Tuesday Jun 11, 2013

Actions Speak Louder in Scorecards

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Director for Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management for Oracle Corporation, about the use of embedded actions in scorecards and their effect on organizations. Most discussions about scorecards typically focus on traffic lights or maps, grids of numbers or objective definitions, but this discussion had an interesting twist. Jacques told our audience how actions, defined and embedded into scorecards, can improve individual performance and improve the ability to execute strategy.

We started the discussion with Jacques’ definition of a scorecard. Jacques told us that scorecards are a set of tools and techniques that extend the Business Intelligence (BI) system to provide a language that can be used to define a corporate strategy and to define the goals and objectives that support achieving that strategy. Scorecards also provide a set of tools to enable businesses to define key business metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs) that are in support of the strategy. All of this is to effect change – if you cannot effect change, then you are wasting your time.

So how do actions fit into this definition? Jacques told us that actions are a complementary technique to effect change – you define actions with objectives, goals and KPIs, enabling the user of the scorecard to perform the action complementary to the status of the object based on who they are. What kind of actions are we talking about? According to Jacques, there are three basic types of actions:

     + Navigation to another system or website
     + Trigger scripts or Java methods to invoke sophisticated tasks
     + Trigger any Oracle Fusion Application workflow

“Actions are a real strong suit for Oracle,” said Jacques. They are also a differentiator. All key business workflows from Oracle Fusion Applications are available as web services and because of this, Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management can surf through and use a repository of thousands of Fusion Application business processes and workflows. With this in mind, business users can choose to associate workflows with objectives, KPIs and initiatives, and trigger them based on who is viewing the scorecard object and the status the object is currently in.

Actions in Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management

Some actions are as simple as linking to another system to dig deeper into a KPI to understand the roots of the data, or launching into the HR system to look at an HR record for an employee whose scorecard you are currently viewing (with permission, of course). But you can also do much more sophisticated things like trigger a true workflow. Jacques gave the following HR example. Let’s say your competitors have been pillaging your staff and hiring them so your headcount KPI is in steady decline. Based on the status of the KPI and the fact that you are logged into the system, from your dashboard or scorecard you can trigger a workflow action to open a job requisition in another system. And because this business workflow is available as a web service with Single Sign-On to OSSM, you do not need to leave the OSSM environment. 

Jacques also gave other examples of workflow actions that can be triggered such as presenting forms to fill out to adjust a forecast or some kind of data capture that makes sense. Actions can be reactive or proactive in nature and you can choose to do different things based on the data. Actions can support individual jobs, departmental functions and/or corporate strategy.

In short, actions do speak louder in scorecards.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy management, click here.

Tuesday May 28, 2013

Unlocking Business Potential with Enterprise Performance Management

As we look at the enterprise performance management (EPM) market, it’s clear that the fundamentals of EPM haven’t changed in the last 5 – 10 years.  EPM is still about linking strategies to plans and execution, monitoring financial and operational results against goals, and applying analytics to understand key trends, make better decisions and drive enterprise-wide performance.

What has changed is the world that we operate in. Although economic growth is slow, business cycles are faster so planning and forecasting needs to be more frequent.  There’s more data available to analyze and leverage for planning and reporting – both internally and externally generated.  Stakeholders have higher expectations.  That includes external stakeholders who want more quantitative and qualitative disclosures about the organizations they are investing in, as well as internal management stakeholders who are demanding more frequent insights into financial and operating results.  Even the workforce has changed, for instance Millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) were raised on technology and have less patience for systems that are outdated or don’t respond quickly.  In addition, technology is changing with the shift to Cloud, Mobile and Social computing.  These new technology enablers that are available today create many opportunities to drive innovation and improve efficiency if leveraged correctly.  

So while today’s market presents a number of challenges to achieving the goals of CEOs and CFOs, there are also opportunities to unlock the potential of their organizations to drive profitable growth. These include:

-
Eliminating or investing more in under-performing products
- Putting more focus on under-served customer segments
- Better utilizing existing staff and capacity
- Putting the excess cash on the balance sheet to work – investing in new markets, products, and services
- Creating more efficient business processes and reducing IT complexity to reduce costs

Many organizations are finding that an integrated EPM platform can help them break down the barriers to success, linking business goals to results and unlocking business potential.  With a world class EPM platform organizations can deliver the desired outcomes needed to succeed in today’s market; Aligned Objectives, Accurate Forecasts, Confident Close and a more Accountable Enterprise.  Plus they can address the needs of Finance, IT, as well as line of business managers to ensure more consistent decision-making.

