Myles Suer

Myles Suer
Mr. Suer is a senior manager of solutions marketing at Informatica Corporation. Much of Mr. Suer’s experience has been as a BI practitioner. At HP and Peregrine, Mr. Suer led the product management team applying BI and Scorecard technology to these company’s IT management products. Prior to HP, Mr. Suer led new product initiatives at start-ups and large companies. This included doing a restart of a Business Activity Monitoring Company. Mr. Suer has, also, been a software industry analyst. Mr. Suer holds a Master of Science degree from UC Irvine and a 2nd Masters in Business Administration in Strategic Planning from the University of Southern California.

Making Competing on Analytics Reality: A Case Study From UMass Memorial Healthcare

As I indicated in Competing on Analytics, if you ask CIOs today about the importance of data to their enterprises, they will likely tell you about their business’ need to “compete on analytics”, to deliver better business insights, and to drive faster business decision making. These have a high place on the business and CIO agendas, according to Thomas H. Davenport, because “at a time when firms in many industries offer similar products and use comparable technologies, business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation.” For this reason, Davenport claims timely analytics enables companies to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”.

So is anyone showing the way on how to compete on analytics?

healthcareUMass Memorial Health Care is a great example of an enterprise that is using analytics to “wring every last drop of value from their processes”. However, before UMass could compete on data, it needed to create data that could be trusted by its leadership team.

Competing on analytics requires trustworthy data

TrustworthyAt UMass, they found that they could not accurately measure the size of their patient care population. This is a critical metric for growing market share. Think about how hard it would be to operate any business without an accurate count of how many customers are being served. Lacking this information hindered UMass’ ability to make strategic market decisions and drive key business and clinical imperatives.

A key need at UMASS was to determine a number of critical success factors for its business. This included obviously the size of the patient population but it also included the composition of the patient population and the number of unique patients served by primary care physician providers across each of its business locations. Without this knowledge, UMASS found itself struggling to make effective decisions regarding its strategic direction, its clinical policies, and even its financial management. And all of these factors really matter in an era of healthcare reform.

Things proved particularly complex at UMass since they act as what is called a “complex integrated delivery network”. This means that portions of its business effectively operated under different business models. This, however, creates a data challenge in healthcare. Unlike other diversified enterprises, UMASS needs an operating model–“the necessary level of business process integration and standardization for delivering its services to customers”[1]– that could support different elements of its business but be unified for integrative analysis. This matters because in UMass’ case, there is a single denominator, the patient. And to be clear, while each of UMASS’ organizations could depend on their data to meet their needs, UMASS lacked an integrative view into patients.

Departmental Data may be good for a department but not for the Enterprise

Data AnalysisUMass had adequate data for each organization, such as delivering patient care or billing for a specific department or hospital, but it was inadequate for system wide measures. And aggregation and analytics, which needed to combine data across systems and organizations was stymied by data inconsistencies, incomplete population of fields, or other types of data quality problems between each system. These issues made it impossible to provide the analytics UMass’ senior managers needed. For example, UMass’ aggregated data contained duplicate patients—people who had been treated at different sites and had different medical record numbers, but who were in fact the same patients.

A key need for UMass creating the ability to compete on analytics was to measure and report on the number of primary care patients being treated across their entire healthcare system. UMass leadership saw this as a key planning and strategy metric because primary care patients today are the focus of investments in wellness and prevention programs, as well as a key source of specialty visits and inpatients. According to George Brenckle, Senior Vice President and CIO, they “had an urgent need for improved clinical and business intelligence across all our operations, we needed an integrated view of patient information, encounters, providers, and UMass Memorial locations to support improved decision making, advance the quality of patient care, and increase patient loyalty. To put the problem into perspective, we have more than 100 applications—some critical, some not so critical—and our ultimate ambition was to integrate all of these areas of business, leverage analytics, and drive clinical and operational excellence.”

The UMASS Solution

solutionThe UMass solved the above issues by creating an integrated way to view of patient information, encounters, providers, and UMass Memorial locations. This allowed UMass to compute the number of primary care physician patients cared for. In order to make this work, the solution merged data from the core hospital information applications and processed this data for quality issue that prevented UMass from deriving the primary care patient count. Armed with this, data integration helped UMass Memorial improve its clinical outcomes, grow its patient population, increase process efficiency, and ultimately maximize its return on data. As well UMASS gained a reliable measure of its primary care patient population, UMASS now was able to determine an accurate counts for unique patients served by its hospitals (3.2 million), active patients (i.e., those treated within the last three years—approximately 1.7 million), and unique providers (approximately 24,000).

According to Brenckle, data integration transformed their analytical capabilities and decision making. “We know who our primary care patients are and how many there are of them, whether the volume of patients is rising or decreasing, how many we are treating in an ambulatory or acute care setting, and what happens to those patients as they move through the healthcare system. We are able to examine which providers they saw and at which location. This data is vital to improving clinical outcomes, growing the patient population, and increasing efficiency.”

