Ask QueBIT About Analytics
By Ask QueBIT
We have launched our podcast series “Ask QueBIT about Analytics” to share what we have learned with real life stories and practical advice that we hope will help you on your analytics journey.
If you are a manager on the front-lines, how do you make the best decisions for your business? It helps if you have easy and immediate access to relevant data, and in a form (mobile vs desktop, image vs spreadsheet grid etc.) that makes sense for the situation.
Analytics is the science – and art – of making that happen.
We have 20 years of history helping our clients connect data, models and business.
If you are a manager on the front-lines, how do you make the best decisions for your business? It helps if you have easy and immediate access to relevant data, and in a form (mobile vs desktop, image vs spreadsheet grid etc.) that makes sense for the situation.
Analytics is the science – and art – of making that happen.
We have 20 years of history helping our clients connect data, models and business.
Episode 50: End-to-end Integrated Planning Processes at Chemtura
Episode 50: End-to-end Integrated Planning Processes at Chemtura Guest: Jessica Quiles Everyone is talking about Extended Planning and Analysis – or xP&A – these days. On paper, it is easy to appreciate the benefits of integrating planning across finance and operational functions, which include making it easier to get everyone working together towards consistent strategic goals, wasting less energy on reconciling stand-alone plans and forecasts, and increasing forecast accuracy by removing biases. In reality xP&A is difficult. The challenges range from the political, to the practical. The three critical requirements are (1) developing a vision for what integrated planning looks like (while still supporting the special needs of each function in terms of detail, data and cadences), (2) a willingness to transform business processes to enable the vision, and (3) adoption of suitable technology to support it all. This week’s guest, Jessica Quiles, will talk about her early-career experiences at Chemtura which fifteen years ago (!) had already successfully integrated Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP) with Financial Planning (FP&A), using the IBM Planning Analytics technology (then known as TM1). She has since taken those lessons on The Art of the Possible, to develop her career as a finance leader and to help other companies reap the benefits of moving towards xP&A.
July 29, 2021
Episode 49: The Importance of Data Strategy for xP&A
Episode 49: The Importance of Data Strategy for xP&A Guest: Mike Burke At which point does the “data” part of your planning project start to take center-stage? When you go beyond grabbing general ledger trial balances from a single data source, to wanting to truly mine more of your enterprise data for deeper insights, more accurate forecasting, and ultimately better business outcomes. Everyone knows they have lots of data, but getting to it let alone putting it to work for you can be hard. Half the battle is recognizing the problem, and acknowledging that you can’t wrangle your data into submission without having a data strategy. This week we talk to QueBIT Expert and Implementation Manager Mike Burke about how he sees this question being tackled at the clients he works with, and what advice he can share on how to get on the right path.
July 1, 2021
Episode 48: Hybrid Cloud for Planning, Reporting and Analysis
Episode 48: Hybrid Cloud for Planning, Reporting and Analysis Guest: Mike Cowie It’s the summer of 2021 and IBM has been airing a series of TV commercials on something called “hybrid cloud”. One of them features racing driver Jamie Chadwick asking “why should your business go hybrid?”, and concluding “... so you can focus on, you know, winning!”. As specialists in extended, integrated planning and analysis, QueBIT’s mission is to help our clients win by having the data, models and tools they need to plan with agility, and make better decisions faster. While the vision sounds simple, the reality gets complicated especially as businesses nowadays have so much more data from a variety of systems. While the starting point is often to integrate your planning and reporting system with your ERP, it’s not the destination. Along the way, you may want to pull in data from many other systems, likely from a variety of vendors and applications, especially if you want to get to AI and machine learning-enabled use cases like predictive demand forecasting or predictive assortment planning. In this podcast episode we talk about IBM Cloud Pak for Data which is a hybrid cloud toolset that is tailor-made for enabling businesses to easily get value from their data, wherever it resides. As always we focus on understanding the proposition from a practical business point of view.
June 24, 2021
Episode 47: Why xP&A is Not Just Marketing Hype
Episode 47: Why xP&A is not just marketing hype No guest Extended Planning and Analysis – or xP&A – is having a moment right now. It is the latest piece of jargon being hyped up by analysts like Gartner (who coined it) and planning software vendors like Anaplan, IBM and Workday Adaptive. Even QueBIT is talking about it! But is it JUST hype? In this week’s podcast episode, we explain why we believe it is more than mere hype, and represents a very real shift in how companies are rethinking their planning and reporting processes in a fast-moving, digital world awash in change and disruption. The old solution of working late or throwing more bodies at the problem is no longer realistic: it simply cannot scale at the pace the situation requires. We also talk about digital transformation in general, what is pushing companies to make those investments now, and how it is imperative that digital transformation of internal planning, analysis and reporting processes keeps pace with all the other changes. This is what embracing xP&A is all about. This podcast is sponsored by QueBIT.
June 3, 2021
Episode 46: Taking the First Step
Episode 46: Taking the First Step Guest: John Sterner It’s interesting how human beings are used to planning journeys through life – like vacations, going to college, and retirement – but when it comes to buying technology, there can be a tendency to want everything at once. Perhaps it is because there is “software program” involved? Perhaps software vendors have been too successful in invoking “magic” to overcome natural and healthy skepticism in order to satisfy their quarterly sales quotas? Or perhaps we buyers succumb to feeling intimidated by technology we don’t understand, and hesitate to ask all the reasonable questions, even when given the opportunity? Either way, often the “safe” option seems to be to do nothing, but this can come at tremendous opportunity cost especially when faced with change and disruption. In this week’s episode we talk to John Sterner about his 25 years helping companies implement technology, and why they often stop short of true digital transformation. This show is sponsored by QueBIT.
