Workiva’s Wdesk, a cloud-based productivity application for handling composite documents, will have a larger role to play as companies adopt new revenue recognition standards governing accounting for contracts. The Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which administers Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the U.S. (US-GAAP), has issued ASC 606 and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which administers International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) used in most other countries, has issued IFRS 15. The two are very similar, and both will enforce fundamental changes in accounting for contracts.
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.
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
Reconciling accounts at the end of a period is one of those mundane finance department tasks that are ripe for automation. Reconciliation is the process of comparing account data (at the balance or item level) that exists either in two accounting systems or in an accounting system and somewhere else (such as in a spreadsheet or on paper). The purpose of the reconciling process is to identify things that don’t match (as they must in double-entry bookkeeping systems) and then assess the nature and causes of the variances. This is followed by making adjustments or corrections to ensure that the information in a company’s books is accurate. Most of the time, reconciliation is a matter of good housekeeping. The process identifies errors and omissions in the accounting process, including invalid journal postings and duplicate accounting entries, so they can be corrected. Reconciliation also is an important line of defense against fraud, since inconsistencies may be a sign of such activity.
Topics: Office of Finance, automation, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, effectiveness, Reconciliation, XBRL, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management, FPM
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.
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
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.
Topics: Planning, Reporting, Budgeting, closing, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance, Data Management, Financial Performance, IBM, CFO, Financial Performance Management, FPM, SEC, TM1, Digital Technology
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.
Topics: Sustainability, Office of Finance, closing, XBRL, Operational Performance, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Information Applications, Information Management, financial reporting, FPM, SASB, SEC
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.
Topics: Office of Finance, extended close, US-GAAP, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, compliance, financial reporting, SEC, Digital Technology
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.
Topics: Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, Tax, XBRL, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, compliance, FPM, SEC
I was discussing the United States Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) mandate with a former head of investor relations at a Fortune 100 company. His take on it is much the same as that of everyone else involved with corporate reporting: it doesn’t produce much value and costs a bundle to comply. I related to him my thoughts on the lack of progress I saw in making the XBRL mandate more useful to corporations and investors alike. Making XBRL data readily available to the public – not just for SEC enforcement purposes – is consistent with the SEC’s three-fold mission to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. In addition to giving XBRL-tagged data greater practical value to investors, the trove of company data assembled by the SEC could be used by a wide range of people working within corporations.
To mark the fourth anniversary of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) interactive data mandate, Columbia Business School (my alma mater) and its Center for Excellence in Accounting and Security Analysis (CEASA) published a review of the current state of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) that notes the manifold issues that plague this promising technology. From its perspective, three key issues hamper greater use of XBRL. The first is the high error rate in the tagging process and the tendency of companies to use too many non-standard tags, both of which substantially reduce the usefulness of the data to practitioners. Second, they believe technologists, not regulators and accountants, should be more involved in developing software that makes it easier to consume XBRL-tagged data. Third, companies should spend more effort improving the quality of their data than on trying to kill the mandate.
Topics: Office of Finance, extended close, US-GAAP, XBRL, Analytics, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, compliance, financial reporting, SEC, Digital Technology
Earlier this year we published our Trends in Developing the Fast, Clean Close benchmark research findings. The most significant was that, on average, it takes longer for companies to close their books today than it did five years ago. In 2007, nearly half (47%) we closing their quarters within five or six days, but now only 38 percent can do it as quickly.
Topics: Office of Finance, close, closing, Consolidation, Controller, effectiveness, XBRL, Business Performance, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management, FPM
Unless you have some combination of a very strong credit rating, a high income-to-debt payment ratio and a relatively low loan-to-value ratio, it’s not especially easy to refinance a mortgage these days. That’s a shame, because there are plenty of people who have stayed current in meeting their credit obligations and whose mortgages are comfortably below current market value who could benefit from today’s record low interest rates. One major reason they can’t refinance is the collapse of non-agency mortgage-backed securities (MBS) – that is, those not backed by government agencies such Federal National Mortgage Association, or Fannie Mae – in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. The crisis, in turn, was caused largely by the collapse in value of mortgage-backed securities. To be sure, a significant portion of the drop in the issuance of non-agency paper is the lack of demand these days for the risky and even fraudulent sub-prime mortgages that were a root cause of the financial collapse. Yet there would be a bigger market for MBSes (and therefore more money available for refinancing) and less need for U.S. government guarantees if there were greater transparency in the quality of the underlying assets of mortgage-backed securities. Technology exists today that would address the transparency issue relatively easily and inexpensively. In particular, eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) can provide an efficient and relatively inexpensive means of collecting needed information from a large number of disparate parties without requiring them to standardize or modify their systems.
