“Get your house in order.” This expression is referenced everywhere. I hear politicians repeatedly using it: “Before we start talking new taxes or entitlement reforms we gotta get our house in order.” Sports figures too: “We had a great practice today but, before we think about competing for the division title, we gotta get our house in order.” Celebrities aren’t immune from invoking it either: “Like, I totally want to hit the party scene again but, since I like just got out of rehab, I like think I need to lay low and totally like get my house in order first. One more thing…do you know where I can get a drink around here?” Okay. Maybe that last one’s a stretch.
Relating this expression to the processes owned by the finance functions at corporations, the house that most often needs to get in order is the Close, Consolidate, Report & File process, or CCRF. The timeliness and accuracy in this process is pivotal for company survival. Still, many companies struggle with this process for many reasons. Some of these reasons are that businesses are still using multiple opaque and rigid systems lacking any integration capabilities to seamlessly align each of the activities like the required disclosures and governance of financial statement reporting. Also, and most frequently, there are poorly trackable and error-prone manual inputs or overrides to the data as spreadsheets and stand alone documents are often used in this process. A lot of companies are using out-of-date and misappropriated tools without any audit-able workflow management system. This time consuming, labor intensive approach leads to unnecessary delays completing the CCRF process in a timely and reliably accurate manner. As a result, there’s little trust from the business users that these performance results are indeed accurate. Therefore, the figures become largely ignored by the business users rendering them useless for business insight. This leaves the workforce normally relying on these results to help make their strategic decisions forced to act on their gut or intuition. Not good….and I haven’t even gotten into the ramifications of disclosing incorrect information to regulators or shareholders!
The Close, Consolidate, Report & File Process
FINANCE: LIKE THE MYTHOLOGICAL ATLAS THEY’VE GOT THE WEIGHT OF THE WORLD ON THEIR SHOULDERS BUT LACK THE MUSCLE TO HOLD IT UP
Finance departments are already overburdened with newfound regulatory, compliance, and financial reporting requirements not to mention new disclosure expectations and the forthcoming global XBRL initiative while being pushed to be more analytical and insightful about “what the data is telling them” in regards to critical business impacting activities like market analytics, customer profitability, predictive analytics, scena rio planning, etc. Yes, the rising water level of requirements falling under their purview shows no signs of abatement. Yet, empirical research backed up by the likes of The Hackett Group, APQC and the IBM Global CFO/CIO Studies, shows that these finance departments continue to shrink in size relative to revenue at a time when they should be growing. What’s wrong with this picture???
In summary, Finance is facingexternalpressures from the following:
Volatile and uncertain economy,
Compliance with new regulatory and financial reporting requirements means increased workloads,
New disclosure requirements and global XBRL mandates means more work within tight time frame,
while having to respond tointernalpressures from the following:
Evolving role of CFO and the Office of Finance
Need to liberate finance professionals from manual and complex processes
Executive management needs timely and accurate reports to respond to market opportunities in very short time
Changing Events & Regulations Since 1999
THE ANSWER: AUTOMATION THROUGH AN INTEGRATED SOLUTION
A controlled, automated, audit-able CCRF practice is required for finance to be doing the right things. Finance teams are re-engineering their financial close processes to individual close, consolidate, report & file activities. To manage and monitor these processes, they’re investing in integrated solutions that can automate these activities into a unified, secure solution. Implementing this integrated CCRF solution provides instant benefits by automating administrative tasks with embedded controls to allow finance to focus on analysis and other high-value activities. CCRF practices are no longer simply about closing the books, consolidating the data while running inter-company eliminations, minority interest calculations, and currency translations to come up with ‘the numbers’ before finally publishing them out on some financial reports. No, there’s additional disclosures and financial governance required. To get ahead of this one you’ve got to implement a CCRF system to manage it all else the levee will break and we know what happens then.
