Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

Public XBRL Vendors Should Go the Extra Mile

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 27, 2013 8:02:00 AM

This is annual report season, the time of year that a majority of European and North American corporations issue glossy paper documents aimed at investors, customers, suppliers, existing and prospective employees as well as the public at large. (Some countries have different conventions; in Japan, for instance, most companies are on a March fiscal year.) In reviewing some of the annual reports that are available on the Web, I was struck by the absence of advanced reporting technology used on investor web pages and in online annual reports of vendors of advanced reporting technology. (One notable exception is Microsoft, which uses Silverlight on its investor web pages.) Adobe Acrobat (introduced 20 years ago) is the presentation method of choice for the annual report. It would be great if publicly traded vendors that sell tools that automate the process of assembling investor documents (such as Exact SoftwareIBMInforSAP and Trintech) would demonstrate their value beyond simple compliance. These companies’ tools support and automate the processes that are part of what some call “the last mile of finance,” referring to their use in the final steps of a stream of activities that starts with closing the books and performing statutory financial consolidations and ends with publishing and filing financial documents to satisfy regulatory or contractual obligations. (I prefer to use the term “close-to-disclose cycle” because it’s a more accurate description.) These vendors should go the extra mile and redesign their investor sites to show how XBRL-tagged financial documents can be used to communicate more effectively with shareholders.

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

Getting to the Next Generation of Finance Analytics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 19, 2013 11:12:55 AM

One of the most important IT trends over the past decade has been the proliferation of ever wider and deeper sets of information sources that businesses use to collect, track and analyze data. While structured numerical data remains the most common category, organizations are also learning to exploit semistructured data (text, for example) as well as more complex data types such as voice and image files. They use these analytics increasingly in every aspect of their business – to assess financial performance, process quality, operational status, risk and even governance and compliance. Properly applied, business analytics can deliver significant value by deepening insight, supporting better decision-making and providing alerts when situations require attention from managers or executives.

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Topics: Planning, Predictive Analytics, Customer, Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Budgeting, close, closing, Finance Analytics, PRO, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, costing, FPM, Profitability

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: Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, Tax, XBRL, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), 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: Big Data, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Management, Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, financial risk management, IT Risk Management, Sarbanes Oxley, SOX

Long-Range Planning Does Not Work in Isolation

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 11, 2013 11:52:08 AM

Ventana Research completed an in-depth benchmark research project on long-range planning recently. As I define it, long-range planning is the formal quantification of the strategic plan and how that strategy is expected to play out over a period of time. The benchmark demonstrated that there’s room for improvement in almost every aspect of the long-range planning process. Almost all (95%) of those participating in the research see the need to advance their process. The research confirmed that long-range planning does not work well in isolation. Greater integration of the annual budget with the long-range plan and deeper integration of individual capital projects and initiatives are two ways to enhance the value of long-range planning process.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, Planning, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

A Profile of Strategic and Long-Range Planning

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 8, 2013 9:42:46 AM

Ventana Research recently completed an in-depth benchmark research project on long-range planning. As part of the research we had discussions with CFOs and those involved in financial planning and analysis about their company’s strategic and long-range planning processes, which pointed to the need for clarity in using the terms “strategic planning” and “long-range planning.”

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, Planning, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Make XBRL Data from EDGAR More Accessible

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 7, 2013 7:46:46 AM

I was discussing the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) mandate with a former head of investor relations at a Fortune 100 company. His take on it is much the same as that of everyone else involved with corporate reporting: it doesn’t produce much value and costs a bundle to comply. I related to him my thoughts on the lack of progress I saw in making the XBRL mandate more useful to corporations and investors alike. Making XBRL data readily available to the public – not just for SEC enforcement purposes – is consistent with the SEC’s three-fold mission to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. In addition to giving XBRL-tagged data greater practical value to investors, the trove of company data assembled by the SEC could be used by a wide range of people working within corporations.

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Topics: Office of Finance, Reporting, extended close, US-GAAP, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), financial reporting, FPM, SEC, digital technology

Spreadsheet Denial is a Big Issue

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 1, 2013 9:17:27 AM

Our recent benchmark research project, Spreadsheet Use in Today’s Enterprise, demonstrated that some companies have made modest progress in addressing spreadsheet issues, but there’s still much left to be done. Desktop spreadsheets can be an important source of productivity but, as I’ve noted, you need to understand their limitations and understand the practical alternatives. Users underestimate the impact of spreadsheet problems on their productivity because they tend to overlook the myriad little issues that constantly crop up. Being human, they overlook the ill effects that occur when spreadsheets are misused, and may be spurred to look for alternatives only when disaster strikes (as it did for one major bank).

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