If any work disciplines can offer us a window to the future, Financial Planning and Analytics (FP&A) is certainly one of them. In an environment where your speed to move can make the ultimate difference to your company, it’s no accident that financial forecasting is now at the cutting edge of change in today’s business world. And indeed, future business success may lie with those who embrace these changes sooner rather than later.
Faced with a post-Millennium atmosphere of uncertainty and rapid change, accurate forecasting – and the ability to reforecast at pace – has gained huge currency for business leaders. Add to this the influence of automation tools on traditional accountancy roles, plus the growing need for top-line expertise in reading and disseminating our vast quantities of data, and you have a sector at the centre of the action when it comes to change. Michael Page recently sat down with one of FP&A’s thought leaders to plot five factors driving change in today.
1. Speed and Simplification
Larysa Melnychuk, CEO and founder of the International FP&A Board, spends much of her time these days in discussion with the world’s leading CFOs about the changing world of financial analytics, financial planning and analysis.
She notes that in an environment of unprecedented “black swans” and “perfect storms” in our global financial market, business leaders are now more aware than ever of the need to move fast: “Situations that we never expected would happen, have happened in real life. Obviously in the business environment, this is one of the biggest reasons why financial analytics has changed,” she notes.
Combine this pressure-cooker environment with the arrival of newer and cheaper Cloud-based systems that are easily managed within a finance department, and you have an environment ripe for change. “In this dynamic business environment, it’s not possible to use the old, very detailed and static methods we used,” notes Melnychuk, who is based in the United Kingdom. As a result, the landscape for financial analytics is now more forward-looking and speed conscious than ever.
2. Find Your Key Drivers
In an increasingly complex environment, the ultimate goal is to understand in the simplest way, how a business makes its money. “We’re talking about simplification beyond the incredible level of detail that we had before,” notes Melnychuk. “It’s all based on key business drivers that are very important to identify – it’s about the 20% of drivers that explain 80% of the results.”
She notes that while many managers claim to know these key drivers, the reality of our big data world is that some drivers become less sensitive over time, while others prove less reliable. The ideal key drivers process should be part of a company’s business intelligence project, she notes. “It should be automated: and the drivers should be checked often, through analytical automation.” Likewise, it is also important to pay attention to both internal and external drivers, she notes.
Yet are many companies in the world currently doing this? “I would say not many,” she notes. “Definitely leading companies have started – and this is on the agenda of many companies.”
3. Tough Roles to Fill
Increasingly, she says modern FP&A teams require three distinct roles (as per Mark Gandy’s model). The first is the Architect who builds the driver-based model. Next comes the Analyst, who can track its progress. And ideally, a third role, that of a business-partner, or Communicator. “It’s difficult to find these three people in one role,” Melnychuk notes from her own experience as an FP&A director. “Analysts and Architects can be introverts, and not so comfortable going to the business to communicate it. I’ve seen this a lot.”
As such, it tends to be a tough job to fulfil: “Around 70% of UK CFOs, and 80% of US CFOs, say that FP&A roles are the most difficult to fill.” While in traditional accountancy, being qualified and examining past financial history was once sufficient, this is no longer the case. “In FP&A it’s different. We’re seeing the emergence of big data, from which you have to analyse these key drivers.”
4. Rapid Reforecasting
In an environment of sudden and intense market change, being able to identify and simplify your business drivers can provide an invaluable chance to move fast against competitors. “It’s dependent on the visibility of their data, and the ability to drill down and make decisions very quickly,” Melnychuk notes.
She takes the example of a sudden market interruption, a so-called black swan event. “With traditional planning models and traditional hires, you needed four-to-seven months to reforecast. But with this new generation of systems, models and people, you can probably do this in a couple of hours – almost in real-time.” One New York based banking group she spoke with, had reforecasting down to a fine art. “At the moment, it’s less than 36 minutes, while previously it used to be more than three weeks. This is an indication of how the world’s changed,” she notes.
“And why? It’s because traditional line-by-line forecasts were replaced by driver-based planning model that is implemented through system. Just 36 minutes and it’s done – and the quality of this forecast is quite good as well. So this is a good example of how much this can achieve.”
5. Future role replacements
Melnychuk anticipates a realignment ahead in terms of job roles within finance departments, as some traditional roles become replaced by new ones. “Fewer traditional accountants will be needed, and more combinational skills, especially with this data management, analytical and business-partnering will be needed,” she predicts. “I can see a time when data scientists work together with FP&A. And it is already happening in some leading analytical organisations”
Leading companies already enlist data scientists to identify, for instance, the one driver responsible for 60% of their forecasting. Melnychuk notes that effective driver-based planning can save teams a lot of time and effort: “You don’t need a lot of data, or to spend a lot of time. But to identify those key drivers really can help you to very quickly and very effectively build your plans and different scenarios for the future.”
“There will be this new work for analytical people, because they will start from different levels of analytics, and they will go forward. So it’s very motivational for good analytical talent to be at such organisations.”
