Tuesday Apr 29, 2014

Interactive,Visual Close Analytics for Compelling Investor Relations

Technology is changing the way we do business, and where we do business. The introduction of interactive, visual-style, on-the-go or mobile analytics is certainly helping busy people get what they need when they need it. I had the pleasure of interviewing Mitch Campbell, a Senior Principle in Oracle’s global Business Analytics Product Group on this topic.  In this Oracle Thought Leadership podcast, he shared some amazing information about how business analytics has not only become mobile, but more interactive and visual as well.

Mitch impressed upon our audience that the emphasis on visualization is stronger now than it ever has been. Mitch explained, “Traditional BI and EPM companies have had to adapt to new types of users, new levels of complexity, and new requests for integration to systems that never have been integrated before to get a full management reporting view of things. There have also been many small companies arrive onto the scene pushing desktop visualization, and finding their niche. I don’t look at them as an analytic threat to Oracle, in fact, we have learned a lot from what they offer and the response they get in the marketplace and have applied it to our new product capabilities. We have improved what we do significantly when we consider our approach to analytics and delivering easy self service applications for all sizes of user communities, with new options, new visualizations, and fast creation of content”.

Consumers of Business Analytics are becoming a lot more sophisticated, and Oracle has evolved analytics to keep up with that sophistication by providing tools to help the user build whatever they need whenever they need it. “Oracle is known for products that work for an enterprise, and the analytic focus has always been there,” said Mitch, “but now, we see the need for departments and individuals to be more self service, more in need of interactive analytics. In turn we have changed our business process to a more balanced approach in R&D to meet the needs of the broader user community. I like to say that Oracle can meet the needs of the enterprise, the department, and the individual.

But how can business users continue to analyze and make decisions on-the-go? Mitch explained that the trend towards mobile platforms is one of the main drivers in EPM and BI, and is a perfect example of how Oracle has changed its business process. Oracle develops and releases software for different mobile devices, and that development is considerably quicker than for traditional devices like laptops or PCs. Typically, 6-8 weeks instead of months/years. Mitch elaborated, telling us that mobile users have come to expect this development pace, and they expect simple to use interfaces, fast performance, and great visualizations. Oracle typically adds new features, charts and visualization capabilities in each rapid release to meet user expectations – which is much faster than they have done in the past.




Who might use mobile interactive business analytics? In short, many people. Mitch gave our audience a great example - many companies are posting investor relations information on their websites, mainly in the form of static annual and quarterly reports. Further, the reporting available is typically Income Statements, Balance Sheets, and Cash flow reports. Public sector cities like Boston and New York are posting performance metrics on their website, and giving access to everyone. Mitch posed the question, “What if corporations start looking to meet the new expectations of today’s users and begin providing analytics in some new forms? What if instead of static 10Ks and 10Qs, companies provide easy visualization and interactive analytics?” Mobile access to this information would mean access for phones and tablets too. We both agreed that this new access for investors should be free and easy to navigate so there are no barriers for investors to access or download it.

What might investors expect to see? Mitch suggested that the investor experience would be much more like an interactive application with tabs and visualizations that quickly paint a picture for performance. “We could include things that take a standard report to the next level, like visually explaining the annual report.” For example, make the report “drillable”. Show revenues broken into different categories. Or perhaps take footnote disclosures and visually show them in business categories. This type of reporting does a much better job of showing the focus of a company. “With this interactive analysis, we can also include commentary, trends, and even some directional forecasting that give insight into strategy,” said Mitch. It would be possible to show 10 year revenue growth, year over year analysis, and the ability to allow some controls to – say – “take out a bad quarter”. This would enable investors to see growth trends, when all but one quarter is good, and companies would be able to explain it much better with a visualization to show what is typical for them.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about BI and BI Mobile, click here

Monday Oct 28, 2013

Taking Your Business Scorecard Golfing

Our workplace world is definitely changing. Not only are we taking work home, but we are working during odd hours in some very strange places.  I had the pleasure of interviewing Jacques Vigeant, Product Strategy Manager for Oracle Business Intelligence and Enterprise Performance Management, on a Podcast, and he enlightened me about how our mobile devices and business scorecards are enabling us to be more accountable and keep a watchful eye on business – even while on the golf course.

