January 22, 2015

How Cerner is Transforming the Way it Plans

Colby Moosman

Cerner

Think about those companies that perform well in every business environment. What are they doing that others aren’t?

More than likely, their financial planning is shaped by factors beyond internal performance metrics. They pay attention to external influences like industry trends, consumer sentiment, regional employment levels, and corporate spending on manufacturing or services. Then they build forecasts that incorporate this external data on top of their internal metrics.

The really successful companies, however, ensure plans also reflect the input of stakeholders from across their business. And they make those stakeholders active, collaborative participants in a continuous planning environment.

That’s what it takes to forecast the future in a real-time world.

Join Tidemark and CFO.com on Jan. 27 for a complimentary webcast that demonstrates how collaborative planning is helping Cerner, a leader in healthcare software, create a more agile and competitive organization.  “New Methodologies Finance Leaders are Implementing to Achieve Enterprise-Wide Collaborative Planning” combines helpful best practices with the real-world experience of Kimberly Gerard, senior director of financial planning & analysis (FP&A) at Cerner. On this one-hour webinar I will also weigh in on the top reasons why organizations need real-time collaboration to keep up with today’s business speed. Participants who attend will also be eligible for a continuing professional education (CPE) credit.  Register to learn:

  • How establishing a collaborative and comprehensive approach to planning enables an organization to identify opportunities and risks it might otherwise miss
  • How you can seek guidance from a variety of departments within your organizations to inform your planning processes
  • How you can lead your organization in planning for the future

For a sneak peek at Cerner’s experience, check out this excerpt from the Harvard Business Review research report, “Transformational Journeys: Modern Business Planning.” It’s the product of extensive independent research and numerous detailed interviews.  (We partnered with HBR to give them access to some companies that have implemented Tidemark to transform their FP&A processes.) Read HBR’s summary of Cerner’s FP&A transformation with Tidemark below, then download the full paper here.

Spreadsheet-based financial planning was no longer scalable for Cerner Corp. It was bad enough that the finance team for the healthcare software company had to spend inordinate amounts of time collecting data from decentralized sources, but there was no good audit trail either. The real killer, though, says Kimberly Gerard, Cerner’s senior director for financial planning and analysis, was that there was no platform at the company that would allow 50 or 60 people from across the enterprise to work together on those forecasts. “Also, once we had our view in place,” she says, “we couldn’t pivot on it, drill down to details, or change it quickly.”

In 2013, Gerard oversaw the implementation of a cloud-based FP&A system and began to work on jettisoning the spreadsheets. She chose a cloud-based system in part because she knew that her IT team had its hands full with its existing workload, and a cloud solution promised easy implementation. “I started reading about a cloud-based approach that would enable us to do a lot of self-service and leverage IT resources very little,” she says. “I also was attracted to the con­stant upgrades happening in a cloud-based environment.”

Gerard wanted a system that delivered a positive end-user experience, so that even finance employees who didn’t know the ins and outs of the system “would be able to go in and get stuff done.” That’s what happened, she says, after giving employees just 60 to 90 minutes of training. She also liked that even as the system enabled collaboration, it remained secure, so that users couldn’t go in and edit someone else’s plan without authorization.

The system has delivered as promised so far, Gerard says. “Number one, it has reduced the time required for users to provide their plan inputs,” she says. “Number two, it has improved accuracy. When you’re working in Excel it’s easy to make mistakes, and there are no controls over it. Number three, it’s allowing us to do faster analysis since all the additions and changes are stored as discrete data elements within a larger database. You can break your data down in many different ways. You can analyze it by region, by business model, and by quarter, and also compare among multiple scenarios and versions. With a static Excel financial planning template, we weren’t able to do that.” Cerner is using the cloud-based system for core annual planning activities and plans to embrace quarterly forecasting as well as other planning across the enterprise soon.

Register for the webcast today and learn how collaborative planning could help you lead your own transformation.

Tidemark and CFO.com Webcast

New Methodologies Finance Leaders are Implementing to Achieve Enterprise-Wide Collaborative Planning

Tuesday, Jan. 27

11 AM to 12 AM ET

January 20, 2015

From What Was To What’s Next

Michaela Dempsey

predictive analyticsRemember when you could reliably predict the future by extrapolating what happened in the past?

