IDU | Budgeting Forecasting and Reporting Solutions

Friday, 2 August 2019

Will Libra entrench Facebook’s dominance – or trigger its downfall?




“Move fast and break things”, Facebook’s motto until 2014, was the mantra of the “disruptive innovation” era.  Five years on, the naivety of this starry-eyed approach has become painfully obvious. Disruption, it turns out, causes damage. So far, the list of things Facebook has broken in its haste includes journalism, personal privacy, Myanmar, and democracy; will the global financial system be next?

Facebook launched its new digital currency Libra and digital wallet system Calibre in June with the question: “What if everyone was invited to the global economy, with access to the same financial opportunities?” It seems, on the face of it, like an obviously wonderful plan: it’s hard to argue with the idea that everyone should have access to the same opportunities.

There’s a lot to like here. Cryptocurrencies really do have the potential to dramatically expand financial access for everyone, particularly in parts of the world where government interference in money systems is heavy-handed and unproductive. The costs of transferring money across borders are absurdly high, and it’s the world’s poorest people who pay the highest costs. Making cross-border transfers cheaper and easier will undoubtedly improve lives.

The major barriers to greater adoption of digital currencies so far have been not only their volatility (looking at you, Bitcoin), but also the fact that they are complex and difficult to understand and use, locking out precisely the people who could benefit most. Between Facebook’s global reach and its undoubted skill at making products people want to use, they have an excellent shot at actually making Libra fly.

It may not be as easy as they think, though. People’s behaviour around money is complex and not always easy to understand, particularly when you are working across cultures. In regions where many people don’t have formal bank accounts there are already very successful local mobile money transfer systems, East Africa’s Mpesa being one of the most well-known examples. These services are well adapted to their local markets, compliant with local regulations and well supported. Can a single digital currency system possibly deliver a service that will work as well in Dhaka, Mombasa, or Lima as it does in San Francisco?

The problem becomes particularly acute at the point where digital currency must be swapped for real currency, which most people will want to do. The scope for money laundering and other criminal activity is huge, and Libra’s proponents say they have been in talks with “local convenience stores and money exchanges” to ensure anti-laundering checks are carried out – but it’s frankly hard to believe this is possible on a global scale. Calibra’s VP of produce Kevin Weil recently asked TechCrunch to imagine a situation “where if you want to cash in or cash out, you’ll pop up a map that highlights physical locations around that allow you to do it. You select one that’s nearby, you select an amount, and you get a QR code that you can take to them and complete the transaction.” Weil’s faith that the entire planet works like California is touching, but misplaced.

Even if Libra can succeed on a global scale, there is another problem: getting around central banks and governments, which are already struggling to control cryptocurrencies. It’s tempting to cheer them on for precisely this reason – government controls aren’t popular anywhere – but there is potential for unleashing a disastrous cascade of unintended consequences.

Libra is a “stablecoin”, backed by a reserve of real currencies and other assets to prevent the kinds of wild price fluctuations that have bedevilled Bitcoin – but this reserve does not amount to the kind of liquidity backstop that a global currency requires. As Columbia University’s Katharina Pistor has pointed out: “The idea of a private, frictionless payment system with 2.6 billion active users may sound attractive. But as every banker and monetary policymaker knows, payment systems require a level of liquidity backstopping that no private entity can provide.” If there’s ever a run on Libra, will it have to be bailed out by central banks?

In effect, Libra is creating a set of obligations on the entire global financial system – without submitting itself any kind of regulation, control or accountability beyond the figleaf of the Libra Association. No wonder governments and central banks are rushing to pour cold water on the idea.

Then, of course, there is the problem of Facebook itself: The company has become a perfect example of the harms that can be caused by large monopolies answerable to nobody but their shareholders. The concentration of even more power in the hands of Facebook and companies like it serves nobody.

Facebook says, and possibly even believes, that Libra will be “positive for people”. Given their track record so far, the rest of us can be forgiven for taking this serene self-assurance with a very large dose of scepticism. The way things are going, Facebook might even achieve the incredibly unlikely feat of making government look attractive again.

 As published on AccountingWeb - July 2019


Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Unravelling the consequences of the US ban on Huawei



The US government has been steadily ramping up its campaign against Chinese tech giant Huawei in the past few years – and its latest move is already beginning to have serious global consequences.

In May the US Commerce Department placed Huawei on an “entity list” of organisations essentially banned from doing business in the US or with US companies. The effects rippled out far and fast: Within days, Google halted sales of its Android mobile operating system to Huawei, meaning that one of the world’s most popular handset manufacturers can no longer ship phones using the world’s most popular operating system. Huawei will either have to “fork” Android, continuing to develop its open-source core along a divergent new path, or develop its own operating system. Either choice will have significant consequences for billions of ordinary cellphone users around the world.

