Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

Spend Management is More Effective with Software and Cards

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 30, 2022 3:00:00 AM

The term "corporate spend" usually refers to the incidental but still significant outlays organizations make to support operations. Especially in nonmanufacturing industries, purchases of indirect goods and business services – such as computers, office supplies, furniture and services – as well as travel and entertainment can represent a significant percentage of total costs. Technology has evolved to the point where executives – especially the chief financial officer – need to take an overarching approach to corporate spend that utilizes technology to tighten controls, deepen visibility into expenditures, increase productivity and reduce process frictions. Spend management software and corporate spend cards – either physical or virtual – offer a means of achieving spend management objectives. This is part of a broader trend to digitizing outlays: I assert that by 2025, more than two-thirds of organizations will be using spend management software and corporate cards to achieve greater control and increased efficiency.

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Topics: ERP, Financial Performance Management (FPM), digital finance

The Central Ledger: Restructuring Accounting with Technology

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 22, 2020 3:00:00 AM

Sometimes it takes a while for technology to fundamentally change how work is done. That’s because several innovations usually have to come together before a transformation can occur. For instance, Karl Benz created the first practical motorcar in 1885, but consumers would have to wait until the 1920s for the modern automobile. Computerized accounting systems originated in the 1950s but it’s only now that technologies have evolved and come together to fundamentally change how work is done.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, close, closing, CFO, controller, Financial Performance Management, ERP and Continuous Accounting

News from the 2019 Infor Innovation Summit

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 14, 2019 7:00:00 AM

Infor recently held their Innovation Summit at Infor corporate headquarters in New York. At this annual event, they spend a good deal of time talking about progress on current initiatives and the exciting parts of the development roadmap.  A key focus this year was AI and machine learning with Infor Coleman.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Enterprise Resource Planning

Scout RFP is Reimagining Sourcing and Procurement

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 13, 2019 8:30:00 AM

Last week, Scout RFP held their 2nd annual user conference, Spark 2019. Scout’s software is designed to manage sourcing and procurement processes in companies. Even with a very targeted focus, there was one key aspect that stood out compared to all the other conferences I usually attend; Spark 2019 mainly focused on customer success with little time devoted to promoting the software itself. Strategically, this fits in with Scout RFP's customers and target audiences. Scout’s users represent a new breed of purchasing managers and executives. They’re looking to change the role of the purchasing department.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, FPM, Price and Revenue Management, procurement, Predictive Planning, sourcing, Scout RFP

Oracle’s Modern Finance Experience is Robotic

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 2, 2018 7:41:37 AM

After more than a decade of steady development, ERP systems today are changing fundamentally, facilitated by the availability of advances such as cloud computing, advanced database architecture, collaboration, improved user-interface design, mobility, analytics and planning. This was evident when Oracle recently held its third analysts-only ERP Cloud Summit in New York to coincide with its Modern Finance Experience event. Oracle now has an increasingly robust set of business applications that reside in the cloud and a growing list of live customers – large and midsize – from a range of industries across the world, both of which were offered as part of the here-and-now technology theme at the event.

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Topics: ERP, Machine Learning, Cloud Computing, Robotic Process Automation, Artificial intelligence, blockchain, AI

Warning: Software Now Mandatory for Lease Accounting

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 16, 2018 1:00:00 PM

Accountants love electronic spreadsheets – and for good reason. They’re a powerful and versatile personal productivity tool and just about everyone knows how to use them. Spreadsheets are the default software tool for accountants because they enable autonomy (you don’t need to ask IT for anything) and they’re free (so you don’t have to make a business case to authorize buying something). Some accountants humorously (but earnestly) invoke the line “you’ll have to pry this spreadsheet from my cold, dead hands” whenever somebody suggests eliminating them.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Continuous Accounting, FASB, IASB, CFO, controller, Financial Performance Management, Spreadsheets, Enterprise Resource Planning, ERP and Continuous Accounting, revenue recognition, Accounting, Lease Accounting, real estate, Lease Management, ASC842, IFRS16, leasing

Welcome to the Age of Robotic Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 29, 2017 5:24:36 AM

For several years, I’ve commented on a range of emerging technologies that will have a profound impact on white-collar work in the coming decade. I’ve now coined the term “Robotic finance” to describe this emerging focus, which includes four key areas of technology: Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), robotic process automation (RPA), bots utilizing natural language processing, and blockchain distributed ledger technology (DLT), each of which I describe below. Robotic finance will have a disproportionate impact on finance and accounting departments: I estimate that adoption of these technologies potentially will eliminate one-third of the accounting department’s workload within a decade.

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Topics: ERP, Machine Learning, close, Consolidation, Continuous Accounting, Reconciliation, CFO, Robotic Process Automation, blockchain, AI, natural language processing, Accounting, RPA, bots, voice automation

Kinaxis Kinexions Advances Supply Chain Value for Customers

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 23, 2017 8:52:40 AM

From my perspective, supply chain management (SCM) and sales and operations planning (S&OP) are two of the most underappreciated disciplines of modern corporate management. Properly applied, they can improve performance and competitiveness by increasing customer satisfaction and reducing costs. A combination of more capable information technology with advances in operations research and analytics has made managing supply and demand chains potentially more impactful by making them more flexible and adaptable to market conditions. Consequently, companies can enhance profitability, reduce working capital and improve customer satisfaction by providing more reliable service.

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Topics: ERP, Kinaxis, Supply Chain Planning, Analytics, SCM, S&OP, Sales and Operations Planning, warehouse management, purchasing, inventory management

Country-by-Country Reporting Challenges Tax Departments

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 6, 2017 11:13:58 PM

In 2013, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a report titled “Action Plan on Base Erosion and Profit Shifting” (commonly referred to as “BEPS”), which describes the challenges national governments face in enforcing taxation in an increasingly global environment with a growing share of digital commerce. Country-by-country (CbC) Reporting has developed in response to the concerns raised in the report. To date, 65 countries (including all members of the European Union but not the United States) are signatories of the multilateral competent authority agreement establishing CbC reporting.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, audit, finance transformation, LongView, Tax, Business Analytics, Oracle, CFO, Vertex, FPM, BEPS, tax department, tax planning

SAP Leonardo for Finance: When AI Ain’t Enough

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 1, 2017 10:20:36 AM

Fra Luca Pacioli, a 15th-century Franciscan friar living in what’s now Italy, is credited with codifying double-entry bookkeeping, which is the foundation of accounting. Pacioli, a polymath, was well acquainted with his contemporary and fellow polymath Leonardo Da Vinci. So, given they were at times collaborators, it’s fitting that one of the most important applications of SAP’s Leonardo technology will be in helping to disrupt finance and accounting organizations in corporations.

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Topics: ERP, Machine Learning, Office of Finance, Internet of Things, CFO, Artificial intelligence, AI, Leonardo

Financial Performance Management Software Vendors Face Challenges

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 13, 2017 12:05:24 AM

Ventana Research defines financial performance management (FPM) as the process of addressing often overlapping issues involving people, process, information and technology that affect how well finance organizations operate and support the activities of the rest of their organization. FPM software supports and automates the full cycle of finance department activities, which include planning and budgeting, analysis, assessment and review, closing and consolidation, internal financial reporting and external financial reporting, as well as the underlying information technology systems that support them.

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Topics: Performance Management, ERP, FP&A, Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Consolidation, Financial Performance Management, FPM

SYSPRO Advances with Collaboration and CRM

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 10, 2016 7:21:54 AM

SYSPRO is a 35-year-old software vendor that focuses on selling enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems to midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configurations to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby reducing the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, SYSPRO adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy. The company’s development efforts follow a design philosophy that balances its target customers’ need for software capabilities that are on par with larger enterprises with their resource constraints (chiefly limited financial resources and technical staffs).  Its software can be deployed on-premises or in the cloud.

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Topics: Big Data, SaaS, ERP, Governance, Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, close, Continuous Accounting, Analytics, CIO, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, CFO, CRM, CEO

Intacct Advances Subscription Billing and Reporting

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 9, 2016 7:32:11 AM

Intacct, a cloud-based ERP vendor focused on midsize companies, recently held its annual user group meeting. Two of its products that were covered in the keynote are worth noting. One, already available, enables companies to manage their order-to-cash process in a continuous fashion, from the time a salesperson begins to engage with a prospect to the time funds are collected. The other is a custom report writer, to be available in the first quarter of 2017, that will provide business users with the ability to create even complex reports from any data that resides within Intacct in a straightforward, interactive fashion that is similar to building reports in a desktop spreadsheet. The company also presented modules that will facilitate compliance with the new revenue recognition standards.

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Topics: SaaS, Sales, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, ERP, Human Capital Management, Marketing, NetSuite, Office of Finance, customer life cycle, Customer Service, billing software, asc 606

Oracle Adapts Business Applications Intelligently in the Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 31, 2016 9:30:14 AM

The annual Oracle OpenWorld user group meeting provides an opportunity to step back and take a longer view of business, industry and technology trends affecting the company. Last year, after listening to Larry Ellison’s and Mark Hurd’s vision for the future of IT, I wrote that Oracle had to continue shifting its focus to business applications because the accelerating shift to cloud computing would lead corporations to outsource their IT infrastructures, services and security to third parties. Eventually, this would substantially shrink the market for corporate IT departments, which has been Oracle’s strength. At this year’s conference the company demonstrated how it is applying its technology strengths to create a competitive advantage that it can apply to its broad business applications portfolio.

