April 10, 2014

My thoughts from this week’s FP&A for High-Tech Summit

Colby Moosman

On Tuesday I was in San Francisco addressing an audience of finance executives at The FP&A for High-Tech Summit, a two-day conference designed to address the unique challenges of financial planning and analysis in Silicon Valley. The tech industry is a distinct creature. I say this having served as a finance executive for one of the nation’s biggest homebuilders and one of the world’s largest airlines – industries with substantial fixed asset bases and typically slow growth. But, what businesses in these industries have in common is the same critical focus on strategic planning and operational analysis to drive performance.

Before I jump in, I’d like to thank the FP&A for High-Tech Summit for a great event and for having me speak among a great lineup of speakers. Tidemark was also proud to serve as a Silver Sponsor of this week’s event.

If you weren’t able to attend, let me provide a recap. I spent about 20 minutes on a discussion that I called “The Next Generation of FP&A.” I started with a real-world example of where a high-customer-volume company (+200,000 customer interactions every day) was crippled by its inability to really know anything of substance about its customers. All of the customer data was locked away in legacy transaction systems. Nobody could get to the data to analyze it, and so this company had practically no understanding of customer preferences, buying patterns, loyalty… things that might interest you as a business manager!

The solution at the time was to bring in a top-tier consulting group to access the data and develop an analysis that provided some customer insights to executives. It took a small army of consultants almost a year to come up with conclusions, and then another year to implement the findings into the company’s products. That’s two years before a single customer was impacted by the study. And if conditions warranted a refresh of the analysis? That’d be more time lost and more money spent.

Timeframes like this are unacceptable in today’s business environment.  Can you imagine running your company based on your understanding of the business environment two years ago? Last year? Last quarter? Even month-old data seems stale in many of our businesses today.

What I offered the audience was a look into the future and the next generation of FP&A solutions. In my view, there are three fundamental pillars: cloud, mobile and collaboration. Everybody is talking about these, but reconsider them in light of managing your business. In my talk, I described the advantages of approaching business management based on 1) the power and flexibility of the cloud via real-time access to unlimited data volumes and high-speed (i.e. in-memory) calculations; 2) the mobile enablement that puts true performance-impacting management tools in the hands of the people making the frontline decisions via easy-to-use apps; and 3) the world of opportunity that emerges as cloud and mobile intersect to link corporate performance management and the frontline on a real-time basis.  Imagine frontline people (e.g. sales, production managers) making decisions based on profitability!  Imagine having a real-time read on your financial and operational forecast!

Those days are here. As finance professionals, our challenge is to lead the team to the best decisions we can with the information at hand. Our information is about to get a whole lot better.

April 2, 2014

A Big Week for Tidemark at Workday Rising Europe

Stephen Rituper

It’s been a quick but exciting and productive trip to London for the Tidemark team at Workday Rising Europe. First, congratulations to Workday on a great event. Tidemark was a Silver Sponsor, and our role in the event afforded us some wonderful opportunities to meet with Workday sales and product team members, and to make many new connections. It’s always exciting to meet with new people and learn about challenges that Tidemark can help solve.

One highlight: the Tuesday Super Session, where Workday presented a message of a unified platform between finance and HR.  Tidemark complements both sides of the Workday house by extending capability in budgeting, forecasting and planning. One of the key takeaways of this session was the message that cloud- and mobile-first solutions – designed expressly for cloud deliver and access on any mobile device – represent the future for the enterprise – a message that should sound very familiar to Tidemark customers.

Tidemark Financial Consolidation App and Expansion into Europe

Tidemark’s own highlight was today’s sneak peek into our Spring ’14 Release featuring the new Financial Consolidation App, along with our expansion into the European market.

Tidemark is heading into Europe with an initial presence in the UK, France, Germany and Benelux, as well as working with a growing ecosystem of global partners. Turns out we didn’t just come to Europe this week to visit; we’re here to stay.

Tidemark’s Product Manager for Consolidation Apps Jerome Cukier led an exciting session on Financial Consolidation for the Modern World, featuring the new Tidemark Financial Consolidation App, which has taken the traditional consolidation process and turned it upside down and inside out. The new app transforms consolidation from a laborious, endlessly iterative process involving just a few group controllers into a collaborative experience that engages stakeholders throughout the organization, captures and keeps all crucial contextual information, and updates consolidation data in real time. This application allows group controllers and executives to not only see consolidated data, but also drive context within analytic processes and collaborative workflows so that their organizations can focus on making data-driven decisions on what’s important to the business.

