Finance Reporting Tips

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Can IT/BI project investment be helped with finance reporting software?

Some Financial Connections To IT/BI Project Investment

One BI analyst/developer, Foster Hinshaw, has estimated that 10 percent of corporate IT spending may be related to BI technology. With such an estimate, it is no wonder that BI vendors have devoted development resources to providing solutions directed to areas like Software Development Life Cycle management tools. One developer, Cognos, has devoted an entire segment of a product offering to decision aspects of project management decision support.

That application identifies some key financial metrics related to IT/BI that may shed some light on the efficacy of such project related uses for BI software products. For example, in order to monitor key project indicators critical to managing scope, unplanned changes, and normal path adjustments, Cognos provides the ability to set planning goals and scorecarding metrics for:

  • IT project completion
  • IT project lead time
  • IT project ROI
  • External & Internal resource days
  • New initiatives & Initiatives rejected
  • IT project cost & Value
  • Project duration & Variance

As with all information, context is important to full understanding. In BI terms, context is roughly equivalent to placing dimensions on the metrics. Examples of dimensions in IT/BI include investment level, complexity, dynamics state, scope and risk. The Cognos SDLC Management Decision Area provides the capability for IT professionals to ask questions, or query the system as to:

- Project duration: Where are the greatest percentage and absolute variances for projects based on department and project team?

- Internal/External resource days: What is the trend in internal and external resource days for project complexity—how are we using our own team?

- IT project ROI: What return do we see on projects based on their cost, complexity and risk level?

What does BI cost?

Some Price Points On BI Software

Finding pricing data on business intelligence software offerings is somewhat difficult. Other LifeTips have looked at product offerings by a number of vendors, yet within the constraints offered in this forum; only two price points were uncovered. The first was Microsoft and contained deep within their Website. The other was Cognos and was uncovered in an article reporting Cognos 8's award as the top BI software for 2005. The following details the price information uncovered (please note there is little consistency in price scope and installation complexity):

Microsoft – SQL Server 2005 Workgroup, with one processor license - $3,899; and a server license with five CALs - $739. If extended to a server with about 200 CALs (scale discounting unavailable) it is - $29,560, or about $33,459 total.

Cognos – A typical Cognos 8 BI deployment for 150 users, 15 authors, 15 analysts, 10 managers, 5 BI/IT Professional, 2 BI/IT Administrators - $220,000

There are a lot of apples and oranges here, but the secrecy contained in finding price points suggests that there is wide disparity in pricing, deployment options and context in these figures. Gain what knowledge you can from this and good hunting!

Why can’t I use an open market or free BI source to access my legacy information bases?

Legacy Systems And BI

Imagine how beneficial it would be if a long-established business could call ‘Scottie' and get beamed to a new dimension. No legacy systems or resistance to adding new technology to worry about. Well, maybe that can happen sometime, but for the present, we will just have to do it the old-fashioned way – use our heads.

Many are the decision-makers that when considering new investment, look to what they already have and ask:“Why don't we just use that Oracle product? It's free and has hooks to all our systems!” The answer is relatively straightforward. Analyze the roots of your business; gain an in-depth understanding of what drives your business. You will most likely find that in order to achieve a true level of performance management and accrue the benefits (profit and growth) it offers, you will see that enterprise data is too varied in form and function and too spread out in location to cobble together an easy solution.

I’m sensing resistance to BI in the finance area, how can I overcome this?

Overcoming Resistance To BI From Financial Executives

Finance professionals, especially at the level of CFO, were the driving force and main beneficiaries of the development of information technology (IT). This marriage started in the post-WWII era and accompanied the advent of the mainframe computer. Today, these traditional systems have given way to more powerful and sophisticated IT tools, and BI is one of the foremost. But do these financial professionals embrace these changes? The answer is mixed but one key tip to consider in your organization to “grease the skids” in your BI deployment is to marry that CFO and/or principal deputy with a business intelligence power-user. This would be the equivalent to a chief-of-staff. In other words, a facilitator who makes the transition work better and helps the executive embrace change.

What do CFOs regard as important performance measures?

Success And The Corporate CFO

In a Cognos White Paper on Performance Management, a comment by Dan London of Accenture is quoted where he observes that the “average lifespan of an S&P 500 company is now only 15 years.” The implication: performance management must be hardwired into your company's approach and practice if you want to establish and sustain your leadership. Size today is no guarantee of keeping the top spot. And s enior financial executives know what they want from a performance system. Among the various capabilities of performance systems, CFOs generally select these four elements as key pieces they are missing at present:

  • An ability to focus on key business drivers.
  • Ability of business users to view and analyze performance reports at will.
  • Visibility into current results.
  • Reporting of non-financial measures.

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Tammi Reynolds