Values – Do you know yours?

03/08/2015 by

Here is a subject upon which I have changed my view by 180 degrees over the last few years. I do that very rarely, and admit it even less.

I am talking about one of a company’s “3 Statements”, comprised of Mission Statement, Vision Statement and Values Statement. In the past I have dismissed this as “North American nonsense” and just a small step from calling every senior manager a vice-president. But over the last few years my views have been changed, mainly by the things I have seen.

Now if we accept that your mission statement is addressing why your company exists and your vision statement describes where you want to get to, I always thought these were important things to know, although why a company wanted to stencil them on the wall above the receptionists head in gothic font always worried me. I just didn’t understand what the values thing was about. Until now.

When a company goes as far as saying that their values are to be ethical, or environmentally friendly, or honest (Is it worth saying? Could this be a lie too?), or any number of other fluffy adjectives that they think their customers would want them to be, are they saying this because they believe it, or because they want their customers to believe it? My previous view was that a values statement was simply yet another marketing stunt. And indeed in some companies that I have worked with, it remains just that.

But what if you used your values statement to do what it was intended to do. What if, once agreed upon, it informed every decision you ever took within your company. What if it becomes so ingrained within your organisation that if you delegated a decision, then you would know that those same values had been used to guide the decision making process without you needing to be involved. Suppose it became part of the company DNA. Suppose people came to work for you because they supported your values, and even better, some people didn’t join your company because they couldn’t support those values that you hold dear. Wouldn’t that help avoid confrontation and an awkward parting of the ways down the line?

Imagine how much quicker you would reach decisions within a company if the values were already decided upon and stencilled on the wall in reception. You wouldn’t have to ask yourselves the awkward questions, just ask how this decision relates to your values, and therefore what was the best route to follow. Now I know that not all decisions in a business are pertinent to your values, but most of the hard ones are.

I know that some companies use values as an additional marketing ploy, but where companies believe in them and use them to inform their decision making processes, I am a newly recruited and extremely enthusiastic fan of value statements and I recommend you take a fresh look too.

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Watch your forecasting flow

04/03/2015 by

I have been working on a customer site recently, helping them flow their planning from one version to another, with great effect. It has been difficult, but worthwhile, and the end result is a thoroughly joined up approach to planning.

Step 1

They have started by taking the actual months for the current year, in their case 10 months’ worth of data, and predicting the last 2 months’ movements. Being so close to those last 2 months means that they are probably producing very accurate figures too. Not only are they predicting 2 months of Profit and Loss figures, but as they have a very clever integrated Cashflow and Balance Sheet model, they are producing the expected balance sheet and cashflow movement figures too. The level of detail is incredible; delaying payment to supplier X, reducing overdraft facility Y and delaying an expected asset addition order.  It is quite a model and the end result is a confident 10+2 Reforecast.

Step 2

They have now produced the Reforecast closing balance sheet figures for this year. They feed these into the opening balance sheet for next year’s Budget, knowing that this opening position is pretty close to what it will actually be.

Step 3

They have uploaded their Budget movements for next year, which will use the integrated model again to produce new integrated Balance Sheet and Cashflow statements. These are vital components of their Budget, not an afterthought as in most companies.

Step 4

They now use the Budget as the first year of their 3 Year Plan. It slots right into the first year, and then they upload 2 more years of expected P&L, Fixed Asset Additions and Loan movements to model that 3 Year Plan.

As their models are integrated, they can still make changes to their 10 + 2 Reforecast and see the figures flow through to their Budget and 3 Year Plan for as long as they desire, although they have stopped making changes now and locked down both the Reforecast and their Budget too. The 3 Year Plan will remain open for changes for another 2 weeks or so before that is locked down.

The above does not sound too ambitious does it? It should be the most run of the mill stuff imaginable, but sadly, I expect more than 50% of organisation to be falling well short of the above. Where does your company stand?

I am not even advocating a particular solution to achieve the above. We currently implement 4 different solutions, and every one can easily do what is described above. I am sure there are many other solutions out there that do similar. So the obvious question that I leave you with: why aren’t all companies doing this?

