“Why CFOs must embrace the new era of mobile BI and Enterprise Performance Management”

8th July 2013

89 percent of CFOs ranked mobility as the number one technology of importance to their company’s success over the next three years and this has prompted many organisations to invest in mobile business intelligence (mobile BI).  But this joint itelligence and FSN Executive Briefing suggests that in a rapidly changing landscape businesses at the forefront of developments need to mobilise enterprise performance management (EPM) in addition to mobile BI in order to deliver even more potent capability into the hands of the finance function.  

 

 

 

Why CFO’s must become mobile

According to a June 2012 CFO Magazine survey, 89 percent of CFOs ranked mobility as the number one technology of importance to their company’s success over the next three years. Gartner adds that by 2014, 90 percent of companies will support their applications on personal mobile devices. In fact the analyst firm says that by 2015, mobile application development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4:1.  And with mobile technology accounting for around 30 to 50 percent of the average company’s IT budget, CFOs will undoubtedly feel the need to be intimately involved in investment decisions.

The opportunities afforded by mobile technology are undeniable.  They range from pure convenience, i.e. the ability to retrieve information from corporate systems at any time and from anywhere on a handy mobile device, to a more data-rich society in which important decisions can be made ‘on the fly’.  Which is just as well because another survey points out that 66 percent of executive management, found their “decision window”, i.e. the time available to take decisions, shrinking last year1.  

66 percent of executive management, found their “decision window”, i.e. the time available to take decisions, shrinking last year1.  

Historically, this has prompted many organisations to invest in mobile business intelligence (mobile BI) but in a rapidly changing landscape, businesses at the forefront of developments are mobilising enterprise performance management (EPM) in addition to mobile BI in order to deliver even more potent capability into the hands of the finance function and others. 

 

 

Mobile capabilities are evolving rapidly

Despite the apparent advantages of mobile information delivery, mobile BI is still in the ‘early adopter’ phase. Some CFOs remain sceptical of the business benefits and with the perceived lack of specific business use cases and tangible ROI, mobile BI adoption is still behind the curve compared with other enterprise mobile applications2

It is clear that information delivery on its own, is no longer sufficiently compelling to drive mass adoption of mobile technology within and beyond the finance function.  As mobile strategies continue to mature CFOs are seeing advantages beyond personalised information consumption.  Pioneering organisations operating a “mobile first” strategy are looking to re-engineer their processes as well. 

In the past the ‘art of the possible’ was constrained by technology, most notably the limited screen size and power of mobile devices.   But in a rapidly changing technology landscape where screen size is no longer a limitation we are now entering a new phase in which enterprise software vendors are able to move beyond simple information delivery via mobile devices, to the complete mobilisation of enterprise performance management.

As a result this new era of computing holds out the prospect of more wide-scale deployment of EPM capability, the acceleration of core performance management processes and a more strategically aligned organisation.

Mobile EPM will be transformational

One of the core processes that stands to benefit the most from mobile deployment is budgeting, planning and forecasting.  In a volatile and uncertain economy organisations seek to reforecast more frequently in order to gain a better grasp of performance but the speed and quality of forecasts are frequently hampered by spreadsheet-bound processes, limited engagement with end-users and a lack of cross-functional collaboration. Against this backcloth mobile EPM can be transformational.

The scalability and affordability of mobile platforms enables organisations (probably for the first time) to place the budgeting, planning and forecasting process directly into the hands of a much larger and broader end-user population, gleaning operational insights from workers across the organisation and enhancing the ‘richness’ and accuracy of forecast data.

Leveraging a distributed mobile capability enables organisations to capture the perspectives of managers in different functional areas (integrated business planning) providing more substance to the forecast. This horizontal alignment across the different functional areas of the business ensures that plans in one area are consistent with another and performance measures are rationalised so that satisfying a performance objective in one place does not have unforeseen consequences in another. For example, that a bullish revenue plan can be satisfied by the production plan, or that a recruitment drive is supported by working capital in the financial plan.