Related links

Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform
Details on the UMASS Solution

Related Blogs

Thomas Davenport Book “Competing On Analytics”
Competing on Analytics
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
CIO explains the importance of Big Data to Healthcare
The CFO Viewpoint upon Data
What an enlightened healthcare CEO should tell their CIO?
Twitter: @MylesSuer

 


 

[1] Enterprise Architecture as Business Strategy, Jeanne Ross, Harvard Business School Press, Page 8
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IT Is All About Data!

AboutDataIs this how you think about IT? Or do you think of IT in terms of the technology it deploys instead? I recently was interviewing a CIO at Fortune 50 Company about the changing role of CIOs. When I asked him about which technology issues were most important, this CIO said something that surprised me.

He said, “IT is all about data. Think about it. What we do in IT is all about the intake of data, the processing of data, the store of data, and the analyzing of data. And we need, from data, to increasingly provide the intelligence to make better decisions”.

How many view the function of the IT organization with such clarity?

This was the question that I had after hearing this CIO. And how many IT organizations view IT as really a data system? It must not be very many. Jeanne Ross from MIT CISR contends in her book that company data “one of its most important assets, is patchy, error-prone, and not up-to-date” (Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, Jeanne Ross, page 7). Jeanne contends as well that companies having a data centric view “have higher profitability, experience faster time to market, and get more value from their IT investments” (Enterprise Architecture as Strategy, Jeanne Ross, page 2).

What then do you need to do to get your data house in order?

What then should IT organizations do to move their data from something that is “patchy, error-prone, and not up-to-date” to something that is trustworthy and timely? I would contend our CIO friend had it right. We need to manage all four elements of our data process better.

1.     Input Data Correctly

data inputYou need start by making sure that the data you produced is done so consistently and correctly.  I liken the need here to a problem that I had with my electronic bill pay a few years ago. My bank when it changed bill payment service providers started sending my payments to a set of out of date payee addresses. This caused me to receive late fees and for my credit score to actually go down. The same kind of thing can happen to a business when there are duplicate customers or customer addresses are entered incorrectly. So much of marketing today is about increasing customer intimacy. It is hard to improve customer intimacy when you bug the same customer too much or never connect with a customer because you had a bad address for them.

2.     Process Data to Produce Meaningful Results

processing dataYou need to collect and manipulate data to derive meaningful information. This is largely about processing data so it results produce meaningful analysis. To do this well, you need to take out the data quality issues from the data that is produced. We want, in this step, to make data is “trustworthy” to business users.

With this, data can be consolidated into a single view of customer, financial account, etc. A CFO explained the importance of this step by saying the following:

“We often have redundancies in each system and within the chart of accounts the names and numbers can differ from system to system. And as you establish a bigger and bigger set of systems, you need to, in accounting parlance, to roll-up the charter of accounts”.

Once data is consistently put together, then you need to consolidate it so that it can be used by business users. This means that aggregates need to be created for business analysis. These should support dimensional analysis so that business users can truly answer why something happened. For finance organizations, timely aggregated data with supporting dimensional analysis enables them to establish themselves as “a business person versus a bean counting historically oriented CPA”. Having this data answers questions like the following:

  • Why are sales not being achieved? Which regions or products are failing to be delivered?
  • Or why is the projected income statement not in conformance with plan? Which expense categories should be we cut in order to ensure the income statement is in line with business expectation?

3.     Store Data Where it is Most Appropriate

Cloud StorageData storage needs to be able to occur today in many ways. It can be in applications, a data warehouse, or even, a Hadoop cluster. You need here to have an overriding data architecture that considers the entire lifecycle of data. A key element of doing this well involves archiving data as it becomes inactive and protecting data across its entire lifecycle. The former can involve as well the disposing of information. And the latter requires the ability to audit, block, and dynamically mask sensitive production data to prevent unauthorized access.

4.      Enable analysis including the discovery, testing, and putting of data together

Data AnalysisAnalysis today is not just about the analysis tools. It is about enabling users to discover, test, and put data together. CFOs that we have talked to say they want analysis to expose earlier potential business problems. They want, for example, to know about metrics like average selling price and gross margins by account or by product. They want as well to see when they have seasonality affects.

Increasingly, CFOs need to use this information to help predict what the future of their business will look like. CFOs say that they want at the same time to help their businesses make better decisions from data. Limiting them today from doing this are disparate systems that cannot talk to each other. CFOs complain about their enterprise hodgepodge of systems that do not talk to one another. And yet to report, CFOs need to traverse between front office to back office systems.

One CIO said to us that the end of any analysis layer should be the ability to trust data and make dependable business decisions. And once dependable data exists, business users say that they want “access to data when they need it. They want to get data when and where you need it”. One CIO likened what is need here to orchestration when he said:

“Users want to be able to self-service. They want to be able to assembly data and put it together and do it from different sources at different times. I want them to be able to have no preconceived process. I want them to be able discover data across all sources”.

Parting thoughts

So as we said at the beginning of this post, IT is all about the data. And with mobile systems of engagement, IT’s customers are wanting increasingly their data at their fingertips.  This means that business users need to be able to trust that the data they use for business analysis is timely and accurate. This demands that IT organizations get better at managing their core function—data.

Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform
Great Data by Design
The Power of a Data Centric Mindset
Data is it your competitive advantage?

Related Blogs

Competing on Analytics
The CFO Viewpoint of Data
Is Big Data Destined To Become Small And Vertical?
Big Data Why?
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
What is big data and why should your business care?
Twitter: @MylesSuer

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Hacking: How Ready Is Your Enterprise?

 
Recent corporate data security challenges require companies to ask hard questions about enterprise readiness:

1)      How do you know if your firm is next in line?
2)      How well will your Information Technology team respond to an attempted breach?

Is your firm ready?

HackingOver the last year, a number of high profile data security breaches have taken place at major US corporations. However, as a business person, how do you know the answers to the above questions.  Do you know what is at risk? And as well with big data gathering so much attention these days, isn’t it kind of like putting all the eggs into one basket? According to the management scholar, Theodore Levitt, part of being a manager is the ability to ask questions. My goal today is to arm business managers with the questions to ask so they can determine the answers to both of the above questions.

Is your Big Data secure?

HackingBig Data is all the buzz today. How safe are your Big Data spaces? Do you know what is going into each of them? Judith Hurwitz, the President and CEO of Hurwitz & Associates, says that she worries about big data security. Judith even suggests that big data “introduces security risks into the company, unintended consequences can endanger the company”. According to Judith, these risks come in two forms:

1)      Big data sources can contain viruses as well as other forms of business risk
2)      Big data lakes if unprotected represent a major business risk from hacking

Clearly, protecting your big data comprehensively requires diligence, including data encryption. But just remember, big data may seem like a science project in the back room, but it puts in one place a significant volume of data that could damage your enterprise if exposed to the outside world.

Do you need better tools or better business processes?

SecurityWhile many of the discussions about recent hacks have focused on the importance of having the right and up to date tools in place, it is just as important to have the right business processes in place if you want to minimize the possibility of a breach and minimizes losses when a breach occurs.

From an accessibility and security prospective, security processes look at the extent to which access to information is restricted appropriately to authorized parties. Next, from an information management perspective, they should consider the entire information life cycle. Information should be protected during all phases of its life cycle. Security should start at the information planning phase, and for many, this implies different protection mechanisms for storing, sharing, and disposition of information.

To determine what questions a business person should be asking their security professionals, I went to COBIT 5. For those who do not know, COBIT is the standard your auditors use to evaluate your company’s technology per Sarbanes Oxley. Understanding what it recommends matters because CFOs that we have talked to say that after the recent hacks they believe they are about to get increased scrutiny from their auditors. If you want to understand what auditors will look for, you should study COBIT 5. COBIT 5 has even linked its security policy guidance to what your IT security management team should be running against—one more term, ISO/IEC 27000 standard. Want to impress your security management professionals? Ask them whether they are in compliance with ISO/IEC 27000.

Good information security requires policies and procedures

Now, let’s explore what COBIT 5 recommends for information governance and security. The first thing it recommends is that good information security requires policies and procedures are created and put in place. This sounds pretty reasonable. However, COBIT next insists—something that we all know is true as managers– enterprise culture and ethics are critical to making “security policies and procedures effective”.

What metrics then should business people use to judge whether their firm is managing information security appropriately. COBIT 5 suggest that you look for two things right off the top.

1)      How recently did your IT organization conduct a risk assessment for the services that it provides?
2)      Does your IT organization have a current security plan which is accepted and communication throughout the enterprise?

For the first, it is important that you then ask what percentage of IT services and programs are covered by a risk assessment and what percentage of security incidents taking place were not identified in the risk assessment. The first question tells you how actively your IT is managing security and the second tells you whether there a gaps and risks. Your goal here should be to ensure that “IT-related enterprise risk does not exceed your risk appetite and your risk tolerance”.

With regards to the security plan, you should be asking your IT leadership (your CIO or CISO) about the number of key security roles that have been clearly defined and about the number of security related incidents over time. As important, find out how many security solutions currently deviate from plan?  A timely review of these could clearly impact your probability of getting your systems hacked.

As a manager, you know that teams need policies and procedures to limit errors from happening and to manage them when they occur. So ask what are the procedures for managing through a security event? As important, ask about the percentage of services are confirmed to have alignment with the security plan. At the same time, you want to know about the number of security incidents caused by non-adherence to the security plan. For the future, you want to make sure as well that all new solutions being developed have from launch confirmed their alignment to the security plan.

Other critical things to consider include the number of security incidents that have caused financial loss, business disruption, and public embarrassment. This of course is a big one that should be small in number. Then ask about the number of IT services with outstanding security requirements? Next, what is the time required to grant, change, and remove access privileges and the frequency of security assessment against the latest standards and guidelines.

Concluding Remarks

Security is one area that you really need IT-Business Alignment. It is important, as a business professional, that you do your best to ensure that IT builds policies and procedures that conform to your corporate risk appetite. As well you need to assure that the governance, policies, and procedures for your IT organization run against are kept current and update. This includes ensuring that the data is governed from end to end in the IT environment.

Related links

Solutions: Enterprise Level Data Security
The State of Data Centric Security
Gambling With Your Customer’s Financial Data
Twitter: @MylesSuer

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Gambling With Your Customer’s Financial Data

CIOs and CFOs both dig data security

Financial dataIn my discussions with CIOs over the last couple of months, I asked them about the importance of a series of topics. All of them placed data security at the top of their IT priority list. Even their CFO counterparts, with whom they do not always see eye to eye, said they were very concerned about the business risk for corporate data. These CFOs said that they touch, as a part of owning business risk, security — especially from hacking. One CFO said that he worried, as well, about the impact of data security for compliance issues, including HIPAA and SOX. Another said this: “The security of data is becoming more and more important. The auditors are going after this. CFOs, for this reason, are really worried about getting hacked. This is a whole new direction, but some of the highly publicized recent hacks have scared a lot of folks and they combined represent to many of us a watershed event.”

Editor of CFO Magazine

According to David W. Owens the editor of CFO Magazine, even if you are using “secure” storage, such as internal drives and private clouds, the access to these areas can be anything but secure. Practically any employee can be carrying around sensitive financial and performance data in his or her pocket, at any time.” Obviously, new forms of data access have created new forms of data risk.

Are some retailers really leaving the keys in the ignition?

If I only hadGiven the like mind set from CIOs and CFOs, I was shocked to learn that some of the recently hacked retailers had been using outdated security software, which may have given hackers easier access company payment data systems. Most amazingly, some retailers had not even encrypted their customer payment data. Because of this, hackers were able to hide on the network for months and steal payment data, as customers continued to use their credit cards at the company’s point of sale locations.

Why weren’t these transactions encrypted or masked? In my 1998 financial information start-up, we encrypted our databases to protect against hacks of our customers’ personal financial data. One answer came from a discussion with a Fortune 100 Insurance CIO. This CIO said “CIO’s/CTO’s/CISO’s struggle with selling the value of these investment because the C Suite is only interested in hearing about investments with a direct impact on business outcomes and benefits”.

Enterprise security drives enterprise brand today

Brand ValueSo how should leaders better argue the business case for security investments? I want to suggest that the value of IT is its “brand promise”. For retailers, in particular, if a past purchase decision creates a perceived personal data security risk, IT becomes a liability to their corporations brand equity and potentially creates a negative impact on future sales. Increasingly how these factors are managed either supports or not the value of a company’s brand.

My message is this: Spend whatever it takes to protect your brand equity; Otherwise a security issue will become a revenue issue.

In sum, this means organizations that want to differentiate themselves and avoid becoming a brand liability need to further invest in their data centric security strategy and of course, encryption. The game is no longer just about securing particular applications. IT organizations need to take a data centric approach to securing customer data and other types of enterprise data. Enterprise level data governance rules needs to be a requirement. A data centric approach can mitigate business risk by helping organizations to understand where sensitive data is and to protect it in motion and at rest. 

Related links

Solutions: Enterprise Level Data Security
The State of Data Centric Security
How Is The CIO Role Starting To Change?
The CFO viewpoint on data
CFOs discuss their technology priorities
Twitter: @MylesSuer

 

 

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The Secret To Being A Successful CIO

The Number 1 Enterprise Priority

CIOInformation Week reported last week upon the latest IT Trends Study. Once again this study had IT-business alignment as the No. 1 priority for enterprises. The article’s author even exclaimed within his piece isn’t this topic becoming “a bit “passé”. We have confirmed in our interviews of CIOs that they place connecting what IT is doing to business strategy higher than things like technical orchestration and overall process excellence. Hunter and Westerman say in The Real Value of IT that doing IT-Business Alignment well involves “showing the value of IT as an investment in business performance—operationally and financially”.

CIOs Need The Businesses Help With IT Demand Management

CIOOne CIO that we talked to suggested that accomplishing what Hunter and Westerman suggest starts with better IT demand management. “IT leaders increasingly need to get control over their IT demand management. After all, they have limited dollars, limited space, and limited people. They need to partner with the business to get the prioritization done”. This CIO suggests it is especially important to get this right these days because of the pace at which the tech landscape is changing.

The explosion of technologies is certainly making the need for IT-business alignment even more critical. This CIO has Mobile, Cloud, Social, and Big Data all key priorities at the same time. How does one select between them without having their customers in the room with you?

Another CIO suggests that IT-business alignment is increasingly about three things:

  1. Getting the CFO to understand technology is not a cost center
  2. Getting the business to understand that IT isn’t separate
  3. Getting business leaders to understand technology better. “I want business leaders to start asking for digital services that support their product and service offerings”.

A New Type Of CIO Needed?

TeamworkClearly, if CFOs are part of the alignment equation, CIOs should be looking at their tech priority list carefully. Some CIOs suggest that the emphasis on IT-business alignment brings to the forefront skills like collaboration and teamwork. And this change may require a different kind of CIO. The CIO role today is clearly becoming more about understanding the business than understanding technology. It is becoming more about business alignment than technology alignment. This means the biggest value added from the CIO still will be that they can align business needs with the technology fabric required to deliver it.