May 20, 2021
Episode 45: Software Evaluation Principles
Episode 45: Software Evaluation Principles Guest: Christine Schoenen There is so much technology being thrown at us each day that deciding which software tools to invest in is overwhelming. It’s one thing to take a chance on a free app on your phone, but a completely different thing to spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more!) on something like a software platform for analytics. This is where companies turn to trusted experts like QueBIT for guidance. But how do the experts know what to recommend? Don’t they face a similar problem? In this episode we talk to QueBIT Master Consultant Christine Schoenen about QueBIT’s formal process for evaluating software vendor partnerships. In 2020 Christine led a QueBIT Guild whose mission was to improve our software evaluation processes to increase agility, scalability and quality. The fruits of these efforts are now being put to good use! We also spend a little time talking about how Guild activities helped QueBIT employees to stay engaged and connected while working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic.
February 25, 2021
Episode 44: The Sad Truth about Data
Episode 44: The Sad Truth about Data No guest. “Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration” is a famous quote attributed to Thomas Edison. The QueBIT version of this is “Successful analytics is one percent modeling and 99 percent data preparation”! When you are shopping for technology, just as when you are shopping for anything, it helps to be informed. The goal of this week’s podcast is to share a foundational truth about every analytics project, whether it relates to financial or operational planning, or an enterprise reporting initiative.
February 18, 2021
Episode 43: 2020, The Year of Analytics
Episode 43: 2020, The Year of Analytics No guest. 2020 was a difficult year on many fronts. It was also a year when companies needed to get more out of analytics technologies, to mitigate some of the challenges. Analytics evolved from being a “nice-to-have” to being an absolute necessity. Analytics helps you monitor what’s going on in your business and make data-driven predictions about the future. 2020 was also the year when QueBIT’s focus on extended planning and analysis (xP&A) as an analytics application area began to gain traction. xP&A plays to our strengths as experts in financial planning and analysis (FP&A), sales and operations planning (S&OP) and the cross-functional integration of the two, while allowing us to leverage all our technical prowess in financial modeling, data engineering and data science. In this short episode we summarize our year in Analytics, and wish all our clients, followers and friends a Happy New Year.
December 31, 2020
Episode 42: Launching a Diversity and Inclusion Program
Episode 42: Launching a Diversity and Inclusion Program Guests: Andrew Chavis, Dallas Crawford, Odile Davis-Wolfe & Gus Slaughter In Episode 39 we talked about how companies that have inclusive cultures and embrace diversity also end up with real business advantages. These are a consequence of attracting the best talent, and then creating the conditions for that talent to meet their potential. Other positive impacts are increases in employee engagement, morale and loyalty. The “right thing” from an equity and justice point of view, turns out to be the right thing for business success as well. Today’s Ask QueBIT podcast takes a brief detour away from analytics and technology to explore QueBIT’s own efforts to address these important questions. Our guests are the architects of QueBIT’s Diversity and Inclusion Program, affectionately known as the QueDIP Committee. In this episode we take an honest look inward, and touch on some of the very difficult questions that cause people of sincerely good intent to hold back from engaging. We hope is that our conversation will help others overcome any hesitation they may feel in initiating a dialog on this topic with their friends, colleagues and neighbors.
December 17, 2020
Episode 41: From “Spreadsheet Hell” to Better Decisions at Eversource
Episode 41: From “spreadsheet hell” to better decisions at Eversource Guest: Fran Berger As the largest utility in New England, Eversource has all the planning and reporting needs one would expect of a Fortune 500 company – and maybe more! Operating in a highly regulated and unionized industry while also a public company, not to mention occasional acquisitions and mergers, leads to some unique challenges. According to Fran Berger who manages performance and financial systems at Eversource, the decision to invest in IBM’s Planning Analytics technology platform (then called TM1) thirteen years ago was prescient and far-sighted (though they may not have realized it at the time!) The first corporate budgeting application built on this platform involved only a small handful of finance users, but once the capabilities of the technology were established, adoption grew. And grew. Today hundreds of users in finance and operations interact with the system every day, benefiting from secure self-service access to the data they need to do their jobs, via the web or Excel spreadsheets (which integrate directly with Planning Analytics). Since the data is validated and controlled centrally in the Planning Analytics platform, everyone knows they are working with the same, trustworthy single-version-of-the-truth. This in turn frees up time for high-value analysis work, which in turn drives better decision making. It’s a great story, filled with tons of ideas, great advice and lessons learned.
December 10, 2020
Episode 40: Why Master Data Management Matters
Episode 40: Why Master Data Management Matters Guest: Clare Hutton Our clients often ask us whether we “do” Master Data Management (MDM). It’s a good question because Master Data Management is important to DO, but answering the question can feel a bit like tip-toeing through a minefield. This is because the term “Master Data Management” means different things to different people. QueBIT’s answer may be “yes” or “no” depending on what you are thinking of. This is why, when QueBIT launched its internal Guilds initiative in 2019 as a way to build community through having cross-functional teams explore and “go deep” on different topics that interested them, we selected Master Data Management as a guild topic. The goal was to drill down past the jargon, the hype put out by “MDM” software vendors and QueBIT’s own experiences, to understand the essential business problem that MDM purports to solve. In this episode QueBIT Master Consultant Clare Hutton, who led the guild, shares the guild’s findings, including clear, elegant and simple definitions of “Master Data” and what it means to “manage” it. We also get into some practical recommendations for how to proceed with addressing your MDM challenges.
