Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

Dynamic Insights from Research on Finance Analytics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 19, 2019 8:30:00 AM

By itself, data isn’t useful for business; the application of analytics is necessary to transform data into actionable information. Data analysis of one sort or another has long been a core competence of finance departments, applied to balance sheets, income statements or cash flow statements. Today, however, Finance must go beyond these basics by expanding the scope of the data being examined to include all financial and operational information that can yield actionable insights. Analysis thus should include, for example, data from the systems that manage sales operations, human resources and field service and that data must be available to all departments and applications that need it.

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Topics: Customer Experience, Human Capital Management, Marketing, Voice of the Customer, business intelligence, embedded analytics, Learning Management, Analytics, Collaboration, Data Governance, Data Lake, Data Preparation, Information Management, Internet of Things, Contact Center, Data, Product Information Management, Sales Performance Management, Workforce Management, Financial Performance Management, Price and Revenue Management, Digital Technology, Digital Marketing, Digital Commerce, ERP and Continuous Accounting, blockchain, natural language processing, robotic finance, Predictive Planning, candidate engagement, Intelligent CX, Conversational Computing, Continuous Payroll, AI and Machine Learning, revenue and lease accounting, collaborative computing, mobile computing, subscription management, agent management, extended reality

TradeLens Emerges in a New Era of Trade

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 17, 2019 8:30:00 AM

What’s the easiest way to completely immobilize a 500,000-ton ship?

Lose a sheet of paper.

The paperwork that accompanies international trade is a serious source of friction, inefficiency — and therefore cost — in supply chain execution. Trade documentation requires massive amounts of paper that today can be replaced by digital data. In 2018, Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, teamed up with IBM to create TradeLens, a digital platform that utilizes blockchain technology as a secure, unified source of trade transaction data used by businesses, financial institutions and government authorities. TradeLens is designed to enable all participants to connect, share information and collaborate, providing them with a comprehensive view of the data they need to transact trade. The system makes it possible to digitally collaborate in handling their global supply chains.

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Topics: Office of Finance, Continuous Planning, Internet of Things, Data, Operations & Supply Chain, Enterprise Resource Planning, blockchain, continuous supply chain

How to Prove You Aren’t a Dog: Blockchains For Identity Management and Certification

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 22, 2019 6:00:00 AM

Identity management is an old problem that has taken on new dimensions in the digital world. In 1993, at the dawn of the World Wide Web (WWW), The New Yorker ran a cartoon featuring two dogs talking, one perched in front of a computer. The caption reads: “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” The phrase quickly evolved into a meme highlighting the issue of identity uncertainty in the new digital environment.

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Topics: Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Learning Management, Internet of Things, Data, Workforce Management, Digital Technology, ERP and Continuous Accounting, blockchain, candidate engagement

BlackLine Exorcises Accounting Details

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 10, 2019 6:00:00 AM

I recently attended BlackLine’s annual user conference. The company aims to automate time-consuming repetitive tasks and substantially reduce the amount of detail that individuals must handle in the department. The phrase “the devil is in the details” certainly applies to accounting, especially managing the details in the close-to-report phase of the accounting cycle, which is where BlackLine plays its role. This phase spans from all the pre-close activities to the publication of the financial statements. The non-practitioner is likely unaware of the hair-curling amount of essential detail that the finance and accounting organization must handle in the close-to-report. Beyond its toll on efficiency, the time and attention involved in performing this work manually bedevils departments’ attempts to become a more strategic partner to the rest of the business.

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Topics: automation, close, closing, Consolidation, control, effectiveness, Reconciliation, CFO, compliance, Data, controller, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Sarbanes Oxley, Accounting, reconcile

Cryptic Data: Challenges and Rewards in Finding and Using It

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 18, 2016 7:18:11 PM

Using information technology to make data useful is as old as the Information Age. The difference today is that the volume and variety of  available data has grown enormously. Big data gets almost all of the attention, but there’s also cryptic data. Both are difficult to harness using basic tools and require new technology to help organizations glean actionable information from the large and chaotic mass of data. “Big data” refers to extremely large data sets that may be analyzed computationally to reveal patterns, trends and associations, especially those related to human behavior and interaction. The challenges in dealing with big data include having the computational power that can scale to the processing requirements for the volumes involved; analytical tools to work with the large data sets; and governance necessary to manage the large data sets to ensure that the results of the analysis are accurate and meaningful. But that’s not all organizations have to deal with now. I’ve coined the term “cryptic data” to focus on a different, less well known sort of data challenge that many companies and individuals face.