Presentations Need To Be About A Business Need

The Language of BusinessSeveral CIOs, in fact told me that they will not take a vendor presentation on a purely techie topic anymore. If they take a meeting from a vendor, they will almost always involve their business partner. They won’t do it alone. Given this, the topic needs to change. “Business partners will be suspicious of a meeting request filled with technical terms. They do not want a solution looking for a problem. They want to be looking for a solution to their problem”. Given this, to involve the CIO today, you need to have a business value proposition.

Even COBIT 5 Suggests That Alignment Matters

Even COBIT 5 in fact suggests says that IT organizations should be measured by their alignment of IT and business strategy. COBIT 5 even provides multiple KPIs that dig in on the topic. Given this, it may be “a bit “passé” but it is core to creating a successful IT organization for today and for the future.

Related links

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Driving IT Business Alignment: One CIOs Journey

CIO MagazineCIO Magazine says marketing matters to business alignment

In our interviews of CIOs, they have told us that connecting what IT is doing to business strategy has become a higher priority than even things like improving technical orchestration and overall process excellence. Being CIO today has become much more about business alignment than technology alignment. This means that CIOs and their teams need to understand their firm’s business problems almost as well as they understand their implementations of information technology. One area where CIOs say they are trying to do a better job of alignment is in working with their firm’s Chief Marketing Officer. Confirming this is a recent CIO Magazine Survey that found initiatives around revenue, customer acquisition, and customer retention receiving top IT priority these days.

CIOGeiger IT solves a persistent business problem by aligning with the marketing team

One CIO that that has really taken this to heart is the Dale Denham who is the CIO at Geiger. Dale and his IT team decided that they needed to get closer to their firm’s marketing organization and by doing so was able to go after a persistent business problem and change the IT-business relationship in the process.

At Geiger, their marketing team was limited in their ability to add new products. Competitively, the marketing team needed to improve their product selection. However, they were hitting the wall in updating and maintaining their product mix. Geiger provides its customers with more than 5,000 products, each having as many as 350 variations.  This translates to a 175,000 product permutations to price and manage. At the same time, Geiger sells its products through 500 Sales Partners—this, in turn, can create an additional layer of permutation.

The source of this business problem was that Geiger’s ERP and Website systems that required the users to manipulate multiple screens to get to product data and product codes into the system. The system was difficult enough that it took about six weeks to train someone to input product data. Think about the time needed to then do this this across all products, product permutations, and channel partners.

To fix things, Dale and his team partnered with the business. Doing it together rather than separately enabled the IT organization and the business to collaborate and to build a better and more permanent partnership. Dale says, “We have really enjoyed implementing the solution, because the business units are now working very closely with IT”. Dale claims as well the relationship with their business units has gotten to be a very solid, trusting relationship with them, and very collaborative. They have learned to trust IT’s input, and IT has learned a lot from the business units about how they operate and like to operate.”

automationThe impact of working together is clear

The solution that the business and IT derived cut the time to train people in half. In fact, Dale says that new system users are relatively productive within a week, because the solution is faster and easier to use. Dale says that the time per product entry went down from an hour and half to thirty minutes. For this reason, marketing teams are more efficient. Overall, it reduced the process from two months to one week for them to update the customer facing website. By automating the process, they were able to speed up marketing processes. This means marketing can now add and extend to the existing marketing mix and increase customer satisfaction and potential increase customer upsell and cross sell.

The historical the process created a lot of efficiencies for marketing. Marketing staff is now much more focused on what they’re doing from day to day. They have the ability to update products faster from prices and this has stabilized business margins. At the same time, marketing was able to reduce invoice discrepancies. Given all of this, marketing staff is more engaged that they are able to get the job done in a timely manner and to be able to get to market faster with the products.

The solution took the data entry process down from ninety minutes to thirty minutes. And now with this increased efficiency, the marketing staff has focused more of its time on the quality of copy for the product and on getting the graphics of the images up to websites. This has improved overall customer experience. And of course they were able to expand their product offering. They now have three times the throughput capacity, which is what is going to allow Geiger to grow in the future as it provides more product options to customers.

Already they have found that customers are happier with the immediate larger breadth of product to choose from. Lastly, their leadership team is happier because they are able to get more opportunities to grow the business. And this gives them much more ability to satisfy customers and provide for the additional growth they need in the future.

Closing remarks

Clearly business and IT alignment is all the rage today. But it starts and ends with a team that solves meaningful business problems. Geiger is a great of example of how to do this right. If you want to learn more about what Geiger did and how they solved their marketing problems, please click this hyperlink.

Related links

Watch Dale Denham talk about Geiger’s success

How Is The CIO Role Starting To Change?

The CIO Challenged

How CFOs can change the conversation with their CIO?

The CFO viewpoint on data

CFOs discuss their technology priorities

Twitter: @MylesSuer

 

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CFO Move to Chief Profitability Officer

30% or higher of each company’s businesses are unprofitable

cfoAccording to Jonathan Brynes at the MIT Sloan School, “the most important issue facing most managers …is making more money from their existing businesses without costly new initiatives”. In Brynes’ cross industry research, he found that 30% or higher of each company’s businesses are unprofitable. Brynes claims these business losses are offset by what are “islands of high profitability”. The root cause of this issue is asserted to be the inability of current financial and management control systems to surface profitability problems and opportunities. Why is this the case? Byrnes believes that management budgetary guidance by its very nature assumes the continuation of the status quo. For this reason, the response to management asking for a revenue increase is to increase revenues for businesses that are profitable and unprofitable. Given this, “the areas of embedded unprofitability remain embedded and largely invisible”. At the same time to be completely fair, it should be recognized that it takes significant labor to accurately and completely put together a complete picture on direct and indirect costs.