December 3, 2020
Episode 39: Diversity, Inclusion … and Transformative Analytics
Episode 39: Diversity, Inclusion … and Transformative Analytics No guest This episode was partly inspired by an article in the November-December 2020 issue of the Harvard Business Review titled “Getting Serious about Diversity: Enough Already with the Business Case”. The point of the article is that harnessing diversity to add value to your business is not just about hiring more women and black people to check a box, but about HOW willing you are to reshape your power structure to harness that diversity. In QueBIT’s 20+ year history of delivering successful analytics-based projects to hundreds of companies we have lived through countless case studies that support the position taken in the article. Projects rarely succeed or fail just because of technology selection. The biggest factors that drive success pertain to leadership and culture: Do team members trust each other? Are they engaged, or just going through the motions? Do they feel supported by their executives, or set up for failure? These are big questions that clearly cannot be addressed by a diversity initiative alone, but we hope that our specific example of how diversity and an inclusive culture can positively impact the end-result will provide useful food for thought. While there are no absolute answers to the daunting problems that businesses face, there are steps you can take to nudge the probabilities in a favorable direction.
November 19, 2020
Episode 38: You Can’t Have Agile Planning Without Building Models
Episode 38: You can’t have Agile Planning without Building Models Guest: Richard Creeth Most businesses rely on spreadsheets as a tool to inform, and to drive decision-making. Often these spreadsheets contain models where certain inputs drive calculations to produce outputs. Examples of common calculations include [Units] * [Price] or sales projections. Because spreadsheets are so ubiquitous, easy and (sometimes) FUN to build models in, they tend to proliferate across businesses, like weeds. This is where well-known limitations around controls, auditability, scalability, collaboration and accuracy begin to dilute the benefits of using them. And yet – a business cannot succeed without these models. In this episode Richard Creeth who is a physicist-turned-UK Chartered Accountant talks about the art and science of modeling a business, why it is indispensable, and how to transcend the limitations of spreadsheets to take full advantage of all that technology has to offer, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) powered predictive modeling.
October 1, 2020
Episode 37: Learning about Splunk
Episode 37: Learning about Splunk Guest: Jim Miller It’s not easy keeping up with technology but one of QueBIT’s Master Consultants, Jim Miller, has found a neat way to do it: he writes technology books in his free time! Jim’s latest book, which will be available at the end of the month, is called Mastering Splunk 8. In this episode Jim gives us a short introduction to what Splunk is, illustrated with real-life examples of how to put it to use. Then he takes us through his process for producing a book starting with inspiration and topic selection, all the way to technical research, writing and publishing. If you find yourself curious to learn more about Splunk, you can order Mastering Splunk 8 on Amazon.com, and while you are there check out other books by Jim.
August 6, 2020
Episode 36: Analytics Shorts: 3 Stories
Episode 36: Analytics Shorts: 3 Stories Guests: Christine Schoenen, Dan Viterise, Jim Miller This week we are showcasing three of QueBIT’s expert consultants: Christine Schoenen, Dan Viterise and Jim Miller. They have so many great stores to tell, but very little spare time, so we came up with this idea of the three-minute-story. Tell us about a favorite project in about three minutes by recording it on your own phone, whenever you have a moment! It’s a fun format, and you get to hear about a property manager in the hospitality industry, a global insurance company and a heavy equipment rental business … all in under 15 minutes! Each of these companies had a different planning and analysis business problem that they solved using analytics technology and a little help from QueBIT. We hope these examples help you imagine the value analytics technology can bring. It goes far beyond merely saving time, reducing manual effort and better governance, important as these all are. What we strive for is to help companies improve the quality of their decision making, by presenting all the relevant information to each individual at the time they need it, and in a form they can readily consume.
July 30, 2020
Episode 35: Cash Forecasting
Guest: Gary Quirke What do “cash forecasting” and “looking out for bears” have in common? Both these activities have existential consequences. The damage a bear can cause is obviously terrifying to think of, but if your company runs out of cash and you lose your job as a result it can be quite frightening too. A company with a good model-driven cash forecasting process can anticipate cash problems far enough in advance to take mitigation steps, for example to delay payments, renegotiate terms or cut costs. If its cash forecasting process is sufficiently detailed and supported by the right technology, a company will easily be able to consider a range of scenarios and prepare different plans ahead of time to be in the best possible position as reality plays out. Conversely, not having this capability is the equivalent of tripping over a bear cub with mama bear in sight. In this week’s podcast episode we interview QueBIT CEO and UK Chartered Accountant, Gary Quirke, who gives us a quick lesson in cash forecasting, and the potential of analytics technology to take it to the next level.
June 4, 2020
Episode 34: The Hidden Heroes of Planning, Forecasting & Analysis
Guest: AG Tan Planning, forecasting, reporting and analysis are core business activities served by analytics technology. Many companies are busily re-doing plans and forecasts in response to the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, to figure out how to stay in business (when demand has plummeted) or how to maximize capacity (when demand has sky-rocketed). At the frontlines of all these efforts are financial analysts working in the corporate finance, treasury and operational planning functions. If they do a good job, better decisions are made, a company survives, jobs are saved, and the economic recovery is hastened. This is extremely important work that is poorly understood, and little appreciated, by those who don’t do it for a living. Especially poorly understood is the qualitative value of giving financial analysts the right tools to manage data, build models, collaborate and share information. Companies that understand this are flying supersonic jets in comparison with companies that don’t, which are doing the equivalent of riding bicycles. In this week’s episode we explain the critically important contribution of financial analysts, and point out a huge, neglected business opportunity! This episode is sponsored by QueBIT, experts in analytics.
May 28, 2020
Episode 33: Recommendations for Planning in a COVID-19 World
Guests: Justin Croft and James Saronson When there is so much going on around you that you can’t do anything about, it is helpful to reflect on the things you can control. If your job involves business planning and forecasting, it’s about becoming more comfortable with uncertainty. This can be done by exploring a range of possible scenarios ahead of time, so that you are prepared to act regardless of which scenario plays out. There is nothing new in this concept: planners explore scenarios all the time. But the COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered the context in which planning and forecasting takes place. Most of all, it has compressed the timeline and increased the frequency. Annual budgets and quarterly forecasts will not be any use. Companies need to look at their business assumptions by month, by week or even by day! Analytics technology to support planning and forecasting functions evolve from being a nice-to-have, to being indispensable. In this week’s podcast episode, Justin Croft and James Saronson – both data scientists – talk about specific ways in which technology can support planning and forecasting processes at times like these. This episode is sponsored by QueBIT experts in analytics.