Business scorecards have been around for many years - so I asked Jacques if he felt they had changed significantly due to technology. His answer was, “Yes, and no.”  Jacques agreed that scorecard enthusiasts are still passionate about executing the company strategy and monitoring Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but scorecards and Business Intelligence (BI) as a whole have changed.  He explained that five to six years ago, people did BI work at the office and, for the most part, disconnected from their computer and workplace when they went home – with the exception of checking email and making a phone call or two. But now, that is no longer the case. People are virtually always connected with work and, more importantly, expect their BI and scorecards to be ‘always on,’ regardless of whether they are at their desk or somewhere else.

Basically, the BI paradigm has changed from a 'pull' model, where employees are at their desks querying or pulling information from the system, to a 'push' model where employees expect their BI and scorecard systems to reach out (or push information) to them when there is something of note to learn or something on which they need to take action.

I found this very interesting. However mobile devices do have their limitations with respect to screen sizes – does it really make sense to look at your strategy/scorecard on tiny devices? What kind of scorecard activities can you really expect to be able to do? Jacques’ answer was very logical. “When you think of a scorecard, it is really comprised of an organization of KPIs that are aligned with the strategic objectives of your company. KPIs are the heart of how you will execute your strategy. So, if you decompose that a little more, each KPI is well defined with the thresholds that you should keep an eye on and who is responsible for them. When we talk about scorecarding on a phone, we aren’t talking about surfing the strategy and exploring the strategy map like we do on the desktop. In a scorecarding context, we use the phone more as an alerting mechanism or simple monitoring device for your KPIs.”

Jacques gave a great example of an inventory manager who took part of an afternoon off to go golfing before winter finally hit, and while on the front nine holes, his phone vibrated. His scorecard was alerting him that the inventory levels for one of the products was below some threshold that he had set.  From his phone, he had set up three options within Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM) for this type of situation:

  1. Contact the warehouse manager directly by phone and work it out (standard phone function)
  2. Tap/hold the KPI and add an annotation to the KPI in OSSM using the dictation capabilities of the phone and deal with it more fully when he gets back to the office
  3. Tap/hold the KPI and invoke a business process from OSSM to transfer product from another warehouse with higher stock levels to the one that needs it 



Being on a phone should still give you options to quickly deal with situations as needed, but mobile phones are not designed for nor should try to replicate the full desktop experience.

We covered other interesting subjects in the interview, including how Oracle is keeping pace with mobile innovation and new devices such as Google Glasses, Galaxy Gear, Pebble Watches and more, and how Oracle is handling mobile security– which is great news for our mobile workforce.

To listen to the entire Podcast, click here.
To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management, click here.



Thursday Jun 13, 2013

Three Technologies CFOs Need to Know About

Big Data, the cloud and mobile computing are reshaping the office of the CFO. 

Today’s fiercely competitive global economy demands more from finance organizations than ever before. In addition to fast and accurate planning and forecasting, finance is being challenged with managing growing data volumes, evolving regulations and compliance requirements, and the need to deliver real-time insights to senior staff. Progressive CFOs and finance executives are increasingly leveraging transformative technologies to enhance the effectiveness of their organizations—driving new efficiencies, innovation and a competitive advantage in the business.

Click here to read an article I recently wrote for Business Finance on this topic.   

The article examines three technologies transforming finance—Big Data, the cloud and mobile computing—and how the office of the CFO can incorporate these technologies to better forecast and plan for profitable growth, report with confidence and accelerate business value for the organization.

Let me know what you think!  Thanks. 

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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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