Find out more about how to automate this process because it’s not going to shrink in requirements. So, get that house in order or I’ll invite that celebrity I referenced earlier over to your house for dinner. :)
It's a conversation that's long overdue and if you’re at all interested in getting in on it, I strongly suggest adding a few sessions from the Social Media & Customer Analytics track at Business Analytics Forum. It’s a new track this year, and – full disclosure here – the one I’m most interested in covering. Social media activity is driving explosive growth rates in unstructured data. And whether you’re working for a restaurant chain, a fashion brand or global technology vendor - you need to make sense of it all if you're going to stay in the game. These largely technical sessions will help IT professionals understand our current offerings (including IBM Cognos Consumer Insight, IBM SPSS Modeler and IBM Coremetrics) and how business professionals can use them to create more targeted marketing strategies, build predictive models that reduce churn and that ultimately transform all that unruly data into actionable insights.
Like business intelligence, all over again
Your reasons for pursuing a social analytics strategy should be a lot like the ones you used to pursue business intelligence in the first place: too much data in too many places that take too long to report on, for too little insight. The only difference is that now, all the data lies on the other side of the firewall. And much like your first business intelligence deployment revealed opportunities to cut costs, boost revenue and manage risk, your social analytics deployment will help you build a strategy to analyze sentiment, identify influencers and turn customers' frowns upside down.
Predictive Social Media Analytics (Session BSC-1539): Graham Mackintosh and Olivier Jouve of IBM will show you how to proactively monitor and manage consumer-generated content about your brands, categories and products. You’ll see how to combine this information with customer data to inform marketing strategies and predictive models and to optimize campaigns.
Using IBM Cognos Business Intelligence and IBM Cognos Consumer Insight (Session BSC-2761): Christopher Wright will illustrate how to address all aspects of your social media investment, view historical, real-time and predictive information, perform scenario modeling and planning to investigate issues, and use real-time alerts, workflow and mobile applications to monitor the pulse of the business.
Watson Update: After Victory on TV’s Jeopardy! What Comes Next? (Session BSC-3556): Bernard Spang will provide an overview of Watson technology and show you how it relates to exciting initiatives in natural language analytics now and in the future.
While we're on the topic of social networks, don't forget to expand your own network in person while you're there:
if you can’t wait until October and would like a head start, why not sign up for our August 25 Webcast? It’s called “Making Chatter Matter: Monetizing Social Media Through Analytics.” It features Don Pepper and Graham Mackintosh and it will show you how to move from seeing social media as a “shiny object” toward an integrated element of your customer interaction strategy.
We’re less than two weeks away from the IOD Early Bird deadline of Aug. 31. Ready to register? Click here.
Remember the Tom Cruise and Colin Farrell movie, The Minority Report??? For those who don’t recall this movie it’s a science fiction thriller based in the year 2054 where Tom Cruise plays Captain John Anderton, the chief of the Washington, D.C. PreCrime police force. The movie’s other star, Colin Farrell, plays the Justice Department’s auditor in charge of evaluating the PreCrime unit’s strategy and tactics before the program goes nationwide. The PreCrime unit has been very successful having prevented any crime from being committed for over 6 years since its implementation apprehending criminals before they’ve committed their future crime based on what they call foreknowledge. In other words, this department has predictive insights into these future crimes allowing all in the community to sleep safe and sound knowing they’re being protected from the bad guys. (Look, I know there are multiple holes in this story (Think of the legality of a pre-crime arrest) but, it’s a movie, so you gotta seriously suspend your disbelief like in most movies.) Yes, I’m sure you’re thinking this is an extreme and unrealistic example of how predictive analytics can revolutionize the way things are done. Or, maybe this movie’s storyline isn’t that unrealistic???
Enter the Santa Cruz, California Police Department. Just like most police departments (and businesses for that matter) the Santa Cruz police department spends a majority of their time allocating their existing resources most effectively to produce the best bottom line results. These bottom lime results being fighting or preventing crime while protecting the safety of its community. Apart from identifying who the specific individuals are that will be committing these future crimes like was the case in the PreCrime unit in the movie, The Minority Report, the Santa Cruz Police Department is able to identify specific times and actual locations where crimes are most likely to be committed using their own set of predictive analytic capabilities. This allows them to proactively be there and wait for these crimes to unfold and swoop in before anyone or anything is put in harm’s way. They call it predictive policing which utilizes ‘Predictive Analytics’ to make better decisions about the future. Predictive analytics encompasses a variety of techniques from statistics, data mining and game theory that analyze current and historical facts to make predictions about future events – to identify patterns or likelihoods of afuture outcome – in this case, crime. Erica Goode of the New York Times says that, “Santa Cruz’s method (of predictive policing) is more sophisticated than most. Based on models for predicting aftershocks from earthquakes, it generates projections about which areas and windows of time are at highest risk for future crimes by analyzing and detecting patterns in years of past crime data. The projections are recalibrated daily, as new crimes occur and updated data is fed into the program.” Amazing.
