Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

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

How to Get Business Users to Switch from Spreadsheets

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2015 3:52:24 AM

In our benchmark research at least half of participants that use spreadsheets to support a business process routinely say that these tools make it difficult for them to do their job. Yet spreadsheets continue to dominate in a range of business functions and processes. For example, our recent next-generation business planning research finds that this is the most common software used for performing 11 of the most common types of planning. At the heart of the problem is a disconnect between what spreadsheets were originally designed to do and how they are actually used today in corporations. Desktop spreadsheets were intended to be a personal productivity tool used, for example, for prototyping models, creating ad hoc reports and performing one-off analyses using simple models and storing small amounts of data. They were not built for collaborative, repetitive enterprise-wide tasks, and this is the root cause of most of the issues that organizations encounter when they use them in such business processes. Software vendors and IT departments have been trying – mainly in vain – to get users to switch from spreadsheets to a variety of dedicated applications. They’ve failed to make much of a dent because, although these applications have substantial advantages over spreadsheets when used in repetitive collaborative enterprise tasks, these advantages are mainly realized after the model, process or report is put to use in the “production” phase (to borrow an IT term). To date most dedicated applications have been far more difficult than spreadsheets for the average business user to use in the design and test phases. To convince people to switch to their dedicated application, a vendor must offer an alternative that lets users model, create reports, collect data and create dedicated data stores as easily as they can do it in a desktop spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are seductive for most business users because, even with a minimum amount of training and experience, it’s possible to create a useful model, do analysis and create reports. Individuals can immediately translate what they know about their business or how to present their ideas into a form and format that makes sense to them. They can update and modify it whenever they wish, and the change will occur instantly. For these business users ease of use and control trump putting up with the issues that routinely occur when spreadsheets are used in collaborative enterprise processes. Moreover, it’s hard to persuade “spreadsheet jockeys” who have strong command of spreadsheet features and functions that they should start over and learn how to use a new application. Those who have spent their careers working with spreadsheets often find it difficult to work with formal applications because those applications work in ways that aren’t intuitive. Personally these diehards may resist because not having control over analyses and data would diminish their standing in the organization. Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons for vendors to keep trying to devise dedicated software that an average business user would find as easy and intuitive as a desktop spreadsheet in the design, test and update phases. Such an application would eliminate the single most important obstacle that keeps organizations from switching. The disadvantages of using spreadsheets are clear and measurable. One of the most significant is that spreadsheets can waste large amounts of time when used inappropriately. After more than a few people become involved and a file is used and reused, issues begin to mount such as errors in data or formulas, broken links and inconsistencies. Changes to even moderately complex models are time-consuming. Soon, much of the time spent with the file is devoted to finding the sources of errors and discrepancies and fixing the mistakes. Our research confirms this. When it comes to important spreadsheets that people use over and over again to collaborate with colleagues, on average people spend about 12 hours per month consolidating, modifying and correcting the spreadsheets. That’s about a day and a half per month – or five to 10 percent of their time – just maintaining these spreadsheets. Business applications vendors started to address business users’ reluctance to use their software more than a decade ago when they began to use Microsoft Excel as the user interface (UI). This provides a familiar environment for those who mainly need to enter data or want to do some “sandbox” modeling and analysis. Since the software behind the UI is a program that uses some sort of database, companies avoid the issues that almost arise when spreadsheets are used in enterprise applications. There also are products that address some of the inherent issues with such as the difficulty of consolidating data from multiple individual spreadsheets as well as keeping data consistent. Visualization software, a relatively new category, greatly simplifies the process of collecting data from one or more enterprise data sources and creating reports and dashboards. As the enterprise software applications business evolves to meet the needs of a new generation of users, as I mentioned recently, it’s imperative that vendors find a way to provide users with software that is a real alternative to desktop spreadsheets. By this I mean enterprise software that provides business users with the same ability to model, create reports and work with data the way they do in a desktop spreadsheet as well as update and modify these by themselves without any IT resources. At the same time, this software has to eliminate all of the problems that are inevitable when spreadsheets are used. Only at that point will a dedicated application become a real alternative to using a spreadsheet for a key business process. Regards, Robert Kugel – SVP Research

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Topics: Planning, ERP, Forecast, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, closing, dashboard, enterprise spreadsheet, Excel, plan, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Accounting, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), application, benchmark, Financial Performance Management, spreadsheet

Research Agenda: The Office of Finance in 2015

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 3, 2015 9:37:28 PM

Last year Ventana Research released our Office of Finance benchmark research. One of the objectives of the project was to assess organizations’ progress in achieving “finance transformation.” This term denotes shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing toward more strategic, higher-value functions. In the research nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for the department to take a more strategic role. This objective is both longstanding and elusive. It has been part of the conversation in financial management circles since the 1990s and has been a primary focus of my research practice since its inception 12 years ago. Yet our recent research shows that most finance organizations struggle with the basics and few companies are even close to achieving this desired transformation.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, forecasting, Governance, GRC, Budgeting, close, end-to-end, quote-to-cash, Tax, Tax-Datawarehouse, Analytics, CIO, In-memory, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, CPQ, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Finance Analytics Requires Data Quality

