IDU | Budgeting Forecasting and Reporting Solutions

Thursday, 16 January 2020

Entrepreneurs vs monopolists


Reining in the entrepreneurial instinct to dominate a market forever


Man in suite on a rocket ship


There’s a fascinating contradiction at the heart of entrepreneurship. High levels of competition encourage innovation, create opportunities and make economies more productive—so competition, on the whole, is good for entrepreneurship. For individual entrepreneurs, on the other hand, competition is something to be discouraged, pre-empted, squashed and otherwise eliminated as quickly possible. Most entrepreneurs would be monopolists if they could.

Now that seems to be a sweeping statement! But it is really a very natural and reasonable position. It makes sense that those who take risks want to maximise their rewards. Reaping the benefits of innovation and securing intellectual property rights has been one of the primary concerns of inventors and entrepreneurs at least since the very early days of the industrial revolution. Luminaries like steam engine inventor James Watt spent at least as much of their time-fighting patent battles as they did working on their designs. Intellectual property law recognises that creation is much harder than copying, and that if a society wants to encourage innovation it needs to give inventors a limited period of monopoly so they can be appropriately rewarded.

The keyword there, however, is “limited”. At some point reaping the rewards of one’s ingenuity tips over into obstructing the next wave of innovators and yesterday’s nimble upstarts become today’s stodgy and anticompetitive incumbents.  This process has speeded up along with everything else, so that the turnaround seems to have shrunk to a few years.

There are strong signs that the US economy, a critical engine of innovation for the whole world, is starting to suffer from over-powerful incumbents. New firms—the ones responsible for the highest rates of innovation and job creation—are starting up at a lower rate than old ones are shutting down, and the share of industry profits that goes to the largest firms is increasing. This has ramifications far beyond the borders of the US: Firms like Amazon, Facebook and Google are not accountable to lawmakers or electorates in the rest of the world, and yet decisions made in Seattle and Silicon Valley profoundly affect all of us.

There are legislative solutions for this problem. The antitrust case brought against Microsoft in 1998 helped to unlock a new wave of innovation that enabled the rise of, yes, Amazon, Facebook and Google. All of these are now beginning to abuse their powers in ways that are variously harmful to consumers, workers and societies, and there is growing pressure for these new incumbents to have their own Microsoft moments.

It is a battle worth fighting. The Microsoft case proved yet again that when a monopoly is restrained from putting up unreasonable barriers to entry, for example through predatory pricing, there are always going to be new competitors just waiting to be given a fair chance. As new firms enter the market they will all be under competitive pressure to make better products and a better product will always win market share.

The online conferencing market is a case in point. Driven by the ever-increasing need to communicate across time zones and countries, its exponential growth provides a microcosm in which we can see these entrepreneurial dynamics playing out. Not so long ago, if you wanted to conference online you had to invest in a hugely expensive hardware environment, leading to an arena largely dominated by Cisco and Oracle with their Webex and GoToMeeting products. They “owned” the market. Then Microsoft entered the market by acquiring Skype—and once again, a new market ripe for innovation was dominated by the big monoliths. While dominant they were able to dictate pricing and were under little pressure to innovate.

But the pace of technological change means it is becoming more and more difficult for anyone to dominate for too long.  In the past 18 months, we have seen the rise of a number of great new tools that outperform the legacy systems and are priced in innovative ways, making them irresistible. These tools spring up quickly, and thanks to the power of social media and the network effect they accumulate millions of users almost as soon as we’re aware of them. These are the new upstarts. I am sure they will try and keep these users for as long as they can, but ultimately a newer, faster product will come along and usurp their place in the market: and so the circle continues. Let’s hope the intricate dance between innovators, consumers, regulators and other interests that keeps markets healthy will maintain its balance.

As published on AccountingWeb - January 2020


Thursday, 5 December 2019

The case for zero-based budgeting


Budgets can be an opportunity for reflection on strategy and alignment

Zero based budgeting image

Have you ever noticed departments in your organisation rushing frantically to spend their budgets at the end of the financial year? Have you ever seen someone commission a service they didn’t really need to avoid having their budget cut? Have you ever done it yourself?

