12 September 2011

Implementing CPM in small business on a limited budget

Eric Lundberg’s presentation at CFO Magazine’s 2011 Corporate Performance Management Conference today was refreshing. Lundberg brought things back down from the stratosphere for the large number of small-to-mid-sized business finance people in attendance.

My sense is that many of the presentations thus far have set forward concepts of such a broad scope and relative complexity that they are far, far beyond the pale of immediate consideration by many of the firms represented at the conference. Many of the attendees with whom I have spoken are mere “beginners” in corporate performance management (CPM).

Now, do not get me wrong: I have done no scientific—or even non-scientific—polling on this subject. I say what I say based solely on conversations I have had with a relatively small handful of conference attendees.

Nevertheless, I believe that many of the folks in attendance came here really trying to find out answers to pretty basic questions about CPM. And, given the fact that Julia Homer presented—that 63 percent of CFOs surveyed are more pessimistic about the coming year than they were about last year—I would further surmise that most of them are looking for ways to implement some kind of business analytics and CPM with the smallest possible drain on their corporate cash-flow.

That is precisely why I found Eric Lundberg’s presentation so very refreshing. Lundberg introduced his remarks by saying that he wanted to present “practical applications of tools” that he and his team put in place at ALM. He went on to tell the crowd that, as CFO in a firm held by private equity, he is not in a position to "go out and spend $100,000" or more on sophisticated analytics tools. Therefore, he and his team have implemented substantial business analytics built mostly around “home-grown” applications—not the kind purchased from analytics application vendors.

Lundberg went on to describe—in considerable detail—a number of the analytics in use at ALM. Using these effective but relatively low-cost tools, Lundberg and his team have gained considerable insight into what makes—and keeps—their company profitable. They have already implemented rolling forecasts and have the facility to re-forecast every month. They also do a complete bottom-up forecast fresh every quarter.

I really believe that Lundberg’s presentation put a light at the end of the tunnel for many CFOs struggling with the question: “How can we begin gaining the advantages of business intelligence and analytics without ‘big bucks’ to invest in making it a reality?”

This is real innovation, and it is clear that the analytics Lundberg and his team have put in place at ALM are already making the firm more successful, even in the midst of the present economic doldrums. Sixty-three percent of CFOs today may be more pessimistic about the coming year than the year just past, but Lundberg has leveraged limited resources in a way that will make his firm far more likely to survive and even thrive.

Congratulations, Eric Lundberg! And thanks for giving more small businesses hope for embracing new management metrics and analytics despite severely constricted funds.

No comments: