Since its inception 20 years ago, Ventana Research has advocated for a shorter accounting close because it can improve the performance of the entire organization, not just finance and accounting. An important benefit of a shorter close is increased staff time for analysis and the preparation of reports and narratives that improve communications with the board and outside investors. Similarly, the department can provide those in operating roles the financial and managerial accounting results to highlight opportunities and issues they must address.
We conducted our recent Smart Close Dynamic Insights Research in part to assess to what extent the substantial disruptions of the pandemic have impacted the accounting close. When office lockdowns began in the first quarter of 2020, many finance departments were challenged by having to do their quarterly close remotely without their normal face-to-face interactions. In the United States, the Securities and Exchange Commission was so concerned that corporations would be unable to meet their filing deadlines that they gave registrants carte blanche to extend their filing if necessary. As it turned out, only a relative handful did, and all but one of those was based in China; but for many, that first calendar close required a heroic effort. Since then, organizations have made concerted efforts to adopt and use technology to enable them to operate resiliently under any conditions. Our research finds that while organizations have to some extent adapted to operating a more remote working environment, progress toward a faster close has been elusive. The research also confirms that organizations that use technology effectively to automate processes are better able to complete their close sooner.
OneStream offers a platform designed to serve the needs of accounting and financial planning and analysis organizations. The software handles financial close and consolidation, planning and budgeting, analysis and reporting. For me, the most significant announcement at the company’s recent user conference was the unveiling of its Sensible ML (Machine Learning) offering, which is in limited general release. I’ve commented on the importance of artificial intelligence in business applications, and Sensible ML is a promising and important step in that direction.
A few years ago – somewhat tongue in cheek – I began using the term “data pantry” to describe a type of data store that’s part of a business application platform, created for a specific set of users and use cases. It’s a data pantry because, unlike a general-purpose data store such as a data warehouse, everything the user needs is readily available and easily accessible, with labels that are immediately recognized and understood.
Artificial intelligence using machine learning has passed through the bright, shiny object stage and software vendors are well into the process of making the concept a reality in their offerings. Ventana Research defines AI as the use of technology to process information in much the way humans do, including improving accuracy in recommendations, actions and conclusions as more data is received. I like the alternative term “augmented intelligence” because it emphasizes that these systems enhance – rather than replace – the capabilities of the humans employing them, especially through improved decision-making and eliminating the need to perform repetitive work.
Kinaxis is a sales and operation planning software company headquartered in Ottawa, Canada. Its RapidResponse is an S&OP platform for concurrent planning, designed to integrate an organization’s supply chain planning silos, accelerate planning cycles and optimize supply chain execution to match customer demand.
Organizations need to use external data in planning and budgeting, both data and third-party forecasts. This need also extends to external data in training artificial intelligence systems to assist in planning and for predictive analytics. Companies do not live in a vacuum and things occurring outside physical facilities have a direct impact on how an organization performs. Incorporating external data and third-party forecasts in any systemic fashion is really only practical if you’re using dedicated planning and budgeting software. And increasingly, planning and budgeting software will be incorporating AI capabilities. Watch this brief video presentation by Ventana Research SVP and Research Director Robert Kugel to uncover the benefits of organizations using external data.
Sage recently announced that it is expanding its Sage Intacct software offering to support discrete manufacturing, with its initial foray into this competitive market centered in France. The move supports the company’s strategy of building out the scope of industries served by its cloud applications to include product-oriented business models and expanding Sage Intacct’s geographic footprint. The company has been extending the functionality it offers customers with human capital management as well as budgeting and planning and extending beyond its sole focus on service organizations to be able to support product-focused businesses. These include wholesale distribution, construction, retail (with the recently completed Bright Pearl acquisition) and now discrete manufacturing, specifically industrial machinery and supplies, electrical equipment and electronic parts.
I first wrote about a new era of trade a few years ago to make the point that the period of optimizing supply chains for the lowest cost was over, and that companies needed to redesign them to achieve greater resiliency. That observation proved correct. Now we are hearing about “the end of globalization,” a hyperbolic phrase describing the effects of ongoing changes to the international political order that have been underway for more than a decade. These changes are forcing companies to make sometimes significant adjustments to sourcing and supply chain management. Globalization, which started in 1492, isn’t over, but managing international trade requires the ability to deal with shifts in strategic planning assumptions and agility in dealing with tactical events. Software will play an important role in enabling corporations to meet these ongoing challenges caused by a major reordering of global trade.
How payments are effected is an afterthought to many involved in a transaction, but flaws in this process can be a source of pain and frustration for those in the back office, especially in accounting and treasury. To improve the way payments are handled in business-to-business transactions, the once ubiquitous paper checks are giving way to electronic payments. This category includes credit, debit and virtual cards, wire transfers, as well as ACH (Automated Clearing House) transmissions that may be in the form of direct deposits, direct debits and electronic checks. Electronic payments are supplanting checks because they lower processing costs for both parties in a transaction; increase accuracy, auditability and control of the accounting; provide better visibility into payment status; and enable deeper insight into spend or customer metrics. Building on these digital advances, blockchain payment systems (BPS), now at an early stage in development and adoption, have significant potential in the market because they offer similar advantages at an even lower cost. I assert that by 2025, fewer than 20% of organizations will be using blockchain payment systems, but those that do will speed transactions, reduce overhead and cut costs.