Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

Make Automating the Office of Finance and Accounting a Priority

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 27, 2015 7:50:29 AM

Our recent Office of Finance benchmark research demonstrates the importance of using automation to execute finance department functions. Information technology systems do at least two things very well that make better use of people’s time, and both of them can substantially improve organizational performance. First, they eliminate the need for people to do repetitive tasks, which frees them to spend time on more valuable work that requires judgment and skill. IT systems also can be programmed to focus only on relevant information while eliminating the need to get immersed in detail. The latter capability supports a “management by exception” approach, which enables executives and managers to better allocate how and where they spend their time.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Self-service, Budgeting, close, closing, computing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheets

Technology Can Enhance Performance in Finance Departments

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2014 9:40:42 AM

Finance transformation” refers to a longstanding objective: shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic, higher-value functions. Our upcoming Office of Finance benchmark research confirms that most of organizations want their finance department to take a more strategic role in management of the company: nine in 10 participants said that it’s important or very important. (We are using “finance” in its broadest sense, including, for example, accounting, corporate finance, financial planning and analysis, treasury and tax functions.) Finance departments have the ability and at least an implicit mandate to improve business performance and enable a corporation to execute strategy more effectively. Yet the research shows that becoming strategic is a work in progress. Most departments handle the basics well, but half fall short in areas that can contribute significantly to the performance of their company. More than three-fourths of participants said they perform accounting, external financial reporting, financial analysis, budgeting and management accounting well or very well. But only half said that about their ability to do product and customer profitability management, strategic and long-range planning and business development.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Management, close, closing, computing, Controller, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Tagetik, FPM

Data-Driven Business Processes Essential for Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 16, 2014 10:30:56 AM

When applying information technology to drive better business performance, companies and the systems integrators that assist them often underestimate the importance of organizing data management around processes. For example, companies that do not execute their quote-to-cash cycle as an end-to-end process often experience a related set of issues in their sales, marketing, operations, accounting and finance functions that stem from entering the same data into multiple systems. The inability to automate passing of data from one functional group to the next forces people to spend time re-entering data and leads to fragmented and disconnected data stores. The absence of a single authoritative data source also creates conflicts about whose numbers are “right.” Even when the actual figures recorded are identical, discrepancies can crop up because of issues in synchronization and data definition. Lacking an authoritative source, organizations may need to check for and resolve errors and inconsistencies between systems to ensure, for example, that what customers purchased was what they received and were billed for. The negative impact of this lack of automation is multiplied when transactions are complex or involve contracts for recurring services.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, ERP, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Operations, Management, close, closing, computing, end-to-end, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Data Management, Business Performance Management (BPM), CRM, Data, finance, Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), FPM

Finance Needs Better Analytics and Analytic Skills

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 13, 2014 11:58:44 PM

Finance and accounting departments are staffed with numbers-oriented, naturally analytical people. Strong analytic skills are essential if a finance department is to deliver deep insights into performance and visibility into emerging opportunities and challenges. The conclusions of analyses enable fast, fully informed business decisions by executives and managers. Conversely, flawed analyses undermine the performance of a company. So it was good news that in our Office of Finance benchmark research 62 percent of participants rated the analytical skills of their finance organization as above average or excellent.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Predictive Analytics, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Self-service, Budgeting, close, closing, computing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Tagetik, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheets

What’s Next?: The Interplay of Software and Hardware with Business and Consumers

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 11, 2014 9:49:01 AM

“What’s next?” is the perennially insistent question in information technology. One common observation about the industry holds that cycles of innovation alternate between hardware and software. New types and forms of hardware enable innovations in software that utilize the power of that hardware. These innovations create new markets, alter consumer behavior and change how work is performed. This, in turn, sets the stage for new types and forms of hardware that complement these emerging product and service markets as well as the new ways of performing work, creating products and fashioning services that they engender. For example, the emerging collection of wearable computing devices seems likely to generate a new wave of software/hardware innovation, as my colleague Mark Smith has noted. This said, I think that the idea of alternating cycles no longer applies. It would be convenient if we could assign discrete time periods to hardware dominance and software dominance, but like echoes as they fade, the reverberations are no longer as neatly synchronized as they once were. Moreover, adoption and adaptation of technology by consumers reflected in the design of work, products and services always lags – and lags in different ways, further blurring the timing of cycles.

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Topics: Mobile, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, ERP, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, Wearable Computing, Management, close, closing, computing, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), FPM

Tagetik Advances Disclosure Management for Office of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 16, 2014 9:05:58 AM