May 7, 2020
Episode 32: Embedding AI in FPA Replay
Episode 32: Embedding AI in FPA Replay Guest: AG Tan This episode is a replay of an in-person keynote presentation delivered at IBM’s offices in New York City in November 2019. The purpose of the talk was to demystify the value of Artificial Intelligence (AI) for planning and forecasting use cases in extended Planning and Analysis (xP&A = integrated financial and operational planning and analysis), and to provide practical advice on what it takes to get started. We explained the relationship between AI, Machine Learning and Predictive Analytics, and went on to provide a checklist of considerations to help prepare for a successful predictive demand planning initiative. This epsiode is sponsored by QueBIT.
April 23, 2020
Episode 31: Analytics in Uncertain Times: COVID-19 edition
Episode 31: Analytics in Uncertain Times: COVID-19 edition Guest: Gary Quirke QueBIT has clients from all industries, that range in size from smaller and mid-sized businesses to giant global companies. Surveying our client base is like looking at a microcosm of business in general, and so in this week’s podcast episode, we speak with QueBIT CEO Gary Quirke about how the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting our clients, and the ways in which analytics are helping them cope. Uncertainty is always present in business, but the pandemic amplifies it. Analytics tools, when used well, help by giving you visibility into what’s happening in the business and increasing planning agility. Some of the most important analytics-supported activities for dealing with uncertainty are what-if scenario planning, the ability to compare results for multiple scenarios and cash management and forecasting. We also went on to talk about what QueBIT is doing to survive, and support our employees and customers through these difficult times.
April 8, 2020
Episode 30: Analytics for Hospitality & Property Management
Episode 30: Analytics for Hospitality & Property Management Guest: Walter Hugo Añez Customer experience is a hot topic in every business these days, but in the hospitality industry it has always been paramount! When you walk in the doors of a hotel or a resort as a customer, your expectations are already sky-high. No one goes on an expensive vacation “hoping for the best” after all! Meeting these high expectations is the non-negotiable everyday reality of everyone in hospitality. How do they do it – and still make a profit? In today’s podcast episode, Walter Hugo Añez gives us some insight into how it is done. Superior analytics in the form of planning, reporting and analysis make all the difference regardless of whether you are a brand (such as Marriott, Hilton or Holiday Inn), an investor/owner or a property manager. Daily reporting on occupancy and “on-the-books” reservations enables hotel managers to optimize staffing levels and drive promotional efforts. Cash flow modeling enables investors to project operating cash requirements in the long run. And so on. We finish up by talking about the limitations of Excel in delivering all this information in a timely manner, and the opportunities that come from investing in a planning software platform. Efficiency opportunities manifest as quicker turnaround times to support better operational decision making. Business opportunities arise from having higher quality, more detailed and more trustworthy data to work with as well as having more time to analyze it and be pro-active in driving strategy. We also touch on the opportunities of deploying predictive and other advanced analytics technologies for demand forecasting and optimizing metrics like capacity and staffing levels. This podcast is brought to you by QueBIT experts in analytics.
December 5, 2019
Episode 29: Predictive Forecasting: Under the Covers
Episode 29: Predictive Forecasting: Under the Covers Guest: Scott Mutchler If you have ever worried that Predictive Forecasting as an application of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning is more hype than reality, then this podcast episode is for you! There is a lot of superficial information being put out to sell us all a gleaming vision of an AI powered future, leaving us with a sense that magic must be involved! In this episode, QueBIT’s Chief Data Scientist Scott Mutchler confirms that it is not magic, and then goes on to explain – in terms that you do NOT need to be a data scientist to understand – how it all comes together. Among other things, we talk about how there are mathematical techniques to separate effects like seasonality from the underlying trend, and how sales of low velocity items can be modeled, even when there is a shortage of data. From there we move on to talk about the power of applying predictive technology to detailed bottom-up forecasting and the opportunity to break down silos and make more time for strategic analysis by delivering on the promise of a shared forecast for finance and operations. If nothing else, this webinar will leave you with a better understanding of how predictive forecasting works, and position you (1) to be an educated buyer, and (2) to build a confident business case for embracing it! This podcast is sponsored by QueBIT experts in analytics.
November 7, 2019
Episode 28: The Challenge of Implementing Analytics on a Global Scale
Episode 28: The Challenge of Implementing Analytics on a Global Scale Guest: Dan Viterise People, especially developers and other technologists like me, tend to view analytics projects through the lens of “the technical challenge”. Even if we know that activities like “requirements gathering” and “getting buy-in” are important, they may still be allocated less time and energy than activities related to system architecture, data wrangling and model building which appear – in the moment – to be the bigger challenges. In this week’s podcast, Dan Viterise tells the story of a global luxury brand that had the reasonable-sounding idea of taking an analytics system that had been successful for financial planning in one part of the world and rolling it out to other regions. Unfortunately, it did not go well. The pitfall was that the initiative was viewed as a technology rollout, missing the fact that the purpose of the system was to solve a business problem and that the business drivers outside the original region – and therefore the business requirements - were quite different! There is no question that the causes are much easier to diagnose in hindsight than they were in the moment. Even so, we hope that sharing this story will help someone else about to embark on such a project, even if it is just to ask: 1. Have we really understood the business problem? 2. Have we truly listened? Has there been even a hint of skepticism or concern expressed that we should dig into more? This Podcast is sponsored by QueBIT experts in analytics.