Source: Luke Clark
Every day, a small Ant arrived at work early and starting work immediately, she produced a lot and she was happy. The boss, a lion, was surprised to see that the ant was working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce more if she had a supervisor!
So the lion recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as a supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports. The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports. He recruited a spider who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls.
The Lion was delighted with the cockroach’s report and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and analyze trends so that he could use them for presentations at board meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and recruit a fly to manage the IT department. The Ant , who had been once so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time.
The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the Cicada whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.The new person in charge, the cicada, also needed a computer and a personal assistant, whom he had brought from his previous department to help him prepare a work and budget control strategic optimization plan.
The department where the ant works is now a sad place, where nobody laughs anymore and everybody has become upset. It was at that time the cicada convinced the boss, the Lion, to start a climatic study of the office environment. Having reviewed the charges of running the ant’s department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before so he recruited the Owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The Owl spent 3 months in the department and came out with an enormous report, in several volumes, that concluded that ” The Department is overstaffed..”
Guess who the lion fired first?
Most people have a certain image in their minds when they think of a founder/CEO.
They picture the boss in the corner office, standing behind her desk, gazing out over the city. They imagine someone calling all the shots, and everyone relying on their insight and wisdom — a visionary who is never wrong. They fear being grilled, berated, and guilted into working long hours — inevitable top-down command-and-control.
When startup founders take this approach today, they fail.
In my experience, this couldn’t be further from the true purpose of the role. Yet, too many founders fall into the trap of trying to live out this image — and I’ve seen their startups underperform or even fold as a result.
Over the past decade, I have founded and exited two companies — Increo and Crashlytics — and then stayed on to build large teams at the acquirers — Box and Twitter. And as an angel investor in 30+ startups and entrepreneurs, I have had the opportunity to see the role’s function outside of myself, and the successes and challenges that different founders’ approaches beget.
Through these experiences, I’ve learned that the humbling role of the founder is about putting others in a position to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. Your role as a founder isn’t to be in charge of everything, all the time. In fact, it’s the opposite.
The more involved you are with the day-to-day work, the more difficult it will be for you to scale, and the less likely it is that your company will succeed.
Every founder believes they have no time, they have too many priorities, and they have 100 different roles they need to play. I disagree.
As the founder/CEO, you have one job: Look at where you’re spending your time, then fire yourself from that position.
Here’s what I’ve learned that makes this possible:
1. Perform The Role, Then Hire Someone Better
The best founder/CEOs are jacks-of-all-trades.
Their value doesn’t come from doing one single thing exceedingly well. It comes from being able to perform an array of things fairly well, and then having the awareness to find someone better than them to take over those responsibilities — allowing them to move on to the next most-important role and the next most-consequential hire.
Leave egotism out of it: you should always be able to find someone who can perform a given role within your company better than you can — and that’s a good thing. (If you honestly can’t, play that role instead and question whether there is someone better than you at being CEO…)
You’ve probably heard the CEO role compared to the conductor of an orchestra, but in a startup, you’re more likely the conductor of musical chairs:
The founder has no choice but to start in whatever role is most necessary for the company to exist. He or she learns the role, understands its function and measures for success, and then fires themselves from that position and passes those responsibilities to someone else. The founder then trains the newly appointed person up, provides context for how to best succeed in that role, and then moves on to the next role — and so on, and so forth.
When I was building Crashlytics with Wayne Chang in 2012, this was exactly my process. For those who don’t know, Crashlytics is a mobile crash reporting service that was acquired by Twitter (2013), and later acquired by Google (2017). From the day of launch, we scaled rapidly, growing the product to over 300 million iPhones in the first year. Today, Crashlytics operates on over 3 billion active devices.
At the very beginning, though, my job wasn’t to direct a room-full of engineers or motivate a sales team. There weren’t any. Crashlytics was just an idea — which meant my full-time priority was to code and prove-out the product.
Once we hired our first iOS engineer, I gave him context as to what we were working toward, introduced him to the codebase, and shifted my responsibilities to working on the backend. When we hired our first backend engineer, I shifted to frontend. When we hired a frontend engineer, I transitioned to fundraising, and helping Wayne with marketing and PR.
I moved in circles, like musical chairs, always making sure I was spending time where we were light and needed the most help.
This was how we slowly (but surely and confidently) built our team from the ground up. We intimately knew the type of people and skillsets we had to hire, because Wayne or I was playing each role ourself before hiring for them.
2. Hire People to Help you Hire.
If you’re doing this well, you’ll quickly reach the point where the company will outgrow your own ability to “chair hop.”
Instead of filling one role at a time, you’ll be filling three.
When we had a team of six engineers at Crashlytics, I realized I was spending nearly all of my time recruiting. I was putting up job postings, scheduling interviews, and performing a role that could have been done far more effectively by someone else. Someone better than me.
As my co-founder Wayne would put it, this meant reassessing our “build order” — choosing how we invested our capital in order to continue growing and what role we should hire for next.
