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Four more questions for Farhana Alarakhiya
Delaney Turner 270002T14M firstname.lastname@example.org | | Tags:  ibmsoftware farhana_alarakhiya analytic_applications spss tm1 cfo_study cognos ceo_study
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Farhana Alarakhiya is Director of Analytic Applications for IBM Business Analytics software. The last time we spoke, she talked about the specific value of IBM Cognos Analytic Applications. Here, she puts an industry-specific lens on that value and brings us up to speed on integrating the Apps with other components of the IBM Business Analytics software portfolio.
In our last conversation, you mentioned that a critical value of IBM Cognos Analytic Applications is their ability to create a decision-making continuum across an enterprise using a common analytic model - one that's pre-built and allows for functional and cross-functional insight into performance. How does this value apply to different industries and their associated management processes?
Let's look at the commonalities first. There's a fundamental correlation between decision making – its accuracy and relevance to strategic and operational priorities – and the level of insight executives and their managers can reflect upon to drive value within their organizations. This year's IBM Global CEO Study reported that top-performing organizations are 54 percent more likely than others to make rapid decisions. Further, this year's IBM Global CFO Study shows that organizations with a high degree of insight had 33 percent more revenue, 12 times greater profitability and 32 percent better return on their investments. That's why organizations in every industry want to accelerate their decision-making. They know it's key to their competitive advantage.
What we argue is that organizations need a common analytic foundation from which to consolidate operational insight either within a business function or across several connected ones. If they build that foundation using our Analytic Applications, they can accelerate decision-making across their enterprise and align actions with fact-based insights into both operating opportunities and risks. More importantly, because this model is highly adaptable, they can modify the analytic model to the unique operating characteristics of their industry.
This seems very high level – say an ideal conversation with a senior executive. If you were to corner an IT person in an elevator, say a director of BI, what three things would you say to make the case for our Analytic Applications?
My pitch boils down to three factors: time, accuracy and cost. First, I’d ask them this how long it takes to respond to ad hoc reporting requests from their business users. Second, I’d ask them whether they have any control over the accuracy and delivery of those insights to their different stakeholders. Third, I’d ask them how much it costs to build, implement and manage a reporting and analytic environment that would consolidate their various data sources. In a nutshell, I'd say that our Analytic Applications can give them insights into operational performance quickly and cost-effectively; that they deliver ready-made analytics based on a common business model, and that they can draw information from multiple systems to allow for an accurate view of performance across the enterprise.
After that, I'd encourage them to read our white paper .
What are some of the overarching business and IT performance pains of your customers?
I don’t distinguish between IT and business stakeholders. IT serves the business. And our job as vendors is to help make the business overall be more efficient and effective. Full stop.
In general, though, there are some recurring themes that organizations do struggle with. At a basic level, these include the need for accurate insight into performance, particularly where there are multiple transaction systems involved. Left unchecked, these create fractured and siloed sources of information that leave people dependent on error-prone spreadsheet formulas or moonshine-like ad hoc reporting.
The actual subject matter could be simple, like a consistent analysis of headcount or more complex, such as average days sales outstanding trending. But consolidating information into a reliable, consistent source of insight and providing insights into performance is a critical starting point, regardless of the core business problem, With our Analytic Applications, we can do that quickly and cost-effectively.
Some organizations may need more effective controls in their decision-making. For example, they may need more effective controls around the governance of working capital, which would drive the need for deeper analytics for more effective controls around cash flow.
Lastly, decision-making alignment. I mentioned the IBM CEO study earlier. Here’s another critical finding: over 50 percent of organizations manually produce operational metrics. Another 55 percent aren't satisfied with their operational planning and forecasting analytical capabilities.
Finance and other business functions often share strategic goals and objectives, as well as the associated performance metrics. What’s increasingly needed is a common, cross-functional analytic capability that can identify performance say between accounts payable and spend in procurement.
In our last interview, you mentioned efforts to more closely couple IBM Cognos TM1 and IBM SPSS software with the analytic applications. What’s the progress on this?
Progress has been excellent. We've finalized a standard implementation guide to integrate our applications with IBM Cognos TM1. Our value proposition is that organizations need a common analytic and planning solution that synchronizes their ability to assess, forecast and act upon identified risks and opportunities – either globally or locally – to improve financial and operational performance.
Let’s take Sales as an example. By combining our sales application and TM1, sales executives and operations can assess historical sales cycle performance and examine “what if” scenarios to determine a course of action that would allow for the reconciliation of sales plans and their execution. This would help Sales align and modulate strategy and measure execution effectiveness in perpetually changing markets using a common analytic and planning foundation. In the later half of this year, we’ll have more details on our efforts to couple our Analytic Applications and SPSS.