Friday, March 30, 2007

A Great Site to Check Out for Performance Management

No, this isn't a gratuitous plug for our humble site, ok it is--but I came across a great finance and performance management site recently--FSN, which is NOT Fox Sports Network, but a site focused on business systems news for CFO's and IT professional. You should check it out and bookmark it, as it's a site worth watching.

Any independent news site that keeps track of everything happening in the world of performance management is fine by us!

Reading the Tea Leaves in EPM

Well one of the performance guys has been in the UK this week, and came across this interesting article on-line at the Financial Director website about the game of musical chairs currently being played amongst all the vendors in the performance management space in the wake of the Oracle/Hyperion news.

Looks like lots of implications and potential combinations all around, and it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out--read on!

Dashboards ARE TOO part of Performance Management

Building on Nic's post from below on the lens through which dashboarding is being viewed these days. I had an interesting discussion with some business colleagues the other day about the use of dashboards in performance management projects and whether they were really a "part" of the performance management equation. Camps quickly divided into the typical “yes they are,” “no they aren’t” sides of the question, and there are cases on both sides.

If you DO think that they are, there’s compelling evidence on your side. Dashboards are the way that most people digest their key performance indicators and information these days—they look to see what their dials tell them, then go and take action or go get a cup of coffee—the choice is theirs. Just the fact that they are seeing the important aspects of their business is propelling them to take action, which at its essence is managing your organization’s performance.

Additionally, with the cost and heavy footprints associated with most performance management solutions these days, often times dashboards are an inexpensive and fast way to start proactively managing your business. With the wizards and do-it-yourself capabilities of many products today, you can be connecting to data sources and understanding tolerances in no time. This is especially true for small and mid-sized organizations, who don’t have a big budget for a full-on performance management system, but do have a few hundred dollars around to play with some visualization and data.

So there you have it—compelling evidence that dashboards are part of performance management. Everyone agree? I thought so.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Is performance management becoming a platform play vs. a feature/function play?

Interesting feedback from an industry analyst recently on the trends around the performance management market. He said that with the Oracle/Hyperion acquisition announced, that the market is approaching a tipping point where the choice for the business buyer will increasingly be tied in with the platform, vs. the system with the best features.

Now this might not be a surprise to many folks, particularly on the IT side of the house, since IT standardization has been Gospel for quite some time, and the pesky business user who dares to purchase or fund a project “off standard” quickly finds their help desk requests routed through Outer Mongolia.

But this is a new trend for people like the CFO and executives who have previously had the power to “dictate” to IT what the standard for the finance department would be. With the continuing push of ERP and BI vendors to “standardize” across their platform, might the choice for business users be narrowing to those products that are part of the IT standard?

And what does this mean for the best of breed vendors out there who are not tied to a platform—will they be confined to the mid-market where there is no de facto standard or the standards are not yet enforced? Interesting times…

What the deal with dashboards and scorecards these days?

I recently attended a Gartner BI analyst conference in Chicago; it was interesting to get a glimpse into their take on the BI market and the direction of the future technologies and trends.

One observation that stood out was the movement of dashboards and scorecards down the Gartner hype cycle into what they call the trough of disillusionment, similar to downgrading technologies to the status of an overrated sports star. The hype we saw two years ago around dashboards and scorecards is certainly somewhat diminished as it has become less about having a dashboard or scorecard and more about doing something useful with it.

This goes back to the old performance management mantra that the prettiest dashboard in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the information is presents isn’t trusted and meaningful.
What this transformation essentially represents is that our eyes aren’t as big as stomach, as the sex appeal of visualization technology is beginning to wear off and stabilize to the route of the problem; trusted, managed data.

Dashboards and scorecards will continue to incorporate design flexibility and improved simplicity but there are three areas that seem to become focal points as we travel along this road.

The first focal point is effectively monitoring information, understanding what happened and have some sense of direction to what will happen. Of course, it’s only useful to monitor the right information and if you take the approach that you have to see it to believe it and much of this first phase relates back to how your information is structured.

The second area of emphasis is analytics that add deeper context around information and allow a better understanding of the who, what, where, and why. One set of questions will always expose another set of questions and as data sets increase in size so will the need for a multi-dimensional approach.

And finally a planning component to have insight into what the future will hold and being able to adjust your plan according to performance. Planning and budgeting has long been the staple of a corporate performance management approach but needs to be attached to the rhythm of the business and impact future fiscal targets.

Regardless of the technology and function, it is certainly about driving towards a continual/repeatable process, only then will you achieve true performance management enlightenment.

Happy scorecarding,
Performance Guys

Monday, March 26, 2007

Is your IT department running a profit?

Up until now, it’s been broadly assumed that performance management was the one area of IT that actually WASN’T part of IT, but the purview of the business user. Well, don’t look now business users, but IT is starting to get in on the act in this market as well.

As CFO’s scour their organizations looking for ways to cut costs and streamline operations, the IT department is a prime target. Oh not in the ways of the past—after all, the standardization wave has come and gone, and CIO’s are already running lean and mean in their servers and ERP choices and footprints (see dot com bubble bust and lessons learned, circa 2000).

But what about measuring their efficiency and effectiveness in how they run their operations? Are they really that lean? that mean? And what are the impact of the costs that the IT department is incurring on behalf of the various departments around the company? Are they making you more profitable? Or are they just adding additional carrying costs to your internal P&L? How much DOES it cost your sales team when you implement a new CRM system and purchase new laptops? Many companies don’t know, since they lump the cost of these purchases into the IT budget.

However, this is increasingly changing. More and more organizations are discovering the benefit of IT Services Costing, whereby companies can get the insight they need into the costs associated with running and maintaining a full-service IT shop, and fully load their departmental financial statements with an accurate reflection of the costs of maintaining the new system that marketing just HAD to have.

Getting a handle on your cost structure is becoming table stakes for high performing companies today. And finding out where the costs are coming from is a great place to start. Next time the question comes up, start with IT.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Welcome to the Performance Guys Blog!

Today is a momentous occasion. No really, it is. Our first blog post in cyberspace. That’s right, we’re immortalized FOREVER! We love that somewhere some server in a basement probably deep in a mountain outside of Chattanooga will house our immortality, at least until the polar ice caps melt from global warming and we’re all goners anyway.

But we digress.

There are some great perspectives out in the market today around the issue of improving organizational and business performance, and we’re excited to add our names to that list. Our goal is to provide a different point of view—not from the corner office, for no, we do not yet rule the performance management planet—immortal yes, in charge no—but from the middle. That’s right, we’re going to write about what’s happening upwards and downwards—on the front lines, and in the corner office. We’ll hopefully argue amongst ourselves about things we disagree on, invite you opinion to chime in or post yourself, and try like heck to advance the discussion on this topic. We can’t think of a more important topic for businesses and public sector organizations alike to be focused on in today’s competitive and cut throat market, and we hope that you bookmark our little corner of cyberspace to check back on how we see things progressing.

Where we end up, we have no idea—but it should be fun trying to get there. They say a new blog is created somewhere every second—so BAM, ours is added to the list.

Thanks for stopping by, hope to see you again soon!