Robert Kugel's Analyst Perspectives

IBM Watson and Cognitive Compliance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 2, 2017 10:30:56 PM

Ventana Research awarded our Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Business Innovation Award for 2016 to IBM for IBM Regulatory Compliance Analytics, powered by Watson (IRCA). This application of cognitive analytics is designed to streamline the identification of potential regulatory requirements and suggest methods for compliance. In so doing the cloud-based system can cut the time and cost of compliance while creating an effective means of ongoing management and control of compliance processes.

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Topics: GRC, Machine Learning, Dodd-Frank, Risk Analytics, compliance, finance, risk management, Financial Services, Watson, IBM Regulatory Compliance Analytics

The Office of Finance in 2016

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 14, 2016 11:40:09 AM

The imperative to transform the finance department to function in a more strategic, forward-looking and action-oriented fashion has been a consistent theme of practitioners, consultants and business journalists for two decades. In all that time, however, most finance and accounting departments have not changed much. In our benchmark research on the Office of Finance, nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for finance departments totake a strategic role in running their company. The research also shows a significant gap between this objective and how well most departments perform. A large majority (83%) said they perform the core finance functions of accounting, fiscal control, transaction management, financial reporting and internal auditing, but only 41 percent said they play an active role in their company’s management. Even fewer (25%) have implemented a high degree of automation in their core finance functions and actively promote process and analytical excellence.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, forecasting, Governance, GRC, Mobile Technology, Budgeting, close, Continuous Accounting, Continuous Planning, end-to-end, Human Capital, quote-to-cash, Tax, tax data warehouse, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, CIO, Cloud Computing, In-memory, Uncategorized, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, CPQ, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Transforming Tax Departments into Strategic Entities

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2016 8:26:11 AM

The steady march of technology’s ability to handle ever more complicated tasks has been a constant since the beginning of the information age in the 1950s. Initially, computers in business were used to automate simple clerical functions, but as systems have become more capable, information technology has been able to substitute for increasingly higher levels of human skill and experience. A turning point of sorts was reached in the 1990s when ERP, business intelligence and business process automation software reduced the need for middle managers. Increasingly, organizations used software to coordinate activities as well as communicate results and requirements up and down the organizational chart. Both were once the exclusive role of the middle manager. Consequently, almost every for-profit organization eliminated management layers so that today corporate structures are flatter than they once were. Technology automation also eliminated the need for administrative staff to perform routine reporting and analysis. Meanwhile, over the course of the 1990s, the cost of running the finance department measured as a percentage of sales was cut almost in half as a result of eliminating staff and because automation enabled companies to scale without adding headcount. During the last recession, companies in North America and Europe once again made deep reductions to their administrative staffs, relying on information technology to pick up the slack.

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Topics: Sustainability, ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, Human Capital, legal, LongView, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax, Thomson-Reuters multinational

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, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Reporting, closing, dashboard, enterprise spreadsheet, Excel, plan, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Accounting, Business Intelligence (BI), 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, spreadsheet

Giving Tax Departments More Corporate Clout

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 8:03:45 PM

One of the issues in handling the tax function in business, especially where it involves direct (income) taxes, is the technical expertise required. At the more senior levels, practitioners must be knowledgeable about accounting and tax law. In multinational corporations, understanding differences between accounting and legal structures in various localities and their effects on tax liabilities requires more knowledge. Yet when I began to study the structures of corporate tax departments, I was struck by the scarcity of senior-level titles in them. This may reflect the low profile of the department in most companies and the tactical nature of the work it has performed. Advances in information technology have the potential to automate most of the manual tasks tax professionals perform. This increase in efficiency will enable tax departments to fill a more strategic, important role in the companies they serve.