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Topics: Big Data, Performance Management, SaaS, ERP, Office of Finance, Analytics, Cloud Computing, PaaS, Digital Technology

Aria Enables Effective Recurring Revenue Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 7, 2016 8:29:47 PM

Aria Systems provides companies with software for managing subscription or recurring revenue business models. A recurring revenue business models includes three types of selling and billing structures: a one-time transaction plus a periodic service charge; subscription-based services involving periodic charges; or a contractual relationship that charges periodically for goods and services. Aria’s cloud-based software addresses key requirements of users in the marketing, sales, operations and accounting functions in this type of business.

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Topics: SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Customer Engagement, Customer Experience, ERP, Marketing, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Recurring Revenue, customer life cycle, Customer Performance, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Financial Performance, Business Performance Management (BPM), Sales Performance Management (SPM), billing software

Transforming Tax Departments into Strategic Entities

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2016 8:20:35 AM

The steady march of technology’s ability to handle ever more complicated tasks has been a constant since the beginning of the information age in the 1950s. Initially, computers in business were used to automate simple clerical functions, but as systems have become more capable, information technology has been able to substitute for increasingly higher levels of human skill and experience. A turning point of sorts was reached in the 1990s when ERP, business intelligence and business process automation software reduced the need for middle managers. Increasingly, organizations used software to coordinate activities as well as communicate results and requirements up and down the organizational chart. Both were once the exclusive role of the middle manager. Consequently, almost every for-profit organization eliminated management layers so that today corporate structures are flatter than they once were. Technology automation also eliminated the need for administrative staff to perform routine reporting and analysis. Meanwhile, over the course of the 1990s, the cost of running the finance department measured as a percentage of sales was cut almost in half as a result of eliminating staff and because automation enabled companies to scale without adding headcount. During the last recession, companies in North America and Europe once again made deep reductions to their administrative staffs, relying on information technology to pick up the slack.

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Topics: Sustainability, ERP, Governance, GRC, Human Capital, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, LongView, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Oracle, CFO, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, Thomson-Reuters multinational

ERP and Financial Performance Management Begin to Overlap

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 20, 2015 7:52:30 PM

The ERP market is set to undergo a significant transformation over the next five years. At the heart of this transformation is the decade-long evolution of a set of technologies that are enabling a major shift in the design of ERP systems – the most significant change since the introduction of client/server systems in the 1990s. Some ERP software vendors increasingly are utilizing in-memory computing, mobility, in-context collaboration and user interface design to differentiate their applications from rivals and potentially accelerate replacement of existing systems (as I noted in an earlier analyst perspective). ERP vendors with software-as-a-service (SaaS) subscription offerings are investing to make their software suitable for a broader variety of users in multitenant clouds. And some vendors will be able to develop lower-cost business systems to broaden the appeal of single-tenant hosted cloud deployments for companies that cannot adapt their businesses to share with other tenants or prefer not to.

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Topics: Performance Management, ERP, FP&A, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Reporting, Consolidation, Reconciliation, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Uncategorized, Financial Performance Management, FPM

Workday Financial Management Gains Momentum

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 2, 2015 11:28:28 PM

Workday Financial Management (which belongs in the broader ERP software category) appears to be gaining traction in the market, having matured sufficiently to be attractive to a large audience of buyers. It was built from the ground up as a cloud application. While that gives it the advantage of a fresh approach to structuring its data and process models for the cloud, the product has had to catch up to its rivals in functionality. The company’s ERP offering has matured considerably over the past three years and now is better positioned to grow its installed base. Workday recently added Aon, the insurance and professional services company, to its customer list (becoming its largest customer to date) and reported that its annual contract value (ACV - the annualized aggregate revenue value of all subscription contracts as of the end of a quarter) has doubled since the second quarter of this year, albeit from a low base. This is an important milestone because for years the company’s growth has come from the human capital management (HCM) portion of the business, not financials. Workday has around 160 customers for its financials (more than 90 of which are live) compared to more than 1,000 customers for HCM.

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Topics: Microsoft, SAP, ERP, FP&A, Human Capital, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, CFO, Data, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct, Spreadsheets

Evolving to the Next Generation of ERP Systems

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 29, 2015 1:12:02 PM

The enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is a pillar of nearly every company’s record-keeping and management of business processes. It is essential to the smooth functioning of the accounting and finance functions. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP also can help plan and manage inventory and logistics. Some companies use it to handle human resources functions such as tracking employees, payroll and related costs. Yet despite their ubiquity, ERP systems have evolved little since their introduction a quarter of a century ago. The technologies shaping their design, functions and features had been largely unchanged. As a measure of this stability, our Office of Finance benchmark research found that in 2014 companies on average were keeping their ERP systems one year longer than they had in 2005.

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Topics: Big Data, Microsoft, SAP, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, FP&A, Human Capital, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Reconciliation, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, IBM, Oracle, Uncategorized, CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct

Oracle Must Pivot to Business Applications

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 5, 2015 10:18:30 PM

Whatever Oracle’s cloud strategy had been the past, this year’s OpenWorld conference and trade show made it clear that the company is now all in. In his keynote address, co-CEO Mark Hurd presented predictions for the world of information technology in 2025, when the cloud will be central to companies’ IT environments. While his forecast that two (unnamed) companies will account for 80 percent of the cloud software market 10 years from now is highly improbable, it’s likely that there will be relentless consolidation, marginalization and extinction within the IT industry sector driven by cloud disruptions and the maturing of the software business. In practice, though, we expect the transition to the cloud to be slow and uneven.

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Topics: Microsoft, Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, SAP, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Human Capital, Mobile Technology, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Customer Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, IBM, Oracle, Business Performance Management (BPM), CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management (FPM), Financial Performance Management, FPM, Intacct

Continuous Accounting Enables a Strategic Finance Department

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2015 9:32:32 PM

Many senior finance executives say they want their department to play a more strategic role in the management and operations of their company. They want Finance to shift its focus from processing transactions to higher-value functions in order to make more substantial contributions to the success of the organization. I use the term “continuous accounting” to represent an approach to managing the accounting cycle that can facilitate the shift by improving the performance of the accounting function. Continuous accounting embraces three main principles:

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, closing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management, FPM

How to Get Business Users to Switch from Spreadsheets

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 26, 2015 3:27:06 AM

In our benchmark research at least half of participants that use spreadsheets to support a business process routinely say that these tools make it difficult for them to do their job. Yet spreadsheets continue to dominate in a range of business functions and processes. For example, our recent next-generation business planning research finds that this is the most common software used for performing 11 of the most common types of planning. At the heart of the problem is a disconnect between what spreadsheets were originally designed to do and how they are actually used today in corporations. Desktop spreadsheets were intended to be a personal productivity tool used, for example, for prototyping models, creating ad hoc reports and performing one-off analyses using simple models and storing small amounts of data. They were not built for collaborative, repetitive enterprise-wide tasks, and this is the root cause of most of the issues that organizations encounter when they use them in such business processes.

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Topics: Planning, Sales Performance, ERP, Forecast, GRC, Office of Finance, Reporting, closing, dashboard, enterprise spreadsheet, Excel, Customer Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Information Management, Data, Risk, application, benchmark, Financial Performance Management

Giving Tax Departments More Corporate Clout

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 17, 2015 7:57:13 PM

One of the issues in handling the tax function in business, especially where it involves direct (income) taxes, is the technical expertise required. At the more senior levels, practitioners must be knowledgeable about accounting and tax law. In multinational corporations, understanding differences between accounting and legal structures in various localities and their effects on tax liabilities requires more knowledge. Yet when I began to study the structures of corporate tax departments, I was struck by the scarcity of senior-level titles in them. This may reflect the low profile of the department in most companies and the tactical nature of the work it has performed. Advances in information technology have the potential to automate most of the manual tasks tax professionals perform. This increase in efficiency will enable tax departments to fill a more strategic, important role in the companies they serve.

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Topics: Big Data, ERP, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, LongView, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Information Management, Oracle, CFO, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, Thomson-Reuters multinational

Office of Finance Research Demonstrates Importance of Using Effective Financial Software

Posted by Ventana Research on Feb 2, 2015 8:27:14 AM

Our recently published Office of Finance benchmark research assesses a broad set of functions and capabilities of finance organizations. We asked research participants to identify the most important issues for a finance department to address in a dozen functional areas: accounting, budgeting, cost accounting, customer profitability management, external financial reporting, financial analysis, financial governance and internal audit, management accounting, product profitability management, strategic and long-range planning, tax management and treasury and cash management. Among the key findings is this: Not using the most capable software is an underlying cause, often unrecognized, of process, analytics and data issues.

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Topics: Mobile, Planning, Predictive Analytics, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Self-service, Budgeting, close, closing, computing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheets

Make Automating the Office of Finance and Accounting a Priority

Posted by Ventana Research on Jan 27, 2015 7:49:48 AM

Our recent Office of Finance benchmark research demonstrates the importance of using automation to execute finance department functions. Information technology systems do at least two things very well that make better use of people’s time, and both of them can substantially improve organizational performance. First, they eliminate the need for people to do repetitive tasks, which frees them to spend time on more valuable work that requires judgment and skill. IT systems also can be programmed to focus only on relevant information while eliminating the need to get immersed in detail. The latter capability supports a “management by exception” approach, which enables executives and managers to better allocate how and where they spend their time.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Self-service, Budgeting, close, closing, computing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, finance, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheets

Deciding When to Replace ERP Is Complicated

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 19, 2014 9:09:25 AM

A company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system is one of the pillars of its record-keeping and process management architecture and is central to many of its critical functions. It is the heart of its accounting and financial record-keeping processes. In manufacturing and distribution, ERP manages inventory and some elements of logistics. Companies also may use it to handle core human resources record-keeping and to store product and customer master data. Often, companies bolt other functionality onto the core ERP system or extensively modify it to address limitations in the system. Because of the breadth of its functionality, those unfamiliar with the details of information technology may perceive ERP as a black box that controls just about everything. So it’s not surprising that when a company’s information technology becomes more of an issue than a solution, many assume that the ERP system needs replacing. This may or may not be true, so it’s important for a company to assess its existing ERP system in the context of its business requirements (as they are now and will be in the immediate future) and evaluate options for it.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, CIO, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, Data, HR

SYSPRO Offers Supply Chain Visibility for Midsize Companies

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 16, 2014 10:05:34 PM

SYSPRO is a 35-year-old ERP vendor that focuses on products for midsize companies, particularly those in manufacturing and distribution. In manufacturing, SYSPRO supports make, configure and assemble, engineer to order, make to stock and job shop environments. The company attempts to differentiate itself through vertical specialization and its years of ongoing development, which can reduce the need for customization and cut the cost of initial and ongoing configuration to suit the needs of companies in these industries, thereby cutting the total cost of ownership. Worldwide its targeted verticals include electronics, food, machinery and equipment and medical devices; in the United States, it adds automotive parts (original equipment and after-market) and energy.