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Topics: Big Data, Data Science, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, FP&A, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Budgeting, Connotate, cryptic, equity research, Finance Analytics, Human Capital, Kofax, Statistics, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, Datawatch, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Kapow, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Strata+Hadoop

Workday Financial Management Gains Momentum

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 2, 2015 11:37:53 PM

Workday Financial Management (which belongs in the broader ERP software category) appears to be gaining traction in the market, having matured sufficiently to be attractive to a large audience of buyers. It was built from the ground up as a cloud application. While that gives it the advantage of a fresh approach to structuring its data and process models for the cloud, the product has had to catch up to its rivals in functionality. The company’s ERP offering has matured considerably over the past three years and now is better positioned to grow its installed base. Workday recently added Aon, the insurance and professional services company, to its customer list (becoming its largest customer to date) and reported that its annual contract value (ACV – the annualized aggregate revenue value of all subscription contracts as of the end of a quarter) has doubled since the second quarter of this year, albeit from a low base. This is an important milestone because for years the company’s growth has come from the human capital management (HCM) portion of the business, not financials. Workday has around 160 customers for its financials (more than 90 of which are live) compared to more than 1,000 customers for HCM.

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Topics: Microsoft, SAP, ERP, FP&A, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, Reconciliation, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct

Evolving to the Next Generation of ERP Systems

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 29, 2015 1:19:13 PM

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP also can help plan and manage inventory and logistics. Some companies use it to handle human resources functions such as tracking employees, payroll and related costs. Yet despite their ubiquity, ERP systems have evolved little since their introduction a quarter of a century ago. The technologies shaping their design, functions and features had been largely unchanged. As a measure of this stability, our Office of Finance benchmark research found that in 2014 companies on average were keeping their ERP systems one year longer than they had in 2005.

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Topics: Big Data, Microsoft, SAP, Social Media, ERP, FP&A, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, Reconciliation, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct

Oracle Must Pivot to Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 10:26:32 PM

Whatever Oracle’s cloud strategy had been the past, this year’s OpenWorld conference and trade show made it clear that the company is now all in. In his keynote address, co-CEO Mark Hurd presented predictions for the world of information technology in 2025, when the cloud will be central to companies’ IT environments. While his forecast that two (unnamed) companies will account for 80 percent of the cloud software market 10 years from now is highly improbable, it’s likely that there will be relentless consolidation, marginalization and extinction within the IT industry sector driven by cloud disruptions and the maturing of the software business. In practice, though, we expect the transition to the cloud to be slow and uneven.

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Topics: Microsoft, Predictive Analytics, SAP, ERP, FP&A, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Human Capital, Tax, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct, Spreadsheets

Continuous Accounting Enables a Strategic Finance Department

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2015 9:51:54 PM

Many senior finance executives say they want their department to play a more strategic role in the management and operations of their company. They want Finance to shift its focus from processing transactions to higher-value functions in order to make more substantial contributions to the success of the organization. I use the term “continuous accounting” to represent an approach to managing the accounting cycle that can facilitate the shift by improving the performance of the accounting function. Continuous accounting embraces three main principles:

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Topics: ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Spreadsheets

