November 21, 2014

Learn How Strategy Works – Then Build One

Caroline Japic

Roger Martin is the influential dean of the Rotman School of Management. In Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works, the award-winning guide for companies looking to lead, Martin describes the five-step process companies must follow to define – and then make – the choices that ultimately lead to success. The book also illustrates concepts by sharing the transformational journey of P&G from 2000 to 2009, an era of tremendous growth that saw the number of P&G brands with $1 billion or more in annual sales grow from 10 to 25.

On Tuesday, Nov. 25, in a complimentary Harvard Business Review webinar sponsored by Tidemark, you can hear many of these insights directly from Playing to Win co-author Roger Martin.

We’re sponsoring this webinar because, in Playing to Win, Martin delivers proven concepts and processes that are applicable to businesses in any industry and at any stage of maturity. Their discipline of strategy development – applied to such globally known brands as Oil of Olay skin crème and Bounty paper towels – is especially powerful because it’s fully customizable to any product or service category. In other words, you don’t have to be P&G to implement the Playing to Win methodology.

To Tidemark customers and those considering a switch from legacy business planning and analytics platforms, Martin’s insights are especially relevant. For instance, as a crucial final step in strategy development and execution, the authors encourage leaders to establish structures, systems and measures (financial and otherwise) that inform decision-makers how closely the businesses is hewing to the strategy it worked so hard to develop.  They also emphasize the need for cross-functional communication and collaboration, and for a simple way of communicating strategy, goals and progress.

At Tidemark, we share the conviction that these capabilities are characteristic of successful organizations. That’s why we’ve built our cloud-native, mobile-first business planning and analytics software to enable organizations to realize those essential elements of the Playing to Win playbook.  A wide range of companies – from Shelter Insurance to Blackberry (where Rogers once served as board director) – rely on Tidemark to help them execute their own strategy and transform their business in the process.

Our success is defined by the choices we make. I encourage you to make the choice to join Roger Martin and Harvard Business Review on Tuesday, Nov. 25 from noon to 1 p.m. EDT for this complimentary webinar. And learn how you can define and act on the choices that will lead to your success.

Register here for Playing to Win: How Strategy Really Works.

November 12, 2014

Built for the Era of Big Data Finance: Tidemark Fall ‘14

Christian Gheorghe

I firmly believe we’re all witnessing an industry-wide transformation. It’s driven by the digital economy and the disruption that results from having access to more data than most businesses know what to do with. This is leading to a significant shift in how CFOs and their finance teams view and approach their roles in the Era of Big Data. Ernst & Young, who spoke to 50 large media and entertainment CFOs (including Disney, Time Warner, Univision, Netflix, DreamWorks Animation just to name a few) reported in their research that, “today’s priority for an overwhelming 74% of CFOs is the evolution of digital — using digital to drive their growth agenda and data to deliver the insights that enable game-changing decision-making.”

At Tidemark, we’re constantly researching and finding new ways to better solve the pain points of our customers. It’s the backbone of our thinking and an important priority for each individual at Tidemark; helping our customers is what we work to accomplish everyday. We do this by working closely with CFOs, CIOs and their teams.

This is how we came to realize that today’s managers had questions about their business that no existing software could help them answer. The Era of Big Data has unleashed information traditional systems simply weren’t built to process – the endless stream of real-time, structured and unstructured data from enterprise applications, data warehouses, cloud services, point-of-sale sensors, social networks and more.

Making Big Data Safe for Finance

Understanding how much of this information was useful to enterprises – and then, of course, figuring out how to use it – required us to re-imagine traditional financial planning and analysis (FP&A) by looking at it through the lens of Big Data. Answering what was once called the impossible and the improbable, then incorporating those capabilities into business planning, requires the most advanced computational cloud so requests aren’t hampered by the limitations of other systems. And learning from previous requests, so you can do a progressively better job of answering the tough questions in the future, requires the latest machine-learning capabilities.