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Topics: Performance Management, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Reporting, cloud ERP, container, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Dashboards, Financial Performance, Supply Chain, SCM, S&OP, Digital Technology

Intacct Improves Cloud of Collaboration, Payments and Reporting

Posted by Ventana Research on Nov 18, 2014 8:25:20 AM

Financial management software provider Intacct recently held its seventh annual user conference. In addition to a long list of enhancements in current and upcoming product releases, the company used the occasion to announce Intacct Collaborate, a capability built into its software that enables finance and accounting organizations to work together to answer questions or resolve issues while performing a process. Our benchmark research shows that collaboration ranks second in importance behind analytics as a technology innovation priority. Collaborative capabilities in software will multiply over the next several years as software transitions from the rigid constructs established in the client/server days, which force users to adapt to the limitations of the software, to fluid and dynamic designs that mold themselves around the needs of the user. A while back, I noted that finance and accounting organizations need collaborative capabilities although they might not realize it. At the same time, finance departments have their own requirements for these systems that reflect the character and constraints of the work they do. This means narrowcast, not broadcast, feeds (Finance doesn’t want a Facebook or Twitter experience because it considers much of what it does to be confidential) and in-context collaborative capabilities to simplify the working environment.

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Topics: Performance Management, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, ERP, Human Capital Management, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Reporting, cloud ERP, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Chatter, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Dashboards, Financial Performance, FinancialForce, Intacct

Technology Can Enhance Performance in Finance Departments

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 29, 2014 9:39:31 AM

Finance transformation” refers to a longstanding objective: shifting the focus of CFOs and finance departments from transaction processing to more strategic, higher-value functions. Our upcoming Office of Finance benchmark research confirms that most of organizations want their finance department to take a more strategic role in management of the company: nine in 10 participants said that it’s important or very important. (We are using “finance” in its broadest sense, including, for example, accounting, corporate finance, financial planning and analysis, treasury and tax functions.) Finance departments have the ability and at least an implicit mandate to improve business performance and enable a corporation to execute strategy more effectively. Yet the research shows that becoming strategic is a work in progress. Most departments handle the basics well, but half fall short in areas that can contribute significantly to the performance of their company. More than three-fourths of participants said they perform accounting, external financial reporting, financial analysis, budgeting and management accounting well or very well. But only half said that about their ability to do product and customer profitability management, strategic and long-range planning and business development.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Social Media, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Management, close, closing, computing, Controller, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, finance, Tagetik, FPM

Data-Driven Business Processes Essential for Optimization

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 16, 2014 10:29:35 AM

When applying information technology to drive better business performance, companies and the systems integrators that assist them often underestimate the importance of organizing data management around processes. For example, companies that do not execute their quote-to-cash cycle as an end-to-end process often experience a related set of issues in their sales, marketing, operations, accounting and finance functions that stem from entering the same data into multiple systems. The inability to automate passing of data from one functional group to the next forces people to spend time re-entering data and leads to fragmented and disconnected data stores. The absence of a single authoritative data source also creates conflicts about whose numbers are “right.” Even when the actual figures recorded are identical, discrepancies can crop up because of issues in synchronization and data definition. Lacking an authoritative source, organizations may need to check for and resolve errors and inconsistencies between systems to ensure, for example, that what customers purchased was what they received and were billed for. The negative impact of this lack of automation is multiplied when transactions are complex or involve contracts for recurring services.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, Operations, Management, close, closing, computing, end-to-end, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Data Management, Information Applications, Information Management, CRM, Data, finance, FPM

Finance Needs Better Analytics and Analytic Skills

Posted by Ventana Research on Oct 13, 2014 11:58:09 PM

Finance and accounting departments are staffed with numbers-oriented, naturally analytical people. Strong analytic skills are essential if a finance department is to deliver deep insights into performance and visibility into emerging opportunities and challenges. The conclusions of analyses enable fast, fully informed business decisions by executives and managers. Conversely, flawed analyses undermine the performance of a company. So it was good news that in our Office of Finance benchmark research 62 percent of participants rated the analytical skills of their finance organization as above average or excellent.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Predictive Analytics, ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Reporting, Self-service, Budgeting, close, closing, computing, Controller, dashboard, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, finance, Tagetik, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Microsoft Excel, Spreadsheets

Infor Advances Business Computing

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 29, 2014 6:14:26 AM

Infor recently held its annual Inforum user group meeting, along with a series of sessions with analysts. The $2 billion business software company has products in the major categories of ERP (including enterprise financial management), human capital management, customer relationship management and performance management among others.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Kenandy, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, HANA, Plex, Professional Services Automation

Oracle Financials is in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 22, 2014 9:28:45 AM

Like most vendors of on-premises ERP and financial management software, in moving to the cloud Oracle has focused on developing for existing and potential customers the option of multitenant software as a service (SaaS). (I’m using the term “ERP” in its most expansive sense, to include such systems employed by all types of companies for accounting and financial management rather than only systems that are used by manufacturing and distribution companies.) Oracle’s ERP Cloud Service includes Fusion Financials as well as planning and budgeting, risk and controls management, procurement and sourcing, inventory and cost management, product master data management, and project portfolio management. Although to date our benchmark research has consistently found that a large majority of finance departments do not prefer to deploy software in the cloud, we also observe the balance shifting in this direction. SaaS vendors that address finance department requirements have demonstrated faster revenue growth than those that offer products only on-premises. Like other vendors Oracle must establish itself as a credible vendor of cloud ERP and financial management services to be well positioned as market demand shifts further in that direction. The company made sizable investments in acquiring ERP and financial management software in the 2000s (notably PeopleSoft – which included JD Edwards – and Hyperion), and the investments have paid off as many companies have opted to keep their existing systems (and continue to pay maintenance) rather than replace them. Our Office of Finance benchmark research finds that over the past decade the average age of ERP systems in use has increased to 6.4 years from 5.1 years. The longevity of these systems is partly the result of the slow pace of innovation in underlying technologies used for business computing. Even so, modest year-by-year changes are adding up to make replacement a more attractive option while negative attitudes toward the cloud are dissipating. To retain its installed base, it’s important for any established vendor to have solid customer references and the ability to make sales of cloud products as demand for ERP and financial management software in the cloud increases.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Salesforce.com, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Kenandy, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, HANA, Plex, Professional Services Automation

FinancialForce Brings More Mobile, Social and Planning Technology to Market

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 17, 2014 9:25:55 AM

FinancialForce’s 2014 summer release incorporates improvements in mobile and collaboration features and provides enhancements to the planning dimension of its professional services automation (PSA) suite. In the last couple of releases the company emphasized expansion in the functional capabilities of its ERP suite, as I noted, focusing on human capital management and professional services automation as well as some supply chain automation capabilities.

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Topics: SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Social Media, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Consulting, distribution, PSA, Unit4, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, FinancialForce, HR, Professional Services Automation, SCM

What’s Next?: The Interplay of Software and Hardware with Business and Consumers

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 11, 2014 9:49:04 AM

“What’s next?” is the perennially insistent question in information technology. One common observation about the industry holds that cycles of innovation alternate between hardware and software. New types and forms of hardware enable innovations in software that utilize the power of that hardware. These innovations create new markets, alter consumer behavior and change how work is performed. This, in turn, sets the stage for new types and forms of hardware that complement these emerging product and service markets as well as the new ways of performing work, creating products and fashioning services that they engender. For example, the emerging collection of wearable computing devices seems likely to generate a new wave of software/hardware innovation, as my colleague Mark Smith has noted. This said, I think that the idea of alternating cycles no longer applies. It would be convenient if we could assign discrete time periods to hardware dominance and software dominance, but like echoes as they fade, the reverberations are no longer as neatly synchronized as they once were. Moreover, adoption and adaptation of technology by consumers reflected in the design of work, products and services always lags – and lags in different ways, further blurring the timing of cycles.

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Topics: Mobile, Performance Management, Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, Reporting, Wearable Computing, Management, close, closing, computing, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, finance, FPM

Tax Data Warehouses Become Essential as Governments Raise the Ante

Posted by Ventana Research on Sep 3, 2014 9:19:04 PM

I’ve written before about the increasing importance of having a solid technology base for a company’s tax function, and it’s important enough for me to revisit the topic. Tax departments are entrusted with a highly sensitive and essential task in their companies. Taxes usually are the second largest corporate expense, after salaries and wages. Failure to understand this liability is expensive – either because taxes are overpaid or because of fines and interest levied for underpayment. Moreover, taxes remain a political issue, and corporations – especially larger ones – must be mindful of the reputational implications of their tax liabilities.