So we hired a full-time recruiter.
Most startups withhold this hire for later in the game, but from our perspective it was a huge opportunity cost. The more time I spent sifting through candidate resumes, the less time I had to chart our course in the market and identify the next big challenge coming down the road.
And it worked — the recruiter we hired was so vastly better than me that we tripled our team in the next five months.
(Hat-tip to Aaron Levie for the original kick-in-the-pants to do this. In a future company, I would hire a full-time recruiter even sooner.)
3. Bring Top-Down Context, Not Top-Down Decisions
As the founder/CEO, you are in the single position that can see across roles, across skill-sets, across your market, and across your customer base. That is your unfair advantage. You aren’t better than your team, but you certainly have more context than your team. How can you use this to empower them?
I like to picture my org chart upside-down. They don’t report to me. I report to them. What do they need to succeed at their roles? Context to prioritize. Context to make decisions. Context to know when to push for more resources, or when to make-do.
When done correctly, this gives your team superpowers: they will be able to make the right decisions and prioritize what is most important without you having to hand-hold every conversation. And this gives you superpowers too: the time to focus on forward-looking strategy and risks instead of the day-to-day.
As the founder, you should be making 10% (or less) of all the key decisions in your company. In fact, if you have to make a decision, it likely means you’ve already failed in some other way:
You haven’t filled that specific role yet.
You’ve hired the wrong person for that role.
You’ve hired someone at the wrong seniority for that role.
You haven’t shared enough context with them.
You haven’t clearly defined their areas of responsibility.
You haven’t empowered them to make the decision.
One of the greatest skills a founder/CEO can acquire is a talent for deference. I know plenty of founders who struggle to let go of direct responsibility, or fear letting other people drive parts of their business.
If you’re unsure how self-sufficient your team is, ask yourself, how many times do you use the word “defer” in a day?
“I’m going to defer to Sarah on this decision.”
“I’ll defer to Tom on that.”
Deference shows your team that you trust them to make their own decisions. And it shows yourself that you’ve put the right people in the right roles. The sooner you learn to empower your team to make decisions on their own, and the sooner you give them the context required to make the right decisions, the faster you will be able to fire yourself from day-to-day work.
All in all, so many founders forget that the ultimate goal is to make themselves completely unnecessary to the day-to-day operations of the company.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but trust me, there will always be someone better than you at every position in your company. And you should be excited to hire people who are smarter, more specialized than you at each individual skill set. They are the ones who will ultimately supply you with the time (and head space) to steer the company as a whole to market success.
The irony of course is, as a founder, you’ll never be completely unnecessary to the business. In constantly trying to “fire yourself” from different roles, the company will continue to grow. As it grows, new responsibilities and challenges will arise, and you’ll have to repeat the process of getting people up to speed all over again.
But that’s the point.
The moment you stay married to any one role, you’ve stopped searching for your next replacement, and the company has begun to stand still.
You never want to be standing still.
Source: Jeff Seibert
Why, all of a sudden, are so many successful business leaders urging their companies and colleagues to make more mistakes and embrace more failures?
In May, right after he became CEO of Coca-Cola Co., James Quincey called upon rank-and-file managers to get beyond the fear of failure that had dogged the company since the “New Coke” fiasco of so many years ago. “If we’re not making mistakes,” he insisted, “we’re not trying hard enough.”
In June, even as his company was enjoying unparalleled success with its subscribers, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings worried that his fabulously valuable streaming service had too many hit shows and was canceling too few new shows. “Our hit ratio is too high right now,” he told a technology conference. “We have to take more risk…to try more crazy things…we should have a higher cancel rate overall.”
Even Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, arguably the most successful entrepreneur in the world, makes the case as directly as he can that his company’s growth and innovation is built on its failures. “If you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments,” he explained shortly after Amazon bought Whole Foods. “And if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time if they’re going to work. Experiments are by their very nature prone to failure. But a few big successes compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work.”
The message from these CEOs is as easy to understand as it is hard for most of us to put into practice. I can’t tell you how many business leaders I meet, how many organizations I visit, that espouse the virtues of innovation and creativity. Yet so many of these same leaders and organizations live in fear of mistakes, missteps, and disappointments — which is why they have so little innovation and creativity. If you’re not prepared to fail, you’re not prepared to learn. And unless people and organizations manage to keep learning as fast as the world is changing, they’ll never keep growing and evolving.
So what’s the right way to be wrong? Are there techniques that allow organizations and individuals to embrace the necessary connection between small failures and big successes? Smith College, the all-women’s school in western Massachusetts, has created a program called “Failing Well” to teach its students what all of us could stand to learn. “What we’re trying to teach is that failure is not a bug of learning it’s the feature,” explained Rachel Simmons, who runs the initiative, in a recent New York Times article. Indeed, when students enroll in her program, they receive a Certificate of Failure that declares they are “hereby authorized to screw up, bomb, or fail” at a relationship, a project, a test, or any other initiative that seems hugely important and “still be a totally worthy, utterly excellent human being.” Students who are prepared to handle failure are less fragile and more daring than those who expect perfection and flawless performance.
