Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

IBM’s 2013 Vision Bodes Well for Finance

Posted by Robert Kugel on Jun 3, 2013 9:55:49 AM

I recently attended Vision 2013, IBM’s annual conference for users of its financial governance, risk management and sales performance management software. These three groups have little in common operationally, but they share software infrastructure needs and basic supporting software components such as reporting and analytics. Moreover, while some other major vendors’ user group meetings concentrate on IT departments, Vision focuses on business users and their needs, which is a welcome difference. For me, there were three noteworthy features related to the finance portion of the program. First, IBM continues to advance its financial performance management (FPM) suite and emphasizes its Cognos TM1 platform to support a range of finance department tasks. Second, the user-led sessions illustrated improvements that finance departments can make to their core processes today, ones that improve the quality of these processes and go a long way toward enabling Finance to play a more strategic role in the company it serves. Third, the Cognos Disclosure Management product has better performance and useful new features to support the management of a full range of internal and external disclosure documents, including the extended close, which I have discussed.

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Topics: Planning, Reporting, Budgeting, closing, tagging, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance, Data Management, Financial Performance, IBM, CFO, Financial Performance Management, FPM, SEC, TM1

Infor Demonstrates Steady Stream of Advances to Customers

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 26, 2013 11:00:13 AM

At this year’s Inforum user group conference, Infor representatives showed the progress the organization has made since last year in transforming itself from a ragbag of mostly small, often obsolete software companies to a competitive vendor of a modern enterprise management software suite. Infor was created by private equity investors employing a “rollup” strategy, aimed at combining smaller companies within an industry to form a single larger company that could achieve economies of scale and greater market presence. Others have tried this in the software industry in the past and encountered difficulty in making it work for two primary reasons. One is the technical challenge of achieving economies of scale in enterprise applications by turning a set of similar but separately developed software pieces into a single offering. Computer Associates achieved economies of scale through acquisition in the 1990s in the IT infrastructure software segment. But it did this largely by forcing customers of the various acquired companies to migrate to its single offering in the specific category. This is not a practical approach for business and finance enterprise applications because customers are willing to go off maintenance and eventually look for another vendor. The second difficulty is that newer or larger competitors can focus on innovation and overtake the rollup company while its attention and resources are focused on stitching the pieces together.

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Topics: Big Data, Mobile, Planning, Sales Performance, Social Media, Supply Chain Performance, GRC, Budgeting, closing, IT Performance, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Cloud, Cloud Computing, Collaboration, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Information Management, Workforce Performance, Accounting, CFO, Infor, Risk, FPM, SEC, spreadsheet

International Integrated Reporting Framework Takes Shape

Posted by Robert Kugel on Apr 23, 2013 10:45:10 AM

The International Integrated Reporting Council (IIRC) recently published a draft framework outlining how it believes businesses ought to communicate with their stakeholders. In this context the purpose of an “integrated report” is to promote corporate transparency by clearly and concisely presenting how an organization’s strategy, governance, and financial and operational performance will create value for shareholders and other stakeholders in both the short and the long term. Such a report aims to address broader needs than only those of investors’ and therefore must be more than a simple extension of a company’s external financial reports, which are aimed at a specialist audience including analysts, regulators and lawyers.

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Topics: Sustainability, closing, report, XBRL, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Information Applications, Information Management, financial report, FPM, SASB, scorecard, SEC

Public XBRL Vendors Should Go the Extra Mile

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 27, 2013 8:01:54 AM

This is annual report season, the time of year that a majority of European and North American corporations issue glossy paper documents aimed at investors, customers, suppliers, existing and prospective employees as well as the public at large. (Some countries have different conventions; in Japan, for instance, most companies are on a March fiscal year.) In reviewing some of the annual reports that are available on the Web, I was struck by the absence of advanced reporting technology used on investor web pages and in online annual reports of vendors of advanced reporting technology. (One notable exception is Microsoft, which uses Silverlight on its investor web pages.) Adobe Acrobat (introduced 20 years ago) is the presentation method of choice for the annual report. It would be great if publicly traded vendors that sell tools that automate the process of assembling investor documents (such as Exact Software, IBM, Infor, SAP and Trintech) would demonstrate their value beyond simple compliance. These companies’ tools support and automate the processes that are part of what some call “the last mile of finance,” referring to their use in the final steps of a stream of activities that starts with closing the books and performing statutory financial consolidations and ends with publishing and filing financial documents to satisfy regulatory or contractual obligations. (I prefer to use the term “close-to-disclose cycle” because it’s a more accurate description.) These vendors should go the extra mile and redesign their investor sites to show how XBRL-tagged financial documents can be used to communicate more effectively with shareholders.

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Topics: extended close, tagging, US-GAAP, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Accounting, CFO, compliance, financial reporting, SEC, spreadsheet

Software to Fend Off Earnings Restatements

Posted by Robert Kugel on Mar 15, 2013 9:50:43 AM

I’m wondering whether the rapid rise in earnings restatements by “accelerated filers” (companies that file their financial statements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission that have a public float greater than $75 million) over the past three years is a significant trend or an interesting blip. According to a research firm, Audit Analytics, that number has grown from 153 restatements in 2009 to 245 in 2012, a 60 percent increase. What makes it a blip is that the total is still less than half the number that occurred in 2006 as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act began to take effect. As well, the number of companies restating is still less than one percent of the total. Yet it’s a blip worth paying attention to, since the consequences of a restatement pose a serious professional challenge to finance executives. The right software can help address some of the underlying causes that lead to the need to restate earnings.

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Topics: Governance, GRC, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, process, process management, report, Tax, tax data warehouse, tax provision, XBRL, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Accounting, CFO, compliance, FPM, SEC