To learn more about how an integrated EPM platform can help your organization unlock its business potential,
download our new white paper:  Enterprise Performance Management – Unlocking Business Potential. 

Also, learn how the latest release of Oracle Hyperion EPM helps organizations unlock their business potential, here’s a link to the
press release.

And for more general information about Oracle Hyperion EPM please go to www.oracle.com/epm.



Thursday May 23, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 2


In Part 1 of this series, I talked about some of the factors that are changing the role of the CFO.  But exactly how much has the CFO role changed and what’s in store for the future? To shed more light on the subject, Oracle partnered with Accenture to conduct a global research study. The study "The CFO as Catalyst for Change", includes insights from 930 CFOs from organizations of varying sizes and from different continents. In other words, it's quite comprehensive.

The study highlights the evolution of the CFO’s role from financial overseer to corporate strategist and change agent. Specifically, there are a few key takeaways I wanted to highlight:

The CFO role is becoming more strategic and influential:

- More than 70% of respondents said their overall level of strategic influence has increased over the past three years
- Respondents said their role is increasing in setting and determining strategy (65%) and business transformation (47%).

Internal and external challenges are hindering CFOs from reaching their full strategic potential:

- Only 33% of CFOs surveyed play a leading role in strategy formulation; an even smaller proportion (24%) play a leading role in strategy execution
- The challenging economic environment was identified as the largest barrier (37%), followed by a shortage of time (35%) and lack of integration between the finance function and other parts of the business (31%).

CFOs recognize technology is critical to helping:

- 84% of respondents said co-operation between the finance leader and CIO has increased during the past three years.
- 79% listed access to information as a key factor to making their organization more agile
- 57% of respondents viewed investments in disruptive technology, such as big data and analytics, as key source of competitive advantage.

Maintenance and integration issues are still the biggest technology concerns for CFOs:

- Cost of maintenance, cost of integration and lack of integration between systems were listed as the top three concerns of CFO respondents.

For more information, you can find the press release and links to the full report here.  If you’d like to hear the findings discussed in more detail make sure to tune into the CFO.com webcast on May 30th at 12PM EDT.  More information on the webcast and registration is available here.








Wednesday May 08, 2013

The CFO as Catalyst for Change - Part 1

In today’s hyper-competitive global economy, senior executives often have to wear more than one hat to help their organizations reach their full potential.   A good example is the CFO. With the constant need to drive innovation and growth, coupled with their more traditional financial responsibilities like managing costs, CFOs are under increasing pressure to take on an even broader role within their organizations. This evolving role has seen CFOs become more valued strategic and commercial partners, but has not reduced the challenges they face. From working with customers in nearly every industry and geography, a few of the challenges CFOs currently face have become clear, including:


  • The operating environment – While the economy is recovering, CFOs are still facing a low-growth external environment. The need to focus on cost management and efficiency has, in many cases, meant the difference between survival and extinction. Yet, the CFO’s role has broadened to include playing a greater role in technology and operations. Therefore, lack of time and role overstretch are key problems.

  • Skills and capabilities – As the role of the CFO expands, so must the CFO skill set. This has presented a problem for organizations with finding the right talent and capabilities that move beyond the traditional finance skills. Current CFOs also need to expand their own capabilities – particularly with technology. 

  • Technology – The CFO's role in IT investment is more apparent than ever. According to Gartner, 45 percent of IT leaders report to the CFO…that’s more than report to any other executive. While technological innovation such as big data, business analytics, cloud, mobile and social are a priority for the majority of organizations, most financial executives are unable to evaluate IT investments, making it harder for them to show the fruits of their labors. 

Despite these challenges, I know many CFOs that are taking a more strategic role, but they are also the first to admit that there is more work to be done. Over the next few months we will explore this topic in more depth and discuss how technology and other factors can help CFOs become catalysts for change and unlock the true potential within organizations around the world.

For more information about the role of the CFO and best practices in dealing with today's Finance challenges, check out Oracle CFO Central at www.oracle.com/cfo.







Gaining Strategic Alignment with Business Scorecards

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Trey Robbins, Managing Director for Technolab, a Platinum Oracle Partner, for a Podcast. Trey and I discussed the implementation of Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) at Technolab, and the important results they have achieved.