That’s a lesson worth applying to business as well. Patrick Doyle, CEO of Domino’s Pizza since 2010, has had one of the most successful seven-year runs of any business leader in any field. But all of his company’s triumphs, he insists, are based on its willingness to face up to the likelihood of mistakes and missteps. In a presentation to other CEOs, Doyle described two great challenges that stand in the way of companies and individuals being more honest about failure. The first challenge, he says, is what he calls “omission bias” — the reality that most people with a new idea choose not to pursue the idea because if they try something and it doesn’t work, the setback might damage their career. The second challenge is to overcome what he calls “loss aversion” — the tendency for people to play not to lose rather than play to win, because for most of us, “The pain of loss is double the pleasure of winning.”
Creating “the permission to fail is energizing,” Doyle explains, and a necessary condition for success — which is why he titled his presentation, with apologies to the movie Apollo 13, “Failure Is an Option.” And that may be the most important lesson of all. Just ask Reed Hastings, Jeff Bezos, or the new CEO of Coca-Cola: There is no learning without failing, there are no successes without setbacks.
Source: Harvard Business Review, Bill Taylor.
Anyone questioning whether financial markets are in a bubble should consider what we witnessed in 2017:
Extracts from The Bonfire Burns On
The "Cloud First" Strategy will be introduced to the Malaysian national agenda, starting with the public sector, as it is fundamental to an organisation's digital transformation, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
He said cloud adoption would enable the government to rapidly deliver innovative public sector services without incurring a high level of capital expenditure to invest in Information Technology (IT) infrastructures such as data centres, servers and storage.
"This enables the government to allocate resources for more impactful programmes for the rakyat.
"With this strategy in place, it is without doubt that the government is taking the lead in embracing digital transformation," he said after chairing the 29th MSC Malaysia Implementation Council Meeting at Perdana Putra, here today.
Najib said the government could also facilitate the adoption of cloud by the private sector.
In the case of regulated industries such as the banking and financial services, healthcare and telecommunications, he said, the regulators were encouraged to accelerate the publishing of progressive guidelines for companies in these sectors to reap the benefits of cloud whilst maintaining compliance to regulations.
Najib said the government would also develop a National Artificial Intelligence (Al) Framework, an expansion of the National Big Data Analytics (BDA) Framework, which will be led by the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDeC).
He said in a hyper connected world, it was becoming abundantly clear that AI was the defining force of the fourth industrial revolution. "AI could well be a "game changer" in improving the lives of Malaysians," he said.
On a wider industry-level, Najib said the government would establish the Digital Transformation Acceleration Programme (D-TAP) for large and mid-tier companies which contribute 63.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), to accelerate digital adoption.
He said Malaysia's industries were still far from being digitally ready and the challenges noted included lack of structured approach, budget limitations, shortage of digital workers as well as the perception that digital transformation was too "fast paced and complex".
To accelerate the transformation, he said, the government would appoint Digital Transformation Labs to provide consultancy and assist in prototyping new digital products and services. "The labs will then match participant companies to digital companies.
"This outcome driven programme intends to achieve three main outcomes from increased productivity, reduction in foreign labour dependency as well as create a new business model or source of growth for the participant companies," he said.
Najib said 2017 was the year of the Internet Economy for Malaysia with the next milestone being the launching of the first Digital Free Trade Zone outside China on Nov 3, 2017.
Toys “R” Us, one of the world’s largest toy store chains, has filed for bankruptcy protection, becoming the latest casualty of the pressures facing brick-and-mortar retailers.
The company made the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing late Monday night in federal court in Richmond, Va., acknowledging that it needed to revamp its long-term debt totalling more than $5 billion.
The retailer, which also owns Babies “R” Us, has struggled to compete with Amazon and stores like Walmart.
But the financial plight of Toys “R” Us was exacerbated by a heavy debt load that has weighed on the company for years. The private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Bain Capital, as well as the real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust, purchased the company in a leveraged buyout for about $6 billion in 2005.
Toys “R” Us joins a wave of retail bankruptcies this year, including the children’s clothing retailer Gymboree, Payless ShoeSource and rue21, which sells clothing for teenagers. Other retailers have closed thousands of stores and laid off tens of thousands of workers as they try to cut costs and compete with e-commerce.
The company said its roughly 1,600 Toys “R” Us and Babies “R” Us stores around the world would continue to operate “as usual.”
“Today marks the dawn of a new era at Toys “R” Us, where we expect that the financial constraints that have held us back will be addressed in a lasting and effective way,” Dave Brandon, the company’s cChairman and Chief Executive, said in a statement.
The quality of our questions determines the quality of our lives.
The common trait of successful people in all walks of life is that they mastered the skill of asking really good questions.
Instead of asking “Why is this happening to me?” ask: “How can I improve this situation”.