I’m willing to bet that most of my readers have either participated in that year-end spending panic, or seen it happen. It’s all too common – and an unmistakeable sign that an organisation’s budget has come seriously adrift from its strategy. If an activity is genuinely important, nobody should be scrambling to get it done just before the deadline. But after years of creating budgets based on what you spent last year plus X, the instinct to hold onto what you have can become deeply entrenched. Zero-based budgeting is an exceptionally powerful tool to avoid that lethal complacency.

Zero-based budgeting stops mindless routine in its tracks and forces everyone to actually think about what they’re doing. It can be an immensely empowering process for line managers, creating an opportunity to reconnect with how their work fits into the bigger picture. It will almost certainly also create opportunities to cut costs, as people see where they could be doing things more efficiently – but the cost cutting is not the main point. Indeed, if zero-based budgeting is done right, it should also identify areas where the organisation is under-spending, or where you could get more value for the same spending.

Over-emphasis on cost cutting is one reason, I suspect, why zero-based budgeting isn’t more widely used. There’s a certain swashbuckling appeal to the idea of burning everything to the ground and making everyone justify their entire budget from the ground up. The reality of that approach, however, is more likely to be widespread fear, resentment and frantic attempts to protect pet projects.

There’s a healthier way to approach zero-based budgeting. It’s not just about costs, it’s about linking spending with strategy. When a new business or project is starting from scratch, the budget is the place where big dreams get their reality check. It means asking questions: What do we actually need to get this off the ground? What can we do without? What’s the most efficient way to achieve our objectives? What are the best tools and people for the job?

In an established business, the day-to-day routine can carry on for years without anyone ever stopping to reconsider whether the existing answers to these questions are still the right ones. Taking time out to review them can be invigorating, identifying opportunities for change, growth and new investment as well
as for pruning.

This can be particularly terrifying for areas of the business which are essential but whose value is intangible, like marketing or customer service. A zero-based budget process should provide ways to demonstrate value that aren’t directly linked to revenue—but also, if someone can’t make a convincing argument for their existence then they probably need to be thinking harder about it. Finding and honing the arguments can contribute to a renewed sense of purpose and alignment with overall strategic goals.

Of course this all takes a lot more time than the usual approach, which is why so few businesses do it. There are two ways to solve the problem. First, the whole organisation doesn’t have to start from scratch every year. A rolling four-year process where just 25% of the organisation does a zero-based budget every year will achieve all the same benefits without most of the disruption. Second, for the other 75%, a budget process that is fast and well-supported by software and automation tools will free finance staff up to spend time where they are most needed.

It’s not an easy path to take – but if implemented correctly, zero-based budgeting can be a powerful tool to engage and empower line managers, increase budget transparency and make sure spending actually supports business goals.

As published in AccountingWeb - 27 November 2019


Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Corporate Renaissance Group partners with IDU

Puzzel partner image

Toronto, Ontario – December 2, 2019 – Corporate Renaissance Group (CRGroup), a Quisitive Company (TSXV: QUIS), Microsoft Partner and premier provider of business technology and consulting services, today announced it has finalized a distribution agreement with IDU, a Microsoft Partner and leader in corporate budgeting, forecasting and reporting software.

IDU’s flagship product, idu-Concept™, provides budgeting and financial reporting for medium-sized to large businesses. idu-Concept has been named a leader in the budgeting and reporting category and a high performer in the Corporate Performance Management Categories of the G2 Crowd™ Fall 2019 Report, as well as being named one of the top financial planning applications by Gartner®. idu-Concept was developed to eliminate barriers to reporting by allowing businesses to leverage existing systems and tools for extensive reporting and data visualizations.

The agreement grants CRGroup the right to market, sell and implement idu-Concept across North-Eastern United States, Canada and the Caribbean.

This partnership with IDU not only strengthens CRGroup’s position in the FP&A transformative space but addresses a need in the marketplace for affordable budgeting software that leverages existing technical investments and data reporting platforms like Microsoft Power BI™, SQL™, and Azure™.