Predictive policing is working so well that it’s being employed by other police departments around the nation. Besides it being an effective way to fight and prevent crime it’s a cost-effective and efficient way to leverage resources, especially in light of shrinking police departments trimmed by the global slowdown. Erica Goode goes on to say in her excellent article that, “efforts to systematically anticipate when and where crimes will occur are being tried out in several cities. The Chicago Police Department, for example, created a predictive analytics unit last year.”
Besides wanting to share this incredibly interesting story with you showing how far we’ve come as a society in leveraging data to make better decisions, I also wanted to use it as a way to illustrate how using predictive analytics to manage your organization’s resources (read make better decisions) based on knowing what the future will most likely look like applies to business and government just as well as in policing. Think about it. Why shouldn’t corporations employ a similar approach in how they run their businesses? And, Police departments aren’t stopping there. They’re now thinking about “Crime Forecasting” to understand future events to ensure they’re prepared for what this future will most likely require of them. The question is, where is your business on this predictive analytic path? Better, where is your competition?
Ever sat through a presentation and thought to yourself, “I have no clue what that person just said for the past 45 minutes!” It’s the ‘you lost me at hello’ problem. Between all of the business buzzwords, consulting jargon and vendor speak it’s at times difficult to comprehend what’s really important in all of that gobbley-gook presentation schtuff. Unfortunately, a subject like Financial Performance Management is susceptible to falling into that trap. I suppose Hollywood would be making movies about it if it was that entertaining a topic. Still, this doesn’t mean there’s nothing to it. I encourage you to read on and learn more about Financial Performance Management. It’s transforming the way business is run today creating a dynamic, knowledgeable, and nimble workforce with access to the right information to make smarter decisions everyday.
What I thought I would do is write a summary of what Financial Performance Management is, which is captured in this submission, and then in future updates I would breakdown each of FPM’s five components mucxh further one by one. So, here goes…
Ventana Research defines Financial Performance Management as, “The practice of managing the effectiveness and efficiency of Finance by aligning people, processes and systems to a common set of goals and objectives.” Ouch. That sounds nice and straight forward but I still have no idea what the heck it is. Essentially, Ventana is talking about unifying all practices (people, process, and technology) typically owned by the finance department to optimize the output of this function. Still, this doesn’t help much in explaining what the heck it is, does it??? Here’s an idea. Let’s do this….Let’s look at these core Finance-owned processes which comprise FPM. I think this will help explain things better.
Each of these 5 areas are integral to an organization’s sustainability and should be institutionalized as a single practice called FPM. The more seamless these processes work together the more effective not just the Finance function becomes but also the entire organization. Finance may own these practices but every function of the organization benefits from an FPM solution because when the FPM solution is deployed properly the workforce in marketing, sales, development, operations, finance, IT and the executive team are able to view critical information about how well the business, the competition, and the suppliers are performing while, at the same time, this information is being used to provide all of the compliance and regulatory filings necessary. Yes, a single version of the truth yielding benefits for your risk management practices, your forecasting practices, your profitability modeling and, of course, your corporate reporting requirements.
Here is a breakdown of the 5 key Finance-owned processes:
1. Close, Consolidation, Report & File
Includes processes like:
Corporate & Financial Reporting
Regulatory Filing (e.g. 10K/Q, XBRL)
2. Profitability Modeling & Optimization
Includes processes like:
Product, Market, Channel Analysis
3. Planning, Analysis and Forecasting
Includes processes like:
Revenue Planning and Forecasting
Expense Planning & Control
Capital & Initiative Planning
4. Performance Reporting & Scorecarding
Includes processes like:
Scenario modeling, what if analysis
Alerts, data exploration, drill-thru capability
Scorecards & dashboards
5. Governance, Risk & Compliance
Includes processes like:
Policy & Compliance
More to come on this subject in future blogs individually detailing each of the five areas of FPM.