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Topics: ERP, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, LongView, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Information Management, Oracle, CFO, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards, Thomson-Reuters multinational

NetSuite Rides Wave of Cloud ERP Adoption

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 3, 2014 8:19:04 AM

Like other vendors of cloud-based ERP software, NetSuite offers the key benefits of software as a service (SaaS): a smaller upfront investment, faster time to value and potentially lower operating costs. Beyond that NetSuite’s essential point of competitive differentiation from is broad functionality beyond financial management, including capabilities for customer relationship management (CRM), professional services automation (PSA) and human capital management (HCM). These components make it easier for businesses to manage processes from end to end (such as quote- or order-to-cash) as well as to have transactions and business data available in a single system in consistent forms and synchronized. This in turn facilitates real-time reporting, dashboards and the use of analytics that integrate a wider set of functional data. Midsize companies are most likely to benefit from this integration because typically they have smaller, less sophisticated IT staffs than larger ones. A side benefit of having a single, integrated data source is improvement of situational awareness and visibility for executives and managers. It also enables organizations to reduce their use of spreadsheets for stitching together processes, doing routine analyses and reporting. These sorts of activities waste valuable time and reduce an organization’s agility.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Social Media, Customer Experience, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, communications, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, PSA, Sage Software, UI, Unit4, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, CRM, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Social, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Plex, Professional Services Automation, Workday Collaboration

The Future of Integrating ERP and Applications in the Cloud

Posted by Mark Smith on Jul 30, 2014 9:22:43 PM

In recent years line-of-business applications including accounting, human resources, manufacturing, sales and customer service have appeared in the cloud. Cloud -based software as a service (SaaS) has replaced on-premises applications that were previously part of ERP and CRM environments. They have helped companies become more efficient but have also introduced interoperability challenges between business processes. Their advantage is that cloud software can be rented, configured and used within a day or week. The disadvantage is that they don’t always connect with one another seamlessly, as they used to and when managed by a third party there is limited connectivity to integrate them.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, Order Management, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Performance, CIO, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Financial Performance, CFO, SFA

Tagetik Advances Disclosure Management for Office of Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 16, 2014 9:06:01 AM

Tagetik provides financial performance management software. One particularly useful aspect of its suite is the Collaborative Disclosure Management (CDM). CDM addresses an important need in finance departments, which routinely generate highly formatted documents that combine words and numbers. Often these documents are assembled by contributors outside of the finance department; human resources, facilities, legal and corporate groups are the most common. The data used in these reports almost always come from multiple sources – not just enterprise systems such as ERP and financial consolidation software but also individual spreadsheets and databases that collect and store nonfinancial data (such as information about leased facilities, executive compensation, fixed assets, acquisitions and corporate actions). Until recently, these reports were almost always cobbled together manually – a painstaking process made even more time-consuming by the need to double-check the documents for accuracy and consistency. The adoption of a more automated approach was driven by the requirement imposed several years ago by United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that companies tag their required periodic disclosure filings using eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), which I have written about. This mandate created a tipping point in the workload, making the manual approach infeasible for a large number of companies and motivating them to adopt tools to automate the process. Although disclosure filings were the initial impetus to acquire collaborative disclosure management software, companies have found it useful for generating a range of formatted periodic reports that combine text and data, including board books (internal documents for senior executives and members of the board of directors), highly formatted periodic internal reports and filings with nonfinancial regulators or lien holders.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, ERP, Human Capital Management, Modeling, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, Finance Financial Applications Financial Close, IFRS, XBRL, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, compliance, Data, benchmark, Financial Performance Management, financial reporting, FPM, GAAP, Integrated Business Planning, Profitability, SEC Software

Longview Tax Software Helps Tax Departments Be More Strategic

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 22, 2014 10:40:56 PM

Longview Solutions has a longstanding presence in the financial performance management (FPM) software market and was rated a Hot vendor in our most recent FPM Value Index. Several years ago it began offering a tax provision and planning application. I think it’s worthwhile to focus on the tax category because it’s less well known than others in finance and is an engine of growth for Longview. We expect larger corporations increasingly to adopt software to manage direct (income) taxes to improve the quality and efficiency of what today in most companies is an inefficient, spreadsheet-driven process.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, LongView, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, FPM, Innovation Awards

SAP Sets Course for Simple ERP

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 9, 2014 10:35:29 AM

The keynote theme at this year’s Sapphire conference in Orlando was Simple. Top executives from SAP, a software company associated with complexity, stated and restated that its future direction is to simplify all aspects of its products and the ways customers interact with them and the company itself. SAP’s longstanding and commendable aspiration to thoroughness in its software will be giving way to an emphasis on elegance in its engineering. This objective is more than admirable – SAP’s future competitiveness depends on it. Changing the fundamental architecture of SAP’s offerings – already well under way with HANA – is absolutely necessary. The design underpinnings in SAP’s ERP applications, for example, have been shaped by technology limitations that have disappeared, as Dr. Hasso Plattner, one of the company’s founders, pointed out in his keynote. However, the relevant issue facing SAP and the software market is how far the company can progress toward this goal  and how fast.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Salesforce.com, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Kenandy, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, HANA, Plex, Professional Services Automation

Finance Analytics Require Training to Improve

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 3, 2014 9:35:45 AM

Analytics has long been a core discipline of Finance, applied to analysis of balance sheets, income statements and cash-flow statements. However, as I’ve noted, most finance departments have not kept up with recent advances. Our recent research in finance analytics shows that few organizations are realizing the potential of more advanced analytic methods and tools such as predictive analytics and driver-based modeling. One reason for this sluggishness is that they have not looked past yesterday’s requirements to see what possible. Another is that they are distracted by the difficulties they face in simply doing tried-and-true analysis, which is the result of difficulties in accessing the necessary data and inadequate tools. A third reason is that people receive too little training in the application of analytics to business and the use of more advanced analytic tools and methods.

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Topics: ERP, FP&A, Office of Finance, Controller, Finance Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, CFO, Financial Management

Epicor Faces a Challenging Future

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 2, 2014 9:46:51 AM

Epicor used its recent user group conference to explain its strategic direction and product roadmap. The company is the result of multiple mergers of business software corporations over the past 15 years; its target customers are midsize companies and midsize divisions of larger organizations. Its most significant products are Epicor (ERP software aimed mainly at manufacturing and distribution companies) and Activant Solutions (software for small and midsize retailers, including a point-of-sale system). The company also has software that manages CRM, HR and human capital and supply chains,  and provides financial performance management (FPM) and governance, risk and compliance (GRC) capabilities. These components of the software suites are adequate for the needs of many of the company’s target customers and are not intended as stand-alone applications.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Supply Chain Performance, Customer Experience, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, communications, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Epicor, Sage Software, UI, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, Social, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Plex

Infor at the End of the Beginning

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 3, 2014 10:54:52 PM

From my perspective, Infor’s strategy to accelerate revenue growth is to offer companies more innovation and a lower and more predictable cost of ownership than its rivals in the business software market; its products include the major categories of ERP, human resources and financial performance management. It aims to innovate by focusing on improving the user experience and to lower costs by redesigning its software architecture. The innovation stems from a fresh approach to designing interactions between users and business software: simplifying it and providing a more modern user experience that people have grown accustomed to in their personal software. The better cost-effectiveness rests on designing its software to reduce the expense of integrating and customizing it. One element of this is creating richer functionality for narrowly segmented micro-verticals. Another is offering cloud-based versions built on less expensive open source infrastructure and third-party commodity services. The software markets that Infor serves are mature and offer limited growth. So to be successful the company must increase both its market share and its share of a company’s IT spend (capturing internal IT spending and outlays to third-party consultants and systems integrators). To prove that the company’s strategy is working will require sustained organic growth (excluding new acquisitions) in revenues.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, Customer Experience, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, Sage Software, UI, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Information Management, Workforce Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, Financial Performance Management, FPM, Plex

Cloud Computing is More Than Multitenancy

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 2, 2014 9:22:04 AM

There’s a growing realization that the multitenant approach to the cloud isn’t the only option that companies should weigh in deciding between deploying software on-premises and in the cloud. That some people describe the multitenancy approach as “the real cloud” reflects the contentious nature of some technical debates, especially those that occur early in the evolution of a new technology. Multitenancy does have advantages that confer cost savings, and these have been important in the first stages of cloud adoption. However, we predict that single-tenant structures will rapidly gain in importance as corporations mature in their use of cloud computing, especially with respect to how they manage their ERP systems, as I have written. Corporations are increasingly adopting Web-based applications and moving their computing environments to a hybrid model that combines a combination of on-premises and cloud deployment options (private, community and public; single- and multitenant; or managed cloud). The right choice depends on the needs of the company and the ability of vendors to provide services that match their requirements.

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Topics: Microsoft, Mobile, SaaS, Sales, Salesforce.com, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Planview, Concur, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Tagetik, Workday, Plex

ERP’s Future Is Hybrid Cloud

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 20, 2014 9:57:00 PM

Information technologists are fond of predictions in which the next big thing quickly and entirely renders the existing thing so completely obsolete that only troglodytes would cling to such outmoded technology. While this vision of IT progress may satisfy the egos of technologists, it rarely reflects reality. Mainframes didn’t disappear, for example. Although they long ago lost their dominant position, many remain key parts of corporate computing infrastructures. The IT landscape is a hybrid because technology users have varying requirements and constraints that can lengthen replacement cycles. Most business users of IT pay little attention to the religious wars of technologists because they take a pragmatic approach: They use technology to achieve business ends. This scenario is repeating itself in clamor about another corporate mainstay, the ERP system, which advocates claim will soon be redeployed en masse to cloud computing. That, too, won’t happen. I believe that ERP will increasingly become cloud-based, but it will be in hybrid cloud environments.