The CFO needs to become the point person on profitability issues

cfo

Byrnes believes, nevertheless, that CFOs need to become the corporate point person for surfacing profitability issues. They, in fact, should act as the leader of a new and important role, the chief profitability officer. This may seem like an odd suggestion since virtually every CFO if asked would view profitability as a core element of their job. But Byrnes believes that CFOs need to move beyond broad, departmental performance measures and build profitability management processes into their companies’ core management activities. This task requires the CFO to determine two things.

  1. Which product lines, customers, segments, and channels are unprofitable so investments can be reduced or even eliminated?
  2. Which product lines, customers, segments, and channels are the most profitable so management can determine whether to expand investments and supporting operations?

Why didn’t portfolio management solve this problem?

cfoNow as a strategy MBA, Byrnes’ suggestion leave me wondering why the analysis proposed by strategy consultants like Boston Consulting Group didn’t solve this problem a long time ago. After all portfolio analysis has at its core the notion that relative market share and growth rate will determine profitability and which businesses a firm should build share, hold share, harvest share, or divest share—i.e. reduce, eliminate, or expand investment. The truth is getting at these figures, especially profitability, is a time consuming effort.

KPMG finds 91% of CFOs are held back by financial and performance systems

KPMG

As financial and business systems have become more complex, it has become harder and harder to holistically analyze customer and product profitability because the relevant data is spread over a myriad of systems, technologies, and locations. For this reason, 91% of CFO respondents in a recent KPMG survey said that they want to improve the quality of their financial and performance insight from the data they produce. An amazing 51% of these CFOs, also, admitted that the “collection, storage, and retrieval financial and performance data at their company is primarily a manual and/or spreadsheet-based exercise”. Think about it — a majority of these CFOs teams time is spent collecting financial data rather than actively managing corporate profitability.

How do we fix things?

FixWhat is needed is a solution that allows financial teams to proactively produce trustworthy financial data from each and every financial system and then reliably combine and aggregate the data coming from multiple financial systems. Having accomplished this, the solution needs to allow financial organizations to slice and dice net profitability for product lines and customers.

This approach would not only allow financial organizations to cut their financial operational costs but more importantly drive better business profitability by surfacing profitability gaps. At the same time, it would enable financial organizations to assist business units in making more informed customer and product line investment decisions. If a product line or business is narrowly profitable and lacks a broader strategic context or ability to increase profitability by growing market share, it is a candidate for investment reduction or elimination.

Strategic CFOs need to start asking questions of their business counterparts starting with their justification for their investment strategy. Key to doing this involves consolidating reliable profitability data across customers, products, channel partners, suppliers. This would eliminate the time spent searching for and manually reconciling data in different formats across multiple systems. It should deliver ready analysis across locations, applications, channels, and departments.

Some parting thoughts

Strategic CFOs tell us they are trying to seize the opportunity “to be a business person versus a bean counting historically oriented CPA”. I believe a key element of this is seizing the opportunity to become the firm’s chief profitability officer. To do this well, CFOs need dependable data that can be sliced and diced by business dimensions. Armed with this information, CFOs can determine the most and least profitability, businesses, product lines, and customers. As well, they can come to the business table with the perspective to help guide their company’s success.

Related links
Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform
Related Blogs
CFOs Discuss Their Technology Priorities
The CFO Viewpoint upon Data
How CFOs can change the conversation with their CIO?
New type of CFO represents a potent CIO ally
Competing on Analytics
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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Posted in Business Impact / Benefits, Business/IT Collaboration, CIO, Data Governance, Data Quality | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

CFOs Discuss Their Technology Priorities

Recently, I had the opportunity to talk to a number of CFOs about their technology priorities. These discussions represent an opportunity for CIOs to hear what their most critical stakeholder considers important. The CFOs did not hesitate or need to think much about this question. They said three things make their priority list. They are better financial system reliability, better application integration, and better data security and governance. The top two match well with a recent KPMG study which found the biggest improvement finance executives want to see—cited by 91% of survey respondents—is in the quality of financial and performance insight obtained from the data they produce, followed closely by the finance and accounting organization’s ability to proactively analyze that information before it is stale or out of date”

TrustBetter financial system reliability

CFOs want to know that their systems work and are reliable. They want the data collected from their systems to be analyzed in a timely fashion. Importantly, CFOs say they are worried not only about the timeliness of accounting and financial data. This is because they increasingly need to manage upward with information.  For this reason, they want timely, accurate information produced for financial and business decision makers. Their goal is to drive out better enterprise decision making.

In manufacturing, for example, CFOs say they want data to span from the manufacturing systems to the distribution system. They want to be able to push a button and get a report. These CFOs complain today about the need to manually massage and integrate data from system after system before they get what they and their business decision makers want and need.