Once again, IOD offers an abundance of learning opportunities to help you increase your product knowledge, sharpen your professional skills and get the information you need to solve problems or move your project forward. I've scanned the Business Analytics Forum Guide (BA Forum being a major component of IOD 2011) to highlight 10 ways you can come back from Vegas much better equipped to turn insight into action. Some of the opportunities are located in the EXPO, others are breakout sessions that you'll need to schedule in your Agenda Builder.
1. Play in the Usability Sandbox: Share your experience to shape product direction. Test-drive new prototypes and meet with our usability experts in small-group design review and feedback sessions. You'll also have the chance to vote on and prioritize use requirements. This year's sessions include Dashboarding (BGN-1545), Mobile BI (BGN-1549). Advanced Data Modeling (BGN-1550) and Social Networking Analytics (BGN-1554). See page 67 of the Business Analytics Forum Guide for a full list.
2. Learn to better navigate IBM Support: New
this year, our "Navigating IBM" drop-in area lets you talk one-on-one
with subject matter experts who can guide you through the programs,
processes, policies and systems you need to use for Support and
Training. We've geared these sessions to focus on increasing your
satisfaction with demonstrations and discussions focused on online
support and knowledge resources, searching and enrolling in training,
Web IDs and IBM Customer Numbers (ICNs) and using the support request
tool. You'll find it in the EXPO.
3. Drop in on our Demo Theaters: These
30-minute sessions help you lean more about topics that might not be
covered in full breakout sessions. Join our product managers as they guide you through new solutions and little-known
product features in IBM Cognos 10, IBM Cognos TM1, IBM SPSS Decision
Management and more.
4. Labs! Labs! Labs!
Our Hands-on Labs feature experienced professional instructors providing classroom-quality training. Each three-hour session takes you on a deep dive directly into a specific product to give you a greater understanding of its features and potential. Many of the nearly 20 sessions at this year's event were suggested by last year's attendees. Titles include Foundations of Predictive Analytics: IBM SPSS Statistics (BGN-3469), New Self-Serve Reporting Capabilities in IBM Cognos BI (BGN-3632) and Advanced Generated SQL Concepts and Complex Queries (BGN-3696). See page 63 of your Business Analytics Forum Guide for the full list and be sure to add these sessions to your Agenda Builder.
Our Products Lab lets you test drive our products at your own pace and on your own schedule with step-by-step instructions and direct input from product experts who are always on-hand. You'll find it in the EXPO and you can drop in any time.
Also in the EXPO, our Services and Education Lab lets you explore our training options, discover our new new approaches and work one-on-one with our consulting services team. Discover how to share your knowledge with your team back home with Web-based training courses, self-paced virtual classroom options, IBM Cognos embedded learning videos and instructor-led online training. Drop in whenever, no need to book.
5. Take advantage of pre-conference training: Get a head start on the conference with two full days of hands-on training specially priced for Forum attendees. This year's sessions include Professional Report Authoring (B51C9), Automated Data Mining (0ACG2), Data Management and Manipulation (0G5C9) and Authoring Reports with Multidimensional Data (B51C1). See page 18 of your Forum Guide for more.
6. Get certified for free: Save up to $600 by taking three IBM Software Certification exams at no charge, and take as many more as you'd like for 50 percent off the normal fee. Certification exams are available throughout the conference and a full list of certification exams is available here.
7. Boost your business leadership skills in our Business Leadership Forum: An industry-specific program for executives, managers and decision-makers. We've put together a rich curriculum of customer case studies, panel discussions and industry solution overviews focused on resolving key business challenges. Choose from 34 sessions exploring operational efficiency, customer and financial analytics, risk and compliance. Session titles include "How Banks Can Improve Customer-Centricity with Advanced Customer Customer Profitability Analytics" (LFM-2609), "Driving B2B Sales with Predictive Analytics" (LSA-2268), "Fighting Fraud in Government Services" (LGV-1999) and "Getting Business Value from IBM Watson" (LSA-3008). See page 54 of your Forum Guide for a full list.