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Topics: Microsoft, SaaS, Sales, Salesforce.com, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, Plex, Professional Services Automation

Microsoft Shows Off More than ERP with Dynamics

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 13, 2014 2:18:11 AM

Convergence is the Microsoft Dynamics business software user group’s meeting. Dynamics’ core applications are mainly in the accounting and ERP category, descendants of products Microsoft acquired: Great Plains (now GP), Solomon (SL), Navision (NAV) and Damgaard’s Axapta (AX), to which Microsoft has added its own CRM application. It has been more than a decade since the acquisitions of Great Plains (which itself had already purchased Solomon Software), and Navision, Damgaard and the software applications family has evolved steadily if slowly since then. More recently, Microsoft has added cloud services that simplify and improve the connection between remote users and the on-premises core systems, as well as integration with Office365.

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Topics: Microsoft, SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Consulting, distribution, Dynamics AX, Dynamics GP, Dynamics NAV Dynamics SL, PSA, Sage Software, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, HR, Infor, Workday, Plex, Professional Services Automation

Building a Better Business Case for Buying Software

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 27, 2014 8:59:51 AM

When it comes to making a business case for software investments, many people fail to recognize that the case itself is just one part of what amounts to an internal sales and marketing effort that they must perform well to be successful. Focusing only on the numbers and assumptions in a spreadsheet is not enough. Making a successful business case requires an understanding of the audience’s perspective and motivations. Since the individuals who will review the business case may not be sufficiently aware of the issues that are behind it and their seriousness, it may be necessary to begin an awareness-building program before presenting the business case. And because the benefits of software investments can be difficult to quantify, executive sponsors are useful in achieving acceptance of these calculations. Unfortunately, many business cases founder because proponents do not realize the importance of taking a sales and marketing approach.

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Topics: Planning, Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, Research, budgeting and planning, ROI, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, CRM, business plan, capital spending, Financial Performance Management, FPM, SCM, Software

FinancialForce Broadens Its Reach with ERP and More

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 26, 2014 8:13:32 AM

FinancialForce recently introduced FinancialForce ERP, a family of cloud-based software designed to support a variety of customer-centric businesses such as professional services organizations or companies that specialize in business and industrial distribution. Many of these types of businesses are midsize or small (having 50 to 1,000 employees) and can benefit from the integration of FinancialForce’s accounting, professional services automation, human capital management (HCM) and supply chain management (SCM) software. The company added the last two capabilities at the end of 2013 with the acquisitions of Vana Workforce and Less Software, respectively, which I commented  on. Like FinancialForce’s, their software runs on the Salesforce1 platform, which means that integration of these elements was straightforward. It also enables companies that use or are planning to use salesforce.com for sales and customer service to simplify integration of those with the operational and back-office software, by enabling single sign-on, end-to-end process management and a single data source for reporting and analysis. This integration can significantly reduce or even eliminate the need to re-enter information into systems or to use spreadsheets, documents and email to manage processes. With all of the data available in a single system, creating reports and automating their distribution becomes easier. All of this, in turn, should cut the amount of time and effort spent on administrative and clerical functions and enhance the productivity of the organization.

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Topics: SaaS, Sales, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, HCM, Human Capital, Office of Finance, Consulting, distribution, PSA, Unit4, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, FinancialForce, HR, Professional Services Automation, SCM

The Challenge of Making ERP Systems More Configurable

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 31, 2014 9:42:14 AM

In the wake of the past year’s usual crop of failed ERP implementations, I’ve read a couple of blogs that bemoan the fact that ERP systems are not nearly as user-friendly or intuitive as the mobile apps that everyone loves. I’ve complained about this aspect of ERP, and our research confirms that ERP systems are viewed as cumbersome: Just one in five companies (21%) said it is easy to make changes to ERP systems while one-third (33%) said making changes is difficult or very difficult. Yet as with many such technology topics, addressing the difficulty in working with ERP systems is not as straightforward as one might hope. ERP software vendors must make it easier, less expensive and less risky for customers to adapt the systems they buy to their changing business needs. To do this, vendors must design products to be more configurable. The goal should be that organizations can make changes and add new capabilities to their ERP system in far less time than it takes today and without having to engage outside consultants.

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Topics: Mobile, SAP, ERP, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Oracle, CFO, Infor, Workday, Social, business process, FPM, Intacct

Oracle Hyperion Products Challenged by New Generation of Expectations

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 16, 2013 7:22:36 AM

Oracle continues to enrich the capabilities of its Hyperion suite of applications that support the finance function, but I wonder if that will be enough to sustain its market share and new generation of expectations. At the recent Oracle OpenWorld these new features were on display, and spokespeople described how the company will be transitioning its software to cloud deployment. Our 2013 Financial Performance Management Value (FPM) Index rates Oracle Hyperion a Warm vendor in my analysis, ranking eighth out of nine vendors. Our Value Index is informed by more than a decade of analysis of technology suppliers and their products and how well they satisfy specific business and IT needs. We perform a detailed evaluation of product functionality and suitability-to-task as well as the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance. Our assessment reflects two disparate sets of factors. On one hand, the Hyperion FPM suite offers a broad set of software that automates, streamlines and supports a range of finance department functions. It includes sophisticated analytical applications. Used to full effect, Hyperion can eliminate many manual steps and speed execution of routine work. It also can enhance accuracy, ensure tasks are completed on a timely basis, foster coordination between Finance and the rest of the organization and generate insights into corporate performance. For this, the software gets high marks.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Social Media, ERP, Human Capital Management, Modeling, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, driver-based, Finance Financial Applications Financial Close, Hyperion, IFRS, Tax, XBRL, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, CIO, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, In-memory, Oracle, CFO, compliance, Data, benchmark, Financial Performance Management, financial reporting, FPM, GAAP, Integrated Business Planning, Price Optimization, Profitability, SEC Software

Next-Generation ERP Must Take a Giant Leap

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 25, 2013 12:07:27 AM

Enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems emerged in the 1990s. Even though they don’t do much in the way of planning, the systems provide companies a means of centralizing and consolidating transaction data collection (such as purchase orders, inventory movements and depreciation), automating the management of processes, and handling the bookkeeping and financial record keeping for these transactions and related processes. ERP systems are an indispensable piece of IT infrastructure in today’s enterprises. Alas, they also are inherently flawed. But perhaps not for much longer.

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Topics: Mobile, SAP, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Oracle, CFO, Infor, Workday, Social, FPM, Intacct

Vertex Enterprise Helps Tax Departments Increase Effectiveness

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 19, 2013 8:31:14 AM

Technology for the Office of Finance can have transformative power. Although progress has been slow at times, today’s finance organizations are fundamentally different from those of 50 years ago. For one thing, they require far fewer resources (chiefly people) to perform basic accounting, treasury and corporate finance tasks. In addition, public corporations report results sooner – sometimes weeks sooner – than they could in the mid-20th century. And finance departments are able to harness substantially more data and a wider array of analytics to promote insight and support more agile decision-making.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, CFO, Vertex, FPM, Innovation Awards

Social Collaboration Is in Finance’s Future

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 10, 2013 11:00:37 AM

Finance departments don’t immediately come to mind in conversations about social collaboration technology. Most of the software used for social collaboration that I’ve seen demonstrated focuses on the sales process or for broader employee engagement. The Facebook-style interface may cause finance department managers and executives to roll their eyes, especially if they’re over 40 years old. Yet business and social collaboration is an important set of capabilities that has been taking hold in business. Our benchmark research shows it ranking second behind analytics as a technology innovation priority. It will gain adoption over the next several years as software transitions from the rigid constructs established in the client/server days, which force users to adapt to the limitations of the software, to fluid and dynamic designs that mold themselves around the needs of the user. Perhaps because most of the attention so far on the benefits of collaboration has focused on front-office roles, there’s less awareness of the potential in back-office and administrative functions. Indeed, the same research reveals that those in front-office roles five times more often than those in accounting and finance roles (21% vs. a mere 4%) said that business and social collaboration are very important to their organization. However, I assert it’s just a matter of time before the finance group understands that social collaboration has substantial potential to improve its performance.

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Topics: Customer Experience, ERP, communications, Operational Performance, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CRM, Social, FPM

Software Aims To Prevent Foreign Corrupt Practices

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 8, 2013 10:51:16 PM

In some parts of the world, bribing government officials is still considered a normal cost of doing business. Elsewhere there has been a growing trend over the past 40 years to make it illegal for a corporation to pay bribes. In the United States, Congress passed the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in 1977 in the wake of a succession of revelations of companies paying off government officials to secure arms deals or favorable tax treatment. More recently other governments have implemented anticorruption statutes. The U.K., for instance, enacted the strict Bribery Act in 2010 to replace increasingly ineffective statutes dating back to 1879. The purpose of these actions is to enable ethical and law-abiding companies to compete on a level playing field with those that are neither. A cynic might wonder about the real, functional difference between, say, Wal-Mart’s recent payments to officials in Mexico to accelerate approval of building permits and the practice in New York City of having to engage expediters to ensure timely sign-offs on construction approval documents. No matter – the latter is legal (it’s a domestic issue, after all) while the former is not.

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Topics: SAP, ERP, Governance, GRC, bribery, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), IBM, Operational Intelligence, Oracle, CFO, compliance, FPM, Oversight Systems

Vertex Enterprise Advances Tax Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 1, 2013 6:35:02 AM

Taxes – both indirect (sales or value added taxes, for example) and direct (income taxes) – are one the largest expense items on the corporate income statement. In recent years it has become common for large and even midsize companies to automate their indirect tax management process, but direct tax management has remained a bastion of manual processes built on a heap of desktop spreadsheets. In previous blog posts I discussed this issue and the role of the tax data warehouse as a necessary foundation for automating the direct tax process. Addressing an important need, Vertex is currently providing a limited release of its Enterprise offering, a single-platform approach to managing all types of taxes (direct and indirect) across the entire tax life cycle (from analysis through provisioning to audit defense) using a single data source.

