC

Addressing Key Operational Risk Requirements

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 13, 2013 10:00:22 AM

I’ve frequently commented on the artificiality of the emerging software category of governance, risk and compliance (GRC). The term is used to a cover a combination of what were once viewed as stand-alone software categories, including IT governance, audit documentation and industry-specific compliance management, to name three examples. While it’s still common for specific types of software to be purchased piecemeal by different departments, these disparate areas have started a long convergence process. Since just about all controls and risk management efforts require a secure IT environment to be effective, there is a growing interdependence between effective IT governance and everything else connected with enterprise GRC.

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Topics: Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Governance, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Management, process, Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, financial risk management, IT risk management, operational risk, Sarbanes Oxley, SOX

Using Maturity Assessments to Improve Performance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 30, 2012 11:04:07 AM

The idea of devising and using maturity assessments to improve business performance has been a staple of management, functional and strategic consultants for decades. It’s based on two unassailable principles. One is the general assertion that companies differ in their ability to do anything along a range from nonexistent to advanced. The second is that at any time it’s possible for a knowledgeable individual to construct a scale of competence for some business function from least to most mature based on the important characteristics about how an organization designs and executes that function. Using maturity scales is a handy way for executives and managers to size up where they lie on a continuum of capabilities and an easy way to define the steps necessary for improvement. Maturity assessments have the advantage of being straightforward, but there’s the danger that they can be overly simplistic.

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Topics: Performance Management, Social Media, Governance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), process, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Operational Intelligence, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), benchmark, FPM, maturity

Encountering New Bottlenecks with Oracle’s Breakthrough Technology

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 3, 2012 11:43:24 AM

Two key themes that emerged from Larry Ellison’s Sunday night keynote at this year’s Oracle OpenWorld were faster processing speed and cheaper storage. An underlying purpose to these themes was to assert the importance of Oracle’s strategic vertical integration of hardware and software with the acquisitions of Sun. I try to view technology keynotes like this from the perspective of a practical business user. Advancements such of these are important because enhancing the performance and cost-effectiveness of IT infrastructure can drive substantially improved business capabilities. As I’ve noted in the past, the ability to rapidly process large amounts of data provides business users with significant new capabilities in areas such as complex event processing, social media analytics and the ability to analyze unstructured or semi-structured data. In planning, it has the potential to change how companies perform a wide range of analytics-driven processes, especially in areas such as planning, budgeting and forecasting. It makes it feasible to more fully explore the impact of different courses of action, because rather than having to wait hours or days for answers to questions that start with “What happens if we…” the answers come back in seconds. Review and planning sessions can focus more on what’s next rather than rehashing history.

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Topics: Big Data, executive, process, Business Analytics, Data Management, In-Memory Computing, Information Management, Business Performance Management (BPM), Business Process Management, Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), FPM

Midsize Companies Find ERP in the Cloud Increasingly Attractive

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 23, 2012 11:55:22 AM

Midsize businesses “pay” for their use of entry-level accounting systems by not having the essential information they need readily available and by using up valuable time that could be better spent generating business, finding issues or responding to opportunities sooner or simply enhancing the efficiency of the organization. Nevertheless, the transition from an entry-level accounting package such as QuickBooks to an on-premises system can be daunting for companies whose entry-level software no longer addresses their needs. Usually, the shortcomings start off as minor annoyances for companies that have between 100 and 500 employees and grow over time, and usually the pain grows with the number of employees and the volume and complexity of the underlying business. As business volumes expand and complexity grows, entry-level accounting systems are increasingly less able to support the underlying business. Yet finance executives usually don’t want to migrate to a new system until their old software threatens the orderly management of the business or becomes an overwhelming burden on finance operations. I know this firsthand, since not all that long ago I worked at a company where the CFO thought his biggest IT challenge was finding spare parts for the ancient Burroughs mainframe on which our financial system ran.

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Topics: ERP, end-to-end, finance cloud, process, procure-to-pay, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), Business Process Management, CFO, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), accounting software, business process execution, financial systems, FPM, order-to-cash

Put a Smile in Your Last Mile of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 15, 2012 12:08:06 PM

People used to use the phrase “the last mile” solely to refer to a condemned prisoner’s path to execution. Then the telecommunications industry picked it up to describe that part of a circuit between a major trunk line and a subscriber. Later still a defunct software company, Movaris (now part of Trintech), used the phrase in an analogy to refer to the set of activities that take place between when a company closes its books and the point where it finishes its external reporting activities, such as disclosing periodic earnings and financial conditions to investors or filing financial statements with regulators or lenders. It was an attempt to focus attention on the need to automate and better coordinate the multiple, disparate but interconnected threads that have to be orchestrated to complete the external reporting tasks accurately and on time. Personally, I’ve never cared for the phrase being used in this context; there are really multiple “last miles,” with multiple and sometimes overlapping destinations. I prefer “the close–to-report cycle” because it’s more precise in its description, and because rather than pointing to finality, “cycle” defines it for what it is – a repetitive periodic activity. And because it is periodic and repetitive, it benefits from process optimization and automation, which can substantially reduce the effort required to complete a cycle and alleviate the stress certain departments often feel as deadlines loom.

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Topics: Governance, GRC, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, process, process management, report, XBRL, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), FPM, SEC