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Topics: Big Data, ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, legal, LongView, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Management (IM), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax, Thomson-Reuters multinational

Giving Tax Departments More Corporate Clout

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 7:58:00 PM

One of the issues in handling the tax function in business, especially where it involves direct (income) taxes, is the technical expertise required. At the more senior levels, practitioners must be knowledgeable about accounting and tax law. In multinational corporations, understanding differences between accounting and legal structures in various localities and their effects on tax liabilities requires more knowledge. Yet when I began to study the structures of corporate tax departments, I was struck by the scarcity of senior-level titles in them. This may reflect the low profile of the department in most companies and the tactical nature of the work it has performed. Advances in information technology have the potential to automate most of the manual tasks tax professionals perform. This increase in efficiency will enable tax departments to fill a more strategic, important role in the companies they serve.

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Topics: Big Data, ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, legal, LongView, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Information Management (IM), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax, Thomson-Reuters multinational

Research Agenda: The Office of Finance in 2015

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 3, 2015 9:37:28 PM

Last year Ventana Research released our Office of Finance benchmark research. One of the objectives of the project was to assess organizations’ progress in achieving “finance transformation.” This term denotes shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing toward more strategic, higher-value functions. In the research nine out of 10 participants said that it’s important or very important for the department to take a more strategic role. This objective is both longstanding and elusive. It has been part of the conversation in financial management circles since the 1990s and has been a primary focus of my research practice since its inception 12 years ago. Yet our recent research shows that most finance organizations struggle with the basics and few companies are even close to achieving this desired transformation.

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Topics: Big Data, Planning, Predictive Analytics, forecasting, Governance, GRC, Budgeting, close, end-to-end, quote-to-cash, Tax, Tax-Datawarehouse, Analytics, CIO, In-memory, Accounting, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, CPQ, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, CEO, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Tax Data Warehouses Become Essential as Governments Raise the Ante

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2014 9:20:18 PM

I’ve written before about the increasing importance of having a solid technology base for a company’s tax function, and it’s important enough for me to revisit the topic. Tax departments are entrusted with a highly sensitive and essential task in their companies. Taxes usually are the second largest corporate expense, after salaries and wages. Failure to understand this liability is expensive – either because taxes are overpaid or because of fines and interest levied for underpayment. Moreover, taxes remain a political issue, and corporations – especially larger ones – must be mindful of the reputational implications of their tax liabilities.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, legal, LongView, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Oracle, Uncategorized, CFO, Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax, Thomson-Reuters multinational

Longview Tax Software Helps Tax Departments Be More Strategic

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 22, 2014 10:40:32 PM

Longview Solutions has a longstanding presence in the financial performance management (FPM) software market and was rated a Hot vendor in our most recent FPM Value Index. Several years ago it began offering a tax provision and planning application. I think it’s worthwhile to focus on the tax category because it’s less well known than others in finance and is an engine of growth for Longview. We expect larger corporations increasingly to adopt software to manage direct (income) taxes to improve the quality and efficiency of what today in most companies is an inefficient, spreadsheet-driven process.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, legal, LongView, multinational, Tax, tax compliance, tax department, tax optimization, tax planning, Analytics, Business Analytics, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Financial Performance Management (FPM), FPM, Innovation Awards, international tax

Requirements for Becoming a Strategic Chief Risk Officer

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 17, 2014 9:55:14 AM

The proliferation of chief “something” officer (CxO) titles over the past decades recognizes that there’s value in having a single individual focused on a specific critical problem. A CxO position can be strategic or it can be the ultimate middle management role, with far more responsibilities than authority. Many of those handed such a title find that it’s the latter. This may be because the organization that created the title is unwilling to invest the necessary powers and portfolio of responsibilities to make it strategic – a case of institutional inertia. Or it may be that the individual given the CxO title doesn’t have the skills or temperament to be a “chief” in a strategic sense.

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Topics: GRC, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Bank, Chief Risk Officer, CRO, ERM, OpenPages, regulation, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Cloud Computing, Data Governance, IBM, Business Performance Management (BPM), compliance, Data, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Risk, risk management, financial services, FPM