Trey told our listeners that Techolab wanted to translate their Balanced Scorecard framework into an online tool so that they could align their corporation in all the countries and hold people more accountable for achieving goals and corporate strategy. Managers update their measures and part of the corporate strategy manually, and then meet on a quarterly basis virtually (via phone and webcast) and in person on an annual basis. They walk through the overall corporate objectives and how they are tracking including the budgets and targets they have set.

In addition to strategic alignment, Technolab is also experiencing operational and financial benefits from OSSM. Trey told us that when he was first hired at Technolab, he saw lots of good ideas from the company brought forward in meetings and brainstorming sessions, but after the meetings were over and everyone went back to their day to day activities, the great ideas were lost. By using the scorecard tool, they document the good ideas, assign responsibility and track their progress.

An example of an operational improvement that Trey described was tracking the compliance of the entire organization around certifications that their consultants need to have for implementing software for their customers. Certification and re-certification for each region of Technolab is extremely important to the company, but difficult to monitor. Technolab now has software certification as an objective for each region and country and the company expects to see green lights on this objective at each meeting, or have a really good explanation of why they don’t. “When you go in front of your peers and management and you have certain things that you are responsible for, you are going to make sure you are executing on those. You don’t want to go into your meeting unprepared, and you definitely don’t want to go into your meeting with a bunch of red traffic lights,”said Trey.

When asked about some of the lessons learned from the initial implementation, Trey had some good advice. 

    
 1. Understand all the components needed to track strategy, measures and activities before using a tool. If you jump straight into the software, you will be missing components and that will slow you down. Understanding everything your organization wants to track and everything that your scorecard tool needs will enable you to speed through implementation.

     2. At the beginning of implementation, hold executive status meetings on a monthly basis rather than quarterly. The more visibility you have, the more consistent the message you articulate, the easier it is to execute.

    
3. Leverage the use of mobile capabilities more. Enable the executives to review the status of objectives and activities frequently and ‘on-the-go’.

Implementing Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) gave Technolab a better way to manage their international business activities, align everyone around the corporate strategy and move the entire company towards achieving that strategy.

To hear the entire Podcast click here.

For more information about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) click here.


Friday Apr 26, 2013

EPM and ERP - Better Together

I recently had the pleasure to attend and present at the Collaborate 2013 user conference in Denver, Colorado.  This event is run by three of the Oracle user groups – OAUG, IOUG and Quest and attracted over 5000 attendees this year.  The conference included hundreds of sessions covering Oracle Applications, Database, and Middleware which were delivered by Oracle customers, partners and staff members.  The EPM/BI/Data Warehousing track itself had over 130 sessions, most of which were delivered by customers and partners, and which were very-well attended.  Conference attendees and members of the Oracle user groups can see the session list and gain access to the presentation content at this link:  http://collaborate.oaug.org/education/search.

One of the highlights of the conference was the RadiOAUG live radio show that was broadcast from the exhibit hall during the conference.  This was pretty interesting – as two professional radio broadcasters interviewed Oracle executives, customers and partners on a variety of topics that were in focus for the conference.    I was interviewed on the topic of “ERP and EPM – Better Together”. 




During this short interview I talked about the progress Oracle has made in integrating the Hyperion EPM Applications with Oracle E-Business Suite, PeopleSoft, JD Edwards, Fusion and SAP Financials.  I highlighted 3 specific areas of integration that Oracle has built out -- data, metadata, and process integration.  We also discussed how EPM can help with ERP upgrades, through managing metadata like the Chart of Accounts, and providing a consistent planning and reporting environment while the systems are being upgraded on the back end.  I finished by talking about the role our EPM applications can play in helping ERP customers extend their investments and improve their management processes such as Strategy Management, Planning and Forecasting, Financial Close and Reporting as well as Profitability and Cost Management.  Here’s a link to a replay of my RadiOAUG interview:  JohnO'Rourke.mp3.

Here’s a link to all of the RadiOAUG programs that were recorded at Collaborate 2013: http://remote1.businessradiox.com/

For more information about Oracle’s Hyperion EPM Applications please go to www.oracle.com/epm


 

Tuesday Apr 16, 2013

Enrich Your Scorecard with Metadata That Actually Matters

Oracle has released another interesting Podcast – this one is about how Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management can help you drive behavioural change and improvement at the same time by using metadata that actually matters.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Director for Oracle Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management and Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (or OSSM) about this subject.