8. Have lunch with your peers: Our "Birds of a Feather" lunches let you discuss your challenges, strategies and successes with people just like you in a relaxed and informal setting. This year's topics include BI and Cloud Computing, Professional Report Authoring, Predictive Analytics, Statistics and Support. Our Industry Lunches let you discuss the challenges you're facing and the strategies you're using to resolve them. Whether you're in Banking, Retail, Healthcare or Manufacturing, these lunches are also a great way to reconnect with friends and expand your network with new contacts.
9. Talk to Support: Schedule time with an IBM Cognos or SPSS technical product expert for 30 minutes of one-on-one attention to resolve your toughest technical challenges. These experts have deep expertise within and across our Business Analytics product portfolio, so nothing is off-limits. Just be sure to indicate the issue and/or product you'd like to discuss. Previous topics have included Integrating BI with Active Directory authentication, Recommendations for fail-over while building cubes and Predictive modeling tips, techniques and best practices.
10. Schedule a workshop: This year's event offers a wide range of in-person and interactive workshops. You'll work in small groups with experienced IBM subject matter experts to boost your Analytics Quotient (BAW-3805), explore a Business Intelligence Competency Center (BAW-3808), or become a Value Integrator in Finance (BAW-3807). A full list is on page 60 of your Forum Guide.
Books. There’s all genres. Business. Nonfiction, Fiction, History, Current Events, Biographies, Mysteries and on and on. Whatever the genre there’s nothing like a great book. They can entertain you, inform you of information you’d otherwise never know, challenge your thinking, and even change your life. Many people like to read so much that they’ll take on multiple books at a time each serving a different purpose: one, current events; another, fiction; a third, history; a fourth, humor, etc. I suppose the thinking is that depending on their mood they’ve got a book to satisfy that moment’s interest. If you’re in this camp then you know you can easily end up bouncing from book to book, day to day slowly chipping away at each one.
Sound familiar to anyone?
The only problem is that over time you end up adding more and more new books to the already ‘in progress’ collection. As more and more books are added to your bedside collection eventually as Robert Plant from Led Zeppelin sings, “when the levee breaks” you sheepishly put one unfinished book after the other back on the bookshelf because you can’t possibly ready all 20 or 30 books at once!!! At this point you’ve safely returned to your 3-books-at-a-time maximum only to repeat the overload cycle again in no time.
A funny and clearly harmless situation that happens to a lot of us. This is what can happen when someone is left to their own devices unchecked without any accountability. What if there were larger consequences for not completing these books? Maybe there were some higher priority books that needed finishing over others? Maybe one of the books was a library book or a borrowed book with a timeline associated with it? Maybe some books were started because they were more fun to read than the less interesting ones with a time sensitivity attached to them? Maybe one was for a book club where there was a shared interest in its completion so they reader could add value to the reading group? If any of these situations applied we are probably more likely to become extremely serious about one book over the other so we’re essentially prioritizing our reading. Again, a harmless example but I think it’s illustrative of the competing priorities we might have in our jobs too.
Well, why should it be any different when we’re talking about our job-related actions? We are constantly having to prioritize our most important tasks or objectives, both long and short term. If the organization places critical importance on certain goals and objectives whereas everything else is considered less critical wouldn’t the organization want to ensure the workers and the entire workforce is being measured against those goals and objectives on an ongoing basis so ‘every chapter is read’?
A common way to measure and monitor this performance is through the use of key performance indicators, or KPIs. A Key Performance Indicator is an industry word for a set of financial and non-financial measurements used by an organization to assess its success or the success of a specific activity in which it is engaged. A KPI is a business metric used to evaluate crucial factors to the achievements of a business objective for an individual employee of the company, a group of employees, or the entire organization. KPIs aren’t a one size fits all thing. They differ for every organization. For example, KPIs may be something like net revenue or some customer loyalty metric. In the case of the government, a KPI might be the unemployment rate.