If you’re considering purchasing a financial performance management (FPM) suite, you shouldn’t overlook a recent entrant in the category, Tagetik (which sort of rhymes with “magnetic”). The company, which was founded in 1986 and is based in Lucca, Italy, began by focusing mainly on Europe, but has extended its efforts in the United States in the past two years. Tagetik 4.0 is an elegant implementation of a financial performance management suite running on Microsoft’s SharePoint infrastructure.
Topics: Big Data, Planning, Office of Finance, Reporting, Budgeting, close, Consolidation, Controller, SharePoint, XBRL, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Dashboards, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, CFO, Tagetik, FPM
People used to use the phrase “the last mile” solely to refer to a condemned prisoner’s path to execution. Then the telecommunications industry picked it up to describe that part of a circuit between a major trunk line and a subscriber. Later still a defunct software company, Movaris (now part of Trintech), used the phrase in an analogy to refer to the set of activities that take place between when a company closes its books and the point where it finishes its external reporting activities, such as disclosing periodic earnings and financial conditions to investors or filing financial statements with regulators or lenders. It was an attempt to focus attention on the need to automate and better coordinate the multiple, disparate but interconnected threads that have to be orchestrated to complete the external reporting tasks accurately and on time. Personally, I’ve never cared for the phrase being used in this context; there are really multiple “last miles,” with multiple and sometimes overlapping destinations. I prefer “the close–to-report cycle” because it’s more precise in its description, and because rather than pointing to finality, “cycle” defines it for what it is – a repetitive periodic activity. And because it is periodic and repetitive, it benefits from process optimization and automation, which can substantially reduce the effort required to complete a cycle and alleviate the stress certain departments often feel as deadlines loom.
Topics: Customer Experience, Governance, GRC, Office of Finance, Reporting, audit, close, Consolidation, Controller, XBRL, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, compliance, FPM, SEC
For several years the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has mandated that filers apply eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) tags to their financial statements. XBRL was developed to make it easier for investors to use a company’s financial information. Now XBRL US has kicked off its second annual XBRL Challenge, a contest designed to encourage development of open source analytical tools that can use XBRL-formatted corporate financial data from the SEC’s EDGAR database. Sponsoring the effort are the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the CFA Institute (of which I am a member) and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. XBRL US hopes to raise awareness of the wealth of available XBRL data and provide incentives for application developers to create open source software that enables broader and more frequent use of the standard. The contest will award $20,000 grand prizes to the two teams, and judging will be based on how well each submission improves access to corporate data and provides analytic capabilities in an original, user-friendly way. This competition is a terrific idea because it addresses the least well developed element in the drive to improve the communication of corporate data to investors. Earlier this year I reviewed some of the submissions to the first XBRL Challenge. Although the first round of software offered a good start, much more needs to be done to encourage use of XBRL.
What’s a fast, free and reasonably reliable way of gauging the effectiveness of a finance department’s management? It’s the number of days it takes it to close the books. Companies that take six days or fewer after the end of the period to close their monthly, quarterly or semiannual accounts demonstrate a basic level of effectiveness that those that take longer do not. In my judgment, finance executives should regard a slow close as a negative key performance indicator pointing to less-than-effective management on their part. I draw this conclusion from our recent benchmark research, which followed up similar research we completed in 2007.
Topics: Sales Performance, Office of Finance, close, Consolidation, Controller, XBRL, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management
I have commented before on the movement to adopt International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) by the United States to replace US-GAAP (Generally Accepted Accounting Principles). Most recently I discussed the drive toharmonize the significant differences between US-GAAP and IFRS on revenue recognition and lease accounting. To those who are interested in but not intimately involved with the subject, I suspect the current situation is a bit confusing, since there are multiple groups involved in the discussions on how best to proceed, each with its own agenda. The full adoption issue remains in flux, but let me weigh in the matter.