After covering the basics about what a scorecard is and how it differs from a BI system or dashboards, we went on to discuss how scorecards should traverse dimensional structures, not just go up and down the hierarchies (like a typical BI system does) but also jump from one hierarchy to another to tie important data together.

Then we got to the heart of the Podcast – metadata that really matters. Jacques told us why accountability is so important – understanding WHO is under or over performing and HOW that performance relates back to the organizational strategy is key to pushing strategy forward. It is difficult to modify behavior if accountability is not included.

Jacques further explained that traditional BI metrics are typically focused around aggregating metadata along a single hierarchy. For example, we all know intuitively that a very high attrition rate in a company can impact the profitability of the company.  Traditional BI metadata focuses on aggregating metadata for HR attrition rates by HR dimensions, like attrition by department or region, but in this example, there is still a chasm between the HR data and financial data. Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) enables you to draw relationships between your measures that are not necessarily based on aggregate tables or dimensional hierarchies – rather by business insight. You can literally drag and drop scorecard metrics on top of each other to get a better snapshot of what is going on. Jacques provided the following example, “Let’s say my attrition metric has an impact on my employee effectiveness metric, which has an impact on employee productivity, productivity has an impact on cost, and cost has an impact on profitability. You can drag all of these metrics on top of each other to get a whole company understanding of the impact of attrition rate on profitability”. This is new insight about the relationship. Once we understand this relationship, there is now a financial basis for management to ensure that the attrition rate stays within acceptable parameters – which can lead to a change in management behavior.

How does this type of insight help? Jacques explained that OSSM provides a set of metadata that is actually captured by the user using the system, providing new business insight. As more users use the system you are gaining more and more business insight. You get a network effect of new and better business insight as more people use the scorecard tool. This is not the same kind of metadata as traditional metadata that simply describes the existing dimensions.

Near the end of the Podcast Jacques also told us more about how the use of metadata that matters (including accountability) with financial objectives and data and operational metrics and data, can all roll up into the strategy tying everything together. The ability to keep the data current enables users to get a really good picture of the state of the strategy at any time, and which elements are most important to monitor to move the strategy forward. There are really great visual diagrams within OSSM that help you to literally see what is happening.

Jacques provided other interesting examples and useful information about metadata that actually matters in scorecards and how it can help encourage organizational change during the Podcast. I encourage you to listen to the entire interview.

To hear the entire Podcast click here.

For more information about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) click here.

Wednesday Apr 10, 2013

Planning at the Speed of Business with Hyperion Planning on Oracle Exalytics

Oracle’s corporate strategy is based on simplifying IT and powering innovation for our customers. As part of that, we recently announced a series of new Oracle In-Memory Applications and released several white papers focusing on how Oracle Engineered Systems can help customers run their business processes without constraints.
In the world of enterprise planning, this includes implementing best practices like driver-based rolling forecasts, “tapping into the wisdom of crowds” in the forecasting process, and aligning financial and operational planning. While customers strive to actually implement these best practices, system constraints often get in the way. In fact, in a study done by Dynamic Markets for Oracle in 2011, a staggering 95% of respondents said they encountered problems with their current planning systems, especially around data, timeliness and analyzing different scenarios.

Deploying Oracle Hyperion Planning on the Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine changes the game by delivering some remarkable performance capabilities at lower cost than ever before possible. In-memory technology can dramatically accelerate analytic performance and enable more innovative decision-making. Exalytics drives a new class of smarter and more powerful analytic applications that simply weren’t possible using conventional planning software and generic hardware configurations.

Consider the following results from early customer benchmarks:

+ 5X to 100X faster interactivity, leading to better decisions and accuracy

+ 6X to 10X faster planning cycles

+ 5X reduction in server footprint, resulting in lower TCO

So what does this mean for you? It means you can more feasibly address the new realities of today’s planning environment. You can speed up your planning and forecasting processes, while planning in more detail and for more users across the organization. Moreover, you can extend planning beyond Finance, run more complex planning models, and ultimately increase your forecast accuracy. Improvements in forecast accuracy translate into substantial business value – industry analysts estimate that even a nominal 3% improvement in accuracy could drive as much a 2% gain in profit margins. And isn’t increasing business value what Finance is all about?

