What does it feel like to run a company? How cool would it be to make really important decisions? How awesome would it be to have all the critical information that you need to get your job done? Good questions? Here is the good news for you: You can certainly experience what it feels like. How? Simply join the Business Analytics Experience Workshop. IBM has developed these workshops together with the team from Align-Alytics and PMSI. Participants get to run a fictitious company called Future Chips. Together with your team mates and a workshop host, you will analyze the past performance of Future Chips and you will get to develop strategic plans, marketing tactics, pricing strategies etc.. But it doesn’t stop there – the business analytics experience workshop gives you real-time feedback. All your decisions will be executed by a simulation engine. It’s quite cool!
The Mini-MBA in a fun format
A participant of the workshop recently said: “Attending the workshop is like getting a mini-MBA. And it’s fun!”. The business analytics experience workshop does teach you quite a bit about real-life business. It is based on the book “The Performance Manager“. Along the way you will also experience what it feels like to have business analytics available to prepare and make decisions. But rather than me describing it in more detail, you should hear from the creator of the workshop. My friend Roland Mosimann is the CEO of Align Alytics. We recently met at the IBM Vision event in Orlando. The team hosted one of the first CFO versions of the workshop.
The Business Analytics Experience Workshop
Come and join the Business Analytics Experience Workshop! First of all, it’s great fun and you can learn a lot. I have hosted close to a hundred of these and I love it. Find out more about the upcoming schedule on the IBM page. You can also read more about the workshop in a prior post on this blog.
Am I surprised? Yes. Maybe I shouldn’t. Our rolling forecasts events were popular in the past, but they keep getting more and more popular.
ROLLING FORECASTS TODAY
Rolling Forecasts are indeed an important topic. And why wouldn’t they? Business and life in general is turbulent these days. No doubt about that. Just think about all the stuff that has happened this year. Major events like Tunisia, Egypt & Fukushima almost seem far away given the significant rate of change these days. And most of these events have a profound impact on the world economy. Think about Fukushima: it happened in Japan but the ripple effects created a serious tremor in Germany (the German government decided to completely pull out of nuclear energy within the next few years). Volatility and uncertainty have therefore increased the need to improve forecasting and decision making processes in almost every business.
THE FALL SEMINAR SERIES
We have been running a lot of rolling forecast seminars around the globe for the past few years. The workshops are very interactive and feature a ton of hands-on best practices. We used to run them as roundtable events with a huge focus on personal interaction and discussion. But the latest series is different. My colleague and friend Mark Rolfe just blogged about it earlier this week: we have been getting so much interest that the events are no longer roundtables. We just can’t find any tables that can fit 50-150 people. The events are that popular. This week, we had over 40 people in London. Next week, we are expecting well over 40 people in Bratislava. While I personally prefer the smaller sizes (more interaction), I am certainly happy to see that companies are interested in improving these critical processes.
HAVE YOU JOINED?
The trend is very interesting. It seems to me that we are about to see a profound change in the way we run our businesses. The traditional annual budget process is just not working anymore. The huge popularity of these events reflects this trend.
Forecasting is a critical topic for many companies these days. No big surprise: the volatility and the speed in the world requires organizations to stay agile. About four years ago, my team and I started working with several customers and thought-leaders (David Axson, Steve Morlidge) to collect best practices for forecasting in these turbulent times. The results of the countless hours of talking, brainstorming, analyzing and reading are captured in the IBM Cognos ‘Best Practices in Rolling Forecasts’ workshop. This workshop ended up being way more successful than any one of us would have ever imagined. I have personally delivered over 100 of these events in the past three years.
THE WORKSHOP FORMAT
Forecasting is a complex topic and we were able to collect a full library worth of experiences. But simplicity rules and we selected the most interesting aspects
to fill the agenda for a half-day workshop. That creates more focus and the attendees leave with just enough ideas to drive change in their organizations and without feeling overwhelmed. The overall focus is on the business process and not software. While we share a lot of best practices, the workshops are very interactive. We usually have extended and very fruitful discussions amongst the participants. Many attendees stay after the official event ends to continue their idea exchange. This is one of my favorite parts. There are always many things to learn.
BEST PRACTICES AND MORE
So, what do we cover? A lot! The focus is clearly on proven practices that were identified by our customers. But it is also important to look beyond those things. We therefore injected some thought-provoking ideas from our thought-leaders. And each workshop we run typically provides new ideas, stories and experiences that we leverage to enhance the materials. It would be too much detail to cover in this post but here are some of the things we discuss:
Is a rolling forecast right for your organization?