3 piece suite?

30/05/2014 by

3 piece suite

Not your idea of a 3 piece suite? Certainly not mine. Nothing against any of the pieces of furniture per se, they may all be super comfortable, just the right height for whatever you want to be doing in them, and suited to the intended user’s features and preferences, but…

Now take the same example with Corporate Performance Management (CPM), or to give it its old title, planning, reporting and analysis. You could call these applications a suite of products. Wonderful idea, just not very well executed by so many vendors. Why is it that most software houses have odds and sods of software, united under a single logo but in the background held together by sticky tape and string? Well the reason is that they have bought in different solutions and tried, not very hard it must be said, to join them together. With all of the consolidation of solutions over the last decade, BI vendors bought planning vendors, and were then swallowed up by ERP vendors to create big bulbous, monolithic solution providers now peddle 3 piece suites that look as eclectic as the example above and work in a similar fashion.

If you want to see planning, reporting and analysis working together in harmony, a real integrated solution, built as a single solution without desperate bolt-ons, then talk to Innovar and we will help you evaluate the best integrated solutions and steer you away from the hotchpotch of disastrous software solutions that are waiting to ensnare you. BEWARE the 3 piece suite!

What exactly do we do?

21/03/2013 by

This isn’t a senior moment, I actually know what I do. Just in case you don’t, we have developed a new video explaining exactly what it is we do.

And if you have any questions, please do contact us immediately.

What’s on your “To Do” list?

07/02/2013 by

Do you keep a “To Do” list? I love them so much that I keep about one per day. Actually “keep” may not be the best word for it, more like I “write” a new one each day, then lose it by the next. However, the main items on the list are the same each day. The big items that remain on the list but don’t get done. And they don’t get done for one of 2 main reasons. They are not important enough for me to put them ahead of other stuff, so I keep assigning a lower priority to them so they never get done, or they remain undone because they are difficult.

The stuff that is low priority but remains undone should either be delegated or abandoned, or occasionally actually done if only to remove it from clogging up your “To Do” lists. But the difficult – well that is a whole other issue.

Sometimes the difficult stuff isn’t difficult at all. You just don’t know of an easy way to do it. Sometimes the answer is a few Google clicks away. Sometimes it really is difficult. Occasionally it pays to do those Google clicks to find out. So maybe the item on your “To Do” list could be changed to make it not so difficult. I’ll use a real example to explain myself here. Lots of our customers have the phrase “Cashflow Forecast” on their “To Do” list. And it remains there for years. Why not try this approach instead.

1. Instead of putting the topic “Cashflow Forecast” on your “To Do” list, put the Phrase “Do 5 minutes of Googling Cashflow Forecasts in my area or sector.”

2. Add an additional line saying “Find out rough indicative price for doing Cashflow Forecasts” by ringing one of those companies I just Googled.

What does this approach do that the original approach didn’t? Well it replaced a nebulous topic heading that seems far too big to attempt unless you have loads of free time and spare energy with a short task (it even says only spend 5 minutes) that can be slotted in to any 5 minute lull, at any time of the day or night.

Then it specifies a second shortish task that commits you to a quick phone call to the result of your search, just to find indicative prices.  You might not need to even do this step if the 5 minutes of Googling didn’t get you anywhere. But what if it did? What if your problem had been solved in your area or sector or industry? Wouldn’t you like to know roughly how much it cost?

Now where does that all get you. Certainly not having accomplished your aim of having a Cashflow Forecast in your organisation, but it will have done something very important. You now know whether this task is too difficult or too expensive, in which case you can remove it from your list. Or it will have moved the task from the too difficult to the possible. You would  know a company who could do it or assist, or at least know more than you do as well as a rough price. Now choose whether you want to keep it on your list and if you do, write down the next 2 steps you’d need to do, not a nebulous topic heading that never gets done.

Obviously, if your issue is Cashflow Forecast, or any other budgeting, forecasting, planning or Business Intelligence issues, then don’t bother Googling, just ring me on my mobile below. For all other stuff, give it a try right now.