Tagetik provides financial performance management software. One particularly useful aspect of its suite is the Collaborative Disclosure Management (CDM). CDM addresses an important need in finance departments, which routinely generate highly formatted documents that combine words and numbers. Often these documents are assembled by contributors outside of the finance department; human resources, facilities, legal and corporate groups are the most common. The data used in these reports almost always come from multiple sources – not just enterprise systems such as ERP and financial consolidation software but also individual spreadsheets and databases that collect and store nonfinancial data (such as information about leased facilities, executive compensation, fixed assets, acquisitions and corporate actions). Until recently, these reports were almost always cobbled together manually – a painstaking process made even more time-consuming by the need to double-check the documents for accuracy and consistency. The adoption of a more automated approach was driven by the requirement imposed several years ago by United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies tag their required periodic disclosure filings using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which I have written about. This mandate created a tipping point in the workload, making the manual approach infeasible for a large number of companies and motivating them to adopt tools to automate the process. Although disclosure filings were the initial impetus to acquire collaborative disclosure management software, companies have found it useful for generating a range of formatted periodic reports that combine text and data, including board books (internal documents for senior executives and members of the board of directors), highly formatted periodic internal reports and filings with nonfinancial regulators or lien holders.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, ERP, Human Capital Management, Modeling, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, Finance Financial Applications Financial Close, IFRS, XBRL, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), benchmark, Financial Performance Management, financial reporting, FPM, GAAP, Integrated Business Planning, Profitability, SEC Software

The Virtues of Automating Reconciliation

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 29, 2014 8:40:50 AM

Reconciling accounts at the end of a period is one of those mundane finance department tasks that are ripe for automation. Reconciliation is the process of comparing account data (at the balance or item level) that exists either in two accounting systems or in an accounting system and somewhere else (such as in a spreadsheet or on paper). The purpose of the reconciling process is to identify things that don’t match (as they must in double-entry bookkeeping systems) and then assess the nature and causes of the variances. This is followed by making adjustments or corrections to ensure that the information in a company’s books is accurate. Most of the time, reconciliation is a matter of good housekeeping. The process identifies errors and omissions in the accounting process, including invalid journal postings and duplicate accounting entries, so they can be corrected. Reconciliation also is an important line of defense against fraud, since inconsistencies may be a sign of such activity.

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Topics: Office of Finance, automation, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, effectiveness, Reconciliation, XBRL, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM

Host Analytics Lifts Spreadsheets to Cloud for Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 27, 2013 9:49:35 AM

Host Analytics has introduced AirliftXL, a new feature of its cloud-based financial performance management (FPM) suite that enables its software to translate users’ spreadsheets into the Host Analytics format. I find it significant in three respects. First, it can substantially reduce the time and resources it takes for a company to go live in adopting the Host Analytics suite, lowering the cost of implementation and accelerating time to value. Second, it enables Host Analytics users who have the appropriate permissions to create and modify models and templates that they use in planning, budgeting, consolidation and reporting. This can enhance the value of the system by making it easier to maintain. Third, it can make it far easier to routinely collect and connect planning and analytical models used by all departments and business users as it has outlined in its planning cloud offering. Although it has limitations in its initial release, AirliftXL gives corporations a workable alternative to stand-alone spreadsheets and has the potential to substantially increase productivity and effectiveness of an organization in the full range of budgeting, planning, consolidation and reporting functions.

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Topics: Modeling, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, closing, Consolidation, Controller, Host Analytics, Analytics, Business Analytics, Cloud Computing, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM

Oracle Hyperion Products Challenged by New Generation of Expectations

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 16, 2013 7:23:32 AM

Oracle continues to enrich the capabilities of its Hyperion suite of applications that support the finance function, but I wonder if that will be enough to sustain its market share and new generation of expectations. At the recent Oracle OpenWorld these new features were on display, and spokespeople described how the company will be transitioning its software to cloud deployment. Our 2013 Financial Performance Management Value (FPM) Index rates Oracle Hyperion a Warm vendor in my analysis, ranking eighth out of nine vendors. Our Value Index is informed by more than a decade of analysis of technology suppliers and their products and how well they satisfy specific business and IT needs. We perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability-to-task as well as the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. Our assessment reflects two disparate sets of factors. On one hand, the Hyperion FPM suite offers a broad set of software that automates, streamlines and supports a range of finance department functions. It includes sophisticated analytical applications. Used to full effect, Hyperion can eliminate many manual steps and speed execution of routine work. It also can enhance accuracy, ensure tasks are completed on a timely basis, foster coordination between Finance and the rest of the organization and generate insights into corporate performance. For this, the software gets high marks.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Social Media, ERP, Human Capital Management, Modeling, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, driver-based, Finance Financial Applications Financial Close, Hyperion, IFRS, Tax, XBRL, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, CIO, Cloud Computing, In-memory, Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), benchmark, Financial Performance Management, financial reporting, FPM, GAAP, Integrated Business Planning, Price Optimization, Profitability, SEC Software

Find Out Which Is the Hottest Financial Performance Management Software

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 9, 2013 8:56:33 AM

We recently issued our 2013 Value Index on Financial Performance Management. Ventana Research defines financial performance management (FPM) as the process of addressing the often overlapping people, process, information and technology issues that affect how well finance organizations operate and support the activities of the rest of their organization. FPM deals with the full cycle of finance department activities, which includes planning and budgeting, analysis, assessment and review, closing and consolidation, and internal and external financial reporting, as well as the underlying IT systems that support them. Our Value Index is informed by more than a decade of analysis of how well technology suppliers and their products satisfy specific business and IT needs. We perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability to task in five categories as well as of the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. Our resulting index gauges the value offered by each individual vendor and its products in supporting FPM, which is necessary for running an organization efficiently and effectively.

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Topics: Mobile, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Office of Finance, Budgeting, closing, Consolidation, contingency planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Value Index, Financial Performance Management