Topics: Reporting, audit, Consolidation, IFRS, US-GAAP accounting, XBRL, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Financial Management, financial standards, FPM
For at least a couple of decades completing the financial close within five or six business days after the end of the period has been accepted as a best practice. As such, that creates an expectation that finance organizations that take longer should work to reduce their closing intervals. In updating our last benchmark research on the closing process, Ventana Research has found this not to be the case. In fact, the latest research shows that many companies are taking longer to close today than they did five years ago. Whereas nearly half (47%) were able to close their quarter or half-year period within six business days back then, just 38 percent are able to do so now. Similarly, five years ago 70 percent of companies were able to complete their monthly close in six days; today only half can. To be sure, closing quickly still gets lip service: The research confirms that most companies (83%) view closing their books quickly as important or very important. Yet far from demonstrating progress, the results show slow closers are regressing.
Topics: Office of Finance, close, Consolidation, Controller, XBRL, Business Analytics, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Management, CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management
Host Analytics has added new analytics and reporting resources to its cloud-based performance management suite. Business Analytics will offer a broad set of built-in analytics and reporting capabilities or, for companies with an existing business intelligence infrastructure (from vendors such as IBM, Infor, Oracle or SAP), the option of a self-service approach. I believe these new analytics and reporting capabilities give companies considering only on-premises performance management deployments another reason to consider a cloud-based option; for Host Analytics it broadens the set of features it has to compete with other cloud-based vendors.
Topics: Planning, Sales Performance, Reporting, Budgeting, closing, Consolidation, Host Analytics, XBRL, Operational Performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, Workforce Performance, Data, benchmark, Decision Hub, Financial Performance Management, SEC
The mandate by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that requires its filers to apply eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) tags to their financial statements has been in effect for several years. (XBRL is a core element of our Office of Finance Research Agenda for 2012.) One of the most important ideas behind this “interactive data” requirement was to make it as simple as possible for investors to be able to consume and analyze corporate financial data filed with the SEC. This intent sets the SEC mandate apart from most other XBRL tagging requirements, which are designed for the needs of regulatory bodies such as the Bank of Japan, the Australian federal and state governments and the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Moreover, I believe the depth and breadth of the SEC’s database and the size of the U.S. equity capital markets make this the most important public-focused use of XBRL in the world. Considerable progress has been made toward the main objective, but considerably more is needed, and the sooner the better.
Topics: Office of Finance, extended close, US-GAAP, XBRL, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Collaboration, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Applications, Information Management, CFO, compliance, financial reporting, SEC, Digital Technology
The evolution from United States Generally Accepted Accounting Standards (US-GAAP) to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) has been under way for more than a decade. I’ve commented on IFRS adoption before. It’s a hot topic for accountants and auditors because it goes to the heart of how companies keep their books.
Topics: Office of Finance, closing, Controller, FASB, IASB, IFRS, XBRL, financial performance, Analytics, Business Analytics, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), CFO, financial statement, GAAP, SEC
Ventana Research recently completed an update to our last benchmark research on the financial closing process. It shows that many companies are taking longer to close today than they did five years ago. Whereas nearly half (47%) were able to close their quarter or half-year period within six business days five years ago, just 38 percent are able to do so in our latest benchmark. Similarly, five years ago 70 percent of companies were able to complete their monthly close in six days; today only half can. The research confirms that most companies (83%) view closing their books quickly as important or very important. Participants acknowledge that they can do better, saying on average that their company can cut at least two days from both the monthly and quarterly closes. Moreover, the longer it takes their company to close, the more time participants think they could save.