For more information about Oracle Hyperion Planning and EPM applications running on Oracle Exalytics, you can find the new whitepapers on oracle.com here:

+ Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine: Enterprise Planning without Constraints (PDF)
+ Oracle Hyperion EPM Applications on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine: Performance Management without Constraints (PDF)
+ Management Reporting on Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine (PDF)
+ Achieving a Virtual Financial Close with Oracle Exalytics In-Memory Machine (PDF)
You can also listen to the replay of a recent webcast about how Biogen Idec, working with Peloton Group, is leveraging Oracle Exalytics to transform planning processes. Click here to listen to the replay.

Tuesday Apr 02, 2013

Shared Service Costs: Are They Adding or Destroying Company Value?

Recently, Oracle published a very interesting podcast on shared service costs and whether shared services were adding or destroying company value. The information provided was extremely enlightening.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Bart Stoehr, Senior Product Management Director for Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management (HPCM), and Tom Gargas, a Principal Solutions Manager from Edgewater-Ranzal, an Oracle Partner. Here, I will summarize a few of the key points from the interview. 

According to Bart, shared services are really a concentration of company resources performing like activities, but they are spread out across the organization to service multiple, internal partners at a lower cost and providing higher levels of service. Most organizations have shared services, but often do not understand the value that they add to a company or the value that they can destroy. What are the goals for shared service centers? Bart explained that the goals are “To delight external customers and enhance corporate value”. These centers provide economies of scale and act much like centers of excellence. Examples of shared service centers mentioned by Bart include IT, Human Resources, Finance, Legal Services, Facilities and Communications.

We also discussed why it was so difficult to understand shared service costing. Bart revealed that it was really an aggregation issue. Organizations can see the total cost of a service that is shared, but not necessarily what the business units are consuming and therefore how they relate to products and customers. Understanding how each service is consumed by each part of the business will enable organizations to account for the services and charge back accordingly. But it is not only the financial aspects we are worried about. Understanding the costs of each shared service can help the company see how the costs of the service compare with the value of the service. If a service does not add value, then the company needs to take a hard look at why they are still performing it.

Tom gave us excellent information about a practical implementation approach for shared service costing which includes the FAST characteristics:


Flexibility  (in analysis and cost methods as shared services change)

Audit and Control (ensuring compliance and approved regulatory controls)

Shared Methodology (everyone uses consistent allocation methods which ensures accurate comparisons)

Transparency (details of allocations are provided to all)


Other details in the conversation covered how better understanding shared service costs can lead to organizational and management changes; becoming aligned on allocation methods and improving internal customer service levels. It can lead to excellence in business practices -- finding and exploiting core competencies, partnering with the strategic business units to help them increase their ability to create revenue, and adding value to the organization instead of destroying it through duplication of efforts and misalignment.

Tom indicated that Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management is an excellent tool for calculating shared service costs, and that these calculations can help in the financial planning process as well.  Shared service centers must plan both for the consumption of services (which services SHOULD they provide, volume of services, cost of services, etc.) and the supply side (workflow, accountability and what actually transpires). Being able to properly calculate service center costs and report against chargebacks by business unit just makes good sense. Being able to calculate and include service charges during budgeting and forecasting cycles makes forecasting more accurate.

“Using Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management with Oracle Hyperion Planning (and possibly Oracle Hyperion Workforce Planning) to manage the supply and consumption of shared services helps ensure that organizations are right-sized”, said Tom.

Bart and Tom convinced me that having well run shared service centers, understanding true shared service costs, and using those costs to plan for the future adds tremendous value to a company. Understanding these costs and using them to make sound business decisions can certainly make the difference between company financial profitability and loss.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

For more information about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.

Tuesday Mar 26, 2013

Best Practices in Profitability and Cost Management

I recently had the opportunity to run some roundtable discussions on best practices in profitability and cost management with financial executives attending the CFO CPM Conference in Philadelphia and CFO Rising East Conference in Orlando. The attendees represented companies in different industries ranging from manufacturing, to transportation, real estate, insurance, telecommunications and healthcare.

