Thursday Mar 27, 2014

Customer Lifetime Value: Viewing Customers as an Investment


In this age of customer-centricity, do you really know how to put a value on your customers? I had the pleasure of interviewing Gary Cokins, the founder of Analytics-Based Performance Management - an advisory firm in Raleigh North Carolina - for a Thought Leadership podcast on this topic. We discussed Customer Lifetime Value and how to view customers – not only as profitable or unprofitable to a business – but similar to investments for a business like in an equity stock portfolio. The objective from a shareholder’s view is increase the return on investment from the customers. Gary has written a dozen books on Enterprise Performance Management, Activity-Based Costing, Quality Management and more.

Many of you likely already have a firm grasp on the concepts of measuring and reporting profitability, but may be less familiar the concept of Customer Lifetime Value. Gary defined it for us this way: “Customers and consumers pass through life cycle stages. For example, teenage girls become young adults, then mothers, and so on. At each stage, their consumer needs change. Each type of consumer’s future profit potential needs to be understood based on which stage in their life-cycle they are. The marketing and sales functions have begun exploring what is basically a math equation that calculates Customer Lifetime Value in monetary terms. The equation is intended to measure the future potential level of profitability of a customer or consumer to a supplier.” In essence, Customer Lifetime Value is a forward-looking view of shareholder wealth creation possibilities.



So how are these calculations different from customer profitability calculations, such as from last month or last year? Gary explained that most profitability measures are historical and do not consider the products’ and customers’ prospective profit contribution. Customer Lifetime Value math is trickier, because it also considers the probability of losing some customers (or churn). In addition, the calculation of future streams of revenue and their associated costs, which would include the net present value of discounted cash flows, are taken into consideration. This involves time value of money principles and math that considers both the timing of future cash inflows and outflows, as well as the weighted average cost of capital. A lot to think about when considering Customer Lifetime Value!

Customer classifications come into play as well. Some customers are high maintenance types with substantial demands on a supplier and some are low maintenance - often referred to as demon customers and angel customers., The substantial costs-to-serve incurred below the product gross profit margin line (i.e., channel, marketing, sales, and customer service costs) for high maintenance customers obviously erodes profits. But Gary explained that understanding the amount of the cost-to-serve for each customer is very important. A shift is needed from being product-centric to customer-centric. Suppliers need to understand the unique preferences of and differentiated services for each customer, as well as different distribution channel expenses to service their existing customers, and desirable, prospective customers to acquire.

So how does this affect spend by the suppliers? According to Gary, the key is to spend “the next dollar” on consumers who will most likely generate a relatively higher incremental increase in sales relative to the incremental expense to “lift” those sales. And this analysis should focus only on the impact of interventions with consumers independent of how the consumer might increase their volume of purchases from a supplier simply due to their progression through their life cycle.

I highly recommend listening to the entire podcast as we covered a lot more content in the interview. But the long and short of it is that suppliers must consider Customer Lifetime Value when understanding profitability to get a complete picture and determine which best actions to retain and grow profits from consumers. They must view customers as an investment – the financial return on customer – and not just a short term gain.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.

Thursday Jul 11, 2013

Oracle’s Business Analytics Customer Value Index Program – Part 1

To learn more about how Oracle customers perform Business Analytics processes (which includes Enterprise Performance Management, Business Intelligence and more), we launched the Oracle Business Analytics Customer Value Index (CVI) program in 2011, through which we collect valuable business process information from our customers, and share the results with them. This article will be the first in a series to share with you some of the results from each subject area.


Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting


The first subject area being studied is Enterprise Planning, Budgeting and Forecasting. Our interim results, presented here, reflect the first 130 completed surveys of which approximately half use Oracle Hyperion Planning. Here is what we found out. Of the total population of members (those with and without Oracle Enterprise Planning solutions):

+
63% perform monthly forecasting
+
40% perform rolling forecasts
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63% perform quarterly forecasts
+
33% perform event-based forecasting (or re-forecasting)
+
59% perform driver-based planning and/or forecasting

The use of rolling forecasts has been steadily increasing each year and driver-based planning is also up significantly from previous years. Both of these processes have been shown to improve accuracy in forecasting and planning. One reason for the increase in organizations using rolling forecasts might be attributable to having efficient software to enable the process. For example, of the companies that now use Oracle Hyperion Planning, 79% of them did NOT perform rolling forecasts prior to implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning. It is a complex process made easier by capable software.

There was also a notable drop (31% fewer FTEs)  in the amount of administrative time needed for the budgeting and planning process for those members that adopted Oracle Hyperion Planning.  In addition, organizations with Oracle Hyperion Planning spent 38% less time per month in manual processes supporting monthly forecasts than they did prior to adopting the solution. Again, having capable software helped create a more efficient process.

In our survey, although Oracle Hyperion Planning is the solution of choice for budgeting (59%), forecasting (50%) and rolling forecasts (46%), spreadsheets still play a part for some companies for forecasting (18%) and rolling forecasts (25%). While the choice of using spreadsheets for these important processes may be acceptable for small companies, it can prove troublesome or even detrimental for medium, large and very large companies. Large and complex spreadsheets, broken links, dependency on the creator of the spreadsheet, and errors due to manual data entry and formula changes all contribute to the potential challenges faced from using them for these purposes. These results are not shocking as spreadsheets have been around for a long time, but they do confirm that organizations are slow to move away from spreadsheet technology for these important processes.

According to our survey, spreadsheets are also being used often for workforce planning (38%) labor costing (43%) and operational planning (39%). Although these numbers are reasonably low, they show that there are still a significant number of companies using them for very important processes that contribute significantly to accuracy in planning, budgeting and forecasting. This is troubling as disconnected spreadsheets can lead to more fragmentation in the planning process. Another significant change our customers experienced after implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning was that of the percent of time they spent in gathering data to analyze versus time spent actually analyzing the data.



Figure 1: Time to Gather and Analyze Data


From the graph it is apparent that, on average, our customers experienced a 23% decrease in the time it took to gather data and a 35% increase in time now available and used to analyze data, after implementing Oracle Hyperion Planning.

Although the average change for some of these processes may not seem overwhelmingly significant, average numbers tend to understate some of the dramatic changes individual organizations experience. For example one Oil and Gas company told us that they had experienced an increase in their forecast accuracy from 50% to 90% after adopting Oracle Hyperion Planning. A wholesale distribution company experienced a positive change in data gathering from 90% of their time to only 50% of their time leaving them with more time for valuable analysis. A Financial Services company experienced a 75% reduction in the time needed for administering their budgeting and planning process after adopting Oracle Hyperion Planning.

Stay tuned for more results in Part 2.

If you would like to become a member of the Oracle Business Analytics Customer Value Index Program (a free program), please contact me at toby.hatch@oracle.com. Please keep in mind that you must be an Oracle customer to become a member, however you do not have to be using any specific Oracle software to become a member.

To learn more about Oracle Business Analytics including EPM and BI, click here.

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