It’s not only US firms who are affected, either. British microchip designer ARM has told its staff to suspend all dealings with the Chinese firm because its designs contain technology developed in the US, and Japan’s Panasonic likewise stopped shipping some components.  This is only the start. Technology companies around the world are deeply interconnected: research is conducted and standards are developed by global teams, designs developed in one country are manufactured in another using components sourced from yet others; and those components themselves have components which were produced in global collaborations. The connections go all the way down.

One of the more easily foreseen consequences of interfering so bluntly in this set of global networks is that Huawei and other Chinese companies, with the backing of the Chinese government, will speed up their already significant efforts to develop their own technologies to replace everything from chipsets to software. Most analysts suggest this will be difficult and take time – but it will happen.

The US, in other words, is incentivising China to become a lot less dependent on the US (and in the process perhaps making many other nations think twice as well). This is not great news for American tech companies, for whom China is a major export market; many will suffer in the short term, and in the long term they face the risk of being cut off from the world’s largest market.

In at least one area, China and Huawei are already far out in front. Huawei is the world’s largest manufacturer of network equipment. It also holds critical patents over the fifth-generation (5G) mobile technology which is beginning to be implemented around the world, and is expected to start seeing mass adoption by 2025.  5G, which promises mobile connectivity as fast and reliable as the fastest current wired connections, is a potential game changer, enabling everything from autonomous vehicles to remote surgery.

It’s Huawei’s dominance of network equipment, of course, that is behind the US ban in the first place. The ostensible reason is that Huawei’s ties with the Chinese government are too close and that allowing its equipment into critical network infrastructure is a national security risk. Those of us outside the US are perhaps justified in viewing this with some scepticism. The US government, defence establishment and the tech industry have deep links going back many decades; indeed, the Internet itself has its roots in DARPAnet, a project of the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency. If Huawei is a threat because of government links, should we not be asking equally difficult questions about Cisco, or other US-based firms whose equipment is embedded in US and other global telecommunications networks?

The US already arrogates to itself significant powers to monitor global network traffic and seize private data around the world. The Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, passed hastily by Congress in March 2018 without any committee review or hearing, compels US companies –like Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Apple, Dropbox, and many others --  to release data they hold to US authorities, even when this data originates and is stored overseas. This will require a lawful warrant, of course – but the warrant will be classified. And with the US having a notably elastic idea of what constitutes a threat to national security, it’s easy to imagine that most warrant requests will be granted with little scrutiny – especially if they don’t affect US citizens.

Whether the US battle against Huawei is a matter of national security, anticompetitive meddling to protect its own economic interests or a bit of both, the implications reach far beyond America and China. When elephants fight, goes an old African saying, it’s the grass that is damaged; and in this fight, it’s the rest of us who are grass.

As published on AccountingWeb - 1 July 2019

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

IDU partners with Sage Intacct



IDU Partners with Sage Intacct, bringing together powerful Financial Planning and Analytics capabilities with the innovation and customer satisfaction leader in cloud financial management solutions.

SAN JOSE, Calif. – July 10, 2019 – IDU, a leading provider of Financial Budgeting and Reporting solutions, today announced its official partnership with Sage Intacct. IDU has been listed as a certified Marketplace partner with Sage Intacct. This partnership means the idu-Concept solution has been thoroughly reviewed and approved by Sage Intacct's partnership team, and that Sage Intacct users can use idu-Concept to integrate seamlessly with their cloud accounting software.

Sage Intacct delivers incredible value to users by empowering finance teams with deep functionality that automates complex processes and provides deep financial and operational insights to help companies grow. Sage Intacct also offers an easy path to extend the solution by seamlessly connecting with other best-in-class solutions like idu-Concept for their financial budgeting, reporting, and forecasting requirements. Sage Intacct focuses on delivering a solution that puts client success first, and that commitment has allowed it to earn the highest customer satisfaction in the industry.

IDU makes budgeting, forecasting, performance management and reporting tools to simplify financial management. Our flagship product, idu-Concept, provides easy, effective budgeting and financial reporting for medium-sized to large businesses. idu-Concept integrates easily with Sage Intacct, reducing budget cycles from months to weeks.

The idu-Concept integration with Sage Intacct offers real-time, online access to information in a format that is easy to use and understand by both financial and non-financial managers. Instant access to key information allows the business to react faster to deviations from the plan. It also increases cost-center managers’ involvement, empowerment, and ownership of the numbers. 

We’ve built a thriving partner community and marketplace, with solutions that help companies extend the value of Sage Intacct,” said Eileen Wiens, VP of Business Development, Sage Intacct. “Our customers choose Sage Intacct to drive efficiencies across their financial processes, and by automating their budgeting, forecasting and reporting with this integrated solution, IDU helps them further this goal.”
IDU’s Sage Intacct integration is available to customers via the Sage Intacct Marketplace. To learn more visit the IDU profile page on the Sage Intacct Marketplace.