The premise for the roundtable discussion was this; For most organizations, aggressive cost-cutting and management were critical to remaining profitable while top line revenue was flat or shrinking during the recession. However, now many organizations taking a more “surgical” approach to profitability and cost management, by understanding which products, services, customers and channels are truly profitable and which ones are draining value from the business. In these roundtable sessions we discussed best practices in profitability and cost management, including how to accurately allocate revenue and costs to individual product lines, services, customer segments, locations, channels and other lines of business in order to improve decision-making. Here’s a summary of the feedback I received from attendees at these sessions:

At what level does your organization analyze and manage profitability? The answers to this question varied by industry and company: Insurance - region, state and products.  For example:


+ Real Estate Brokerage - offices, products
+ Healthcare Providers – hospitals, business units, departments, services, patients
+ Healthcare Insurance – products, markets, customers
+ Transportation/Freight – ship level, market (car rentals), customers
+ Manufacturing – location/site, products, major customers, projects
+ Retail – store level, regions
+ Telecommunications – business units, products


Are there any regulatory requirements driving detailed allocations of revenue and costs in your industry or organization? Based on the roundtables, the primary industries where there is a regulatory driver behind cost allocations and profitability analysis are Telecommunications, and Healthcare. (The latter as a result of the Healthcare Reform legislation and need to report on Medical Loss Ratios)

How are allocations performed to distribute revenue and costs down to the appropriate level in the business? What allocation techniques is your organization using? Here the participants indicated they are using a variety of techniques ranging from standard costing based on headcount, square footage, and revenue contribution to activity-based cost drivers and allocations for certain areas, such as customer service.

How frequently are detailed cost allocations performed? The frequency of allocations varied across individual companies. Some are performing this task on a quarterly basis, some semi-annually, one bi-weekly, and most of the participants are doing detailed allocations monthly. One company, in Transportation, mentioned they were doing this on a daily basis, running detailed P&Ls for each of their ships (pretty impressive).

What tools are used to perform the allocations and report on profitability at the line of business level? The tools used to perform detailed allocations, cost and profitability analysis included spreadsheets, ABC tools, multidimensional OLAP tools (i.e. Oracle Essbase), and in some cases, the general ledger system.

Who consumes the profitability reporting in your organization? The consumers of this information varied by industry and company, for example:


+ Insurance – product line managers, actuaries, regulators
+ Real Estate Brokerage – branch managers (with compensation linked)
+ Healthcare Providers – doctors, marketing campaign managers
+ Manufacturing – senior management, controllers, sales managers, business unit leaders, operations managers
+ Telecommunications – finance, business unit leaders


Is profitability reporting and management linked to the annual budgeting process? The answers to this question were more varied across the participants. Some leverage this information in their long-term strategic planning process, some link to their annual financial budget, and some are just starting to create a link to their planning processes.

Overall I was impressed with the feedback I received from participants in these sessions. Every company who participated was performing cost allocations and analyzing profitability at some level other than the corporate summary. Some were doing this at a very detailed level (i.e. daily ship P&L), and others at a more summarized level but looking to get more granular over time. I was also impressed with the frequency of profitability reporting, with most of the participants doing this on a monthly basis, some less frequently. And it was clear that the information being generated was actively shared and utilized beyond the finance organization to business unit leads, product managers, sales managers and other line of business decision-makers.

Areas for improvement that most participants identified included moving this process from spreadsheets to analytic tools and applications designed to automate and support detailed allocations and costing on a more frequent and repeatable basis. The good news here is that there are a number of packaged applications available in the market designed to support detailed allocations of revenue and costs. These applications include powerful reporting and analysis tools to provide insights and support improved decision-making regarding resource allocations, product/service mix, pricing, customer service and campaign strategies. Some of these are available as standalone solutions, while others are delivered within Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) application suites and provide seamless integration with EPM planning and reporting applications.

For more information about the profitability and cost management applications offered as part of Oracle’s EPM solutions please go to www.oracle.com/epm.


 

Monday Mar 25, 2013

Optimizing the Business as a Whole: The Case for Enterprise-Wide Planning

I recently interviewed David Jones, Director in PWC’s Consulting Services EPM Practice, and Simon Kenney a Senior EPM Consultant also from PWC, in a podcast about their successes in enterprise planning implementation and their research on finance effectiveness.


Initially, we discussed the research they have been conducting around planning and forecasting effectiveness; they call it the Finance Effectiveness Benchmark. For 2012, some issues were consistent with previous years. Planning, budgeting and forecasting is taking too long to pull together, it’s still too manual and requires too many resources or effort to get it done. But the interesting headline this year is that 80% of the respondents declared that the accuracy of their forecasts is critical to the running of their business, but only 45% said that their forecasts were actually reliable. This result is very concerning as this deficiency will prevent companies from making the right critical business decisions.


So what are the causes of this large deficiency?