Here are the top 10 questions:
You can read more here.
This is a rather interesting article by Jeroen ter Heerdt.
"Data Science is dead. It is quickly getting replaced by stuff great data scientists built. Every big cloud vendor is doing it. Need to do a churn analysis? Done. Need to predict energy efficiency? Done. Want a recommendation engine? Done. Need to process genders, age and emotion from images? Done. From video? Done. Need to recognize certain logo's in images? Done. Need to understand sentiment? Done. Need to translate text or summarize text? Done.
What do you need to use these solutions? Just programming skills. Being able to talk to a REST API, that is all you need. Any programmer can do this. Behind this REST API is a algorithm built by the best and brightest of data scientists in the world that made themselves (and their fellow data scientists) obsolete".
You can join the "debate" here.
The Japanese practice of forest bathing is proven to lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduce stress hormone production, boost the immune system, and improve overall feelings of wellbeing.
Forest bathing, basically just being in the presence of trees, became part of a national public health program in Japan in 1982 when the forestry ministry coined the phrase shinrin-yoku and promoted topiary as therapy.
Just be with trees. No hiking, no counting steps on a Fitbit. You can sit or meander, but the point is to relax rather than accomplish anything.
Forest air doesn’t just feel fresher and better, inhaling phytoncide seems to actually improve immune system function.
Read more here or just enjoy the video.
Aeon Vietnam is planning to open 500 grocery stores across the nation by 2025.
It is part of a strategy by the Japanese supermarket group to open small stores in emerging Asian markets, also including Cambodia and Myanmar, the Nikkei Asian Review says.
The plan is to boost its stores in Vietnam almost ninefold to 500, and has teamed up with two local chains for the expansion. It has held a 30 per cent stake in Hanoi-based supermarket chain Fivimart and 49 per cent of Ho Chi Minh City-based Citimart, since early 2015.
As well as providing its Top Value products for the two partners, Aeon is co-operating with them to promote those products as well as consolidate and expand distribution.
Meanwhile, Aeon has partnered with Japan’s Sojitz Corporation to develop Ministop convenience stores throughout Vietnam. The two firms aim to raise the number of their joint outlets to 800 in the next eight years.
Aeon has four shopping malls, in Binh Duong, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and plans to build another in the capital plus one in Haiphong in the short run. It aims to have 20 malls across Vietnam by 2020.
Aeon Vietnam early this year launched an e-commerce website offering such products as cosmetics, furniture, electronics, household appliances, bicycles and stationery.
The most critical trait is "psychological safety". The term was coined by Harvard Business School Professor Amy Edmonson.
How can leaders create psychological safety in their organizations? Edmondson outlines three paths:
1. Frame work as learning problems, as opposed to execution problems.
“Make explicit that there is enormous uncertainty ahead and enormous interdependence,” Edmondson says. In other words, be clear that there are areas that still require explanation and that each team member’s input matters: “We’ve never been here before; we can’t know what will happen; we’ve got to have everybody’s brains and voices in the game.”
2. Acknowledge your own fallibility.
Make simple statements that encourage peers and subordinates to speak up, such as, “I may miss something — I need to hear from you.”
3. Model curiosity by asking a lot of questions.
“That actually creates a necessity for voice,” Edmondson says, because team members need to generate answers.
A combination of psychological safety and accountability is vital for teams to achieve their full potential. Watch the video below.
If big data really is the “new oil,” does this mean that countries will fight over it?
This is what Eric Schmidt, chairman of Google parent company Alphabet, suggested in a speech at the company’s Google Cloud Next conference in March 2017.
“I think big data is so powerful that nation stats will fight over how much data matters,” he told attendees.
“He who has the data can do the analytics and the algorithms … the scale that we talked about will provide huge nation state benefits, in terms of global companies and benefits for their citizens, and so on.” (You can watch Schmidt’s full keynote speech below.)
Like artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual reality (VR), big data is pretty hyped — but even so, this is still a bold prediction.
It came in the middle of Schmidt’s keynote — essentially a sales pitch to attendees telling them why they need to hurry up and move all their data and systems to Google’s cloud services. “Just get to the cloud now,” he said. “Just go there now. There’s no time to waste any more.”
His argument is that Google, with its tens of billions of dollars of investment, can build the underlying infrastructure better than any single smaller company could hope to, so it doesn’t make sense for them to build their own data centres when their resources could be freed up by using Google Cloud and allocated elsewhere.
By using Google’s cloud services, he went on, it allows companies to scale their businesses rapidly — citing Niantic’s “Pokémon Go” smartphone game and Snapchat as two examples.
And once in the cloud, it gives customers access to Google’s tools to access and analyse their all their data in ways they couldn’t do by themselves.
Sweet, sweet data.
“I’ll bet the rest of my professional career that the future of your business is big data and machine learning [a form of AI] applied to the business opportunities, customer challenges, and things before you.”
