Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

Use – Don’t Abuse – Spreadsheets

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 21, 2013 9:45:42 AM

I’ve been using electronic spreadsheets for more than 30 years. I consider this technology among the 20th century’s top five most important advances in business management. Spreadsheets have revolutionized every aspect of running any organization. A spreadsheet (specifically, VisiCalc) was the original “killer app” that made business people feel the necessity to buy a personal computer.

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Topics: Analytics, benchmark, Business Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), enterprise spreadsheet, Financial Performance Management, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, Risk, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Visualization, Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Office of Finance

Profit Velocity’s New Dimension in Managing Profitability

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 20, 2013 10:15:58 AM

Profit Velocity Solutions’ PV Accelerator is an analytic application designed to enable capital-intensive companies to consistently achieve substantially wider margins and higher return on assets (ROA). Companies in industries such as specialty chemicals, building materials, integrated steel mills and silicon chip fabrication (to name just four) routinely fail to make the right decisions about pricing, production and sales management because they use analytic methods that, from an economic perspective, present a distorted measure of profitability. Profit Velocity’s approach is to use profit contribution per unit of time as the core principle for driving decisions about production, pricing and CRM-related issues, including compensation-, customer- and account management.

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Topics: Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), Cloud Computing, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Operational Performance Management (OPM), Performance Management, Price Optimization, Profit Velocity, Profitability, PV Accelerator, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Software, S&OP, Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Human Capital Management, Sales, Office of Finance

Rising Rates Will Catch Companies Flat-Footed

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 13, 2013 10:37:08 AM

One of the important lessons company executives should have learned over the past 15 years is that it’s dangerous not to do contingency planning, a subject that I’ve written about before. By this I mean real, think-outside-the-box contingency planning (not just extrapolating), which is especially important when doing long-range planning. The past decade or so has been punctuated by periods of elevated volatility in financial and product markets, and there’s a good probability it will occur again in predictable yet improbable ways. The dot-com boom and its resulting bust as well as the real estate bubble and collapse were in part liquidity-driven events. Many people recognized the artificiality of the rise in values during both of those boom times. There were naysayers questioning the longevity of the upturns, but as they continued unchecked and proved the skeptics wrong, most investors, analysts and advisors grew complacent and unwilling to consider truly unfavorable scenarios. By not planning for a bust, companies and individuals were not in position to react as swiftly and intelligently as they could have.

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Topics: Budgeting, Business Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), contingency, currency, driver-based, Financial Performance Management, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Integrated Business Planning, Planning, Reporting, Office of Finance, Big Data

Happy Birthday XBRL

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 8, 2013 8:44:59 AM

To mark the fourth anniversary of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) interactive data mandate, Columbia Business School (my alma mater) and its Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis (CEASA) published a review of the current state of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) that notes the manifold issues that plague this promising technology. From its perspective, three key issues hamper greater use of XBRL. The first is the high error rate in the tagging process and the tendency of companies to use too many non-standard tags, both of which substantially reduce the usefulness of the data to practitioners. Second, they believe technologists, not regulators and accountants, should be more involved in developing software that makes it easier to consume XBRL-tagged data. Third, companies should spend more effort improving the quality of their data than on trying to kill the mandate.

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Topics: Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, extended close, Financial Performance Management (FPM), financial reporting, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), SEC, US-GAAP, XBRL, Office of Finance, Digital Technology

IBM to Acquire Star Analytics for Financial Data Integration

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 7, 2013 7:00:08 AM

IBM this week announced its pending acquisition of the Star Analytics product portfolio. Star Analytics is a privately held company that offers products designed to provide easy access to and integration with Oracle Hyperion data sources. While Star Analytics has a good product and solid references, it has lacked critical mass to support more effective sales and marketing efforts. Star Analytics’ strategic value to IBM lies in its ability to unlock data held in Oracle Essbase multidimensional databases, which is the repository for applications such as Hyperion Enterprise, Financial Management and Planning. It supports IBM’s aim to offer comprehensive business analytics capabilities, which means it must be able to facilitate access to all data sources. Longer term, it enables IBM to compete with Oracle for finance department customers with IBM’s own financial performance management applications. Star Analytics gives IBM a means of fostering relationships with existing users of Hyperion applications and a more graceful migration path to using IBM’s financial, analytics and business intelligence software.

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Topics: Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), closing, Data Integration, Essbase, Financial Performance Management, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Hyperion, IBM, Information Management (IM), Oracle, Reporting, Star Analytics, TM1

Get to Know Alternatives to Desktop Spreadsheets

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2013 9:54:20 AM

The electronic spreadsheet is among the top five most important advances in business management to come along in the last hundred years. It revolutionized almost all aspects of running an organization. It was the original “killer app” that made it necessary for people to go out and buy a personal computer. Yet our recent benchmark research project Spreadsheet Use in Today’s Enterprise confirmed advice we have been giving for the past decade: Spreadsheets are a fabulous tool but they have limits, and those who fail to respect those limits wind up paying a price. The consequences may be obvious, as JP Morgan found when faulty spreadsheets used by its trading desk cost it dearly. Or it may be more subtle, as with all the time people waste trying to make spreadsheets do things they were never designed to do.

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Topics: Analytics, benchmark, Business Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), enterprise spreadsheet, Financial Performance Management, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Reporting, Risk, Visualization, Office of Finance

Vertex Enterprise Advances Tax Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2013 6:35:07 AM

Taxes – both indirect (sales or value added taxes, for example) and direct (income taxes) – are one the largest expense items on the corporate income statement. In recent years it has become common for large and even midsize companies to automate their indirect tax management process, but direct tax management has remained a bastion of manual processes built on a heap of desktop spreadsheets. In previous blog posts I discussed this issue and the role of the tax data warehouse as a necessary foundation for automating the direct tax process. Addressing an important need, Vertex is currently providing a limited release of its Enterprise offering, a single-platform approach to managing all types of taxes (direct and indirect) across the entire tax life cycle (from analysis through provisioning to audit defense) using a single data source.

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Topics: Analytics, audit, Business Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, ERP, finance transformation, Financial Performance Management (FPM), FPM, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), GRC, Information Management (IM), Tax, Vertex, Office of Finance