The pervasiveness of the mobile device, its widespread ownership and an ‘always on’ culture is helping to change the complexion of traditional EPM processes by encouraging the communication and collaboration as well as the democratisation and availability of information. 

Added to which ‘Generation Y’, the children of the Baby Boomers, who are hitting the workforce right now are steeped in the immediacy of the internet, the speed and variety of communications, such as Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and Instant Messenger (IM) – all from the convenience of their smartphones and tablet devices.  They have instant everything, choose the information they want and personalise the way that it is delivered via Apps.  Their leisure use of the internet bears no resemblance to the clunky and inert ‘user experience’ which is commonplace in the business world – attracting and recruiting top talent into the finance and other functions will be a challenge without the latest apps for mobile devices.

But there are more subtle changes happening as well. Initially, information was delivered via a browser, effectively emulating the users’ desktop experience without necessarily exploiting the full potential of the mobile device.  In more recent times there has been a shift from browsers to mobile apps as organisations seek to place more process capability at the users’ fingertips.

Apps allows users to engage more fully in the process, in an environment that is properly optimised for remote working. So in a budgeting context users can enter data specifically into a planning/budgeting application or they can review planning and budget information before participating in a submissions and approvals workflow directly from their mobile device.

Leading organisations are finding that the ability to connect users to each other as well as to the process itself is not only accelerating the process but speeding the ‘time to insights’ as well as reducing the time taken for corrective action.  And in a ‘virtuous circle’, it appears that the faster the process then the more quickly users want to work.  For example, early studies have shown that managers in organisations which utilise mobile BI are able to make decisions in just one-third of the time that it takes managers who don’t have access to mobile BI1.  Furthermore, mobile information users are almost twice as likely as those not using mobile BI to need information within one hour of business transactions being recorded1.

Strategic alignment

A strategy is by definition the starting point for corporate behaviour. It expresses an organisation’s ambitions, sets out its chosen direction and describes the principal initiatives and projects necessary to achieve its mission. Yet despite its significance, aligning an organisation to its strategy remains one of the most elusive and unsatisfactory areas of management endeavour. Indeed, research4 has shown that 85% of executive teams spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy and only 5% of the workforce understands strategy. Mobile EPM provides scope for radical improvement, by allowing ready access to publish performance goals and results to employees, senior management, boards of directors and other key stakeholders. 

85% of executive teams spend less than 1 hour per month discussing strategy and only 5% of the workforce understands strategy.

The ability to provide an ‘at a glance’ view of organisational goals, initiatives and KPIs via scorecards and dashboard views as well as textual explanations of performance goals provides the basis of transparency and alignment across the organisation.

As the number of mobile devices outstrips the global population for the first time an increasing number of organisations are being forced to address their mobile strategy regardless of whether or not an ROI can be calculated. The benefits are far reaching, the speed in which an organisation can react to markets, make and action decisions to adjust business performance is a compelling advantage.  Smart CFOs know they need to be at the heart of these changes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bibliography:

1 Aberdeen Group, "Mobile BI: Accelerating Business on the Move", March 2012

2 Forrester, "Top 10 BI Predictions For 2013 And Beyond", December 2012

3 Aberdeen Group, "High-Performance Organisations Empower Employees with Real-Time Mobile Analytics", April 2012

4 The Strategy Gap, by Michael Coveney – John Wiley & Sons 2003

 

 

 

 

 

 

Disclaimer of Warranty/Limit of Liability

Whilst every attempt has been made to ensure that the information in this document is accurate and complete some typographical errors or technical inaccuracies may exist. This report is of a general nature and not intended to be specific to a particular set of circumstances. The publisher and author make no representations or warranties with respect to the accuracy or completeness of the contents of this white paper and specifically disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose.  No warranty may be created or extended by sales representatives, or written sales materials.  The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation.  You should consult with a professional where appropriate. FSN Publishing Limited and the author shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

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