When people say data is the “new oil,” they tend to mean there are massive opportunities there, making it hugely valuable. With sufficiently advanced technology, you can analyse huge data sets to discover trends and actionable information that would be impossible to figure out before the internet age.
Google, with its AI expertise, is presenting itself as the cloud industry player best positioned to help ordinary companies to unlock these benefits — benefits that could be of interest to nation states too.
Source: Rob Price, Business Insider
This is a great article by Matt Allington on the top 30 reasons why you should be considering Power BI (a self service business intelligence tool by Microsoft).
You can read more about it here.
For me, these 5 reasons are good enough to start using Power BI:
1. It is from the (new) Microsoft (hint: it has deep pocket and know how to win with business)
2. Power BI can collect data from virtually any source (you can use any ERP system)
3. It is in the cloud and have mobile apps (can access anywhere using any device)
4. It is built for users familiar with Excel (self-service, fast and easy to learn)
5. Power BI is very cheap to buy / subscribe (USD9.90 per month per user or use it for free)
Starting a business can be a daunting prospect for many would-be entrepreneurs. If you look for reasons not to, you’ll find hundreds. Why sacrifice the stability of a job for the uncertainty of entrepreneurship? How do you juggle the demands of a business with the demands of your personal life? How can you reasonably afford the start up costs?
But while these are valid concerns, they’ve never been valid excuses. Being an entrepreneur is always about two things: having the idea and wanting it enough. And where work-life balance, buy-in costs, and time-consuming processes were once enough to put off prospective business leaders, technology has either smoothed over these problems, or eliminated them entirely.
In South Africa today, we have millennials starting businesses alongside their 9-5 jobs and retirement-aged baby boomers launching new ventures in their twilight years. Enhanced flexibility is encouraging superior innovation and empowering newbie entrepreneurs to take risks.
In short, starting a business has never been easier.
Here are three reasons why.
1. Lower initial costs
Starting a business used to be an expensive process involving courting investors and saving enough cash to secure equipment, personnel, and an office to put them in. Rather than growing your new business, you would have to spend your time developing a compelling pitch to attract the necessary finance.
However, the idea that you need investors to launch a business in 2017 is a myth that can distract entrepreneurs from their end goal. Today, if you want to start a retail business, you can set up an ecommerce website for a lot less than the cost of a brick-and-mortar shop. You can even take pre-orders for stock so that most of it is paid for before it arrives. Starting lean not only allows you to get off the ground straight away, it gives you greater control over the future direction of your company. I’ve never had an investor in my company, and I’ve never regretted that; my business isn’t beholden to milestones, obligations, or anything but my own vision.
2. Cloudy with a chance of success
As revolutionary as technology has been for businesses, in some respects, it has become something of a crutch. When you tether too many systems to the office server, it can leave you without access to vital information and applications on the move.
But the advent of mobile technology has changed the way we work. Cloud platforms have made it possible to maintain multiple systems without physical servers. This means that entrepreneurs can access their information from anywhere in the country (or indeed the world) and on any device.
With 37% of South African adults between 35 and 53 owning a smartphone with 4G coverage, the flexibility this adds for you and your business shouldn’t be understated. Real-time access to information, such as your business’ financial data, can give you deeper insight into your business’ health and enable you to make more informed strategic decisions.
3. Streamlining processes
Starting a business puts a lot of responsibility on an entrepreneur. You have to wear many hats and keep a lot of balls in the air. Your expertise and passion might lie in product development, but you’re effectively in charge of finance, sales, HR, customer service, and everything else. Time consuming admin and manual data entry could weigh you down and prevent you from looking at the bigger picture.
Fortunately, cloud technology once again comes to the rescue. Using certain software tools, it’s possible to fully automate all or part of your HR, payroll, and accounting functions. When you talk to an accountant in 2017, it should be for expert financial advice — not low-level administrative work.
Being an entrepreneur requires a considerable investment of time and energy, and it’s never going to be easy. That said, it’s easier than it’s ever been. If you want to start a business, the best advice is to simply do it — and make full use of the tools at your disposal.
By Marnus Broodryk, Shark Tank SA Investor
Change what can be changeable, Accept what can't and Rise above the unacceptable.
Enjoy your new CAR ...
During the Computing Conference 2016 held in Hangzhou on 13 October, Jack Ma, founder and CEO of Alibaba, reviewed the technological progress in the past few years and predicted that the future would be mainly about new type of retailing, manufacturing, finance, technology and resource. Development in these five areas will impact not only China, the world beyond, but also every one of us.
1. New type of retailing. Traditional retailing face rising challenge from e-commerce in modern metropolis because it fails to seize the opportunity and adapt to the future trend. Traditional business only dwells on the past, but don’t know how to adapt to new technologies, how to cooperate with internet companies and how to make us of big data technologies, etc. Whether we admit it or not, traditional retailing business, featured by real estate, will certainly be challenged in the future. If it is not today, then it will be someday in the future.
