Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

SAP’s New Fraud Management Analytical Application

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 2, 2013 11:20:35 AM

SAP recently announced its new Fraud Management analytic applications. Currently in “controlled” (limited) release, it’s a promising start for the product and a good example of the type of business process revolution that’s possible when companies can execute complex analytics on big data sets using in-memory and other advanced processing techniques. Over the next several years a wide swath of basic corporate processes will be transformed by the shift to in-memory processing and big data technology, two key foundational elements of my office of finance research agenda. HANA has been a consistent element of SAP’s product strategy and underlies many recent new releases, such as Business Suite on HANA.

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Topics: SAP, Fraud, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, HANA

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

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

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

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: 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

Put a Smile in Your Last Mile of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 15, 2012 12:08:06 PM

People used to use the phrase “the last mile” solely to refer to a condemned prisoner’s path to execution. Then the telecommunications industry picked it up to describe that part of a circuit between a major trunk line and a subscriber. Later still a defunct software company, Movaris (now part of Trintech), used the phrase in an analogy to refer to the set of activities that take place between when a company closes its books and the point where it finishes its external reporting activities, such as disclosing periodic earnings and financial conditions to investors or filing financial statements with regulators or lenders. It was an attempt to focus attention on the need to automate and better coordinate the multiple, disparate but interconnected threads that have to be orchestrated to complete the external reporting tasks accurately and on time. Personally, I’ve never cared for the phrase being used in this context; there are really multiple “last miles,” with multiple and sometimes overlapping destinations. I prefer “the close–to-report cycle” because it’s more precise in its description, and because rather than pointing to finality, “cycle” defines it for what it is – a repetitive periodic activity. And because it is periodic and repetitive, it benefits from process optimization and automation, which can substantially reduce the effort required to complete a cycle and alleviate the stress certain departments often feel as deadlines loom.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, XBRL, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), FPM, SEC

Companies Need Unified Approach to GRC for IT

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 12, 2012 11:55:22 AM

One of the most important trends in business over the past 20 years has been the broadening use of information technology to manage and support activities. In the early decades of business computing, companies developed islands of automation for largely numeric functions such as billing, inventory management and accounting. Each ran on a proprietary system and engaged the time of a relative handful of employees. Today, just about everyone works with an IT system for at least some of their operational or administrative tasks. They rely on these systems to support many of their daily routines, from recording transactions to using analytics to provide alerts, insights and decision support.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Management, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Risk, financial risk management, IT Risk Management

Operational Risk Management Is a New Imperative

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 29, 2012 12:36:45 PM

Risk has always been an integral part of business, but our recent Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) benchmark research shows that companies deal with risk with varying degrees of effectiveness – especially operational risk. A majority of companies lag in their overall GRC maturity, as I covered in a recent blog post. Operational risk management should be of greater interest to executives today because they can have greater control of it than before. The expansion of IT systems to automate and support most business processes has made it easier than ever to measure, monitor and report on what’s going on in a company. It’s now practical to expand the scope of operational risk management and improve companies’ effectiveness in handling risk events when they occur.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Management, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Operational Intelligence, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Customer Performance Management (CPM), finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Applications (IA), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Risk, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Workforce Performance Management (WPM), financial risk management

Companies Are Lagging in GRC Maturity

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 7, 2012 10:51:48 AM

Ventana Research recently completed benchmark research on governance, risk and compliance (GRC), three business activities that are naturally linked. Although managing them requires separate and sometimes very different processes, on the whole these activities affect each other: Effective corporate governance ensures compliances with laws, regulations and company policies, and without governance, there’s no way to control risk. Separately or considered together, managing governance, risk and compliance is increasingly important.

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Topics: Big Data, Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Management, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Management (IM), IT Performance Management (ITPM), Risk, Workforce Performance Management (WPM), financial risk management