This approach should help almost any big topic get done or get dumped. Try it. I planned my whole wedding this way!

Cut the chord – and float into the cloud

23/03/2012 by
Image

Anaplan cloud software = freedom

Imagine you are a big red balloon filled with helium. (where’s he going with this?) Ask yourself if you would rather be attached to something by a piece of string or if you’d prefer to be floating free. Now some people will be wishing for freedom, freedom to float on the wind, to soar away and bob along without a care in the world. But others will be worried about that holly bush, or vindictive birds or anything sharp.

Cloud software evokes similar reactions from organisations. But the string is far more complex. What ties software to the ground is a whole raft of stuff and those ties don’t always act in the best interest of the balloon. (OK, enough of the balloon analogy)

Most software is tethered by hardware – servers of some sort or another, be they database servers, application servers or web servers. Now they all cost money, which is all very obvious, and hopefully factored in when costing any solution. On those servers you will have operating systems, databases and any other applications that you need. They all tend to cost money too. So far, so obvious. Then you get the hidden costs. All of those operating systems and databases and applications will need upgrading on a regular basis. You can save money by not upgrading but that is a decision that always comes back to bite you. Someone has to spend time, and sometimes money on consultancy resource to keep all those o/s and applications on recent versions. And mostly those costs are hidden from view.

Someone also has to keep back-ups of your data. Not just an automated save off to another location, but actual disk copies that get taken off-site and stored somewhere else so you have a disaster recovery plan, which in itself usually costs money. Lots of money.

And you need someone in IT to do all these tasks, and then someone else to manage the people doing all these tasks, and then a director to set strategy and give direction to the manager who manages the people who do all this stuff. This all costs money you know. Lots of money.

The cloud sets you free from all those costs.

For those fearful of the cloud, and wary of anything sharp that could burst the balloon, you need to be really clear about the dangers and then examine just how sharp each pointy thing actually is.

You need a good, solid, reliable broadband connection. You probably want one of those anyway, but cloud is a non-starter without it.

You want a device that can browse the web. You have a wide choice of both devices and browsers.

You need to find someone else to blame if everything goes wrong because IT will be no help to you here.

You need to ask very pointed (or pointy) questions about the security of your data so that you can sleep easy knowing it is more secure than your data held on a server in your server room.

Do get back to me with any other cloud fears, because I am just as eager as you to examine them and either demolish them, one by one, or embrace them and see if they can be removed, or even, and I add this out of fairness, admit I have been wrong and start writing lots of apologies to lots of people.

Find out more at www.innovarltd.co.uk/cloud-based-planning or www.cloud-based-planning.co.uk

Another way of looking at Forecasting.

14/03/2012 by

Here is a way of looking at forecasting that may be very different from what you do now. Stop asking yourself what you think is going to happen and ask yourself what you would like to happen instead. I don’t mean saying that sales will be 5% higher or overheads will be £200k lower. I mean really radical changes. Try doubling sales on services or slashing 20% off overheads. That sort of thing.

Now obviously, just saying something doesn’t make it so. You will need to work backwards from your desired results and ask yourself what would need to happen for you to hit those wonderful goals. What actions would you need to take? Do you need to hire people, re-train people, invest in equipment, or spend more on marketing and advertising? Now factor those into your plan. Does it look possible?

At this point, some plans don’t make any sense and it may be best to draw a veil over that plan and thank your favourite deity that you didn’t put it into practise. However, some plans start to look like they warrant further investigation. The figures start to look distinct possibilities and you need to start discussing if all of the assumptions actually hold water (my favourite wrong assumption this month is that double the number of sales people sell twice as much – lol) and if they do then start working out how you turn this new plan into reality.

Unless you take this radical approach every now and then, you will never make leaps forward, just tiny tippy-toe advances. Unless you ask yourself what you really want, you may never actually get it. And the beauty is that it isn’t any more dangerous or reckless since you will still need to really justify making changes before you can take action. But it may just wake you from your everyday slumber and encourage you to what-if some excellent new ideas.