2. New type of manufacturing. For the past two or three decades, scale and standard are attached high importance to; in the next three decades, however, customized, personalized and smart service will be the new trend. The second wave of technological revolution will occur in IoT field. In the future, machines depend not on electricity, but on data. Besides, as retailing industry evolves, manufacturing industry will also gradually transform from B2C-based to C2B-based.
3. New type of finance. Finance industry was the very support for industrial growth in the past two centuries. In the past, development of 20% of small and mid-sized companies could promote development of 80% of world economy. In the future, however, the core focus of finance industry should become how to facilitate development of 80% of small and mid-sized companies. After the birth of internet finance, equality and transparency will be valued more, thus traditional finance industry will certainly face some challenge.
4. New type of technologies. After the emerge of mobile internet, PC chips evolved into mobile chips, while PC operating system also evolved into mobile operating system. In the past, machines depend on electricity; in the future, data will be at the core of any new type of technology. New technologies such as artificial intelligence and big data will only broaden the room of imagination for the mankind.
5. New type of resources. In the past, petrol and coal were the foundation of development; in the future, new energy and data will be at the core of any development. Dr Wang Jian once said that this was the first time human kind created a new type of resources. In the past, resources others had used would become useless; today, however, data other people used would only become more valuable if we use it well.
What does Nevada's USD35 billion fund manager do all day? Nothing.
Steve Edmundson has no co-workers, rarely takes meetings and often eats leftovers at his desk. With that dynamic workday, the investment chief for the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System is out-earning pension funds that have hundreds on staff.
His daily trading strategy: Do as little as possible, usually nothing.
The Nevada system’s stocks and bonds are all in low-cost funds that mimic indexes.
“Doing nothing is harder than it looks,” says Ken Lambert, Mr. Edmundson’s predecessor and only outside investment-strategy consultant. Harder, he says, because of the restraint needed to practice inaction.
Even Mr. Edmundson can’t resist studying investment strategies. “I spend a lot of time researching things we ultimately don’t do.”
Read more: Wall Street Journal, Oct 2016
A quick check has showed that share prices of nine out of 10 China-based companies that are listed on local exchange have tumbled below their IPO prices. The decline in share price could be as much as 96%. Most of them are literally penny stocks which are trading below 10 sen.
In May, Bursa warned that it would suspend shares of two Chinese firms — Maxwell International Holdings Bhd and Multi Sports Holdings Ltd — from trading if both companies failed to submit their latest annual reports before deadline.
For Maxwell, it has fallen into the Practice Note 17 status after external auditor Baker Tilly Monteiro Heng expressed a disclaimer of opinion in its audited financial statements for the financial year ended Dec 31, 2015 (FY15).
Multi Sports, another footwear producer has delayed the submission of its annual report and audited statements for FY15, citing the delay was caused by “additional works” by external auditors.
In 2013, China Stationery Ltd caught fire. The fire destroyed the stationary maker’s accounting books. Since the incident, the company’s earnings have not recovered to the previous levels.
Financial scandal or economic downturn? Read more here.
No matter what project size, job descriptions should be clearly defined. Whether it’s a 5-person team or an international collaboration, everyone needs to understand their role: that being the tasks and activities each person must complete. One way to define each team member’s role is to use a RACI matrix.
An example of a responsibility assignment matrix, it shows the expense at the lowest level of work for the purpose of managing cost and duration. It is a charting system that illustrates the task’s goal and the required action for each person. This assists with reducing confusion on expectations, in turn, increasing project efficiency. In this context, decisions are made more quickly, accountability is clear and workload is evenly distributed.
With RACI, map out who is Responsible, is Accountable, must be Consulted with, and shall stay Informed.
Here is what your project delegation looks like with RACI:
Responsible – Who is completing the task
Accountable – Who is making decisions and taking actions on the task(s)
Consulted – Who will be communicated with regarding decisions and tasks
Informed – Who will be updated on decisions and actions during the project.
Read more here.
Xero is easy to use online accounting software that’s designed specifically for small businesses. The Xero content pack for Power BI allows you to visualize and monitor the accounting data from within each Xero business. The out of box solution includes information such as cash position, top customers, invoices due and many more. The interactive reports allow you to easily explore your data to understand even more.
Xero Content Pack
With the Xero content pack for Power BI, you can see your data in a format that makes sense, and can analyze it with greater speed, efficiency, and understanding. You can create visualizations for the most commonly tracked small business metrics including cash position, revenue vs. expenses, profit/loss trend, and return on investment.
You can drill down more specifically to uncover insights like your best performing products or services, or see where your time is best spent, with important actionable items being presented front and centre. All the information in Power BI is dynamic, surfacing what’s important and giving you the power to dive into the detail.
Using Power BI - Action items
The Xero Content pack in Power BI has a tile dedicated to Action items. Action Items allow you, at a glance, to get a sense of where things are, and help you understand what things you can do in Xero to bring things up to date. Action Items help you keep your accounting data up to date, so you maximize the value of real time information to impact your business.