As Workday Rising Europe attendees discovered this week, there’s a better way to approach business planning and analytics.  Now it’s up to us to make sure the rest of Europe makes the same discovery.

March 6, 2014

The Death of the Business Intelligence Competency Center – The Boom of Cloud Analytics

Guest Blog

The following is a guest blog post by Darren Cunningham, VP of Marketing at SnapLogic

The Business Intelligence Competency Center (BICC) is a long-established concept in the world of analytics. The BICC is meant to encourage collaboration around which tools to use for different use cases. The idea is that a physical or virtual team within the business (primarily IT) is formed to establish and enforce standards, SLAs, and governance policies. A key theme has always been about enabling some degree of self-service when it comes to data access and analysis without losing IT control.

But then along came cloud computing, and more specifically software as a service (SaaS). Along came No Software and The Subscription Economy.

Fast-forward to today and the pundits are calling for the decentralization of IT. Shadow IT is out of the closet and it’s no longer seen as such a scary idea. It is now the norm for best-of-breed SaaS applications to be purchased and implemented by the line of business and IT organizations have seen bring your own device (BYOD) evolve to bring your own cloud.

So if decentralization is now an IT mandate not an option, what is the future of the BICC? Is it dead or must it simply be re-imagined in the social, mobile, analytics, and cloud (SMAC) era?

Here are a few suggestions for the BICC to regain relevance:

1)   Focus on analytical innovation over standardization.

2)   Prioritize speed of information delivery and insight over governance and control.

3)   Accept the inevitability of the cloud and embrace it.

4)   Empower “citizen integrators” with self-service tooling.

5)   Drop the name BI and become the Analytics Competency Center (ACC) or Analytics Center of Excellence (ACOE).

I’m looking forward to discussing the future of the BICC and analytics in general with Howard Dresner and Tidemark’s Phil Wilmington on March 19th. We’re hosting an interactive webinar titled, “How a Modern Approach to Analytics Drives Success in the Enterprise” that will focus on 3 key enablers of business intelligence:

  • Cloud to enable speed and big data management
  • Collaboration and in context analysis to drive value
  • Mobile-first design for agility

I hope you can make it.

February 20, 2014

A Change in Plan

Christian Gheorghe

“I love it when a plan comes together.”               

- Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith 

CEOs don’t plan the way they used to. They can’t.  Business today moves too fast, which makes adapting and pivoting in real time the new way to work.

Not long ago, it was typical for a company lock down a specific time horizon for business planning. For some, it was a year. For others, three years or more. It made sense; some companies are primarily cash-flow driven and have no choice but to operate by short-term plans, and others are more defined by long-term investments and R&D projects.

But as the 17th Annual PwC Annual Global CEO Survey reveals, at least half of all CEOs are thinking that, no matter what their current planning time horizon happens to be, they’d be better off with a different one.

As the graph shows, many CEOs seem to believe their planning horizons are in need of some adjusting. PwC surveyed more than 1,300 company leaders from 68 countries. Twelve percent of those CEOs operate on a one-year planning timeframe – but of those, 70 percent would like to increase their horizons to three, five or more than five years. And of the 51 percent of chief executives whose plans look three years into the future, more than a third (38 percent) want to increase their planning timeframe to two or more years. About one in four of all CEOs surveyed (24 percent) head companies that operate on a five-year plan, but 19 percent of them would like to shrink that timeframe down to one or three years.

Is this just a case of the grass always being greener? I don’t think so, and neither does PwC. In presenting its CEO Survey data, PwC suggests CEOs can meet the demands of an always-changing business environment by adopting multiple planning horizons.  That isn’t as easy as it sounds, since it requires the ability to balance short- and long-term planning. Public companies in particular are expected to plan three to five years out. But they also must perform quarterly. They are punished mightily by investors if they fail to do either.

Operating on multiple planning horizons isn’t impossible, but for many companies, it will require the adoption of modern financial planning and analytics solutions that are capable of keeping up with the pace of business today and anticipating the challenges of tomorrow. So what should CEOs and CFOs look for in a planning platform?

  • Agility. A responsive, nimble organization requires continuous forecasting based on real-time data.
  • Ubiquity. You can’t be agile if a small handful of financial analysts are manually feeding the plan with information they’ve painstakingly collected from the edges of the organization. The latest financial planning solutions are intuitive enough so any stakeholder in the company can input forecasts or actuals for sales orders, headcount, or capital and operating expenses – or run what-if scenarios to analyze the potential implications of their actions. This accelerates collaborative planning and produces plans that are relevant in the near term or years from now.
  • Mobility. Want to ensure your plan includes the latest, more accurate information? Make sure your planning solution works with the mobile devices your employees carry all day, every day.
  • Scalability. Cloud-first platforms can easily scale as organizations increase their sources of structured and unstructured data, or broaden the use of their planning platform to more users.

