Wednesday Feb 12, 2014

Strategic P&L Statements and Opportunities for Improvement in Retail

Do you have strategic profit and loss statements for your customers, stores, and stock keeping units (SKUs) or products? Having little experience with this type of statement before, I was very fortunate to have two experts join me for a discussion about how strategic profit and loss statements can make a significant bottom line impact for Retail companies. Mark Wright, Principal Sales Consultant for Oracle EPM Applications and Bart Stoehr, Senior Director of Product Strategy Development, both specialize in the Oracle Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management Product. Both have an amazing depth of experience to share on all matters pertaining to profitability and cost management practices.

To start, I asked Mark to describe shortcomings he has seen in Retail company management practices. Mark explained that for decades retailers have been tasked to improve shareholder value by making decisions based on statutory financial statements and rarely do these mandated statements represent strategic views that embody the business.  Marketing, sales and operations often have to recreate their financials to better serve their decision needs.  Mark offered that “financial” profit and loss statements are generated from ERP systems designed to meet statutory reporting requirements, not the needs of strategic executives. Transactions are recorded in accounting structures by division, department and account with little linkage to profit dimensions such as customer, product, and vendor. When a customer pays for a product, key hidden expenses such as labor, warehouse, transportation, vendor, etc., are recorded in unrelated and separate accounting formats. This lack of linkage and transparency can lead to incomplete, inefficient and sometimes bad decisions.

Mark told us about a company that he had worked with that completely changed their product strategic direction by switching from product and SKU gross margin management to strategic profit and loss statements. This change resulted in driving .5% to 2.5 % profit points to the bottom line!

Diving deeper into this subject area, Mark relayed that marketing executives want to know where to make money so they can plan advertising budgets.  Sales organizations focus more on who is buying so they can set sales targets and quotas. Operational managers focus on what and how so they can balance supply to demand. Merchandisers focus on store floors and aisles so they can plan.  Corporate level executives just want to know when so they can set profit expectations.  Everyone wants different views of profitability.



Mark offered a good example of how a mistake can be made from too little information. Merchandisers want to turn over high volume products but likely don’t understand the hidden costs associated with them such as import fees and distribution costs.  Sales may want to push high revenue products to high volume customers even though the customer may be unprofitable because they tend to buy massive loss-leading products. These are very conflicting agendas and objectives and will not lead to profitability.

Bart provided good insight as to how Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management can transform traditional profitability information into strategic profit and loss reporting, giving execs and others the information they need to make good decisions. “Imagine an executive in your company pulling up a dashboard that has four different points of view into the same profit number”, Bart said. Views such as customer, product, channel (i.e. store), and warehouse all tying to the same bottom line with each view showing a color coded profit graph with the most and least profitable members. Continuing the story, the executive then clicks on the negative portion of the product graph and it displays an independent strategic profit and loss statement showing revenue, discounts, rebates, vendor costs, warehouse costs, transportation costs, store activity costs, cogs and negative income - all fully loaded with transparency and linkage to profit drivers such as quantity, activities, allocations, and other inter-dependencies.  

That sounded like utopia for executives, but Bart kept going…Now imagine further drilling into the strategic profit and loss  report and getting details on the store, SKU, vendor, customer, sales person, zip code, store isle and other profit measures important to decision making. I was hooked!

Bart told our listeners that this is just the tip of the iceberg.  This type of tool can also address:

SKU rationalization
Inventory reduction
Vendor negotiations
Bulk & benchmarking
Customer targeted marketing
Market basket & behaviors; sales incentives
Pricing & policy
Cost plus margin and minimum orders
Capital expense alignment
Return on Investment (ROI) alignment
Operating Expense resource alignment
Capacity and process improvements

I was amazed at the power of strategic profit and loss statements for executives. So you really need to ask yourself, “Can my profit and loss statements do all this?"

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.
To learn more about Hyperion Profitability and Cost Management, click here.

Wednesday Aug 07, 2013

Forward Looking DC Courts Improves Processes and Sets the Bar in Managing Strategy and KPIs

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Smolianski, Chief Technology Officer for the District of Columbia Courts (DC Courts) about their five year strategic plan that they are successfully communicating and monitoring through the use of scorecards and dashboards. They are making fantastic progress in supporting their constituents and openly reporting progress on their plan. Following are some of the interesting points covered in our interview about DC Courts’ vision and how they are using Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management to attain that vision.

Peter began by giving our listeners a brief overview of DC Courts and why they are so unique. In summary, they are a federally funded organization whose judicial officers are confirmed by the President of the United States. They are a fully unified judiciary, which means that they have municipal, county, and state level courts all managed together. They handle probation, mediation, and marriage services within the courts - unlike many other U.S. court systems where such services are all completely separate. DC Courts has 1,500 employees, 150 judges, and processes about 150,000 new filings each year comprised of civil litigations, landlord and tenant cases, small claims, criminal, family, probate, tax cases, domestic violence, and more.

DC Courts is one of the very few courts that has implemented scorecards and has a publicly published 5 year strategic plan. Why is this so unique? “There is no legal requirement to publish a strategic plan,” said Peter. He then told us about the National Center for State Courts (NCSC), an organization that helps to define standards and measures for Trial Court and Appellate courts, including recommended performance management standards, best practices, and Key Performance Indicators. “Courts are not mandated or required to institute these standards,” he said. 




So why are they doing it? DC Courts Executive Office established the Office of Strategic Management to help them set, administer and monitor their strategic plan and related activities. The purpose of each 5 year plan is to improve court proceedings and processes. By reporting this to their constituents, they are demonstrating responsibility to constituents and also providing themselves with a structured way to improve, complete with accountability built in.
As publishing a five year plan and scorecard is unique in this field, I asked Peter to describe what parties were involved from DC Courts and where the data comes from?

Peter told us the following. “Research and Development is the group responsible for developing the measures and for conducting surveys [to get data]. The office of Strategic Management develops the strategic plan. It is responsible to provide the data and deliver reporting – in this case personalized dashboards with scorecard results included. And recipients of the results are responsible to enter data that is not available through other court or IT systems.” Peter also told us that an unexpected benefit was the ability to show scorecard performance on personalized dashboards for each of the executives. “This is a really welcome benefit to help each of the executives analyze and monitor performance of interest to them,” said Peter.

There is so much more to the interview, but my final question to Peter was about what he felt the #1 lesson learned was by DC Courts when they implemented Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management. His reply was very insightful. “Scorecards are a tool to implement what you have already built with respect to strategy and KPIs. You need to know what you have now and what you want to do in the future. The tool does not help you if you don’t have a strategy. Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management enables you to automate your approach. Either select the Norton and Kaplan Balanced scorecard framework or another approach, but you need to follow an approach to effectively execute your strategy.”

Great advice! DC Courts are making some great strides in setting strategy and executing on it, and are really setting the bar for other US Courts.

To listen to the entire podcast, click here.

To learn more about Oracle Scorecard and Strategy Management (OSSM), click here.

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.

Wednesday May 08, 2013

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.


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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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