You’ll find all this in Tidemark Fall ‘14, the latest release of the cloud-native, mobile-first Tidemark platform. Built for this very moment – when the Era of Big Data is transforming the role of finance – Tidemark Fall’14 harnesses these advanced technologies within its breakthrough Predictive Business Analytics functionality. Now every company can leverage Tidemark’s computational cloud to really take control of Big Data to improve business performance with real-time, accurate, risk-weighted forecasts and plans.

Leveraging Spark ™ the Tidemark Fall ‘14 release brings machine learning capabilities that let you understand the causation and correlation of business drivers, taking the guesswork out of determining what’s really driving your business. You’ll also gain a clear-eyed view of the factors that could stand in the way of your success. These new Predictive Business Analytics capabilities allow teams to ask and answer the questions they never could before.

  • What correlations can we draw from the results of previous point-of-sale promotions to determine which type will drive the most sales leading up to next Saturday’s rivalry game – and should we put it in an end cap or at check-out?  
  • How do we determine our “red line” for rain probability so we can make sure we have enough drivers on hand to maintain our on-time delivery performance if it rains as forecast, yet not overstaff to the point where we completely erode our margins?   
  • What factors really drove the increase in business last week and can we how much will it cost to try to replicate those across all our regions?  

By no means is this all you’ll find in Tidemark Fall ‘14 release. We’ve also added new dynamic capabilities that empower you to bridge the gap between finance and operations – features that help you plan critical business initiatives, as well as understand and act on the meaningful context surrounding performance information pulled from multiple sources.  You can respond in real-time to changes in your business environment by constantly monitoring the impact of the specific line items most likely to affect revenues or expenses.  Drill through to see data at the most granular level – such as SKU items in regional stores for large retailers – and then analyze various scenarios so you can choose the right path to achieve the best outcome. And because this is Tidemark software, you’re never bound by the constraints on volume or dimensions that you’ll find with cubes-based platforms.  There’s plenty more to the Tidemark Fall ‘14 story, and I encourage you to learn about it here.

If Tidemark Fall ‘14 were a movie, the credits would be filled with the names of our customers: Netflix, ReddyIce, HubSpot, Shelter Insurance, Cerner, Brown University…the list goes on. They’re the ones who are asking the improbable and impossible questions, who are no longer satisfied with planning for the future by looking into the past. They’re the ones who drive our ambition not just to evolve our core FP&A capabilities, but also to take planning, budgeting and forecasting in entirely new directions.  The features we build into every new release of Tidemark software directly flow from their input, and for that we are in their debt.

Just like the map is not a terrain, the spreadsheet is not the business. Let’s continue on our journey to empower finance to be the new driver of transformation together.

November 5, 2014

A Rising Tide of Transformation – Tidemark at Workday Rising

Caroline Japic

We’re at San Francisco’s Moscone Center this week to celebrate and support our customers and partners at Workday Rising 2014. For those who don’t know, this is the eighth annual gathering of people from around the world who use Workday Human Capital Management (HCM) and Financials.

Tidemark is proud to be a Gold Sponsor of this year’s event, where we are showcasing our modern, cloud-first business planning and enterprise analytics solutions in booth 100.

Workday Rising is significant for us because a growing number of Workday customers have implemented Tidemark. They choose Tidemark’s platform and portfolio of applications to build on Workday’s core HCM and Financial capabilities, using Tidemark’s advanced analytics to gain a complete picture of their financial and operational performance. Tidemark is also the budgeting, planning and forecasting (BP&F) solution of choice for Workday customers and prospects. As a certified solutions partner, Tidemark is the only enterprise performance management (EPM) provider offering pre-packaged, seamless integration with Workday.

This week, several of our joint customers have taken the stage at Workday Rising, presenting how they’ve benefited from the native cloud-to-cloud integration, resulting in their ability to create a seamless and consumerized user experience. If you’re wondering if their approach can apply to you and your organization, try downloading the new research report from Harvard Business Review which details how enterprises of all kinds – from a company that just went through an IPO to a company that just found the right technology to help rebuild its business — are reinventing age-old processes for themselves by eliminating the use of age-old spreadsheets. The complimentary 15-page report, “Transformational Journeys: Modern Business Planning,” is the result of extensive independent research, numerous deep-dive interviews with industry analysts and stakeholders in finance, and an HBR-led survey of more than 400 senior-level decision-makers.