Those days are far behind us now.

Just ask Steve Strout, vice president of corporate technology services at BlackBerry, the company that created the smart phone category. Today, Steve and the rest of BlackBerry’s leadership team are working to recapture market leadership, and they’re doing it by looking forward.

As companies like BlackBerry have discovered, winning in a real-time marketplace requires an understanding of what will happen tomorrow, next week and next quarter.  They’re doing it by leveraging real-time data from dozens of external sources to gain a better understanding of what drives their internal performance metrics. Then they apply something they’ve never had before – predictive analytics – to gain the insights they need to respond in real-time to current and future market shifts and customer demands.

On Jan. 21, you can join Tidemark for “Looking Back Equals Extinction: Predictive Analytics Drives Market Leadership.” This complimentary, one-hour webcast features an interactive panel discussion with BlackBerry’s Steve Strout, Proformative CEO (and four-time CFO) John Kogan, and Tidemark’s Founder and CEO Christian Gheorghe. Attendees will gain an up-close, real-world view of how predictive analytics can help transform the way companies plan for the future and react to the present. Register to learn:

  • What predictive analytics is, and what it isn’t
  • The differences between forecasting and predictive modeling
  • How companies can move away from reactive analytics to proactive (inferential) analytics that make businesses more agile

And with BlackBerry undergoing its own transformation, attendees will discover what BlackBerry has learned from its experience, including specific lessons in redefining the crucial partnership between technology and finance, and the enterprise as a whole.

The panel will also answer essential questions, including:

  • When should enterprises move from premise-based to SaaS technologies?
  • How do CFOs and CIOs best work together on a predictive analytics initiative? Where do they start?
  • Does predictive offer a way to play offense and defense simultaneously?
  • How do companies understand where they are now vs. where they need to go?

Register today and find out how predictive analytics can reduce the risks of an uncertain future.

Tidemark & Proformative Present

Looking Back Equals Extinction: Predictive Analytics Drives Market Leadership

Wednesday Jan. 21

11 a.m. to Noon Pacific

January 13, 2015

5 Changes In Finance I’ll Be Watching For In 2015

Christian Gheorghe

Back Office Is The New Front Office: akin to what we’ve seen with CRM and ERP over the past two decades, there is currently a grand redesign (and re-architecture) of backend systems such as HR, accounting, budgeting, billing, payroll and financial planning & analysis (FP&A) tools. Businesses are seeking interoperable, cloud-native solutions that have consumerized user interfaces because they enable non-IT departments to utilize new software of their choice without the constraints and complexities that accompany legacy software and services. VC-backed companies like Expensify, Zuora, Zenpayroll, Zenefits and Namely are but a few companies leading this charge. Other companies attempting to re-imagine some of these traditional areas of finance and operations (FinOps) will have no problem raising funding or recruiting new employees as they continue rising to the forefront of organizations’ and investors’ wish list this year.

 

Big Data As Smart Data: just about every research report and industry analyst firm is suggesting an increase of big data usage in businesses. This year, the generalization of big data will dissipate, becoming better defined (and for specific industries and non-IT audiences) as more applied use cases become available. No longer will organizations be satisfied with unstructured data collection, instead they’ll demand collection, categorization, analysis and visualization of the data so it can be used to prescribe more specific insights with actions. This evolution is what we, along with others, believe is the fundamental shift towards Smart Data.

 

Finance And Tech Cross Paths: the intersection of Wall Street and tech takes another step towards convergence this year. Progressive startups are embracing (and heavily recruiting) Wall Street talent to help run their FinOps, incorporating Wall Street-experienced personnel to the non-traditional environments that startups are known for. Kristina Salen, a former Fidelity analyst, runs Finance for Etsy. Sarah Friar, who spent more than a decade at Goldman Sachs, is the CFO of Square. The Wall Street Journal reported that Uber, in 2013, hired 10% to 15% of its 250+ employees from the finance industry and 5% from investment bank Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Even BNY Mellon established a new Innovation Center in Silicon Valley this past November. Whether you pick the moniker of Wall Street meets Silicon Valley, or software eats finance… one point is clear, and that is traditional finance and tech are converging.