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Topics: ERP, GRC, Office of Finance, audit, finance transformation, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Management, CFO, Vertex, FPM

SAP Announces Business Suite on HANA

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 11, 2013 11:32:34 AM

For the past couple of years I’ve been pointing to the importance of in-memory computing to the future of business applications. It’s an integral part of Ventana Research’s business and finance research agenda for 2013, and it’s one of the core technologies that senior executives should have an appreciation for because it can transform all core business processes, especially those that are analytic in nature.

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Topics: Mobile, Predictive Analytics, Real-time, Sales Performance, SAP, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, In-memory, Workforce Performance, CRM, finance, Social, Business Suite, Financial Performance Management, HANA

California Blue Shield Foundation Uses FinancialForce to Improve Finance Effectiveness

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 2, 2013 11:23:02 AM

As I’ve noted before, it’s common for CFOs of companies that are transitioning from being a small to a midsize business (that is, when they grow past about 100 employees) to find that the entry-level accounting package that they have been using no longer fits their needs. This software may be inexpensive to purchase and easy to use but it lacks many of the customization and business process management capabilities that become increasingly important as organizations grow. The transition from such an application is especially difficult when it involves an on-premises system, because the up-front and ongoing costs of implementing and using these can be daunting. Usually, the shortcomings start off as minor annoyances for companies that have between 100 and 500 employees and grow over time, and usually the pain increases with the number of employees and the volume and complexity of the underlying business. Yet because of the cost, finance executives usually don’t want to migrate to a new system until their old software threatens the orderly management of the business or becomes an overwhelming burden on finance operations. For that reason, increasingly we are finding companies choosing to migrate to a cloud-based ERP system sooner in their evolution because it is usually a more affordable and easier transition than using on-premises software.

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Topics: Planning, Salesforce.com, ERP, Human Capital Management, Office of Finance, Reporting, close, closing, Operational Performance, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, Financial Performance Management, FinancialForce.com

What Every CEO Needs to Know About Key Supporting Technologies

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 30, 2012 11:00:28 AM

I recently started a series of blog posts on what CEOs (and for that matter, all senior corporate executives) need to know about IT. The first covered the high-level issues. As I noted there, it’s not necessary for a CEO of a company to be able to write Java code or master the intricacies of an ERP or sales compensation application. However, CEOs must grasp the basics of IT just as they must understand basic corporate finance, the production process and – at least at a high level – the technologies that support that process. This installment is about four supporting technologies that will be drive considerable change in business computing over the next five years. Each of these subjects is worthy of a chapter-length discussion or even a book; what follows is the “elevator pitch” version.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, SaaS, Sales Performance, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Customer, ERP, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Complex Event Processing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, In-memory, Information Management, Workforce Performance, CFO, CEO, PaaS

Oracle Fusion Financials: Boring is Cool

Posted by Robert Kugel on Oct 16, 2012 12:03:43 PM

There weren’t any headlines (or even many tweets) about Oracle Fusion Financials emanating from this year’s Oracle OpenWorld (#OOW12) conference. Maybe that’s by design, because it’s not in Oracle’s best interest to kick up a lot of dust about ERP migration. The financial applications software market is mature, and market share leaders such as Oracle have less interest in getting customers to upgrade than they did a decade ago. For a software vendor with a large installed base, cashing rich maintenance checks is more profitable than selling new software, and arguably is as dependable a source of revenue as software-as-a-service (SaaS) contracts. Companies, and especially CFOs and controllers, see replacing ERP systems akin to a root canal procedure: expensive and painful and best put off as long as possible. In North America (and to a much more limited extent in Europe) a major upgrade of a company’s current ERP software usually means it’s time to evaluate alternatives. For the incumbent, any time there’s a major upgrade there’s the potential to lose a customer.

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Topics: Performance Management, ERP, Office of Finance, financial, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Oracle, Workday, JD Edwards, PeopleSoft

Salesforce Helps Midsize Company Dreams Come True

Posted by Robert Kugel on Sep 21, 2012 11:42:53 AM

I cover the meat-and-potatoes aspects of corporate computing. I also pay attention to the special needs of midsize companies (by our definition, those with between 100 and 999 employees), which are unlike those of either small business or large corporations. After attending this year’s Dreamforce conference, Salesforce.com’s annual user meeting held this week in San Francisco, I can appreciate how difficult it is for executives and people who work in back office functions to cut through the technology hoopla to find the utterly practical (but certainly not dull) reasons why the cloud can help them run their businesses better. In fact, cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) offerings can give midsize companies a leg up in ways that on-premises alternatives can’t. Here are four big ones that top my list.

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Topics: Sales, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Social Media, ERP, Office of Finance, CRM customer service, SMB, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Dreamforce, finance, Security, FPM

Midsize Companies Find ERP in the Cloud Increasingly Attractive

Posted by Robert Kugel on Aug 23, 2012 11:55:18 AM

Midsize businesses “pay” for their use of entry-level accounting systems by not having the essential information they need readily available and by using up valuable time that could be better spent generating business, finding issues or responding to opportunities sooner or simply enhancing the efficiency of the organization. Nevertheless, the transition from an entry-level accounting package such as QuickBooks to an on-premises system can be daunting for companies whose entry-level software no longer addresses their needs. Usually, the shortcomings start off as minor annoyances for companies that have between 100 and 500 employees and grow over time, and usually the pain grows with the number of employees and the volume and complexity of the underlying business. As business volumes expand and complexity grows, entry-level accounting systems are increasingly less able to support the underlying business. Yet finance executives usually don’t want to migrate to a new system until their old software threatens the orderly management of the business or becomes an overwhelming burden on finance operations. I know this firsthand, since not all that long ago I worked at a company where the CFO thought his biggest IT challenge was finding spare parts for the ancient Burroughs mainframe on which our financial system ran.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Customer Experience, ERP, Office of Finance, end-to-end, finance cloud, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Business Process Management, CFO, finance, accounting software, business process execution, financial systems, FPM

CODA Financials Has a Flexible Approach to ERP

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jul 16, 2012 10:43:19 AM

CODA’s Financials has a specific target market, from companies in the upper half of the midsize range to the lower end of the large range (that is, companies with 500 to 2,500 employees) in services (not manufacturing) businesses. CODA, the company, started in the 1990s and differentiated itself by designing ERP and accounting software to run on a multidimensional database rather than the more common relational databases of the day. This has proven to be an elegant approach, because businesses inherently  have multiple perspectives from which to view and describe their operations. Some of the most common dimensions include products, customers, corporate business units, time and currency. Each of these can be defined in a hierarchy: Individual stock-keeping units are part of products, which are part of product families, which may be part of a specific brand. Days are parts of weeks or months, which are part of quarters, which are part of years. If the multidimensional database had been available in the 15th century when Fra Luca Pacioli codified double-entry bookkeeping, I’m certain the friar would have kept his books in this form.

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Topics: Sales Performance, ERP, Office of Finance, CODA, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, CFO, FinancialForce, financials

Cognos Express Gives Midsize Companies Outsize Capabilities

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 8, 2012 12:27:36 PM

A main reason why desktop spreadsheets are pervasive in midsize companies (which we define as those with 100 to 1,000 employees) is that these organizations do not have the financial and manpower resources to implement and maintain traditional enterprise business intelligence and performance management systems. To address this gap in the market, several years ago IBM Cognos launched Express, a business intelligence and planning software package designed specifically for midsize companies as well as independent workgroups within larger corporations. It’s a package designed for easy (and relatively inexpensive) implementation and maintenance, often by channel partners.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, Analytics, Business Intelligence, Dashboards, IBM, Uncategorized, CFO, finance, Financial Performance Management

Ariba Acquisition Will Bolster SAP’s Growing Cloud Presence

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 24, 2012 10:13:51 AM

SAP is planning to acquire e-commerce company Ariba in a transaction worth about US$4.3 billion expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Ariba provides cloud-based collaborative business commerce through a Web-based trading community that enables companies to find, connect and collaborate with a global network of partners. Its Commerce Cloud is a platform that businesses can use to buy and sell goods. Currently, Ariba counts more than 700,000 companies worldwide attached to this network. The purchase follows SAP's acquisition of cloud-based HR software vendor SuccessFactors for $3.4 billion. In the past SAP had been reluctant to make large acquisitions, but these two large purchases and the naming of Lars Dalgaard, former SuccessFactors CEO, to the SAP executive board indicate the strategic imperative SAP puts on quickly gaining a solid cloud presence. The acquisition also complements its 2011 acquisition of Crossgate, an electronic data interchange (EDI) service provider, which enables companies to exchange documents with customers, suppliers, supply chain partners, financial institutions and government entities, streamlining transactions and cutting administrative costs.