How to Get Business Users to Switch from Spreadsheets

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2015 3:52:24 AM

In our benchmark research at least half of participants that use spreadsheets to support a business process routinely say that these tools make it difficult for them to do their job. Yet spreadsheets continue to dominate in a range of business functions and processes. For example, our recent next-generation business planning research finds that this is the most common software used for performing 11 of the most common types of planning. At the heart of the problem is a disconnect between what spreadsheets were originally designed to do and how they are actually used today in corporations. Desktop spreadsheets were intended to be a personal productivity tool used, for example, for prototyping models, creating ad hoc reports and performing one-off analyses using simple models and storing small amounts of data. They were not built for collaborative, repetitive enterprise-wide tasks, and this is the root cause of most of the issues that organizations encounter when they use them in such business processes. Software vendors and IT departments have been trying – mainly in vain – to get users to switch from spreadsheets to a variety of dedicated applications. They’ve failed to make much of a dent because, although these applications have substantial advantages over spreadsheets when used in repetitive collaborative enterprise tasks, these advantages are mainly realized after the model, process or report is put to use in the “production” phase (to borrow an IT term). To date most dedicated applications have been far more difficult than spreadsheets for the average business user to use in the design and test phases. To convince people to switch to their dedicated application, a vendor must offer an alternative that lets users model, create reports, collect data and create dedicated data stores as easily as they can do it in a desktop spreadsheet. Spreadsheets are seductive for most business users because, even with a minimum amount of training and experience, it’s possible to create a useful model, do analysis and create reports. Individuals can immediately translate what they know about their business or how to present their ideas into a form and format that makes sense to them. They can update and modify it whenever they wish, and the change will occur instantly. For these business users ease of use and control trump putting up with the issues that routinely occur when spreadsheets are used in collaborative enterprise processes. Moreover, it’s hard to persuade “spreadsheet jockeys” who have strong command of spreadsheet features and functions that they should start over and learn how to use a new application. Those who have spent their careers working with spreadsheets often find it difficult to work with formal applications because those applications work in ways that aren’t intuitive. Personally these diehards may resist because not having control over analyses and data would diminish their standing in the organization. Nevertheless, there are compelling reasons for vendors to keep trying to devise dedicated software that an average business user would find as easy and intuitive as a desktop spreadsheet in the design, test and update phases. Such an application would eliminate the single most important obstacle that keeps organizations from switching. The disadvantages of using spreadsheets are clear and measurable. One of the most significant is that spreadsheets can waste large amounts of time when used inappropriately. After more than a few people become involved and a file is used and reused, issues begin to mount such as errors in data or formulas, broken links and inconsistencies. Changes to even moderately complex models are time-consuming. Soon, much of the time spent with the file is devoted to finding the sources of errors and discrepancies and fixing the mistakes. Our research confirms this. When it comes to important spreadsheets that people use over and over again to collaborate with colleagues, on average people spend about 12 hours per month consolidating, modifying and correcting the spreadsheets. That’s about a day and a half per month – or five to 10 percent of their time – just maintaining these spreadsheets. Business applications vendors started to address business users’ reluctance to use their software more than a decade ago when they began to use Microsoft Excel as the user interface (UI). This provides a familiar environment for those who mainly need to enter data or want to do some “sandbox” modeling and analysis. Since the software behind the UI is a program that uses some sort of database, companies avoid the issues that almost arise when spreadsheets are used in enterprise applications. There also are products that address some of the inherent issues with such as the difficulty of consolidating data from multiple individual spreadsheets as well as keeping data consistent. Visualization software, a relatively new category, greatly simplifies the process of collecting data from one or more enterprise data sources and creating reports and dashboards. As the enterprise software applications business evolves to meet the needs of a new generation of users, as I mentioned recently, it’s imperative that vendors find a way to provide users with software that is a real alternative to desktop spreadsheets. By this I mean enterprise software that provides business users with the same ability to model, create reports and work with data the way they do in a desktop spreadsheet as well as update and modify these by themselves without any IT resources. At the same time, this software has to eliminate all of the problems that are inevitable when spreadsheets are used. Only at that point will a dedicated application become a real alternative to using a spreadsheet for a key business process. Regards, Robert Kugel – SVP Research

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Topics: Planning, ERP, Forecast, GRC, Office of Finance, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, closing, dashboard, enterprise spreadsheet, Excel, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Performance Management (BPM), Customer Performance Management (CPM), Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, Sales Performance Management (SPM), Supply Chain Performance Management (SCPM), application, benchmark, Financial Performance Management