With Messages highlighting what you can action, and direct links into Xero, it’s quick and easy to “tick” things off and bring things up to date. And get back to running your business, completely up to date.
Power BI is a suite of business analytics tools to analyze data and share insights. Power BI dashboards provide a 360-degree view for business users with their most important metrics in one place, updated in real time, and available on all of their devices. With one click, users can explore the data behind their dashboard using intuitive tools that make finding answers easy.
Creating a dashboard is simple thanks to over 50 connections to popular business applications, complete with pre-built dashboards crafted by experts that help you get up and running quickly. And you can access your data and reports from anywhere with the Power BI Mobile apps, which update automatically with any changes to your data.
If you are a data analyst delivering reporting and analytics to your organization, Power BI lets you be productive and creative with what you build. Power BI Desktop is a feature-rich data mashup and report authoring tool. Combine data from disparate databases, files, and web services with visual tools that help you understand and fix data quality and formatting issues automatically. With over 20 built-in visuals and a vibrant community of custom visualizations, create stunning reports that communicate your message effectively. With the Power BI service, publish reports securely to your organization and setup automatic data refresh so everyone has the latest information.
Power BI can unify all of your organization’s data, whether in the cloud or on-premises. Using the Power BI gateways, you can connect SQL Server databases, Analysis Services models, and many other data sources to your same dashboards in Power BI. If you already have reporting portals or applications, embed Power BI reports and dashboards for a unified experience.
Any professional, whether it be an accountant, CFO or financial advisor, who is advising a business on the state of its financial health relies heavily on accurate real-time data.
To obtain clean data, verifying and recording the information is vital. Having a qualified professional bookkeeper to either assist or manage the process makes a big difference to achieving this end result. A bookkeeper will make sure that there are no gaps or duplication in the data (especially if they’re using the Assurance Dashboard) and that each transaction is coded to the right income or expense category. Only then will the figures and reports you get be accurate and reliable.
What is clean data?
Clean financial data is the outcome of a systematized process that verifies and records data from source documents and transactions. This process makes sure the data is free of errors, verifying and checking that the information contained is free from corruption.
Seamless connectivity to banks and add-ons means the data flows in, clients code it, and you periodically check they’re on track. It’s data oversight and approval rather than data entry, which means it takes less time and there are fewer errors.
Clean data = clear advice
So how are business achieving clean data?
The keys to really making it effortless are having a well-defined process and using the right tools. Accountants, bookkeepers and small businesses around the globe are jumping at the opportunity to work in the cloud and benefit from the efficiencies it offers. Many are choosing Xero as the focal point for a web of data flowing between banks, accountants, suppliers and government agencies.
Crunching the numbers
Many bookkeepers are specializing in particular industry verticals or niches to streamline the process and make it razor-focused.
Nick from Cafe Bookkeepers in the hip suburb of Newtown in Sydney decided to focus on working just with cafes. He got really good at it at, really fast. Specializing enabled him to implement one system, and simply rinse and repeat. Having a deep understanding of a specific industry strengthens the bookkeeper’s ability to ensure clean data – an essential ingredient for small business success – and means increased profitability for the bookkeeper.
Cafe Bookkeepers has taken the step to cloud accounting. Using the now clean data, they can tell the client the story of what is happening in the life of their business. They’re able to put the words behind the numbers in conversations with the client. Nick says to clients, “On top of the usual number crunching, we want to add value to your business. We’ll help guide your business by showing you where you are placed within industry benchmarks.“
So Nick’s recipe for success is creating the right system to deliver clean data, using the best tools available. Nick’s tool of choice to provide the story of the business is Crunchboards – you can read more about Nick’s Aussie success story here.
Heading to the other side of the globe, in the UK, Mark Wallis from Numbers Nerds was on a mission to add value to his clients. He wanted to be able to create a visual representation to show monthly KPIs and forecast cash flow. Mark has implemented Crunchboards as his tool of choice as well. Clean data is vital to the process and Crunchboards pulls live data from Xero to display a compelling visual story that shows what’s happening in the business. He finds that Crunchboards is a brilliant tool for starting a conversation with a client and demonstrating the crucial role of clean data.
Conversations with our clients
As a professional wanting to talk to a client and relay the story of what’s happening in their business, we need to think about how we want to communicate and the style that our clients feel comfortable with. My advice is stick to just a few points, discover what is important to the client and what you identify is vital to the business success.
Some clients will be focused on the numbers, others will be visual.
Source: Xero Blog
"No names are mentioned in the article of The Star, but a friendly tip pointed at the possibility that this relates to the research report by CIMB on Instacom Group." You can read the rest of the article here.
A rather bullish projection? Revenue projected to grow from RM66 million in 2014 to RM195 million in 2015 and a whopping RM572 million in 2016. In 2017, it is projected to achieve RM3.23 billion. The detailed research paper dated 18 November 2015 is here.
Unleashing the giant? Time will tell.
Business, economy, education and current issues. Providing tips, tricks and tools in managing business.