 

We Are All Becoming Data Gurus: CEOs and CFOs will continue demanding more data mining and analysis skills among their staff. While most of us have seen the documentation on the shortage of available data scientists with PHDs, businesses aren’t waiting as they continue their transformations to becoming data-driven organizations. Instead, companies are shrinking the gap by adding advanced data-related in-house training as well as implementing new software with heightened capabilities that are also easier to use. Last Sept., Robert Half & Associates reported that the majority (61 percent) of the CFOs who participated in its survey said, “…expertise in business analytics, such as business intelligence and data mining, is mandatory for some or all of their accounting and finance employees.” LinkedIn, Ford and Credit Suisse started the trend of applying advanced data interpretation and visualization to their FP&A in 2014; more businesses will see the benefit and follow their lead this year.

 

Forecasting The Impossible And Improbable: today’s technology has evolved, granting users with a new paradigm of predictive planning and forecasting. Machine learning algorithms that understand correlation and causation will be key, as businesses start incorporating both structured and unstructured data into their FP&A processes to gain unprecedented levels of actionable insights. FinOps will reap the benefits much like their counterparts in other departments. For example, companies like Leadspace and Lattice Engines have been working on this for sales; Salesforce.com released Wave to achieve this for marketing; Workday’s Insights will do this for HR.

 

Originally Published on LinkedIn Pulse

December 23, 2014

Tidemark Honored With Two Product of the Year Awards

Caroline Japic

Cloud Computing Product of the Year WinnerCloud Computing magazine recently announced the winners of its 2014 Product of the Year Awards. Two Tidemark innovations – Playbooks and our new Financial Planning for Higher Education app – made this year’s list.

TMC, publishers of Cloud Computing, say their Product of the Year Awards recognize “the most innovative, useful and beneficial cloud products and services that have been brought to market in the past year.” That’s high praise, and we’re proud to receive it.

Both Playbooks and our Higher Ed app are cloud industry firsts, which is likely one of the reasons they were chosen. But there’s more to the story than just delivering a truly new product. I think what makes these two Tidemark innovations stand out is their ability transform how people work.

Take Playbooks, which we introduced as part of our Spring ’14 release.  Considered the digital “board book” for the 21st Century, Playbooks provides a revolutionary way for managers and executives to uncover revenue and growth opportunities in an intuitive, comprehensive format that can be securely shared across the organization. Playbooks pulls from real-time performance data, conversations, analyses and notes so decision-makers have a full narrative of what’s happening in the business, along with all the information they need to understand and then act on their most promising opportunities. As a fundamental feature of Tidemark’s modern FP&A platform, Playbooks replaces the cumbersome printed reports and binders that previously took weeks to prepare, and it makes all of this information available to any authorized stakeholder using any mobile device.

Our Financial Planning for Higher Education app, which we launched in June, is no less transformative. Designed specifically for the planning, budgeting and forecasting environments that are unique to colleges and universities, this Tidemark app enables institutions to replace their centralized, largely manual planning and reporting cycles built around Excel spreadsheets and difficult legacy platforms. Designed so department heads across the institution can see how their actuals compare to plan at any moment, this powerful app brings more people in the ongoing planning process. That means they participate every day, not just once a year, which ensures that precious budget dollars are more wisely and carefully spent and reduces the risk of unexpected outcomes.  With granular views of spending based on real-time data and the ability to model what-if scenarios before taking action, Financial Planning for Higher Education takes the guesswork out of planning at a time when every penny counts.

It’s exciting to see our breakthroughs honored by TMC and Cloud Computing magazine.  And we acknowledge the crucial contribution of Tidemark’s customers, because it’s their commitment to transforming their FP&A processes that drives us to invent and innovate. Without their willingness to collaborate with us on new features and capabilities, there would be nothing to celebrate. It’s with gratitude that we share these awards with them.

December 9, 2014

Learn How Shelter Insurance Transformed its FP&A Process

Michaela Dempsey

In the financial planning and analytics (FP&A) world, there are plenty of old school systems. By that I mean systems that make it difficult or impossible for decision makers to use real-time data to develop accurate and attainable plans, realistic budgets and risk-weighted forecasts. Cobbled together over years, these time-sapping old school solutions aren’t built for modern business.

While many executives recognize they’re working with an outdated FP&A platform that fails to meet their needs, they don’t always realize how easy it is to trade that old school system for a cloud-based, collaborative solution.