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Topics: Big Data, SAP, ERP, EDI, end-to-end, Analytics, Cloud Computing, Uncategorized, CRM, SCM

Infor’s Local.ly Could Help with Tax Provisioning

Posted by Robert Kugel on May 7, 2012 10:37:42 AM

One of the new products that Infor announced at its recent Inforum user conference (which I covered here) is Local.ly, which is designed to facilitate localization of its applications (that is, adapting them for languages, units of measure, statutory requirements, customary processes and other specific features of the places where they will be used). Local.ly is scheduled to be released in the third quarter of this year. Infor points out that among other tasks the software can be used to facilitate tax provisioning outside a corporation’s home country, thereby reducing the costs associated with determining tax liabilities. I think it also can be useful in calculating income taxes everywhere, especially for larger customers of Infor that have even a moderately complex corporate structure. Here’s how. The entity structure of a company affects its tax management processes. Our benchmark research finds that among companies with 100 or more employees, 43 percent have relatively complicated corporate structures, which is to say they have some combination of many legal entities and complex ownership configuration. This general finding masks a substantial disparity based on size. Relatively few (27%) midsize companies (those with between 100 and 999 employees) have complex corporate structures, large companies (those with between 1,000 and 9,999 employees) are split between simple and complex structures (56% and 44%, respectively), and almost all very large corporations (those with 10,000 or more employees; 88%) are overwhelmingly complex in their structure.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Local.ly, Tax, Analytics, Business Analytics, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Infor

Infor Presents Itself as a Large Software Startup

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 30, 2012 11:28:24 AM

Infor described this year’s Inforum user group meeting as a coming-out party for a large startup company. Such a debut was necessary because Infor had been operating in something of a stealth mode for the past three years: a limited marketing presence, no unified message and a weak, sometimes inconsistent brand identity. It also needed to formally introduce Infor to customers of Lawson, the ERP supplier it acquired last year. The “startup” designation is meant to signal that Infor has been able to render a decade-long consolidation of dozens of smaller companies into one cohesive entity.

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Topics: Performance Management, Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, SAP, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Sustainability, ERP, Human Capital Management, Marketing, Epiphany, expense management, Lawson, IT Performance, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), IBM, Information Applications, Information Management, Location Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Oracle, Workforce Performance, CRM, finance, Infor, Supply Chain, Financial Performance Management

SAP Rolls Out Business Planning and Consolidation on HANA at SAPinsider

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 19, 2012 10:42:35 AM

For me, the most significant announcement to come out of the recent SAPinsider conference was the company’s formal release of Business Planning and Consolidation (BPC) running on HANA, SAP’s in-memory computing appliance. For me, HANA is a potential “game changer” for planning, statutory consolidation and other analytics-supported financial processes because of the substantial reduction it enables in processing time from loading to reporting. In-memory systems provide a substantial edge in speed of processing large data sets or complex calculations, whereas the latency between thought and answer in complex scenario analyses on disk-based systems often prevents a collaborative dialogue around possible situations and their potential outcomes. Today, companies have to simplify the analysis, severely limit the amount of detail or find some combination of the two. More than likely, they wind up not having a potentially valuable collaborative dialogue in activities such as weekly or monthly review and revision of operating plans and their financial consequences, closing the books or assessing the impact of pricing changes on profitability. In the case of planning, I expect that in-memory systems will enable make it easier for companies to make changes to detailed plans (such as the budget or production plans), which is difficult today for many of them.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Sales Performance, SAP, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, Customer Experience, ERP, GRC, Office of Finance, Budgeting, IFRS, XBRL, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, In-memory, Workforce Performance, finance, Financial Performance Management, GAAP, HANA

Workday’s Financials: Maturing

Posted by Robert Kugel on Feb 10, 2012 1:37:33 AM

I recently got an update from Workday that focused mostly on its Financials software. This part of the company’s business management suite has received less development attention than the HR aspects since the company’s founding in 2005. The bulk of Workday’s development investment has aimed at making its human capital management applications an industry leader and adding related capabilities such as payroll. It’s hard to argue against this strategy, if only because Workday is the spiritual offshoot of PeopleSoft; founded the company after Oracle’s hostile takeover of PeopleSoft, which he also founded. This pedigree gave the new company an advantage with workforce management software buyers. Moreover, adoption of cloud-based ERP has lagged far behind that of other cloud-based applications such as sales or workforce management, especially in the larger companies that have been Workday’s target market.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, expense management, financial, PSA, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Oracle, Workforce Performance, Infor, Tidemark, Workday, Professional Services, Project Management

Reorganized Epicor Has Strategy for Competing

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 19, 2012 7:43:29 AM

I recently received an update from ERP software vendor Epicor, my first since it was acquired in May 2011 by Apax Partners, a private equity company, and simultaneously merged with Activant, an ERP and point-of-sale software company serving midsize retailers and distributors. In my view, taking the company private is a good idea since it will have to make ongoing investments that would not have been treated kindly by the stock market. Bringing Epicor and Activant together (and perhaps adding other companies to the portfolio) could allow the entity to spread some development costs over a broader base of revenues, but software combinations are difficult to execute well.

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Topics: Big Data, Microsoft, Mobile, SAP, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Dynamics, Epicor, Sage, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Oracle, Workforce Performance, CRM, Infor, Social, Financial Performance Management

Infor’s Management Outlines Corporate and Software Strategy

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jan 16, 2012 10:58:32 AM

I recently met with Infor’s management team, led by CEO Charles Phillips. Phillips joined Infor in October 2010 after leaving Oracle, taking several other executives with him, including Duncan Angove, now president of Infor, and Pam Murphy, now the COO. In addition to the changes in the executive suite, Soma Somasundaram, who had been at Infor and its predecessor companies since 1995, became EVP in charge of R&D. A private company, Infor had been keeping a low profile for the past several years, probably because results were nothing to brag about, and I suspect Phillips wanted to wait until there were substantive improvements to point to before fully engaging with analysts. Subsequent to his arrival, Golden Gate Capital, the private equity firm that assembled Infor from dozens of once-independent software companies, acquired ERP vendor Lawson Software in July 2011. Lawson itself had merged with Intentia, a Swedish ERP company in 2005. I estimate pro-forma 2011 revenues for Infor plus Lawson for a full year at $2.7 billion (the company has not published this number). This is only a fraction of 2011 revenues for SAP (about $14.5 billion) and Oracle’s applications ($6.8 billion). Infor reported that organic growth in license revenues was 17 percent, roughly in line with comparable companies, and executives indicated in the meeting that maintenance renewals have improved.

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Topics: Sales Performance, Salesforce.com, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Human Capital Management, Marketing, Epiphany, expense management, Lawson Software, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, finance, Infor, Financial Performance Management

SAP Must Translate Technology Advances into Business Use

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 20, 2011 10:13:59 AM

At its annual Influencer’s Summit in Boston, SAP offered multiple perspectives on where the company’s strategy and products are heading. Overall, I was struck by the essential similarities to its message on its strategic direction a decade ago. The overarching objective in its roadmap now, as then, is to have information technology increasingly adapt to the needs of individual users and how they choose to execute established/repetitive or ad-hoc processes,  rather than forcing them to adapt to the limitations of the technologies they are using. Back then the idea was to create a comprehensive process framework – a closely coupled approach. Today, it’s essentially the opposite, as SAP products run on an architecture that enables flexibility – a loosely coupled approach – both in how the computing infrastructure is organized and how people execute their tasks. It seems to me that this reflects the impact of having choices between cloud-based software as a service (SaaS) and on-premises systems and the need to enable access through a variety of devices (from desktops to mobile handhelds and tablets). Mobility is important both for people whose roles take them beyond the firewall (in sales, service and logistics, for example) and executives and managers who often find themselves managing by walking around. Tablets, smartphones and similar devices are attractive also because people consider them personal items and associate them with fun, whereas desktops and notebooks are corporate and work-related.

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Topics: Performance Management, Planning, Predictive Analytics, Sales Performance, SAP, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, GRC, Office of Finance, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Enterprise Software, Financial Performance, In-memory, Mobility, Workforce Performance, finance, Risk, Financial Performance Management

Users Should Apply ERP To Manage End-to-End Processes

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 12, 2011 9:28:08 AM

ERP systems not only collect information about transactions, they also automate processes. The latter includes managing the handoffs between roles and enabling electronic document creation and management associated with that. Indeed, it was the promise of improving process management and process execution that spurred companies to adopt ERP in the 1990s.

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Topics: Customer Experience, ERP, Office of Finance, end-to-end, Operational Performance, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Business Process Management, CFO, business process execution

Crystal Ball Is Cloudy for ERP Market

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 11, 2011 5:49:37 AM

As Workday continues to expand and the likelihood of its IPO becomes a more frequent topic of discussion, so does the movement of ERP systems to the cloud. Thus far, only a minority of companies have chosen to put their ERP and accounting systems in the cloud, but the numbers are growing and there’s evidence of success. NetSuite, for example, reported a 26 percent increase in its revenues to $145 million in the nine months up to Sept. 30, 2011. To be sure, this is not close to Salesforce.com’s size and growth rate over the past decade, but it does indicate a growing acceptance of the cloud for this software category, which I have commented on. Moreover, I expect that as more companies adopt cloud-based systems successfully, we’ll see accelerating adoption by more cautious buyers in the classic diffusion of innovation pattern described by Everett Rogers (and later reworked by Geoffrey Moore).

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Topics: Microsoft, Sales, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, NetSuite, Office of Finance, Dynamics, Epicor, Lawson, QAD, Operational Performance, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, IBM, Oracle, Workforce Performance, Infor, financial software, Intacct, PeopleSoft, Software

Acquisition of Lawson Complements Infor’s Portfolio

Posted by Ventana Research on May 12, 2011 2:25:52 PM

Golden Gate Capital and Infor (which is owned largely by Golden Gate Capital) will acquire Lawson Software for approximately $2 billion  in a transaction that is expected to be completed sometime in this year’s third quarter. Lawson is the latest in a string of enterprise software acquisitions made or financed by Golden Gate that began almost a decade ago. Today, Infor is made up of legacy companies such as Baan, Comshare, ePiphany, Dun & Bradstreet Software, SSA, Sun Systems and Symix, to name just a handful. Compared to Oracle’s acquisition approach, I would describe Golden Gate’s as more of a “rollup” of applications software vendors because it incorporates a larger number of smaller companies. While Oracle has focused primarily on serving the largest corporations, Infor’s customers tend to be midsize to large companies or divisions of very large corporations. Nonetheless, with this acquisition Infor will have a larger base of revenue and installations to work from in an industry where size and economies of scale drive profitability and competitiveness.