Big Data

23/04/2013 by

If you want a definition of Big Data, and there a few out there, then Wikipedia is currently on the money with their effort:

“Big data is a collection of data sets so large and complex that it becomes difficult to process using on-hand database management tools or traditional data processing applications” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Big_data

Nothing new there then. You have a lot of data and you don’t have a way of using it. Except there is a part of that definition above that jumps out at me. Your data is only BIG if the “on-hand management tools” cannot cope with the size of it. So if Excel is not able to cope, you are looking at BIG DATA as an issue. Likewise, if Cognos Planning cannot cope, then you are looking at a BIG DATA issue.

But nowadays, big data isn’t a big issue because most packages can cope. And cope extremely well. Data volumes that make Excel groan and creak (and make both laptop and blood freeze) are run-of-the-mill data sets for Cognos TM1, BOARD or Anaplan. Reporting on large data sets is no longer a huge IT exercise, but a simple click of a few mouse buttons for a business power-user. SQL statements, complex coding (is there any other kind?) and joining data tables together are no longer required to produce eye-catching reports in minutes.

But reporting over this data is only the first step. Using that data to calculate new data, slicing and dicing it any way you please and aggregating it at any chosen level is now easy and fast. Drilling down into the detail is automatic and intuitive. And using the information you have created to produce new forecasts, budgets and plans is really the whole point of the exercise.

So have you got a BIG DATA issue, or are you just using the wrong tools to manage your data?

If you think you have a BIG DATA issue, contact us to see how you can solve it today.

http://www.innovarltd.co.uk/contact-us/

Note to self – Explain better!

08/04/2013 by

Our company help other companies plan better. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but that phrase doesn’t really explain what we do any better than “Cos we’re worth it” explains a certain hair care product. Many companies fail on exactly the same issue not because they want to keep what they do a secret. They fail because they are sucked into the world or marketing where short, punchy, sound-bite style slogans have replaced meaningful communication. Brand has replaced explanation. Spin has replaced reality.

I am often advised to write short copy. Translated first as can you write an article or marketing email that is shorter, I now understand this to mean can you use less words because I don’t understand what you mean so less words will waste less of my time reading those words. Except, the people I need to explain myself to are not those marketeers who don’t understand. I need to explain myself to fellow finance people who not only understand, but who will have many additional questions they want answering before they would be tempted to contact me to talk further.

The questions that they have are not only about what our products and services do, but how they differ from other offerings, what experience we have, how successful we have been and in which industries we have had those successes. Try encapsulating that in a short and punchy slogan! (I have been advised to not use encapsulate in case my readers don’t understand it, which in itself encapsulates my issue)

Forget dumbing down. I’m smarting up. I vow to make my “copy” as long as it needs to be in order to explain myself properly. Because, dear reader, you’re worth it!

(did I ruin this post at the end there?)

2012 – Thoughts as the year draws to a close…and hopes for 2013

03/12/2012 by

It’s safe to say that 2012 has been a busy year all round and as the year draws to a close it is only natural to pause and reflect on all that has happened. Only recently has it really hit home just how much more quickly the time passes as we get older. As I hear my daughter sigh and enquire for, probably only the 15th time today, how many more “sleeps” it is until Christmas, I remember how much longer time seemed to fan out when I was growing up.

School holidays lasted for an age and through my rose-tinted glasses the days were always warm, sunny and the light lingered until well after 9pm allowing endless hours outside with friends.  As for the Christmas holidays that meant days and days with new toys, family, endless TV specials and films and chocolate by the selection boxful. Now I find myself questioning the two- week holiday my school teacher husband gets with a semi-strangled cry of, “Is that it?” Just a measly two weeks to wrap presents, do unspeakable things to a turkey and at the end of it all stare in disbelief at the bathroom scales and ponder, “Just how much cheese did I consume?”