October 31, 2019
Episode 27: Analytics in the Health Insurance Industry
Episode 27: Analytics in the Health Insurance Industry Guest: Ryan McKinney If you heard that profit margins in the health insurance industry can be as low as 3%, would you be surprised? Much as consumers like to complain about health insurers, let’s also give them their due because they are in a difficult business! In this week’s podcast, Ryan McKInney educates us on how the health insurance industry works. In the simplest terms, it’s about expanding membership, controlling medical costs and managing cash. Complexity comes from all the things that the insurer has limited control over like regulations, unpredictable claim schedules and the increasing cost of medical care. The good news is that there is a lot of potential for health insurers to deploy analytics technologies across all areas of their businesses and increase efficiency, improve quality of service, boost preventative care and negotiate better rates with providers. In this wide-ranging conversation, we touch on several valuable use cases for analytics, and finish up with some good advice on how a health insurer (or any other business) can get started on their analytics journey! This episode is brought to you by QueBIT experts in analytics.
October 25, 2019
Episode 26: Trusting the AI Forecast in Finance
Episode 26: Trusting the AI Forecast in Finance Guest: Allen Hudson Many companies are looking for a way to transcend the limitations of Excel for financial and operational planning, reporting and analysis. They need something that will enable them to securely centralize their data and models (so that both numbers and calculations are managed in just one place), collaborate easily, all while still retaining the flexibility to adjust in response to changing business conditions and organizational structures. Moving away from Excel to a planning software platform is just the first step, but it is an important one. The obvious benefit is that it releases analysts from the drudgery of manipulating data in Excel spreadsheets, and the stress of worrying whether all the reports are correct. They can use their new-found freedom to do more analysis and thinking about the data, and to find ways to add real value to the business. Examples range from understanding the cost structure (and finding savings), to examining sales performance (and driving revenue). A possible next step, and one that more and more QueBIT customers are interested in, is how to deploy Predictive and Artificial Intelligence technologies to their advantage. In this week’s episode we share the story of a customer we worked with recently to incorporate a computer-generated predictive forecast into their planning processes. Just as the first step reduced drudgery for the analysts responsible for managing and consolidating the planning process, this step can eliminate drudgery for those responsible for doing the forecast, and enable them to focus their attention on areas of strategic and competitive importance to the business!
October 16, 2019
Episode 25: IBM Cognos Analytics – a New Paradigm for Business Intelligence
Episode 25: IBM Cognos Analytics – a New Paradigm for Business Intelligence Guest: Gus Slaughter Back in the early 2000s Cognos was the leader in enterprise business intelligence (BI) platforms. In July 2008 Forrester Research recognized Cognos Business Intelligence as the most modern and scalable BI platform on the market. Cognos BI brought “pixel perfect” push and pull reporting to the enterprise on a robust platform that ensured data security and responsiveness, even with large numbers of users. Valuable as this is, businesses today crave ever-increasing levels of agility, and the old model of IT-maintained and administered analytics has given way to expectations of self-service convenience. In short: business users want to work directly with their data! New players have entered the BI market catering to these expectations, but finding the right balance between ease-of-use, technical skills and data integrity is not easy. In this week’s podcast Gus Slaughter, QueBIT Business Intelligence and Data Management sales lead makes the case for how IBM Cognos Analytics introduces a whole new paradigm for self-service BI, by leveraging Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help business users bridge the technology gap in a variety of ways.
September 26, 2019
Episode 24: Planning for Change Management
Episode 24: Planning for Change Management Guest: Brian Moore Regardless of whether you like or dislike change, the best way to manage it is to assume there will be disruption! When change comes to a business in the form of a new software solution, we sometimes forget the disruption part because (by definition) a new software solution will be “better” and “make life easier”. If that were not the expectation, we would not be spending the money! When our guest, VP of Consulting Services Brian Moore, leads a project to implement a new financial analytics software solution, he is acutely aware of the problems that can arise when change is imposed on an organization, even if it is ultimately for the better! In this week’s episode he shares his checklist of what you need to take into account, and provides practical advice for managing change successfully. This episode is sponsored by QueBIT, trusted experts in analytics.
September 19, 2019
Episode 23: Predictive Price Optimization
Episode 23 - Predictive Price Optimization Guest: James Saronson How to price your product or service is a fundamental question in any business. If you price too high, you may sell less than you might, and if you price too low you may earn less than you might. Either of these scenarios can affect profit margins. To further complicate matters, the “right” answer – or optimal price - may vary depending on where you are selling, and what the business objectives are. For example, if you are launching a product in a new geography and trying to break into a market, you may price more aggressively than somewhere else where you have an established foothold. In this episode Principal Data Scientist James Saronson explains how predictive technologies can be leveraged to optimize pricing decisions. He describes it as a human-machine partnership where the machine deals with complexity and volume, but people still get the final say. We also talk about examples and wrap up with advice on how to be successful in implementing a solution of this kind. This podcast is sponsored by QueBIT the trusted experts in analytics.
September 12, 2019
Episode 22: A Practical Approach to Innovation in Analytics
Episode 22: A Practical Approach to Innovation in Analytics Guest: Andreas Kugelmeier, IBM Innovation is much easier to talk about than to do in practice. Challenges include getting buy-in from groups you depend on but have little leverage over, and resisting the urge to go for a BIG vision. In this episode, Andreas Kugelmeier from the IBM Data and AI Labs, talks about the concept of a Business Analytics Innovation Loop as a practical, low-risk and high-reward approach to effecting innovation. The concept has strong parallels with the notion of agile software development, in which progress is made through a sequence of incremental but valuable steps. In Business Analytics there is an added advantage to taking an incremental approach because each steps brings new insights and understanding to light, which can inform and change subsequent steps for the better! Andreas uses an extensive example from Financial Planning and Analysis (FP&A) in banking to illustrate his point, and makes an important point about the roles of culture and business process versus software tools in driving innovation and change. This episode is sponsored by QueBIT, trusted experts in analytics.