Topics: Office of Finance, close, Consolidation, Controller, XBRL, Business Analytics, Business Mobility, Business Performance, Cloud Computing, Financial Performance, CFO, Data, Document Management, Financial Performance Management
Ventana Research’s new financial close benchmark research reveals that many companies are taking longer to close today than they did five years ago. Whereas nearly half (47%) were able to close their quarter or half-year period within six business days five years ago, just 38 percent are able to do so in our latest benchmark. Similarly, five years ago 70 percent of companies were able to complete their monthly close in six days; today only half can. The research confirms that most companies (83%) view closing their books quickly as important or very important. Participants acknowledge that they can do better, saying on average that their company can cut at least two days from both the monthly and quarterly closes. And the longer it takes their company to close, the more time participants think they could save. Although there is some evidence that external factors such as economic and regulatory events have increased the workload in the close process, which in turn has extended some companies’ close period, I believe that organizations that take more than a business week to close their books have not made much effort to shorten the close, as I noted in a recent blog.
The most intractable issues that face finance departments are those that “everyone” knows must be addressed but somehow never muster the collective urgency to do so. Many couch potatoes know they need to watch their diet and exercise regularly. If asked, they would say it’s important or even very important. Yet there they sit. Based on our newly completed benchmark research “Trends in Developing the Fast, Clean Close”, it appears that closing falls into this category. This is especially true for companies that are slow closers, by which we mean those that take more than five or six business days (essentially one business week) to complete their monthly, quarterly or, for those that publish their financial statements only twice yearly, semiannual close. Our research shows that in general there has been no progress in achieving fast closes – indeed, there’s been some backsliding – over the past five years and, indeed, since our initial research on this subject in 2004.
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.
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
The melding of the world’s two main financial accounting standards – United States Generally Accepted Accounting Standards (US-GAAP) and International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) – continues apace. Initially, the idea was to converge the two into a single, global standard. Although there was general agreement that the concept was a noble one, there were enough differences to produce practical concerns about implementing these changes, especially in the United States. Then, in December 2010, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which mandates accounting standards for publicly traded companies, indicated that while in principle it favors a single international accounting standard, the Commission was going to take a “condorsement” approach, which I covered in a note last year. The SEC’s move essentially derailed the prior objective of replacing US-GAAP with IFRS by the middle of this decade. Still, the coming together of US-GAAP and IFRS continues to forge ahead even without acceptance of full adoption in the U.S. The two bodies that administer accounting standards, the Financial Accounting Standards Board (FASB), which manages US-GAAP, and the International Accounting Standards Board (IASB), which manages IFRS, are attempting to standardize wherever possible and harmonize as best they can elsewhere. One important area where there’s been significant progress is revenue recognition.
SAP announced the release of version 10 of its SAP BusinessObjects Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Solutions suite, an enhanced and updated set of applications and capabilities for executives and managers. In our Value Index assessment of financial performance management suites and my analysis of it last year, Ventana Research gave SAP’s offering the highest score, and this new release builds on that solid foundation that I already assessed in my blog. It has been several years since SAP began acquiring and assembling its performance management and analytical software assets, and the company has progressed to the point where discussing the integration efforts is becoming irrelevant. This release revamps the user interface of the different components to provide a more consistent look and feel – a crucial factor in facilitating training and improving user productivity. Outside of the suite itself, the current release is designed to integrate better with ERP, SAP NetWeaver BW, risk management and BI. In facts it establishes a foundation for finance analytics that I have researched and is essential for doing what I call and have written about in putting the “A” back in FP&A.
EPM incorporates a range of financial and performance management functionality, including strategy management, planning, sales and operations planning (S&OP), financial information management, profitability and cost management, spend management and supply chain performance management, as well as finance department process management software for financial consolidation, intercompany reconciliations and disclosure management. These components now have a more consistent user interface and all have been given some enhancements to their functionality especially in the path to supporting the need for I call integrated business planning that SAP has indicated is strategic to its future and use of its in-memory computing technology called HANA.
SAP also has improved integration of EPM with mobile devices like Apple iPad, which allows executives and managers who spend a large portion of their time away from their desks to have access to the information they need in a timely and contextual fashion, and lets them interact with the data to gain deeper understanding of underlying causes and potential outcomes. (My colleague Mark Smith covered mobile business intelligence in this blog.)