A KPI allows an organization to monitor whether it is on track or not. KPIs serve to decrease the intricate nature of organizational performance to a small number of key indicators so as to make it more digestible for us. KPIs are used in our personal lives too. Think of a doctor measuring things like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, heart rate and our body mass index as important indicators of our overall health. KPIs we are trying to accomplish the same in the organizations.
Assigning the right KPI’s is less art and more science. A little tip for you…Be careful because what you’re measuring yourself and other individuals in the organization by is ultimately going to reflect how you all behave. For example, if a purchasing manager is being measured only by cost, they’re likely to start ordering in bulk and paying suppliers late. Good for the purchasing manager, bad for business. This is because the purchasing manager may have been ordering a lesser quality material, the inventory resulting from bulk ordering may outstrip any benefits from ordering in bulk, while the supplier relationships may suffer. Bad for business all the way around. The metrics by which people are measured drive their behavior so be careful what KPIs you select.
Selecting the Right KPIs
First, define the success criteria and then choose the best 5 KPIs which the employee will be measured. Involve the employee in question in the process of determining their KPIs. This is critical and will ensure there’s a feedback loop in place which is important as you might have missed a nuance that the employee can shed light on and, besides, you want the buy-in from the employee as the eventual KPI owner and a good way to get it is by collaborating with them about what the KPIs should be. From there the employee will look at ways they can influence those KPIs. If you do this correctly, KPIs can drive the behavior. As Peter Drucker said, “you can’t manage, what you can’t measure.” That said, establishing KPIs will provide that accountability necessary to empower your employees to do the right things and take ownership of them.
First, define your success measures. These might be, how well are we satisfying our customers? How well are we managing risk? …or innovating? …or managing our costs? Then, you will want to define the KPIs that make up that success measure. The KPI might be willingness to recommend, customer retention or loyalty. Those measures can be converted into metrics which can have goals attached and history for comparisons. Once assigned through a collaborative exercise between the individual, their management team, and perhaps an outside consultant they can drive behaviors that foster the team effort companies relish. The employee is most likely going look at the drivers that can effect their measurements and see where the other influencers are in these measurements. It can force greater collaboration among these groups with a sense of “team” that never existed before. Suddenly, programs will spring up to ensure those measures go in the right direction. This is what accountability and ongoing measurement of what’s important will ensure these individuals will focus on the right things and evaluate their priorities as they go about their jobs.
Take a deeper look at the impact of measuring and monitoring performance through KPIs. It can make a difference in getting everyone acting with purpose-driven intent not roving around rudderless.
Organizational discipline around doing the right things (read purposeful action) is critical to outperforming the competition. As Van Morrison sang on his excellent album The Philosopher’s Stone, it’s “not supposed to break down” but a lot of times achieving your goals, personal or professional, do break down because people inevitably get distracted by other non-essential projects because a lot of times they get distracted by doing the things they ‘like’ doing over others just to keep busy. Then, before you know it they’re putting that ‘must be completed book’ back on the shelf with still unread chapters.
Get started with this in your enterprise through small successes. Promote those successes and expand from there. Slow and methodical. If possible, address the most needy area of the business first.
Tim O’Bryan/IBMEmail: firstname.lastname@example.org://provenpractices.wordpress.com
1. Before saving the websheet, make sure Excel calculation mode is set to ‘Manual’.
2. Delete all Rows and Columns beyond the last used cell before saving. Excel does not do a good job in cleaning up and there is no point having web render more than it needs to. Use Excel’s Go To Last Cell feature to find the last used cell. If the Last Cell includes empty rows and columns, delete the unused ones.
3. Use the subsets in the view when creating the Activeform, especially on the rows. This will eliminate the need for Active Form to insert a hidden sheet with the element names.
4. Delete any Named references with #Ref in them, do an Excel find to see if there are any #Ref in cell formula, check for external links and change/delete
5. Keep SUBNM formula to a minimum
6. Dynamic subsets puts a lock on the cubes which the dimension is part of. Use MDX instead.
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It is recommended to test the content of the site in the lab, before making use in the production environment & use it completely on your risk.