“We are very excited to strengthen the idu-Concept footprint in the North American and Caribbean markets,” said Thomas Ironstone, Manager, CPM/BI at CRGroup. “Adding idu-Concept to CRGroup’s toolset of CPM and FP&A solutions provides our customers with a powerful, affordable, flexible and secure system that leverages the Microsoft® platform – both on-premise and in the Cloud.”

“We’re delighted to partner with an industry leader like CRGroup to extend our reach in North America and the Caribbean,” said Kevin Phillips, CEO of IDU. “idu-Concept is built on the values of increasing financial accountability, transparency and empowerment throughout an organization, said Kevin Phillips, CEO of IDU. “We enable non-financial managers to engage with budget, forecast and financial information in ways that make it easy to understand. The formalized partnership with CRGroup provides us access to enterprise businesses looking for a reliable cost-effective solution that fits within the terms of their IT strategy.”

About IDU
IDU delivers top of class packaged budgeting, forecasting, performance management and reporting tools to simplify financial management. Our flagship product, idu-Concept, provides easy, effective budgeting, forecasting and financial reporting for medium-sized to large businesses. idu-Concept integrates easily with ERP software, but unlike more cumbersome offerings, idu-Concept can be implemented quickly, requires little or no ongoing consulting and reduces budgeting cycles from months to weeks. For more information on IDU, please visit www.idusoft.com

About CRGroup
Since 1989, Corporate Renaissance Group (CRGroup), a Quisitive Company (TSXV: QUIS), has been delivering expert guidance and leading technology solutions to help organizations transform enterprise performance. With over 4,500 customers worldwide, CRGroup has established itself with expertise in business management, financial management, consulting and software development. Working with its technology partners such as Microsoft, Board, Adaptive Insights, Tableau, IDU and Atlassian, CRGroup delivers solutions in Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP), Customer Relationship Management (CRM), Office 365 (O365), Corporate Performance Management (CPM), Human Capital Management (HCM) and Business Intelligence (BI). These solutions and more cover the full business spectrum, consistent with CRGroup’s Level 7™ Framework. To learn more about CRGroup, visit crgroup.com and follow @crgroup

About Quisitive
A premier Microsoft solutions provider, Quisitive empowers enterprises to skillfully navigate the ever-changing technology landscape through the utilization of Microsoft cloud technology including Microsoft Azure, Dynamics and Office 365.

Named the 2019 Microsoft U.S. Country Partner of the Year for demonstrated excellence in innovation and implementation of customer solutions based on Microsoft cloud technology, Quisitive is uniquely poised to help businesses harness the power of the cloud.

Quisitive combines technical expertise, internal Independent software vendor capabilities and proprietary SaaS solutions, such as CRG emPerform ™ and LedgerPay to create impactful solutions that drive transformation for their clients. Whether it’s moving to the Microsoft cloud, understanding the implications of operating in the cloud, or pushing the boundaries of cloud innovation, Quisitive offers a variety of services that can be implemented individually or layered to create a unique solution to fit an organization’s specific needs.

Quisitive is comprised of experienced Microsoft partner leaders and technologists who share a deep understanding of market needs and the appropriate application of Microsoft cloud technology. The company’s expertise and focus are on helping industries such as financial services, manufacturing, oil and gas, and retail, drive innovation using Microsoft cloud-based technologies.

Quisitive serves clients globally with offices in Dallas, TX; Denver, CO; Minneapolis, MN; Ottawa, ON; and Toronto, ON. For more information, visit quisitive.com and follow @BeQuisitive. TSXV: QUIS.

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

IDU User Conference 2020 - Registration open!


Superhero IDU log on his chest

On the 27th and 28th February 2020 Financial Managers, Financial Accountants, IT Managers, and Financial Administrators from a wide range of companies, industries, and countries will gather in Cape Town for two full days of conferencing at the 11th Annual IDU User Conference 2020. The conference will again be held at the Marriott Hotel, Crystal Towers, Century City.