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 22, 2014 9:48:59 AM

Our research consistently finds that data issues are a root cause of many problems encountered by modern corporations. One of the main causes of bad data is a lack of data stewardship – too often, nobody is responsible for taking care of data. Fixing inaccurate data is tedious, but creating IT environments that build quality into data is far from glamorous, so these sorts of projects are rarely demanded and funded. The magnitude of the problem grows with the company: Big companies have more data and bigger issues with it than midsize ones. But companies of all sizes ignore this at their peril: Data quality, which includes accuracy, timeliness, relevance and consistency, has a profound impact on the quality of work done, especially in analytics where the value of even brilliantly conceived models is degraded when the data that drives that model is inaccurate, inconsistent or not timely. That’s a key finding of our finance analytics benchmark research.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, forecasting, Governance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Budgeting, close, Finance Analytics, Tax, tax data warehouse, Analytics, Business Analytics, CIO, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), In-memory, Accounting, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Applications (IA), Risk, risk management, Workforce Performance Management (WPM), CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Requirements for Becoming a Strategic Chief Risk Officer

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 17, 2014 9:55:14 AM

The proliferation of chief “something” officer (CxO) titles over the past decades recognizes that there’s value in having a single individual focused on a specific critical problem. A CxO position can be strategic or it can be the ultimate middle management role, with far more responsibilities than authority. Many of those handed such a title find that it’s the latter. This may be because the organization that created the title is unwilling to invest the necessary powers and portfolio of responsibilities to make it strategic – a case of institutional inertia. Or it may be that the individual given the CxO title doesn’t have the skills or temperament to be a “chief” in a strategic sense.

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Topics: GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Bank, Chief Risk Officer, CRO, ERM, OpenPages, regulation, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Data Governance, IBM, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, financial services, FPM

Finance Departments Still Lag in Using Advanced Analytics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 11, 2014 9:54:39 AM

Business computing has undergone a quiet revolution over the past two decades. As a result of having added, one-by-one, applications that automate all sorts of business processes, organizations now collect data from a wider and deeper array of sources than ever before. Advances in the tools for analyzing and reporting the data from such systems have made it possible to assess financial performance, process quality, operational status, risk and even governance and compliance in every aspect of a business. Against this background, however, our recently released benchmark research finds that finance organizations are slow to make use of the broader range of data and apply advanced analytics to it.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, forecasting, Governance, Budgeting, close, Finance Analytics, Tax, tax data warehouse, Analytics, Business Analytics, CIO, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), In-memory, Accounting, Business Intelligence (BI), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Management (IM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Boardwalktech Addresses Spreadsheet Woes in Business

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 15, 2014 10:16:28 AM

Our benchmark research on enterprise spreadsheets explores the pitfalls that await companies that use desktop spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel in repetitive, collaborative enterprise-wide processes. Because people are so familiar with Excel and therefore are able to quickly transform their finance or business expertise into a workable spreadsheet for modeling, analysis and reporting, desktop spreadsheets became the default choice. Individuals and organizations resist giving up their spreadsheets, so software vendors have come up with adaptations that embrace and extend their use. I’ve long advocated finding user-friendly spreadsheet alternatives.

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Topics: GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, Boardwalktech, enterprise spreadsheet, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Risk, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), BCP, benchmark, Financial Performance Management, spreadsheet

Opportunity for the Office of Finance in 2014

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 13, 2014 8:22:59 AM

Senior finance executives and finance organizations that want to improve their performance must recognize that technology is a key tool for doing high-quality work. To test this premise, imagine how smoothly your company would operate if all of its finance and administrative software and hardware were 25 years old. In almost all cases the company wouldn’t be able to compete at all or would be at a substantial disadvantage. Having the latest technology isn’t always necessary, but even though software doesn’t wear out in a physical sense, it has a useful life span, at the end of which it needs replacement. As an example, late in 2013 a major U.K. bank experienced two system-wide failures in rapid succession caused by its decades-old mainframe systems; these breakdowns followed a similarly costly failure in 2012. For years the cost and risk of replacing these legacy systems kept management from taking the plunge. What they didn’t consider were the cost and risk associated with keeping the existing systems going. Our new research agenda for the Office of Finance attempts to find a balance between the leading edge and the mainstream that will help businesses find practical solutions.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, forecasting, Governance, GRC, Budgeting, close, Tax, tax data warehouse, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, CIO, Cloud Computing, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), In-memory, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

IBM Integrates Risk Management for Financial Services

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 18, 2013 9:47:56 AM

Integrated risk management (IRM) was a major theme at IBM’s recent Smarter Risk Management analyst summit in London. In the market context, IBM sees this topic as a means to differentiate its product and messaging from those of its competitors. IRM includes cloud-based offerings in operational risk analytics, IT risk analytics and financial crimes management designed for financial institutions and draws on component elements of software that IBM acquired over the past five years, notably from Algorithmics for risk-aware business decisions, Open Pages for compliance management, SPSS for sophisticated analytics, Cognos for reports, dashboards and scorecards, and Tivoli for managing all of this in a Web environment. Putting its software in the cloud enables IBM to streamline integration and maintenance, offer more flexible deployment and consumption options and potentially lower the total cost of ownership.

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Topics: GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Bank, Chief Risk Officer, CRO, ERM, OpenPages, regulation, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Data Governance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), IBM, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Risk, risk management, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Algorithmics, financial services, FPM

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