I read the PwC survey as a wake-up call to CFOs: If your boss thinks your company’s planning horizon is wrong, are you making the changes necessary to change it?  As the PwC report itself states: “The future has an unfortunate way of sidelining those who simply wait and see.”

February 7, 2014

Q&A with Ventana Research CEO and Chief Research Officer, Mark Smith

Caroline Japic

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Ventana Research’s CEO and Chief Research Officer, Mark Smith about the trends, challenges and opportunities facing today’s finance professionals.  Mark provides some great insights into the changing role of finance professionals, the future of finance, the solutions helping finance professionals and much more.

We were also pleased to hold a joint webinar this week, “The Benefits of Modernizing FP&A – Analysis Replaces Gut Feel” with Ventana Research SVP and Research Director, Robert Kugel and Tidemark VP of Finance, Colby Moosman. If you missed it live, please take a moment to listen to webinar replay here.

Below is the full transcript of my discussion with Mark on the trends, challenges and opportunities facing today’s finance professionals.

Caroline: How has the role of finance professionals evolved in recent years?

Mark: Finance professionals now can be better connected to the state of overall business operations and results. Technology enables them to access and analyze more information to manage financials and understand the costs and related revenue areas of business processes in cycles more frequent than quarterly or monthly.  In these ways, finance can make greater contributions than in the past to help the organization reach its maximum potential. Many finance professionals are more astute in the use of information and able to apply analytics to respond to changes and determine improvements in a more agile manner. Finance no longer must wait until the quarter ends to engage in management discussions but can intervene and bring wise counsel whenever changes to business operations impact results.

Caroline: How do you anticipate it will continue to change in the coming year?

Mark: We expect this trend to continue and accelerate. Not only is the finance department able to access information more rapidly but it also can collaborate with business management digitally, for example in the context of revenue and costs streams within time cycles, to immediately address issues and opportunities. Finance is not restricted to accounting for results after the fact but can provide information enabling management to look forward. Finance also will be able to better apply data from markets and competitors to its decisions and direction. Using analytics to easily define and adjust plans enables Finance to manage to plans and actual performance, not just measure the results of the business. In short Finance will take a more active role in achieving the goals of the organization.

Caroline: What solutions have you seen that are helping finance professionals make their jobs easier and help them become more relevant within their company?

Mark: Enterprise software is available that can help Finance improve operations in various areas, from business planning to direct visibility into both metrics and the drivers that impact results. Finance professionals can apply forward-looking predictive analytics to information about the business’s customers, products and employees to learn more about its revenue drivers and costs. They can provide information to collaborate with business managers to find ways to operate more effectively. Mobile technology such as smartphones and tablets has expanded the reach of Finance, like other departments, to engage with management through ready access to information regardless of anyone’s location.

Caroline: What do enterprises gain when finance professionals are able to add more value to their organizations?

Mark: More astute, better informed finance organizations can add a dimension to understanding of the business by collaborating on areas of improvement and investment. Immediate action on incremental investments can enable smart responses to opportunities and better allocation of resources in time cycles (weekly and monthly) appropriate for today’s fast-changing global competition. Finance can be a better partner to other departments – Sales, Operations, Customer, Marketing, Human Resources and IT – when it becomes an information center for standard business and financial metrics to manage performance.

Caroline: What is the key value that a technology-enabled finance department brings to the enterprise?

Mark: Finance can make the organization more agile and guide the business in areas where it is expert. It can help optimize business processes and utilization of assets. Supporting the performance management principles of optimizing and aligning performance is easier when there is a technology-enabled finance function.

Caroline: How do these technologies enable the finance department to drive revenue?

Mark: The use of technology that helps Finance plan more collaboratively and provide expert advice on investments, whether to optimize sales or support products and services. Having better insight to predict customer demand and sales potential enables the organization to focus more on results and less on expenses.

Caroline: If you’re a finance professional, what one thing should you be doing to improve your company’s performance?

Mark: Using solutions such as analytics and planning, you should take the initiative to examine business processes that are not efficient and productive, and offer relevant advice on how to improve them. Look for ways to connect business areas to support the planning and performance processes. Mobilize teams of management across lines of business to set priorities and make information more directly available for decisions about improvement and use mobile technology to help facilitate access to information at any time.