September 5, 2019
Episode 21: Everything you always wanted to know about Testing
Episode 21: Everything you always wanted to know about Testing Guest: Jim Brinnen When implementing a new analytics system, testing is sometimes treated as a “nice-to-have” rather than a core requirement. While no one says up-front that testing is a low priority, it is not unusual for there to be inadequate dollars, time and planning set aside for testing. While this is true for any software application implementation, it may be particularly true in analytics because analytics projects are often initiated and owned by the Line of Business, rather than IT. This is a good thing because the Business recognizes business value when it sees it (and can thus be a very engaged partner), but issues may arise because the Business typically has limited experience in implementing software systems. At the beginning of the project, the challenges of acquiring data and defining requirements can be overwhelming. It is normal to go through a process of learning that leads to changed expectations and modified scope. Since analytics tools are pitched as business friendly and easy to use, this often leads to pressure to shift consulting costs away from testing towards expanded scope under the assumption that the customer will, by then, have learned enough about the system to take care of testing it themselves. In this episode, QueBIT’s Customer Success and Solution Delivery leader Jim Brinnen explains all the different kinds of testing needed along with what must be taken into account in each case to be successful. If you are new to testing, you will be surprised at how much there is to consider!
August 29, 2019
Episode 20: Data Virtualization
Episode 20: Data Virtualization Guest: Keith Hollen Data Virtualization technologies can be used in a number of different ways, including real-time operational reporting and analytics against multiple source systems, and quick-and-dirty data exploration! As business users increasingly expect to have direct access to data for self-service analytics, data virtualization can be an effective way to make that possible. In this episode, QueBIT Data Expert Keith Hollen explains what data virtualization is, and how it fits into the pantheon of data management tools and strategies. While not a replacement for a true data warehouse, it can be a viable alternative to an Operational Data Store to enable analytics and reporting. Keith ends with Good and Bad Use Case examples to help explain when data virtualization may be valuable, and when it likely will not be.
July 25, 2019
Episode 19: Lean Demand Forecasting
Episode 19: Lean Demand Forecasting Guest: Dan Barrett Dan Barrett, QueBIT’s Advanced Analytics Technical Sales Manager, claims that MOST companies waste far too much time on demand forecasting! Considering how crucial an accurate demand forecast is to planning your supply chain, this is a bold statement. Keep in mind that Dan is NOT saying that you don’t need a demand forecast: of course you do! The problem he wants to address is accuracy, and his point is that more people spending more time on it does not typically result in a commensurate increase in accuracy. In this episode, Dan explains what he means by Lean Demand Forecasting, and how measuring a metric called Forecast Value Add that compares your forecast to actuals on a continuous basis is an important tool for real forecast accuracy improvement. We compare different approaches to demand forecasting, including when a naïve approach is good enough, and when building a predictive model becomes valuable.
July 5, 2019
Episode 18: The Evolution of Business Intelligence
Episode 18: The Evolution of Business Intelligence Guest: Robin Wilkinson It turns out that Business Intelligence (BI), as a concept, has been around since 1865! Back then it was a manual paper and pencil process, but it still enabled one business to prevail over its competitors by making better data driven decisions. Today we are dealing with massive amounts of data, technology has evolved tremendously, and people have evolved too! In this episode Robin Wilkinson, who is the General Manager of QueBIT’s Business Intelligence and Data Management practice, gives us a BI history lesson and takes us through how the process of implementing and deploying BI has evolved though the years. The conversation includes some great specific examples, and lots of great best practice advice for BI success. Among many other things, Robin points out that today everyone wants results quickly, so the focus needs to be one delivering BI solutions in days or weeks, not months or years.
June 27, 2019
Episode 17: Analytics for Retail Buyers
Episode 17: Analytics for Retail Buyers Guest: Jim Hanifin As on-line shopping becomes the norm, the traditional retail industry is going through a lot of adjustments. Employing analytics technology to increase operational efficiency and make better decisions faster is an obvious avenue to take. In this episode we speak with Jim Hanifin who recounts the journey at a retail customer he worked with recently. We go into detail about how their retail buyers transitioned from a weekly paper-based analysis and planning system, to an on-line dashboard that put the data at their fingertips in real time. If you have ever wondered how retailers get the products you want to buy into stores, you should find this peek under the covers interesting! This episode is brought to you by QueBIT.
June 21, 2019
Episode 16: How to become an Analytics Expert
Episode 16: How to become an Analytics Expert Guests: Daniel Williams, Odile Davis Wolfe, Pete Horgan QueBIT has grown by cross-training business and finance people in analytics technology, and by cross-training engineers and computer scientists in business and finance. Meanwhile analytics experts such as data scientists are at a premium in the marketplace, and many finance and business leaders are recognizing the need for their business and financial analysts to develop more technical skills, so as to be able to service growing demands for data and insights in support of better decision making! Specifically, there is a trend towards the finance function expanding beyond responsibility for financial reporting, financial planning and analysis into a new world that encompasses data and analytics strategy for the entire organization! In this week’s episode, we put these two things together: perhaps QueBIT’s experience in developing these skill sets will be of use to organizations that are moving in this direction? We’ll hear from a panel of QueBIT consultants who are relative newcomers to analytics, so listeners can learn from their experiences.
June 14, 2019
Episode 15: A Financial Consolidation is an Analytics Project!