IntegrationBetter Application Integration

CFOs really feel the pain of systems not talking to each other. CFOs know firsthand that they have “disparate systems” and that too much manual integration is going on. For them, they see firsthand the difficulties in connecting data from the frontend to backend systems. They personally feel the large number of manual steps required to pull data. They want their consolidation of account information to be less manual and to be more timely. One CFO said that “he wants the integration of the right systems to provide the right information to be done so they have the right information to manage and make decisions at the right time”.

Data Security and Governance

securityCFOs, at the same time, say they have become more worried about data security and governance. Even though CFOs believe that security is the job of the CIO and their CISO, they have an important role to play in data governance. CFOs say they are really worried about getting hacked. One CFO told me that he needs to know that systems are always working properly. Security of data matters today to CFOs for two reasons. First, data has a clear material impact. Just take a look at the out of pocket and revenue losses coming from the breach at Target. Second, CFOs, which were already being audited for technology and system compliance, feel that their audit firms will be obligated to extend what they were doing in security and governance and go as a part of regular compliance audits. One CFO put it this way. “This is a whole new direction for us. Target scared a lot of folks and will be to many respects a watershed event for CFOs”.

Take aways

So the message here is that CFOs prioritize three technology objectives for their CIOs– better IT reliability, better application integration, and improved data security and governance. Each of these represents an opportunity to make the CFOs life easier but more important to enable them to take on a more strategic role. The CFOs, that we talked to, want to become one of the top three decision makers in the enterprise. Fixing these things for CFOs will enable CIOs to build a closer CFO and business relationships.

Related links

Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform

Solution Brief: Secure at Source

Related Blogs

The CFO Viewpoint upon Data

How CFOs can change the conversation with their CIO?

New type of CFO represents a potent CIO ally

Competing on Analytics

The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity

Twitter: @MylesSuer

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Posted in CIO, Data Security, Governance, Risk and Compliance | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

The CFO Viewpoint upon Data

According to the Financial Executives Institute, CFOs say their second highest priority this year is to harness business intelligence and big data. Their highest priority is to improve cash flow and working capital efficiency and effectiveness. This means CFOs highest two priorities are centered around data. At roughly the same time, KPMG has found in their survey of CFOs that 91% want to improve the quality of their financial and performance insight obtained from the data that they produce. Even more amazing 51% of CFO admitted that “collecting, storing, and retrieving financial and performance data at their company is primarily accomplished through a manual and/or spreadsheet-based exercise”. From our interviews of CFOs, we believe this number is much higher.

automationDigitization increasing but automation is limited for the finance department

Your question at this point—if you are not a CFO—should be how can this be the case? After all strategy consultants like Booz and Company, actively measure the degree of digitization and automation taking place in businesses by industry and these numbers year after year have shown a strong upward bias. How can the finance organization be digitized for data collection but still largely manual in its processes for putting together the figures that management and the market needs?
 
 
TrustCFOs do not trust their data

In our interviews of CFOs, one CFO answered this question bluntly by saying “If the systems suck, then you cannot trust the numbers when you get them.” And this reality truly limits CFOs in how they respond to their top priorities. Things like management of the P&L, Expense Management, Compliance, and Regulatory all are impacted by the CFOs data problem. Instead of doing a better job at these issues, CFOs and their teams remain largely focused on “getting the numbers right”. And even worse, the answering of business questions like how much revenue is this customer providing or how profitable this customer is, involves manual pulls of data today from more than one system. And yes, similar data issues exist in financial services organizations which close the books nightly.

ProblemCFOs share openly their data problem

The CFOs, that I have talked to, admit without hesitation that data is a big issue for them. These CFOs say that they worry about data from the source and the ability to do meaningful financial or managerial analysis. They say they need to rely on data in order to report but as important they need it to help drive synergies across businesses. This matters because CFOs say they want to move from being just “bean counters” to being participants in the strategy of their enterprises.

To succeed, CFOs say that they need timely, accurate data. However, they are the first to discuss how disparate systems get in their way. CFOs believe that making their lives easier starts with the systems that support them. What they believe is needed is real integration and consolidation of data. One CFO said what is needed this way, “we need the integration of the right systems to provide the right information so we can manage and make decisions at the right time”. CFOs clearly want to know that the accounting systems are working and reliable. At the same time, CFOs want, for example, a holistic view of customer. When asked why this isn’t a marketing activity, they say this is business issue that CFOs need to help manage. “We want to understand the customer across business units.  It is a finance objective because finance is responsible for business metrics and there are gaps in business metrics around customer. How much cross sell opportunities is the business as a whole pursuing?”

Chief Profitability Officers?                                               

Jonathan Brynes at the MIT Sloan School confirms this viewpoint is becoming a larger trend when he suggests that CFOs need to take on the function of “Chief Profitability Officers”. With this hat, CFOs, in his view, need to determine which product lines, customers, segments, and channels are the most and the least profitable. Once again, this requires that CFOs tackle their data problem to have relevant, holistic information.