According to Simon, a lack of integration across the entire planning process – front office to back office is a key issue. The business functions are just not engaged enough as the forecasting is mostly finance led. Sales and marketing are essential to any forecast, but they are often not engaged properly. Ultimately, those that generate the opportunities and the revenue need to be involved with the forecast.


No wonder the forecasts are not accurate!


How do companies to fix this deficiency and move to an integrated more inclusive world of forecasting? Simon suggested the following three steps are a good start.


Step 1: Identify why the forecasting process is failing (Is each function independently running their own processes? Is there a lack of clearly defined accountabilities?)


Step 2: Determine if/when the company is ready to integrate their processes. (Does it have the required level of sponsorship in place to move to an integrated planning process? Are the functions prepared for change?)


Step 3: Define a blue print or target “n” state (Design the integrated process. Determine which technology can help support the new integrated process)


These steps sound fairly simple, so I asked David what some of the more difficult or challenging things are that he sees when undertaking these steps with his customers. David indicated that there are challenges specific to each industry, but some common ones to watch for are:



  • Lack of executive sponsorship across functions (Very Key!) The drive to implement change must come from the top and be a collaborative process.

  • Miss-aligned performance measures that drive the wrong behaviour.

  • Too much granularity or unnecessary detail in the financial plan. Requests for more detail and more clarifications lengthens the process (without sufficient benefit) taking too much time and effort.


Simon shared his experience working with a large UK based motor car manufacturer – the challenges and success they had experienced.


Car manufacturers are a more traditional type of company with lots of legacy systems. Being so entrenched in these systems meant that they were not sure if they were really ready for a big bang approach to integrated planning and forecasting. They, therefore, decided to work on one area of the company at a time – in waves – so they could prove it was the right thing to do by demonstrating success and showing value to drive further change.


I asked David how real the benefits were that could be obtained through integrated planning and forecasting. David said that he sees real results in more accurate forecasts and a much better understanding of what goes on in the business, how it behaves, and the impact each business function has on delivering the optimal level of profit. These are real and tangible benefits. Individual functional areas need to understand their role in the overall plan and not behave independently.


What can organizations do today to evaluate their planning and forecasting processes? Simon suggested the following:



  • Look at your existing processes – are they collaborative and integrated?

  • How accurate are your forecasts? If you are not sure, take a retrospective look and find out.

  • How effective are the different business functions in forecasting accurately?

  • Take a look at benchmarks and case studies outside your organization and see how you measure up and what else you can achieve.

  • If you are in the spreadsheet world, re-evaluate the process and take an honest look at how it is working for you. How accurate are your forecasts?


It became quite apparent from speaking to David and Simon that it’s all about optimizing the business as a whole and not the individual parts; without enterprise planning integration, this is simply not possible.


To listen to the webcast, click here.

Monday Mar 04, 2013

Bridging the Gap Between Project Management and the CFO’s Office

Organizations undertake numerous projects and initiatives to generate revenue,  improve productivity and increase profits in the hope that they will have the desired effect. But in large and multi-national companies, how can they sensibly and efficiently decide which projects to undertake, how to assign resources, and how to fund them?

Aligning organizational plans (long term and short term) with financial plans and forecasts while enabling the various Lines of Business (LOBs) to lead the projects might sound like it would be next to impossible, but with proper project financial planning tools, it can work really well!

Whether you have indirect (or administrative projects) that generate cost but not revenue, capital projects or contract projects (that generate cost and revenue), or a combination of them, having a well defined, easy to navigate process for documenting, evaluating , funding and approving multiple projects from many LOBs is crucial for forecasting cost and revenues, and booking resources and staff.


Consider these steps:


Step 1: Plan for expenses and revenues (where appropriate), by individual project – and by groups of projects

Step 2: Generate and analyze project financials for individual projects and groups of projects

Step 3: Analyze the funding requirements and revenue generation potential for individual projects and groups of projects

Step 4: Analyze and approve workforce requirements and asset requirements for individual projects and groups of projects

Step 5: Enable the analysis, and approval process by Business Unit Leaders and Finance managers for individual projects and groups of projects within the overall financial plan

Step 6: Enable intercompany project planning and reconciliation to get a complete corporate view of projects within the overall financial plan

Step 7: Enable continued monitoring of project financials within the overall financial plan


Oracle Hyperion Project Financial Planning embraces these steps and provides the needed structure and automation to simplify an otherwise complex set of processes.