The theme for the conference is Empowerment, as this is one of our core values at IDU. We believe in empowering our staff and yours, as well as the community around us.  idu-Concept empowers your business by creating time for finance to be more strategic. The conference creative centers around unleashing your inner superhero and unlocking those hidden superpowers.

CEO Kevin Phillips will share the IDU Development Roadmap for 2020 and attendees will be able to provide input to influence the final result.

Guests will be introduced to exciting new features and modules of idu-Concept; learn all the tricks and tips to maximise their use of the system and be able to attend in-depth master class sessions, where delegates can attain full IDU administrator accreditation certificates for topics such as Employee Remuneration Budgeting and Reporting and Analytics.

We have some exciting expert guest speakers like Chantell Ilbury, one of Africa’s leading strategists and scenario planners, and Craig Pederson a leading exponent of the digital forensics field. With more speakers to be announced in the near future.

Registration is open and there are limited spaces available, so go online to www.idusoft.com and click on the conference link to reserve your spot today. What’s more, delegates who register and pay before the 20th December will receive a 5% early bird discount.

Thursday, 7 November 2019

Free the accountants!


Accountant with abacus

The “bean counter” trope is long past due for retirement, but what’s the alternative? Kevin Phillips argues it’s time for accountants to embrace their inner sage. 

 


We’ve all heard all the cracks about accountants: we’re boring, we’re annoyingly obsessed with tiny details, we’re bean counters. With our tedious controls and processes we get in the way of more interesting people doing more interesting things.  We’re necessary, like flossing and medical checks are necessary, but few people look forward to meetings with their accountants. 


There are occasional attempts to break the stereotype and make accountancy look thrilling. But they tend to veer into overcompensation: CIMA once sponsored a website called extreme-accounting.com, which featured photographs of accountants doing extreme sports while wearing their office suits. But on the whole, the world needs reckless accountants a lot less than it needs boring accountants. Reckless accounting, after all, is what gave us Enron and a raft of other corporate scandals. The way out of the bean counter’s cage is not to become daredevils (which is highly unlikely to work in any case, since it doesn’t exactly come naturally to many of us) but to step into our role as advisors and mentors.


There is real demand for this role: I’ve lost count of the number of business owners, senior managers and other decision makers who’ve told me they long for more than just monthly financial statements from their accountants and finance departments. They need to know not just what the numbers are, but what they mean. Accountants are the ones best placed to offer this interpretation and advice. Our expertise means we can read things in ways lay people just can’t – if you’ve ever marvelled at how a doctor can read an ultrasound scan or an architect can read a plan, then you know how people feel watching us read balance sheets. What seems to us, after years of practice, like a banal everyday activity can look something like wizardry to the uninitiated. 


One of the things that’s been preventing accountants and financial managers from embracing their role as guide and mentor is the sheer volume of more mundane work to be done. The numbers do, after all, need to be crunched. Software, automated processes and AI are rapidly taking over this routine work, though, and we should be glad of it. The less time we spend on the nuts-and-bolts work, the more time we have to think: to consider, analyse and interpret what all those numbers actually mean. 


What might that look like? It might mean spending time coaching that one cost centre manager who just hasn’t got a clue; it might mean identifying problems and weak areas in the business and finding ways to make them better; it might mean scanning for trends that nobody else has spotted yet; it might mean deeper conversations with the leadership team.


Whatever this more ambitious role looks like, it will make much better use of our financial expertise, which is an expensive but often scandalously under-utilised resource. 

Tuesday, 29 October 2019

IDU a leader in the G2 Crowd Fall 2019 Report


Leader High Performer Customer Favourite

IDU has been named a Leader in the Budgeting and Reporting category and a High Performer in the Corporate Performance Management Categories of the G2 Crowd Fall 2019 Report. 

G2 Crowd is one of the world’s leading business solution review platforms, which leverages more than 330,000 user reviews to drive informed purchase decisions.  

IDU has received this accolade after having been recognised by G2 Crowd in four previous reports.   

Our clients voted us tops in terms of “ease of doing business” and “quality of support”. This is a testament to the knowledgeable and dedicated team at IDU. On average other corporate performance management software vendors score 8.6 out of 10 for customer support. IDU scored a 9.1.  