Episode 15: A Financial Consolidation is an Analytics project! Financial Analytics is an important branch of the field of Analytics. It involves data management, modeling and reporting. A Financial Consolidation system is a Financial Analytics project that brings together data from one or more ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system together with a financial model with the purpose of producing consolidated financial reports. Not only are these obligatory for regulatory reporting, but they can also be a strategic asset. Shorter month-end closing cycles, coupled with detailed product/segment/regional/entity/etc reporting made available quickly, to front line managers WITH the ability to drill down for more detail in an intuitive and interactive manner … can all translate into business value. In this episode we tell the story of how a real QueBIT customer moved beyond Excel spreadsheets and implemented a robust enterprise financial consolidation system using a combination of a relational data art and a special purpose multi-dimensional database technology. Along the way, we cover some of the fun stuff that needs to be considered on a journey like this, and hopefully convince you that it is worth the effort!
May 23, 2019
Episode 14: Nerding out on FP&A!
Episode 14: Nerding out on FP&A! Guest: Beth Thomas The Financial Planning & Analysis (FP&A) function is the original analytics function within any organization. The Profit & Loss (P&L), Balance Sheet and other financial statements tell the story of the business. When they are correct, timely, and reach the right audience, they are invaluable for identifying problems and driving informed decision-making. This week, Beth Thomas who is the General Manager of QueBIT’s Financial and Operational Performance Management business, and a former Manager of FP&A herself, shares her insights and experiences. She talks about why she finds FP&A so interesting, and how it is time to transcend Excel’s limitations by enhancing (NOT replacing) it with modern data management and modeling tools. Financial Analysts should be spending their time doing analysis and adding value to the business instead of being bogged down in mundane data collection and manipulation activities! The podcast ends with some solid, practical advice on how to reduce the risk of financial reporting errors while increasing the quality and timeliness of the information used to run the business.
May 16, 2019
Episode 13: The Evolution of Analytics Solutions
Episode 13: The Evolution of Analytics Solutions Guest: Gary Corrigan 15 years ago, when Gary Corrigan first sold analytics technologies, customers were looking for technology platforms. Today the landscape has changed, and customers are now looking for solutions to their specific business problems. That’s a significant change! It’s as though customers have gone from wanting to buy a truckload of bricks to shopping for ready-built houses – and Gary has had a front row seat! In this week’s podcast conversation, Gary articulates very clearly what the value of analytics technologies are to businesses, and how they are not a luxury add-on to an ERP (“Enterprise Resource Planning”) system, but an absolute necessity for any company to survive and thrive in today’s business environment. Among other things he talks about the importance of listening to and connecting with customer needs, and how it is just as important to figure out early that you are not a good fit, as it is to close a deal. At the end Gary shares valuable practical advice for both sellers and buyers of technology. In the podcast, Gary references these resources: - Lou Diamond’s Thrive Loud podcast - Gary Corrigan’s LinkedIn blog post: The Quarter-End Conundrum This episode is sponsored by QueBIT, the Trusted Experts in Analytics.
May 9, 2019
Episode 12: My Bank FIRED me as their customer!
Episode 12: My Bank FIRED me as their customer! A few years ago, A.G. – who lives in the United States - received a letter from her bank in Denmark telling her that their relationship would be terminated. A.G. still had several thousand dollars deposited in a checking account as well as an investment account. This personal story leads into a discussion of profitability modeling and allocations in general, and customer profitability modeling – especially in the context of financial institutions – specifically. Profitability models are a very interesting Analytics use case for several reasons. They are valuable as they can provide great insights into both problems and opportunities in a business. They are interesting to implement, as they require a combination of business understanding, creativity, data wrangling skills, technical smarts … and political finesse! In this episode we describe the value that profitability models can bring, and provide three valuable tips for how to be successful in deploying profitability analytics to support better business understanding and decision making. This episode is sponsored by QueBIT, the trusted experts in analytics.
May 2, 2019
Episode 11: Surprise! Analytics isn’t about Changing your Business!
Episode 11: Surprise! Analytics Isn’t About Changing Your Business! Guest: Joel Kehm Analytics is NOT about changing your business: it’s about running your business better! If your business is about manufacturing widgets to sell, your intention with analytics is probably not going to be to close down your factories and do something else. The value of analytics lies in improving the quality of what you do. It sounds obvious, but you can’t fix a problem that you don’t know exists, can you? Analytics is all about organizing your data, and presenting it back to you in a way that gives you information and insights. In this Episode we have a wide ranging and insightful discussion with QueBIT Principal Consultant Joel Kehm about the value of analytics, how to get started and what not to do. Along the way Doritos, parties and food recall solutions are used to add color to the discussion.
April 25, 2019
Episode 10: Implementing Predictive Demand Planning at a Paper Manufacturer
Episode 10: Implementing Predictive Demand Planning at a Paper Manufacturer Guest: Tim Corrigan Predictive Demand Planning is the classic application of Advanced Analytics. The idea is that historical actual data (how much of product X did you sell in region Y during time Z?), potentially combined with relevant external data (weather, demographics, economic indicators), can be used to forecast demand at a level of granular detail and accuracy beyond what can be done manually, using statistical techniques. In this episode, QueBIT’s Director of Strategy and Process Improvement Tim Corrigan recounts his experiences implementing a predictive demand planning solution at a large global paper manufacturer. The project was a case study in business process change and integrated financial planning, as well as typical Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP). Tim talks about some of the details they needed to figure out, how the data flowed through the process, and shares the key to their success.
April 18, 2019
Episode 9: Using APIs to Customize your Analytics Solutions
Episode 9: Using APIs to Customize your Analytics Solutions Guest: Mike Cowie At QueBIT our purpose is to help companies make better decisions faster. Everything starts with data, which is used to understand the past, ACT in the present, and anticipate the future. Simple as that! For the most part, as consultants, we deliver analytics solutions using technology platforms created by other companies. But from time to time, that is not enough. In this week’s episode Mike Cowie, QueBIT’s Director of Strategic Solutions, explains what an API is, how they have evolved and gives us instructions on how to build a chat-bot! He then goes on to talk about how to find help when you start down the path of writing custom applications using APIs, and how there are penty of opportunities to give back. We end with a great discussion of community, and how community can be found in the most unexpected places.
