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BEYOND SPREADSHEETS: HOW CORPORATE PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT DRIVES INSIGHTS

By Alok Ajmera, President and Chief Operating Officer, Prophix Software

 

Half a century ago, the first electronic spreadsheet – LANPAR – was introduced to replace paper-based bookkeeping ledgers and make business management more efficient and effective. It was a great tool at the time, but 50 years later more than two-thirds of companies still use a clunky spreadsheet-based approach to corporate performance management (CPM) that is painfully inadequate for today’s complex real-time business operations, sophisticated financial processes and onerous planning needs.

 

Besides Woodstock’s Summer of love, 1969 gave us the first microprocessor, the UNIX operating system, the first ATM, the birth of ARPANET, the debut of the 747-jumbo jet, the first test flight of the Concorde and a baby named Jennifer Aniston. She’s still around but the Concorde and 747 are retired, and the Internet, microchip and UNIX are unrecognizable from their humble origins. The world has moved on and so must corporate performance management.

 

Alok Ajmera

Modern software tools that incorporate machine learning and analytics enable financial professionals to move beyond spreadsheets and into a new level of operational sophistication. They accelerate and streamline budget management, automatically pulling in data in real time data from a myriad of systems, enabling the creation of comprehensive, insightful forecasts and plans.

 

Streamlining Financial Data Results

Automating these CPM processes frees finance teams from the tedious, time-consuming and error-prone tasks of manually collecting data and moving it from spreadsheet to spreadsheet, workbook to workbook in order to generate actionable insights. With data collection and report generation automated, finance teams become value generators rather than number crunchers. They can focus on applying the insights their data provides to business operations, increasing competitiveness, improving profitability, minimizing risk and driving results.

 

For example, with meaningful access to data in real time, finance professionals can build dashboards that provide comprehensive, easy-to-understand holistic views of performance. This is the Holy Grail of one true picture of the company. What is working, what isn’t working, and what will and won’t work in limitless what-if scenarios?

 

This one true picture is essential to simplify analytics, streamline workflows, and ensure optimal data governance across the organization, which is of course essential to financial teams in meeting compliance requirements.

 

Automating and integrating the planning process can eliminate the back-and-forth hunt for numbers and reduce the time to generate plans from months to days. Integrated financial planning also serves to break down silos and fosters collaboration, giving financial teams a more complete and uniform picture of the organization, which enables management to make smarter decisions. Where will more resources create a better return, and where would they be non-productive?

 

But despite the clear cost-benefit and enhanced profitability that automated CPM provides, most businesses continue to slog along in a spreadsheet world, consigning finance professionals to what is essentially non-strategic busy work. Often, by the time data is collected, scrubbed and combined, and reports are generated, the opportunities and risks that management needed to address are long gone. Consequently, leadership teams are stuck in a “good-enough” cycle. As long as the company isn’t in the red, financial performance is good enough. By re-thinking the approach to enterprise performance management – investing a little time and effort to update that process — financial officers can provide an extensive new level of insight into the health of the company.

 

Driving Business Decisions through Trusted Insights

Data is the key to unlocking hidden value and risk in customer relationships, but the data most firms use to manage their own performance is often locked in kludgy home-grown systems. But it’s not enough to collect the data. You have to be able to do something useful with it. For most companies, it’s difficult if not impossible to collect and synthesize their data into meaningful business insights in time to do anything about them. As a result, the relatively small percentage of firms that have automated CPM have a huge competitive advantage. This is true whether data operations are on-premise, in the cloud or a hybrid of both.

 

Different companies have different choke points. By automating CPM, business leaders can identify those choke points in real time and make better decisions about managing their operations faster to create better results. Adapting CPM to operations gives management operational information and analysis much faster, enabling to cut costs and increase effectiveness by managing staffing levels better, reducing administrative burden, closing the books earlier and getting more useful information to sales teams.

 

Now apply that capability to the financial planning process. Instead of starting to collect guestimates several months in advance, automating financial planning with a modernized approach and sophisticated software tools, gives organizations greater insight into their company performance – a shared picture across the whole organization that leads to reduced risk and better business results.

 

The business environment is constantly evolving. Businesses that fail to adapt are flying noisy, fuel-gulping 50-year-old 747s while their more-nimble competitors are winning today’s race with the equivalent of super-sophisticated 787-Dreamliners.

 

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Business

WHY IT’S TIME TO ADAPT TO THE VIRTUAL WORLD: HOW TO MASTER ONLINE NEGOTIATIONS

By Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International, a leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development

 

Virtual negotiations are now the norm, but whilst we may all be familiar with sealing deals on Skype, how many of us are masters in communicating well online?

Here, Tony Hughes, CEO at Huthwaite International leading global provider of sales, negotiation and communication skills development, highlights the top five advantages of negotiating online and how to master this sort after skill.

 

1) Virtual negotiation interaction

Whilst you may feel you are already experienced in negotiation; these skills may not always translate to the online world. It’s important to practice your negotiation skills within a virtual environment now to futureproof your virtual negotiation style. Start by initiating internal negotiations and meetings virtually. Use this as an opportunity to test and assess skills sets, and where there may be breakdowns in communication. Having this valuable experience under your belt will allow you to identify any sticking points you need to overcome as a business, early on.

Something to consider from the offset if you begin virtual negotiations in the immediate future is to avoid a reference to “in the current crisis” and “bearing in mind the unprecedented times we are living through”. Nobody is unaware of the present circumstances. A lazy negotiator may use COVID-19 as cover to justify price positions or proposed contract terms when in reality, it might have no bearing one way or another. A skilled negotiator on the other hand will spot this, and it then morphs into another trap for the unwary: argument dilution. Be mindful of this in your approach.