"Customer satisfaction like this comes from having a great product and the right team. The IDU team is highly experienced and listens to customer needs, providing knowledgeable support and services." - Kevin Phillips, CEO of IDU  

It is client reviews like this one that have contributed to us receiving this recognition from G2 Crowd.  

 “The team at IDU have a good business and finance understanding and spend time understanding the specifics of your organization to deliver a solution that is fit for purpose.” – Clive S 

To read the full list of reviews please visit the IDU page on G2 Crowd.  

Read more about IDU or to schedule a demo of our software visit our website at www.idusoft.com.

  

About G2 Crowd

G2 Crowd, the world’s leading business solution review platform, leverages more than 330,000 user reviews to drive better purchasing decisions. Business professionals, buyers, investors, and analysts use the site to compare and select the best software and services based on peer reviews and synthesized social data. Every month, nearly one million people visit G2 Crowd’s site to gain unique insights. G2 Crowd aims to bring authenticity and transparency to the business marketplace. For more information, go to G2Crowd.com.

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Remove drama from budget cycles

Image result for take the drama out of budgeting
Taking the drama out of budget cycles


Nobody has ever written an opera about organisational budget cycles – but given the amount of human drama they generate, perhaps someone should. The typical budget process is a grim and drawn-out cycle of power games, nagging, resistance, resentment, dread, despair and wasted effort. And all of it, in keeping with the best traditions of high drama, is entirely avoidable.

It begins innocently enough, with our heroes in the finance department preparing spreadsheet templates and sending them out for completion by cost centre managers; and yet the seeds of conflict are already sown, because the spreadsheet is a marvelous tool, but a poor messenger. It is not designed to facilitate the complex and sensitive negotiations that are the real substance of a budget process. Our heroes have an inkling of this and try to compensate with elaborate design; but they can always only respond to the problems that surfaced last year, which inevitably causes a whole new set of problems.

Meanwhile the cost centre managers, on the front lines and grumbling about their generals, do their best to fill in the numbers based on their best estimate of what the future holds. The process is stressful because few of them have much financial training and the spreadsheets can be intimidating, and so in many cases the task falls to the bottom of the priority list until the nagging finally pushes it into the category of ‘urgent’.

As the returned spreadsheets accumulate back in the finance department and people try to compile all the information into a single coherent picture, it becomes clear that there are errors. Our heroes, now growing frustrated and impatient, send them back out again with requests for clarification or changes. Cost centre managers make some corrections, but leave other things unchanged because yes, that is really what they meant. Resentment begins to fester.

After a few rounds of this, with a final deadline looming and everyone at odds, the finance department gives up and makes some changes of its own to bring everything into line. The final budget is not what the cost centre manager asked for, but the reasons for the numbers have got lost; and so they roll their eyes at the waste of time and move on.

Some time later, when told they’re over budget, they retort that they’re exactly on target with what they originally asked for -- if some bean counter decided to override them, that’s not their problem.

And so the circus rolls on: Cost centre managers are disempowered, feel no sense of ownership over their numbers, and resist any attempt to hold them accountable because they are being governed by decisions made over their heads. Instead of being a useful planning and decision-making tool, the budget has become a bureaucratic exercise that feels like a meaningless waste of time.

It really doesn’t have to be this way. In my experience most people really do want to do their jobs well, and they want to be empowered with the knowledge, skills and tools they need to achieve that goal. When it comes to budgets, individual cost centre managers have the best knowledge available in the organisation of what is likely to come their way in the next year – and so they need to be given the leeway to make budget decisions that will be respected. That may involve argument and negotiation, but those are vastly preferable to decisions imposed from outside.

Instead of a vicious cycle of nagging, resistance, disengagement and surrender, it’s possible to build the opposite – a virtuous cycle in which empowerment and clear communication build accountability and a sense of ownership.  It doesn’t make for high drama – but then nobody actually wants to live inside a soap opera.


As published on AccountingWeb  - 24th September 2019