Of course 2012 was the year of London. As a nation we couldn’t be anything but proud when Danny Boyle’s extravaganza kicked of the Olympic Games, celebrating perfectly what it means to be British. In the days that followed Team GB amazed day after day with performances that had us screaming at our television sets, caught up in the passion that it takes to be the very best. Perhaps even more amazing was the subsequent performance of the Paralympians from around the world and the way in which the British public embraced their sheer grit, determination and talent to make it the most successful Paralympics ever. Our summer of sport reminded me just what the sporting ethos is all about and how that relates to each and every one of us, every single day; that being the very best doesn’t just happen by accident. Be it in the world of sport, business or our private lives it takes a daily dose of bloomin’ hard work to reach the top. And even more than that to stay there.

In terms of business it means constantly changing, adapting, keeping up with the latest technology, knowing your products, your staff, your services and never becoming complacent. 2012 has been a year to highlight this as the Olympics ignited that spirit of endeavour whilst being played against a background of uncertain economic times. If you like, it represented a triumph of the human spirit, that no matter what, we seek, aim to achieve and indeed always hope for the best.

From a personal perspective, 2012 meant both saying Goodbye and Hello to old friends. After 7 ½ years at my previous company the time had come to move on to those fabled new pastures. This in itself gave me pause for thought to remember just how much my life had changed in that time and how professionally I had set foot on a very different course. Of course, for me the new pastures weren’t quite as scary or as new as for some others who branched out this year as it meant the opportunity once again to work with Paul and Richard and to delve into new challenges with people I liked and trusted to guide me. Furthermore today also sees the day (finally…) that the Hubbards exchanged contracts on their new home, bringing to an end something of a watershed year for one member of the Innovar team!

Once again, we pause at the threshold of another year, with new challenges ahead, ups and downs to test us, twists and turns where we may occasionally lose our way, and no doubt tears and laughter, but hopefully not in equal measure. With the chimes of Big Ben soon to be ringing in our ears, and as we endeavour once more not to forget “auld acquaintance” may the spirit of 2012 that captured a nation carry us one and all into the, as yet unknown territory of 2013.

By Catherine Hubbard

Evaluate!

07/11/2012 by

Buying a new software solution can be scary. I know because I’ve done it. I understand all of the hard work that it (should) entail to map your company’s needs to the functionality of the software. I know how confusing all of the software vendors can be as they call similar functionality different names, and worse, they call different functionality the same names.

I’ve sweated over different pricing models, with some offering low entry pricing that ramps up as you add users, while others have high entry pricing that allows lots of users for little additional investment. I have also worried that I maybe didn’t get a good deal or push for a big enough discount.

But at the end of the day, the sleepless nights came not because I worried about price, but because I worried about the chosen solution being “fit for purpose”.  Would it handle the complex bits that my company did differently to all those other companies? And if it didn’t, what could I do about it?

It struck me that “sales”, as an art, was to minimise those fears and to get me to the “buy” as quickly as possible without letting me dwell on those negative thoughts. Whereas, what I needed was to go through a sensible evaluation process that let me address those fears, by doing whatever was necessary in order to help me find out the true situation, well before I bought anything.

If you are buying a planning solution but are not being helped to evaluate the solution, then perhaps you would like to “evaluate” instead of being sold to. If you would, then contact Innovar to see if we can work out an evaluation plan for you.

Contact www.innovarltd.co.uk

Planning to get better

01/10/2012 by

If you care about your company’s planning, budgeting or forecasting, and you want to improve, then I suggest you sign up for our Free Webinar Series on planning. We will be covering how to use the cloud to improve collaboration and reduce IT costs. How to plan payroll costs, if you have 50 staff or if you have thousands of employees. How to get a grip on sales revenue forecasting (it is not an art – it is definitely a science) and how to have an integrated P&L, Cashflow and Balance Sheet forecast or budget.

Each webinar will be only 45 minutes long, and the beauty is, you watch and listen to the webinar and learn loads, or if you decide it isn’t relevant for you, you can discreetly leave the webinar without all of the other delegates staring at you like at a seminar.

To check out a few more details or to sign-up for any of the webinars running in October and November, follow this link and read more. And did I say that the are all free of charge.  Webinar Series