CIOs remain responsible for data delivery

Data DeliveryCFOs believe that CIOs remain responsible for how data is delivered. CFOs, say that they need to lead in creating validated data and reports. Clearly, if data delivery remains a manual process, then the CFO will be severely limited in their ability to adequately support their new and strategic charter. Yet CFOs when asked if they see data as a competitive advantage say that “every CFO would view data done well as a competitive advantage”. Some CFOs even suggest that data is the last competitive advantage. This fits really well with the view of Davenport in “Competing on Analytics”. The question is how soon will CIOs and CFOs work together to get the finance organization out of its mess of manually massaging and consolidating financial and business data.

Related links

Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform

Related Blogs

How CFOs can change the conversation with their CIO?

New type of CFO represents a potent CIO ally

Competing on Analytics

The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity

Is Big Data Destined To Become Small And Vertical?

What is big data and why should your business care?

Twitter: @MylesSuer

 

 

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Posted in Business/IT Collaboration, Enterprise Data Management, Governance, Risk and Compliance | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Competing on Analytics: A Follow Up to Thomas H. Davenport’s Post in HBR

CompetitionIf you ask a CIO today about the importance of data to their enterprises, they will likely tell you about the need to “compete on analytics” and to enable faster business decisions. At the same time, CIOs believe they “need to provide the intelligence to make better business decisions”. One CIO said it was in fact their personal goal to get the business to a new place faster, to enable them to derive new business insights, and to get to the gold at the end of the rainbow”.

Similarly, another CIO said that Big Data and Analytics were her highest priorities. “We have so much knowledge locked up in the data, it is just huge. We need the data cleaning and analytics to pull this knowledge out of data”. At the same time the CIOs that we talked to see their organizations as “entering an era of ubiquitous computing where users want all data on any device when they need it.”

Why does faster, better data really matters to the enterprise?

DavenportSo why does it matter? Thomas H. Davenport says, “at a time when firms in many industries offer similar products and use comparable technologies, business processes are among the last remaining points of differentiation.” A CIO that we have talked to concurred in saying, “today, we need to move from “management by exception to management by observation”. Derick Abell amplified upon this idea when he said in his book Managing with Dual Strategies “for control to be effective, data must be timely and provided at intervals that allow effective intervention”.

Davenport explains why timely data matters in this way “analytics competitors wring every last drop of value from those processes”. Given this, “they know what products their customers want, but they also know what prices those customers will pay, how many items each will buy in a lifetime, and what triggers will make people buy more. Like other companies, they know compensation costs and turnover rates, but they can also calculate how much personnel contribute to or detract from the bottom line and how salary levels relate to individuals’ performance. Like other companies, they know when inventories are running low, but they can also predict problems with demand and supply chains, to achieve low rates of inventory and high rates of perfect orders”.

What then prevents businesses from competing on analytics?

FixMoving to what Davenport imagines requires not just a visualizing tool. It involves fixing what is allying IT’s systems. One CIO suggested this process can be thought of like an athlete building the muscles they need to compete. He said that businesses really need the same thing. In his eyes, data cleaning, data security, data governance, and master data management represent the muscles to compete effectively on analytics. Unless you do these things, you cannot truly compete on analytics. At UMASS Memorial Health, for example, they “had four independent patient registration systems supporting the operations of their health system, with each of these having its own means of identifying patients, assigning medical record numbers, and recording patient care and encounter information”. As a result, “UMass lacked an accurate, reliable, and trustworthy picture of how many unique patients were being treated by its health system. In order to fix things, UMASS needed to “resolve patient, provider and encounter data quality problems across 11 source systems to allow aggregation and analysis of data”. Prior to fixing its data management system, this meant that “UMass lacked a top-down, comprehensive view of clinical and financial performance across its extended healthcare enterprise”.

UMASS demonstrates how IT needs to fix their data management in order to improve their organization’s information intelligence and drive real and substantial business advantage. Fixing data management clearly involves delivering the good data that business users can safely use to make business decisions. It, also, involves ensuring that data created is protected. CFOs that we have talked to say Target was a watershed event for them—something that they expect will receive more and more auditing attention.

Once our data is good and safe, we need to connect current data sources and new data sources. And this needs to not take as long as it did in the past. The delivery of data needs to happen fast enough that business problems can be recognized as they occur and be solved before they become systemic.  For this reason, users need to get access to data when and where they it is needed.

With data management fixed, data intelligence is needed so that business users can make sense out of things faster. Business users need to be able to search and find data. They need self-service so they can combine existing and new unstructured data sources to test data interrelationship hypothesis. This means the ability to assemble data from different sources at different times. Simply put this is all about data orchestration without having any preconceived process. And lastly, they need the intelligence to automatically sense and respond to changes as new data becomes collected.

Some parting thoughts

The next question may be whether competing upon data actual pay business dividends. Alvin Toffler says “Tiny insights can yield huge outputs”. In other words, the payoff can be huge. And those that do so will increasingly have the “right to win” against their competitors as you use information to wring every last drop of value from your business processes.

Related links

Solution Brief: The Intelligent Data Platform

Related Blogs

Is Big Data Destined To Become Small And Vertical?
Big Data Why?
The Business Case for Better Data Connectivity
What is big data and why should your business care?
Twitter: @MylesSuer

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