 

2) Attend from anywhere

The beauty of virtual negotiations is that you can attend them from anywhere. Whether you’re in a different room, city or even country to those you’re negotiating with – it simply doesn’t matter. This makes them much more efficient, reliable and easier to organise and manage. However, this shift in functionality has a direct impact on the negotiation process. With less restrictions around timing and availability, be sure that you are entering the negotiations prepared. Don’t be pressured into negotiations until you are ready – this includes preparing and planning your responses around the objectives and fallbacks the other party have so you have a thorough understanding of what you both want to achieve from the process.

Of course, another real plus to the fact you can attend from home is that all the tools of the negotiator’s trade can be spread out on your desk (or kitchen table) for you to consult and annotate. That’s a liberty you could never take in to a face-to-face meeting. The things you want to see but you don’t want the other party to see are all there for you to use as you wish.

 

3) Reduced travel restrictions

Whilst great for cost saving on travel expenses, resource and availability, there are some drawbacks to virtual meetings. Now that meet ups can be arranged at the drop of a hat, it can leave you exposed to dirty tricks in negotiation. Issues such as calls being planned at the last minute and being sprung on you with little time to prepare, meetings being recorded, and not being able to fully gauge the mood of the room can be a real challenge. Try to counter act these negatives with a transparent, open and honest negotiation stance. If a meeting is being arranged, that provides you with little time to prepare, don’t be afraid of proposing an alternative time that better suits your needs. Likewise, if the room is hard to read, use proven negotiation techniques, such as testing understanding, to ensure you remain on the same page.

 

4) Practice new skills

The most important element of negotiating virtually is clear communication. Communication skills are often overlooked in sales and negotiation training – which can be a costly mistake. The way we deliver our proposals when negotiating virtually can make the difference between a good deal and a bad one. Be sure to avoid common irritators – these being words or phrases which have the potential to irritate through self-praise or condescension, lack any persuasive function and are used to describe a person’s own position or proposal. Examples are words such as: ‘fair’, ‘reasonable’, ‘generous’ etc. and a more recent one ‘due to the current situation’ These words may irritate, and shut down conversations that are essential to your negotiation. Working with an expert negotiator who can guide you to perfecting your virtual negotiating style will allow learning to be embedded throughout your team early on.

 

5) Increased productivity and efficiency

You may find that virtual negotiations are much more productive and efficient compared to face to face ones. Discussions may flow much better and messages can be shared more rapidly via video-conferencing. Because people are in the comfort of their own environment, you may also find that there is a more relaxed tone to conversations, which means that ultimately decisions can be made faster, projects are executed on time and productivity is increased. Also, if all parties are agreeable, the use of annotation and chat tools, and even the little red recording button, are good ways to banish post factum arguments about exactly what was said and agreed.

However, when in this environment, it is important not to be cagouled into a false sense of security. Apply the same level of caution to negotiations as you would ordinarily and utilise the extra time you may have to your advantage. This will ensure you can build rapport with the counter party, whilst maintaining professionalism and securing an advantage through utilising this extra time to conduct more in-depth negotiation preparation so you’re not caught off guard.

If you want to learn more about how Huthwaite International can help your team develop a highly effective virtual negotiation strategy visit: https://www.huthwaiteinternational.com/business-performance-solutions/delivery-options/virtual-learning

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HOW DO YOU GET EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT IN A NEGOTIATION? USE THIS SIMPLE SENTENCE

STARTUPS

Including an extra sentence which compares your offer to the seller’s minimum price in a negotiation increases the likelihood of you getting what you want, finds research from ESMT Berlin.

Most people assume that you can either be friendly in a negotiation and satisfy your counterpart or get exactly what you want, but these two outcomes do not have to be mutually exclusive. Martin Schweinsberg, Assistant Professor of Organisational Behaviour, alongside Michael Schaerer of Singapore Management University and Roderick Swaab from INSEAD, studied how negotiators can achieve both economic benefits and maintain a friendly relationship with those you’re negotiating with.

The academics ran three experiments with over 1500 participants who engaged in a negotiation involving the price of a condo. Each participant took the role of the seller but different groups received offers framed in different ways: simply receiving an offer price, being asked to compare this offer to their minimum price, or asked to compare the offer to their target price. They found that negotiators who prompted the seller to compare their offer to the minimum guide price, achieved much more success in their negotiations.

Professor Martin Schweinsberg says,

“Imagine trying to buy a condo where the seller’s target price is $580,000 and their minimum price is $320,000. Instead of just saying “my offer for the house is $450,000”, adding the sentence of “how does this compare with the minimum price you are willing to accept?” increased the chances of the buyer’s offer being accepted, and made the counterpart happier.

“This demonstrates that how an offer is perceived is subjective depending on how the offer is framed and that it is possible for a negotiation to be nudged to have a ‘win-win’ outcome.”

The researchers say that adding this little question is beneficial for two reasons. Firstly, the other party now compares your offer to the minimum they would be willing to accept – this makes your offer more appealing to them. Secondly, it makes them happy to receive your relatively higher offer which improves your relationship with your counterpart.

The researchers also ran a fourth experiment where participants assumed the role of a restaurant owner trying to sell their business. This scenario was similar to first three, however, the other side was now in a high-power position because they had an attractive offer from a competitor. When the counterpart is in a high-power position, shifting their attention to the minimum offer they would accept backfired: they now asked for more money and were less happy.

These findings demonstrate a simple nudge to achieve what you want in a negotiation and keep a friendly relationship with the other party: just prompt them to compare your offer with their minimum price. If you do not prompt them, they compare your offer to the maximum price they want which makes your offer look less enticing.

 

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