What’s the right time horizon? 90-day? Four quarter? Six quarter? Three year?
How often should you update the forecast?
How do you use a rolling forecast as an early alert of threats and opportunities?
What is the role of scenarios?
What role can driver-based modeling and tools play in the forecast process?
How do you sell the need for a rolling forecast?
What does the business case look like?
How can you measure the efficiency and effectiveness of your process?
IT’S YOUR TURN NOW!
If you are considering to make changes to your forecasting processes or if you are working in the IT department supporting Finance, you should join one of these workshops. It is a great opportunity to meet other finance & IT professionals and to get solid ideas. Believe it or not, but we have had several customers attend multiple events. They simply liked the interaction with the other professionals so much and they felt that they got a lot of value out of each workshop. Check out my events page to find out about upcoming dates or simply drop me a note. Hope to see you soon!
Have you ever wondered what it was like to run a large company? Have you ever wanted to make big risky business decisions with worrying too much about the results? Well, I have some good news for you!
Purchasing and implementing enterprise software like IBM Cognos can be a complex undertaking. It starts with finding the right vendor, understanding how the software can help fix business issues and it continues with obtaining buy-in from the business. Especially the last issue is not trivial. I have personally spent countless of days and nights working with different client sponsors on crafting careful messages about how the new processes and the software will help the business. My personal lesson learned is: selling change is not easy.
THE EXPERIENCE FACTOR
But there is a recipe that works in many cases: Rather than show and tell, let the business experience the difference. This is something we can learn from a car salesman: A car salesman does not spend time talking about the benefits and cool features of a car. No, he offers a test drive. During this test drive, I am able to experience the benefits hands-on myself. I am able to visualize how the new car can help me. If I like the car, I like it. And I know when it feels right.
THE BUSINESS ANALYTICS EXPERIENCE
How does all that related to Business Analytics? Very simple: Together with Roland and Patrick Mosimann (authors of the popular book the Performance Manager) we created a business simulation workshop that allows you to run a fictitious company using the IBM Cognos platform. And let me tell you: This is one fun workshop because you get to run a large company. It is called: The Business Analytics Experience
The workshop is typically run with groups of 8-16 people. We split the participants into competing teams. The objective for each team is to run the fictitious company ‘Futurechips’. Together with the group facilitator, we start by analyzing the situation of the company. The Cognos 10 platform provides vital information such as a financial review, overview of products, markets, etc.. This helps answer some critical questions such as: Why was the prior management team let go? What is the financial situation? What are the opportunities for the new year?
ENTER THE SIMULATION
There is a lot to discover. Futurechips seems to have a bright future but the prior management team made some strange and short-sighted decisions. And it is fun to make these discoveries. The teams therefore get fully emerged into the game after a few minutes. After a short while solutions and ideas spring up. The teams start discussing. And it doesn’t end here: We actually get to make some critical business decisions. What markets do we want to focus on? Which products do we want to invest in? How should we adjust our pricing models? What is our overall strategy for the fiscal year? We do this by developing short strategic plans in IBM Cognos 10. The data that we enter is then fed into a sophisticated simulation engine that provides detailed feedback.
THE COMPETITION HEATS UP
At this point, it is not untypical to see some serious competitive behavior (all in good fun!) between the groups as we compare the results from the first few quarters. We find out that we did some things right. We also find that the teams missed a few points. Plans and strategies are refined. And so it continues. There are more decisions to be made and the simulation continues to provide feedback.
Ok. That sounds good? But what does that have to do with Business Analytics and what does that have to do with selecting software and implementing it? Very easy. The workshop allows the participants to experience how Business Analytics software can help them make better business decisions. Just to be sure: we do not talk about the software itself during the workshop but we use Cognos 10 to perform our analysis, to prepare our decisions and to help develop the detailed plans. The participants use the Business Analytics tools to gain insights and to prepare their decisions.
WHO, WHAT, WHEN?
Who should attend the seminar? Anybody who wants to learn more about business analytics (sponsors, project managers, CIOs, CFOs, business managers) and all those of you who are already implementing the software and who need to sell change within their organization. The workshop is a fantastic way to let business users experience how their work can change. It is just like test driving a new car!
Does that sound interesting? It really is. I LOVE running these workshops. It is a simulation and a game after all. As a matter of fact, we have many returning customers that want to participate over and over again.
Check out IBM’s website for more information and a current schedule of events. Our team is also happy to run these business analytics workshops in-house. Hope to see you at one of these workshops soon!