April 11, 2019
Episode 8: Turning the Office of Finance into a Center for Data Analytics
Episode 8: Turning the Office of Finance into a Center for Data Analytics Guest: Cathy Jirak When Cathy Jirak and Gary Quirke founded QueBIT about 20 years ago, they were really just looking for a way to get their lives back! They enjoyed being consultants implementing financial planning, analysis and reporting solutions but found that there was a downside to success: 80 hour work weeks! In this episode Cathy talks about why QueBIT was founded and how they were able to grow the company without sacrificing quality. As businesses are under ever more pressure to be agile in a fast- moving world, the Office of Finance in any company needs to become better at measuring and monitoring performance and being reactive! Data are increasing in both speed and volume, and knowing how to use your data will separate the winners from the losers. This means that either financial analysts need to acquire data analysis and data science skills, or data scientists need to learn about finance and business. QueBIT has done both, and at the end of this podcast, Cathy shares some of our secrets!
April 4, 2019
Episode 7: Biotechnology Financial Modeling Case Study
Episode 7: Biotechnology Financial Modeling Case Study Guest: Lance Antwine Lance Antwine, CPA and Implementation Manager at QueBIT, has had a long and successful career in finance and technology. In this episode Lance talks about a series of fascinating financial planning models he helped develop at a biotechnology firm. He describes how he worked with different groups to create a fully integrated financial model, starting with a fascinating research costing model (built up from the constituent molecules!), and flowing through to a strategic business plan and a full financial plan incorporating the income statement, balance sheet and cash flows – and more. Lance also talks about the business factors that contributed to the success of these projects, and how financial analysts and decision makers were able to automate their planning and data flows and win more time for high value analysis.
March 28, 2019
Episode 6: So you want to use Advanced Analytics to boost ROI? Here’s how.
Episode 6: So you want to use Advanced Analytics to boost ROI? Here’s how. Guest: Lee Allgood Before he came to QueBIT, Lee Allgood used to work at a large manufacturing company whose customers were retailers. In this episode, Lee talks about his experience implementing an advanced analytics solution at that company to optimize the placement of product samples at retail stores. Product samples were a large expense for this company, second only to salary expense. Optimizing the placement of samples both saved money and maximized revenue leading to greater ROI. The practical advice on how to make a project like this successful is just as fascinating as the business problem, and the analytics solution!
March 22, 2019
Episode 5: How to Shop for an Analytics Solution
Guest: Leo Cohen Leo Cohen began his professional career as a financial analyst in a very large corporation and has intimate first-hand knowledge of financial analytics including financial reporting, planning, forecasting and analysis. Today, as QueBIT’s NY Metro Sales Executive, he taps into those early experiences to empathize with his customers from the other side, and help them find ways to win back time to do better analyses. Besides telling some entertaining stories about his experiences in the analytics field, Leo finishes up by sharing solid, practical and valuable advice for any company in the market to buy a software solution.
March 13, 2019
Episode 4: IBM Watson in Real Life
Guest: Jim Miller QueBIT Master Consultant Jim Miller has an unusual hobby: he researches and writes books about technology! Jim has written successful books on a variety of topics, but today we are going to talk about his series of books on IBM Watson, the most recent of which is called “Machine Learning with IBM Watson Studio”. In our conversation with Jim, we ask him to explain the various tools behind the IBM Watson brand, and then go on to talk about real-world business use-cases for Watson Studio. We wrap up by talking about how ANYONE can get started with the free version!
March 5, 2019
Episode 3: A Practical Approach to Predictive Analytics
Guest: Dallas Crawford Predictive (and other Advanced) Analytics capabilities are often presented in a way that is daunting to the ordinary business person. Meanwhile the demand for people with data science skills is sky-rocketing, and there is anxiety about the opportunity cost of not leveraging these exciting new technologies. In this week’s conversation, we bring this seemingly abstract world down to earth, with a series of real-life examples that illustrate the value – and importance – of looking at these technologies. It turns out that once you focus on the business problem that you are trying to solve – which in QueBIT’s opinion is the only way to do analytics – a lot of the mystery disappears. We conclude by sharing what we have learned about how to make sure your data science efforts are successful.
February 23, 2019
Episode 2: Predictive Analytics for Finance: 101 - Ask QueBIT About Analytics Podcast
Guests: Gary Quirke Long before becoming a founder of QueBIT Consulting, Gary Quirke was a Chartered Accountant and financial analyst. That experience informed QueBIT’s original mission of using technology to improve financial reporting, planning processes both qualitatively (better, more accurate plans) and quantitatively (complete plans quicker, with less effort). In this week’s episode, we talk about new opportunities to extend this trend using predictive analytics technologies which are becoming more and more accessible and mainstream. The conversation concludes with useful advice on how any finance department can get started along this path.
February 8, 2019
Episode 1: Why Embed Analytics in Everyday Business Processes? - AskQueBIT About Analytics
Guests: Gary Quirke (CEO and Co-Founder of QueBIT) & Dallas Crawford (General Manager, Advanced Analytics, QueBIT) QueBIT has made it its mission to help companies embed analytics – including financial and predictive analytics – into everyday business processes. In this first episode, we explain what we mean by “analytics” and talk about the business benefits of deploying analytics technologies. Gary and Dallas share concepts, but illustrate them with real-world examples. The conversation then goes on to explain the value of embedding analytics in everyday business processes, and share practical tips on how to avoid the common pitfalls.
February 7, 2019