Release 10.0 includes the Disclosure Management application, which enables companies to automate the process of preparing external financial reports and regulatory disclosures. This capability will aid the increasing number of public companies in the U.S. that need to file their financial statements with a more complete set of eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) tags that I already assessed on the importance of automating. Companies can save considerable time using the software by systematizing their data collection, using workflows for managing the assembly of the text that goes into these filings, applying tags to text and data (if necessary) and automating the assembly of text and numbers in the exact format required. Automating this process gives executives more time to review filings and lessens the risk of reporting errors by changing mainly manual processes into a more systematized one. Performing this work in-house rather than outsourcing it gives companies greater control over the process and likely will save them a considerable amount of time following a relatively short learning curve. I provided some insight on this advancement when SAP acquired software assets for this new offering that has now come to market.
The current release builds enhanced enterprise risk management procedures into the overall performance management process. Outside of financial services, few companies explicitly quantify risk in their planning and performance assessment processes. Too often, managers are evaluated solely on productivity measures and therefore can be given disincentives to weigh risk factors. These risks may be well understood by business unit and divisional managers but are almost never communicated to senior executives. As I noted in a previous blog, this gives rise to agency risk within a company.
Although almost every company is mindful of achieving its profitability objectives, many fall short in coordinating the actions of their various silos and operating units to optimize the trade-offs they must make, especially as events unfold after the annual planning process. Profitability management enables senior executives to analyze and assess alternatives and optimize these trade-offs.
EPM 10 continues the necessary evolution of the financial performance management suite. It’s not necessary for finance organizations to manage performance and core finance operations using software from a single vendor (and most don’t). However, suites give companies the option of doing so, which can be a less costly way of buying and maintaining this functionality. Finance organizations looking at a consistent user experience and technology for GRC will find SAP BusinessObjects GRC 10 is empowered by SAP EPM 10 capabilities.
Today, technology is pushing a fundamental shift in how companies use financial performance management software. The increasing availability of in-memory computing (HANA in SAP’s case, which my colleague David Menninger discussed in his blog), cloud computing and mobile devices enables a fundamental shift from today’s once-a-month, accounting-based rear-view-mirror approach to assessing performance via an anywhere, anytime interactive view that blends financial and operating results and provides a richer, more accurate measure of results. In fact my colleague at SAPPHIRE NOW 2011 user conference has already seen how SAP was demonstrating a new dynamic cash flow management on SAP HANA to help advance the efficiency of accounting and financial operations.
I recommend that organizations considering any component of a financial performance management suite should include SAP BusinessObjects EPM 10 in their list of products to investigate. This application suite can clearly help finance and is a better path than doing what I call the ERP forklift migration
Robert Kugel – SVP Research
Topics: Planning, Sales Performance, SAP, Supply Chain Performance, Sustainability, Forecast, Office of Finance, budget, Budgeting, XBRL, Operational Performance, Business Intelligence, Business Performance, Customer & Contact Center, Financial Performance, Governance, Risk & Compliance (GRC), Information Management, Workforce Performance, CFO, agile, budgeting software, CEO, Corporate Finance, Financial Performance Management, Integrated Business Planning
The US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) “Interactive Data” initiative continues to progress forward. Thus far, some 1,500 corporations have filed their financial information using XBRL tags to facilitate review and analysis, of which almost 400 have had done detailed tagging of their footnotes. By June 2011 all public companies will have to provide an XBRL-tagged, interactive version of their financial statements. As I’ve noted in the past, I think companies should find ways to automate the XBRL tagging process to make it as efficient as possible and make this a part of a close-to-report process automation effort that can lower the cost of compliance, and give companies more time to review the substance (not just the details) of their filings.
In July, Australia adopted what it calls "Standard Business Reporting" (SBR), which is designed to reduce the reporting burden imposed on businesses by the country's federal and state governments by streamlining the information submission ("lodging" for the Oz) process. In essence, the country is on its way to a file-once-use-many approach whereby companies provide data using a single secure sign-on known as "AUSkey" As of now, SBR reports include the Business Activity Statement, Tax File Number Declarations, payment summaries, payroll tax returns and financial statements. While the data can be compiled manually, the objective is to have SBR-enabled software to pre-fill and complete government forms directly from their own accounting and other business systems. The Australian initiative has been in the works for several years and appears to be off to a good start.