Tidemark is proud to have partnered with HBR to help them capture the real-world experiences of CFOs and CIOs in the digital age. If you’re attending Workday Rising this week, pick up a free copy at booth 100 and while you’re at it, enter yourself in our contest giving away a brand new Isle Soft Top Standup Paddle Board. You’ll shortly see why so many Workday customers are riding high with Tidemark.

November 3, 2014

The Transformational Journey of the Modern Finance Office

Christian Gheorghe & Phil Wilmington

We’ve written frequently about the Office of the Few – the notion that finance offices traditionally have concentrated planning, budgeting, forecasting and analytics into a small, highly trained group of experts using older, arcane legacy software.  We’ve argued that in a today’s real-time world, the Office of the Few is unsustainable. It slows vital processes, cuts off communication, hobbles collaboration, and prevents managers across the company from understanding the implications of their actions before they act. It is the exact opposite of a performance-driven culture.

Now, a new research report from Harvard Business Review casts a bright spotlight on that very argument. The report, “Transformational Journeys: Modern Business Planning,” is the result of extensive independent research, numerous detailed interviews with third-party industry analysts and stakeholders in finance, as well as an HBR-led survey of more than 400 decision-makers. For HBR to capture the real-world experiences of financial planning and analysis (FP&A) practitioners in the digital age, we partnered with them to provide their researchers with access to a representative sample of our customers. HBR then dispatched its writers to work with those researchers to develop a detailed, 15-page study of how today’s always-on technologies are triggering a change not just among Tidemark customers, but among all enterprises.

The HBR report illustrates how organizations may suffer when finance-driven business planning processes are isolated from the rest of the business – and at the very moment that “companies need more access to information, not less.”

For companies to keep pace at a time when data constantly flows into enterprise systems from both internal and external sources, financial planning and analysis (FP&A) must extend to business users whose daily actions and decisions influence expenses, revenues and margins.

As HBR’s research indicates, this is no small task and legacy FP&A applications aren’t up to enabling it: “Complex, cumbersome and opaque, conventional finance systems discourage collaboration and underscore the organization’s distance from the rest of the enterprise.”

HBR notes the way to unlock business planning is through a new generation of born-in-the-cloud FP&A applications. These modern solutions harness the very technologies shaping business today – cloud, social, big data and mobile – to help companies meet their organizational goals. (See graphic.)

Customer Profiles Prove the Concept

As we mentioned, several Tidemark customers were selected and profiled in the report, including Brown University, which discovered after moving its financial management processes to the cloud in 2013 that its existing budgeting software wouldn’t integrate with Workday Financial Management.  The transformational journey that led Brown University to Tidemark was focused on making the budgeting process easier not just for those in the department, but anyone who participated in budgeting. The higher-education institution can now aggregate data from multiple users into one unified planning process and operating budget.

Then there’s HubSpot, whose ingenious marketing and sales platform has proven such a hit with customers that the company’s rapid growth made it difficult for executives to continue to plan headcount and financials using Excel spreadsheets with time consuming processes.

As a SaaS provider itself, HubSpot didn’t need to be sold on the advantages of the cloud. Like Tidemark, they are a cloud-first company. HubSpot’s choice to transform their FP&A processes resulted in a more flexible, seamlessly integrated environment for tracking expenses, developing forecasts, and anticipating the bottom-line impact of new hires.

In addition to the overarching advice finance teams can leverage, the HBR report also documents the transformational journey of other Tidemark customers including ReddyIceEventbriteAcxiom,

Shelter InsuranceBlackstone Group and Cerner.

Five years ago, we founded Tidemark with the vision to reimagine what a modern FP&A organization can accomplish in the digital business era. It is our hope that by sharing this report and the set of best practices with practical examples, it will prove enormously useful to your own transformation away from the Office of the Few.

Download the free research report here.