Lawson’s focus has been on two main vertical segments that I think nicely complement Infor’s lineup: services-oriented S3 strategic industries, which includes healthcare and public sector organizations as well as the cross-industry market for human capital management (HCM) software that my colleague recently outlined its importance for 2011; and light manufacturing-oriented M3 strategic industries, which targets fashion companies, equipment service management and rental as well as food and beverage. The HCM portfolio of Lawson will significantly help Infor who has not been as aggressive with its workforce management solution acquired many years back and for a market that is growing and consolidating rapidly in the last several years. Lawson’s strategy has been to focus on midsize-to-larger organizations in its core markets with a vertical-specific product focus and a value proposition of lower cost of ownership.

One objective in an acquisition such as this is to keep customers paying maintenance as long as possible. (I covered this topic in an earlier blog, “The Technology Stack and Innovation.”) When the final deal was announced it was accompanied by a letter from Infor’s CEO, Charles Phillips, to Lawson’s customers aimed at reassuring them that Infor is in it for the long run to keep them as customers and that Lawson’s current products will continue to receive support.

Beyond the goal of continuing to receive maintenance fees on Lawson’s existing product lines, I think that the Lawson acquisition reaffirms Infor’s basic product approach of making it simple for its customers to migrate from their existing software to a next-generation Infor offering. Software companies that like Infor have acquired an array of similar business applications have big incentives to move established customers onto a new or substantially updated system as painlessly as possible; otherwise they are likely to stop paying maintenance and start evaluating a full set of alternatives. (I just covered this point in a recent blog on ending “forklift migrations.” Reducing migration pain makes it much easier for a vendor to keep customers on maintenance and hold onto an important and highly profitable source of revenue. Moreover, it’s a way for these vendors to consolidate the number of code bases they are maintaining, which at the very least will make their development programs more effective, rationalize sales efforts and offer operating savings.

While the price Golden Gate and Infor are paying is hardly cheap (at about 2.6 times this year’s projected revenue for Lawson), it does give the acquirers a large, incremental, maintenance-paying installed base that can be targeted with a “pain-free” migration offering. Whether this ultimately pays off for Infor’s and Golden Gate’s investors depends, of course, on execution. Infor has been a company with good (and some not so good) products with unfulfilled potential. It’s up to Charles Phillips who already and his team to realize that potential and put into action his letter to Infor and Lawson on the announcement.                  

Regards,

Robert Kugel – SVP Research

 
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Topics: Sales Performance, Supply Chain Performance, ERP, Human Capital Management, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Performance, Business Technology, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Workforce Performance, CFO, Infor, Talent Management, Corporate Finance, Financial Performance Management

Prospects for Ending Forklift Migrations of ERP

Posted by Ventana Research on May 3, 2011 9:40:48 PM

Back in the old days (20 years ago or so) companies that wanted to expand or update their telephone systems had to do what was called a “forklift migration.” In other words, they had to remove big, heavy and very expensive boxes of electronics from an equipment room and replace them with newer big, heavy and very expensive boxes. The process of adding, deleting or changing people, offices and phone numbers was equally burdensome and costly. This all seems quaint now because digital telephony and voice over IP (VOIP) have completely changed the technology underpinnings of voice communications. I bring this up because we may be on the verge of substantially reducing the “forklift migration” equivalent of replacing or updating on-premises ERP systems and other enterprise software. This possibility is important for software vendors as well as users. Retaining a maintenance base and revenue stream has become a key strategic objective for any enterprise software provider. In North America in particular, companies that have outgrown their enterprise system or want to replace it almost never exhibit total brand loyalty. Instead they begin the replacement process by looking at alternatives, winnow it down to a short list and then select the best of the lot. If migration is as much work as implementing a new system, organizations are likely to view replacement as an equally attractive option, increasing the probability that the incumbent vendor will lose a customer. But if there’s little pain in changing an ERP system to acquire new functional capabilities or meet other objectives, incumbent vendors stand to benefit.

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Topics: SAP, ERP, Office of Finance, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Oracle, Infor

Infor Helps Midsize Multinationals Manage Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 14, 2011 10:38:33 PM

While Europeans have long had to adapt to working in many languages, currencies and legal jurisdictions, a generation ago most midsize companies in the United States did all their business in their home country and in U.S. dollars. Today, though, the relentless globalization of the world economy means that an increasing number of midsize companies in North America are functionally multinational and face the challenges of managing a more complex and demanding accounting and financial management function.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Sunsystems, Business Performance, Financial Performance, CFO, Financial Management, Infor, Corporate Finance, FMS

SAP Plugs a Gap in Financial Filing

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 16, 2010 6:14:46 PM

SAP is in the process of acquiring certain financial disclosure management software assets from cundus, a German provider of BI and performance management software. SAP will be buying cundus’ Financial Statement Factory and informationCollector, which together manage the collaborative creation and editing of financial and management reports using both structured and unstructured information. SAP expects to complete the deal by the end of 2010.

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Topics: ERP, Financial Applications, Uncategorized, CFO, finance, Financial Performance Management

A New Financial Force in the Cloud

Posted by Ventana Research on Dec 15, 2010 3:37:33 PM

One of the prominent salesforce.com partners on display at the recent Dreamforce in San Francisco was FinancialForce.com. It’s one of a growing list of providers of in-the-cloud accounting and finance packages built on the Force.com platform. Like other of these accounting vendors (such as CompiereIntacctNetsuite and - to some extent and eventually– Workday), it aims principally at companies that have outgrown entry-level accounting software such as Intuit’s QuickBooks. (I covered the emerging use of cloud-based applications for finance departments here.) However, there are key differences. One major difference is that FinancialForce offers customers the choice between buying accounting functionality as a complete package or doing so à la carte. This approach derives from its strategy of going after two types of customers.

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Topics: ERP, Financial Applications, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, CFO, finance

Forecast: Cloudy

Posted by alanskay on Dec 2, 2010 11:01:15 AM

If you’ve walked past a playing TV recently, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed that Microsoft thinks it can profit from “The Cloud.” The folks in Redmond would have you store your pictures there so the family can access them, use it to collaborate over the weekend in a small business – you name it, Cloud Power can do it.

The cloud is much discussed in the business arena these days as well, but that conversation is being driven, I suspect, by an interest not in power but in cost. Enterprise system deployments – of ERP systems, CRM, supply chain and logistics management, HR management systems – are time-consuming, and costly, and fraught with hassles and missteps and wrong turns. Wouldn’t it be nice, the thinking goes, to hand that all off to someone else and rather than buying a bunch of hardware and software and installing it in a data center (or data closet), simply rent the device that that system delivers from someone else, taking delivery via the Internet.

You don’t have to think about that very long, do you? “You betcha!” is the answer. As technology, the cloud is hardly a radical advance – it’s the client-server model of 20 years ago brought forward into the 21st century. But it’s now a cost-effective option; if you’re a business executive, you’ll be hearing about it soon if you haven’t already.

But there is one upside to the local data center: The data in it is secure. When your sensitive data is flying through the clouds ad is stored who knows where, how secure is it? I can’t answer that right now, but it’s a question we’re pondering here at Ventana Research, and one we may pursue. What’s your thought?

Let me know your thoughts or come and collaborate with me on Facebook and  LinkedIn.

Regards,

Alan Kay – VP Research Management

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Topics: ERP, Cloud Computing, Data Integration, Uncategorized, CRM

SAP Hits Suite Spot for Financial Performance Management

Posted by Robert Kugel on Dec 1, 2010 10:06:22 AM

Ventana Research recently completed its 2010 Financial Performance Management Value Index of the major financial performance management suites. Financial performance management (FPM) is the process of addressing the often overlapping issues around people, process, information and information technology that affect how well finance organizations operate and support the activities of the rest of the organization. FPM deals with the full cycle of finance department activities including planning, forecasting, analysis, closing and reporting. As I noted in my earlier blog about this year’s FPM Value Index, one striking feature of this software category is its general maturity. Budgeting and planning, reporting, closing and statutory consolidation, as well as dashboards and scorecards, have been around for more than a decade, so the suites we examined are all feature-rich and with one notable exception have remarkably similar capabilities at this time. (The exception is automated preparation of XBRL-tagged financial documents for the United States Securities and Exchange Commission – the SEC). Consequently the Value Index scores were tightly clustered. SAP’s suite just edged out those of IBM and Infor in the rankings, though both of those earned the Hot Vendor rating.

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Topics: SAP, ERP, Financial Applications, Financial Performance, CFO, finance, Financial Performance Management

What is the Value of Your Financial Performance Management Software?

Posted by Robert Kugel on Nov 28, 2010 12:21:02 PM

Ventana Research has just announced its Value Index for Financial Performance Management (FPM) for 2010. Our value indexes are user-focused assessments of how well software vendors and packages enable companies to improve their execution of core processes. This one is designed to help businesses, especially the finance organization, evaluate the FPM software suites offered by major vendors in the context of their specific needs. Ventana Research defines financial performance management as the practice of managing the efficiency and effectiveness of financial processes including analytics, budgeting, consolidation, planning, reporting and strategy. The methodology we use to produce the Value Indexes involves evaluating in detail aspects of product functionality and suitability-to-task as well as the effectiveness of vendor support for the buying process and customer assurance.

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Topics: ERP, Office of Finance, Financial Applications, Business Performance, Business Technology, Financial Performance, Business Planning, CFO, finance, Corporate Finance, Financial Performance Management

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