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Wanted to write something, so chose to write something about Cognos BI, I am new to blogging so please be considerate if you fell the content is not great enough to read or something. These are something basic about Cognos BI Reports.
IBM Cognos is the world leader in business intelligence (BI) and performance management software for the enterprise. Cognos BI provides the capability to distribute reports and dashboards with personalized content for each recipient from a single report
nDistribute reports on-demand or based on a time or calendar-based schedule, events or an external trigger
nSchedule simultaneous or sequential batch reporting jobs for multiple output formats, destinations, and views
nSupports industry standard security authentication sources and data and communication protocols and encryption standards
nCognos 8 has a scalable, multi-tiered architecture:
Single API lets programmers customize , expose, or hide any BI capability using any programming language, e.g. Java, MS .Net, C, C+.
What if you knew tomorrow’s winning lottery ticket number? Imagine the possibilities. Quit your job? Travel the world? Buy that convertible Bentley you’ve always wanted? Addition to the house? Pay off those nagging debts? Think about the impact of knowing what a stock price will be next week, or knowing when your car is going to break down, or exactly when your roof is about to start leaking? Better, what about if you had early insight into your future health condition? Now, wait a minute! Something seems different here. With regard to the winning lottery ticket number that seems a lot more unpredictable than say, picking a stock or determining when your car is going to break down not to mention forecasting potential health concerns. It certainly is different.I’m sure you can guess the difference between predicting the winning lottery ticket number and the other examples. I’ll state it anyway. It’s because in these other examples we can draw from historical data, analytical research, individual’s input based on their experience, and a vast array of data to more accurately determine what is likely to happen. Once you know this information you can begin to do some planning for these possibilities or scenarios. Seems pretty logical, right? We know how much information is being captured today by companies about their customers, employees’s insights, internal operations and external market conditions that there’s obviously not a problem with lack of data to do this predictive analysis. Yet, in a lot of companies today this practice does not happen with regularity. Companies aren’t using their most valuable resources available for forecasting – their people and their data – to develop this in-house capability.
Look, I don’t need to tell you the advantages of knowing what’s likely to happen and how an organization can exploit this knowledge. If you’re an investment bank in 2006 and have a large amount of CDO’s and mortgage-backed securities on your books it might have been helpful to hear from these traders and other knowledgeable people in your operations that these speculative instruments were bound to go belly up. In hindsight the information was all there but there wasn’t a culture in place to gather this feedback. Prescience. Only helpful to the enterprise if there’s a platform in place to capture these insights and communicate them up the corporate tree so all are aware. Without this kind of enterprise forecasting platform the enterprise won’t die…not overnight that is. But, in the long run, it might suffer from multiple missed opportunities which could lead to a slow death by a 1,000 cuts.
The more unbiased participation you can glean from the relevant stakeholders and knowledge experts the more likely you’re going to be able to predict what will likely happen. The key is reaching out into your workforce across functional areas, remote operations, corporate support units, to gather feedback as far out into the future as they can most accurately predict with some likelihood which can then be leveraged by business unit managers, executives and other stakeholders to make decisions NOW based on this feedback. If you know something’s likely to happen in the future, say a hurricane, are you going to remain in your home if your home is in the hurricane’s direct path? No, of course not. You’re going to do everything you can to save all of your earthly possessions – maybe even your home, if possible – and get out of there. You’re acting now. Not waiting for the day of the hurricane to do something about it. This is the basis for business forecasting.
Only in obtaining honest, unbiased feedback from your workforce will you be able to trust this information to take action on it. If it’s not unbiased – meaning the figures that are produced from this effort were top-down dictated (think sales manager telling their sales rep what their next quarter’s sales figures MUST be vs. what this sales rep believes the figures WILL MOST LIKELY be – it ends up with little use for decision making. It becomes a performance contract.