October 3, 2014

Using Data Analytics to Optimize Revenue and Enrollment

Ryan Chan

It’s no secret that the expenses associated with higher education extend well beyond semester tuition fees. As an increasing number of reports and articles point to ballooning educational costs and decreasing job opportunities for graduates, universities and private colleges across the country are scrambling to find new methods by which they can convince students to invest in an undergraduate or graduate degree with them. Academic leaders who are committed to finding long-term solutions for admissions-related struggles must first evaluate the various issues surrounding a student’s decision to enroll and how they can better convince students that the money they are willing to invest is well-spent.

Evaluating Current Trends in Matriculation

A quick analysis of current statistics and general sentiment will reveal that public opinion regarding the inherent value of education has changed significantly since the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. Whereas certain areas of the country, such as the Midwest, are experiencing an increase in the number of students completing their high school diploma, many of the more densely populated cities and states, such as California, Massachusetts and New York, are experiencing little, if any, current or forecasted rise in matriculation in the upcoming decade.

For those who do graduate high school, the college application process has grown significantly more intensive. On average, students are applying to more higher education institutions than ever before, primarily in an attempt to offset the increased competition amongst those trying to gain admittance to more prestigious colleges.

Changing Public Sentiment

Cynicism regarding the merits of higher education is at an all-time high. Although a variety of financial resources are available for those hoping to enroll in college, such as government-backed and private student loans, the stigma that has been placed upon borrowing has led to many students forsaking enrollment opportunities in order to avoid financial debt.

“Cost-awareness” is becoming increasingly prevalent in both the families of individuals attending college and the students themselves. Studies have shown that the number of students applying for need-based aid is increasing, which could be due to the fact that families are generally choosing to spend less on college-related expenses now than they were in 2009. Additionally, it is important to note that only 57% of students accepted admission offers from their “first-choice” school in 2013, largely due to the fact that they believed the costs of their education would be too high.

Discounts and Funding

Although the number of institutions now offering increased tuition discounts in a bid to lure new students has increased, these tactics have resulted in little, if any, increases in enrollment. In fact, some institutions have experienced significant decreases in enrollment figures following substantive tuition discounts, an observation that has left those in academic leadership roles throughout the country at a loss for what the “correct” step may be to bolster attendance. These circumstances have resulted in both Moody’s and S&P releasing ‘negative’ forecasts for higher education. As a general observation, it could be stated that students are now placing increasing emphasis on what academic and professional resources are available for them at a given college or university rather than just focusing on its reputation alone.

A Data-First Approach To Higher Education Enrollment

Although data analytics professionals may dismiss any information associated with students who opted not to enroll, it is important to take stock of the type of aid offered to them and how these individual decisions are affecting the net total revenue (NTR) of the institution at large. For example, in situations where fewer students opted to enroll and yet were, on average, paying more for their education, the NTR of the academic institution may be higher than in situations where an increased number of students were admitted at markedly reduced tuition rates.

Careful analysis of the relationship between offered tuition discounts, source of the discount (i.e. which department is compensating for the student’s reduced tuition), as well as the final outcome of the offer (whether or not the student decided to enroll), will allow institutions to refine their predictive modeling and develop an accurate yield analysis that will be invaluable when generating future admission strategies.

Additionally, institutions should pay careful attention to situations where an initial aid offered was appealed by either the student or their parents, and what the final fiscal outcome of the appeal was (i.e. if a larger discount was then offered to the student, and what additional funds were needed to convince them to enroll).

Ultimately, predictive modeling strategies such as these will allow institutions to accurately answer some of the most important questions affecting their NTR, including whether or not the discounts they are offering to students are hindering or nurturing the growth of the university and college and, thus, its ability to further maximize “bang-for-buck” potential for future students.

Conclusions

Essentially, the success of an academic institution, particularly in an era such as this where state-funding is dramatically being reduced, is largely dependent upon whether or not institutional leadership adopt the same tactics and strategies used by private business owners today. Data collection and financial planning and analysis can provide a degree of insight that may make the difference between success and failure.