When proposing and planning new initiatives, understanding the financial implications on corporate financial plans and objectives and gaining consensus among all concerned parties are a major challenge for many organizations. Without good financial and operational information for both proposed and current projects, it is difficult to analyze and make decisions on new projects to undertake. Oracle Hyperion Project Financial Planning provides the ability for all involved parties to help with this decision making.

It bridges the gap between the detailed task oriented project plans that a project manager within each LOB maintains, and the overall impact of projects on corporate finances and resources. Management can get a holistic view of how their assets and resources are allocated, and then monitor performance and receive information about return on investment (ROI).

Oracle Hyperion Project Financial Planning bridges the gap between LOB project management and the financial plans and forecasts within the CFO’s office.

For more information, click here to read Oracle’s new whitepaper on Oracle Hyperion Project Financial Planning: Aligning Financial and Project Plans.

Monday Feb 25, 2013

Gartner Positions Oracle as a Leader in CPM Suites

On February 14th Gartner released their 2013 Magic Quadrant for Corporate Performance Management Suites report. In the report, Oracle was recognized as a Market Leader for the sixth consecutive year.


Gartner’s Magic Quadrant reports position vendors within a particular quadrant based on their completeness of vision and ability to execute. In this year’s report, among the market leaders, Oracle is positioned with the highest ability to execute and the strongest in completeness of vision.


Here’s an excerpt from the report with some comments about Oracle from Gartner:


“Oracle is a Leader in CPM suites, and the Hyperion brand is respected by finance executives worldwide. Oracle has a very broad and deep CPM product suite, which employs a multiproduct approach with different applications for each of the major CPM processes; however, these products employ a common foundation and administrative components. The vendor has a well-established partner channel and Hyperion skills are plentiful among the consultant community, given the well-established products.”


Oracle Hyperion Performance Management Applications are part of Oracle Business Analytics, which combine market-leading enterprise performance management applications with business intelligence tools and technology and analytic applications to help organizations strategize, plan and optimize business operations and achieve better business outcomes.


Click here to learn more:  reportpress release


For more information about Oracle’s Hyperion Performance Management Applications please go to www.oracle.com/epm.

Wednesday Feb 13, 2013

Tax Provisioning: Simplify, Standardize then Automate

Tax provisioning is a process that has become increasingly more complex to perform, but increasingly more important to do well. I recently interviewed Andy Oliver, a PWC Director in their Tax Practice and an expert in Tax Provisioning, in a Podcast which I feel sheds some light on this increasingly complex matter. To listen to the Podcast, click here.


Tax provisioning is the process of reporting current and deferred income taxes in a company’s financial statements – tax on current profits and estimated future tax on future profits. There are a myriad of rules and requirements for calculations and disclosure that apply to different companies and countries and they are changing all the time. It is extremely important to have accurate, transparent calculations as when and what to pay and defer can make a huge difference to a company’s bottom line.


How do most tax accountants and departments manage this process? Andy indicated that a majority of companies pull this information together through numerous and large spreadsheets with complex and convoluted calculations. And although these spreadsheets offer flexibility – to keep up with the ever changing rules – they do not provide consistency in calculations, standardization of the process, or data security. This means that the calculations and resulting reports are error prone and can cause countless hours of work to find and correct the errors.


Ideally, the tax provisioning process should be performed early in the financial close process to get a really good picture of the end result. However, inevitably being early in the process means the financial results will change and the provision or estimation will have to be recalculated. Having the tax provisioning process integrated with the financial close process and systems makes a lot of sense, from an efficiency standpoint, to reduce the amount of work required each time there is a change to the financial results. We also discussed how important it is to SIMPLIFY the tax provisioning process and then standardize and automate the process before integrating with the financial close process to be truly effective and world-class.


Oracle’s Hyperion Tax Provision solution was designed to provide this integration with the financial close process and drive efficiency into the tax provisioning and disclosure process.


Finally, Andy had this advice for the listeners, “If you can align the tax reporting process with the financial close process – eliminating much of the manual, spreadsheet-based calculations, you will get the job done quicker, experience fewer mistakes, and be able to spend more time doing the important part of your job as a tax accountant; analyzing the numbers, and providing insight on the results such as WHY the numbers are different from forecast or from last year.


For more information on the Oracle Hyperion Tax Provision solution, click here.


To listen to the podcast, click here.


 

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This blog will highlight key EPM market trends, recent events and other news of interest to our field, customers and partners.

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