This is not your mother’s forecast. You should not be repeating the same process you’ve gone through in your annual budget cycle. This forecast process has a different intention (insights for decision making) than the budget (annual objectives typically tied to performance contracts) and therefore needs to be designed and administered differently than the budget. With a forecast, benefactors of this process include more than just the executive management team but also the actual contributors to the forecast and their managers. This is because there’s now a formal means of submitting honest and real feedback about what’s really coming. Managers can then take that information and have a real discussion about the difference between what the direct report said was likely to happen and what the targets are. That gap between the two is where the real golden nugget of value exists in delivering a forecast. This changes the conversation from “this is your target, now go get it done” to something like “your targeted number which we captured in the annual budget is different than your newly forecasted number for the same thing…let’s discuss this difference and see how/if we can make up the shortfall”.
Think of the Titanic and the benefits of an early detection system. Would it have been helpful to identify that fatal iceberg well in advance of its arrival??? Duh. It was later learned that the captain of the Titanic saw the hulking iceberg well before the actual impact but, because of the sheer size of the Titanic and how much open sea was needed for it to veer off course, it was too late to veer away. This is just like your business. If the Titanic knows that it can only change course with at least 500 yards of open sea in front of it then the captain should at least be forecasting and re-forecasting in increments of 500 yards because that’s the space it needs to react. Otherwise, we know what can happen. Your business forecasting time horizon and the frequency which you update the forecast, or re-forecast, should be planned similarly.
Other related resources:
Execution: The Discipline of Getting Things Done by Larry Bossidy & Ram Charan
Implementing Beyond Budgeting by Bjarte Bogsnes
Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip & Dan Heath
Lastly, don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. There’s no simple way to go about doing this right. Every company is different with its own politics and culture. The key is to get started with some small wins and build from there. I’d suggest you start in an area of the business that could benefit from a forecast more than others. What department needs the most help? Partner with IT and/or Finance depending on where you sit in the organization and make it happen. Get a quick win and expand. Baby steps.
1. If you write a book about analytics, they’ll make a movie about you. It may even star Brad Pitt: For the second year in a row, the event’s keynote speakers are co-authors of a famous book about analytics. Last year, the unlikely duo of “Dubner and Levitt” recounted their insights from the world of Freakonomics. Hollywood made that book into a documentary. This year, IOD welcomes Billy Beane and Michael Lewis of Moneyball fame. Beane, you may recall, was the general manager of the perennially cash-strapped Oakland A’s baseball team who found a new (and controversial) way to win by analyzing player statistics that other teams both overlooked and undervalued. A bestselling author, Lewis transforms a discussion about sports stats into an exploration of the nature of talent and how to identify it to maintain your competitive edge. Hollywood made Moneyball into a movie, too. Here's the preview:
3. There are precisely 46 days left to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount: Actually, it’s less than that. Take away the 12 weekend days when you’re unlikely to be at your desk, there are in fact 34 days. Of course, you can register after Aug. 31, but why pay more? Click here for registration info.
4. You can save another $100 off your registration with a single tweet: Yes, it is just that simple. Follow @IODGC2011 and tweet with the hashtag #IOD11 and we’ll send you a code through direct Twitter message (That is, if you’re OK with us following you as well).
5. You can get IBM-certified for free: Take up to three IBM software certification exams at no charge and take as many more as you’d like at half-price. You’ll save $100 per exam and come home with certificates suitable for framing.
6. Information On Demand boasts IBM’s largest EXPO. Explore more than 300 exhibitors, meet with IBM experts and see hands-on demonstrations to see what’s possible with our software, get answers to your toughest questions and try the latest products that until now you’ve only heard about. There's lots more about the EXPO here.
7. It’s not just for Business Analytics:Information on Demand 2011 is also home to Information Management and Enterprise Content Management Forums, with in-depth introductions to IBM solutions for data management, enterprise content management, information integration, master data management and data warehousing. These capabilities are fundamental to successful analytics deployment, so be sure to attend some of their breakout sessions or demo peds as well.
8. It’s even better when you bring your team: Attend with your colleagues to maximize your learning and professional networks. Divide and conquer when you can’t decide between sessions. See more of the EXPO and get more of your team excited about what’s possible with IBM solutions. Collaborate on alibis if necessary. Plus, sign up six of your colleagues and the seventh conference pass is on us! Contact the IOD 2011 Event Team for more information on our company pass discounts.
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