Tidemark, Constellation Research and Shelter InsuranceNow you can hear directly from someone who’s done it – and in the process has cut her company’s annual budget cycle in half. On Friday, Dec. 12, Tidemark will host a webinar with Constellation Research that outlines how one business – Shelter Insurance Companies – has undergone this very transformation. Featuring Tina Workman, Shelter’s Vice President of Accounting and Assistant Treasurer, and Hoger Mueller, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, the webinar will offer real-world tips and best practices that are bound to be helpful to any executive looking to more effectively plan and operate in a real-time world. “FP&A Transformation: From Old School to Activity-Based Budgeting and Rolling Forecasts” kicks off at 11 a.m. Pacific Standard Time on Friday and dives deep into Shelter’s transformation from the strictly traditional accounting system they’d been using for years to a cloud-native, mobile-first FP&A platform.  Register for the free webinar today.

Interested in a sneak peek at Shelter’s FP&A transformation? Then check out this spotlight from a new Harvard Business Review research report. The free report, “Transformational Journeys: Modern Business Planning, is the product of extensive independent research and numerous detailed interviews.  (We partnered with HBR to help their researchers gain access to a representative sample of companies that have implemented Tidemark to transform their FP&A processes.)  Here’s how HBR tells it:

Tina Workman had a mule, but what she wanted was a fast workhorse. Maybe a mustang.

Workman is vice president of corporate accounting and assistant treasurer for Shelter Insurance Companies, a Columbia, Missouri-based company that writes property and casualty and life insurance in 17 states and also operates a reinsurance business. In Workman’s colorful lexicon, her “mule” was her company’s nearly 20-year-old mainframe general ledger accounting sys­tem, which hadn’t been updated since 1996. The “mustang” represented the fast and flexible financial systems she envisioned to replace it.

The old system had no drill-down functionality, a limited number of data fields that could be used to dissect information, and no real way to perform analyses. “Because the mainframe couldn’t delve into the data, we had to pull it out using Access and create reports,” Workman says. “It was cumbersome and manually intensive. If someone asked how much policy pre­mium we wrote in one state for the past five years, it was a challenging question to answer. It was very difficult to support good decision-making.”

The system wasn’t too much of a liability in the late 1990s or even the early 2000s, she says, in part because many of the company’s peers were using similar technology. But as time went on it increasingly put Shelter at a competitive disadvantage. “Our industry and our business are just moving much faster now,” she says. “We needed systems that would help us meet the real-time information needs of management. That old system was a ticking time bomb.”

In 2014, Shelter began working with two new cloud-based financial systems, one for general led­ger accounting activities and another, from a separate vendor, for financial planning and analy­sis. The systems, which Workman says are highly compatible, went live in September. She adds that her experience in searching for the right systems said a lot about why her company chose to move its finance operations into the cloud.

“To find our general accounting system, we issued a request for proposals (RFP) and basically solicited all the vendors we knew that were either best of breed for insurance or just had good account­ing systems,” Workman explains. “We pared that down to four vendors. Three were offering on-premises solutions and the fourth was a cloud solution. We then held two straight days of demonstrations from each of those four vendors, and it was remarkable how well our employ­ees were able to understand the cloud version versus the others. I think the difference was the cloud system was already built. A lot of the others were not; their salespeople were just telling us we could do this or that. With an SaaS solution you can actually see what you can implement.”

Even though Workman has just begun using her new software systems, she’s optimistic about their capabilities. “In the past, we always started budgeting in July and finished in November,” she said in early September. “Now we’re starting in September and I’ll be presenting the finished product at the December board meeting.” She anticipates shortening the budgeting time frame even more and segueing into activity-based budgeting with rolling 12-month fore­casts. She also wants to load industry data into her planning and forecasting system to bench­mark Shelter against its peers.

“I have no doubt that we’ll enable better decision-making,” she says. “We will know what we bud­geted and how we budgeted it because our system offers so much transparency. Line-of-business managers will be able to dissect their information. Maybe, because they have access for the first time to total costs per vendor, they’ll see that they need to negotiate better pricing or terms from a particular vendor. Or see that a certain agent has lost three policies in a single month, which they can then address. We will have significantly more capability to analyze data and take action on it.”

Download the full HBR report here, and find how you can map out a new-school transformation of your own.