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 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 fees and reduces budgeting cycles from months to weeks. For more information on IDU, please visit www.idusoft.com

About Sage Intacct
Sage Intacct is the innovation and customer satisfaction leader in cloud Financial Management. With the powerful combination of Sage and Intacct, the Sage Business Cloud offers the best capabilities of both companies. In use by organizations from startups to public companies, Sage Intacct is designed to improve company performance and make finance more productive. Hundreds of leading CPA firms and Value Added Resellers also offer Intacct to their clients.

Sage Intacct is based in San Jose, California and an entity of Sage, the market and technology leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems, supporting the ambition of entrepreneurs and business builders and a FTSE 100 business. For more information on Sage Intacct, please visit www.sageintacct.com or call 877-437-7765.


Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Am I an asset?



The accountants attending our annual user conference earlier this year paused for thought about how to navigate the rapidly changing workplace as we move into the fourth industrial revolution. And, they asked some insightful questions about what it means to be a valuable employee today.

Sameer Rawjee, the founder of Google’s Life Design Lab, and currently working with companies and schools to tackle continuous learning and purpose at work, sparked a lively audience discussion during his keynote address. This was when one of the attendees asked: “Am I an asset to my company? Or am I just OpEx?”

Only an accountant could have summed up today’s workplace existential crisis in this way. And it neatly frames the conversation about how to ensure we stay relevant in our own roles, plus how we can help our people stay valuable in our companies.

My view is that on day one of our jobs, we are all assets to our company. But that we run the risk of depreciating every single day, unless we actively work to ensure our own growth, and the growth of the people around us, in order to stay relevant and valuable in an ever-changing world.

And don’t think that as accountants we are exempt from this tidal wave of change. Previously we may have had a predictable career path where hard work and experience progressed us along the ranks. Sure, we got better at what we did, we might specialise in a certain area, or we might encounter unusual jobs that gave us unique experience, but, fundamentally our core skills remained relevant.

Today, this is being entirely destabilised, with AI and automation promising to take over more of our roles. This is a double-edged sword: we’ll be saved a lot of the repetitive mundane work, but will have to find ways to replace the experience gained from some of the basic work machines can now do, as well as constantly reinvent ourselves, learn continuously and move fast to stay ahead of the machines, always adding value by doing what they can’t.

It is essential that these new skills and capabilities align with the goals of the company. For this to happen, companies need to ensure that everyone is very clear about the business’s vision, goals and plans. Just like my advice to canvass the grassroots of your organisation during the budget process, it’s the people on the ground who know what they need to learn to remain relevant, and happy, in their roles.

Get this right, and then, there will be no doubt that you, and your people, are true assets, constantly appreciating, and continuously adding value in ever-changing times. And never becoming expenses, or worse, liabilities.

Invest in learning
Companies will need to spend some of the gains achieved by digitalisation’s greater efficiencies and productivity on helping their people learn. In the same way that businesses have an imperative to digitalise in order to survive, they have a moral obligation to their people to help them adapt to these changes. During a recession mindset, business leaders might be tempted to save by not investing in ongoing learning. But retraining your people makes good business sense as well. For AI to be effective, it needs to work well with people who can keep shifting to the next area of competency that AI has not yet reached.

As published in ASA Magazine - 21st May 2019 


Wednesday, 26 June 2019

IDU Leader in Budgeting & Forecasting Category of G2 Crowd Report


G2 Crowd, the world’s leading business solutions review website, released its Summer 2019 Report in Chicago on the 24th June 2019.  idu-Concept achieved Leader in the Budgeting and Forecasting Category and High Performer in the CPM Category based on the responses of real users for each category respectively.

The Budgeting and Forecasting Category is new to G2 Crowd, and to qualify for inclusion in the Budgeting and Forecasting category, a product must meet a number of key requirements including:

·         Comparing revenues and expenses estimates with actuals
·         The ability to consolidate budgets from several departments
·         Use what-if scenarios to forecast possible budget changes
·         Monitor the performance of budgeting processes

idu-Concept’s rich functionality ticks all these boxes and more, while remaining an extremely user-friendly toolset!  With the IDU Cloud solution companies can now also make use of world class financial planning, reporting and analytics capabilities without large capital expenditure outlays. IDU Cloud harnesses the power, performance, security and scalability of the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform, and offers ease of use, rapid deployment, and seamless data integration at an affordable price.

IDU achieved Leader and High Performer awards in the Summer 2019 Report by receiving positive reviews, from verified users compared to similar products in their category. For inclusion in the report a product must have received ten or more reviews, IDU currently has 28 reviews.  

“We are very proud to once again be included in the G2 Crowd Report, and to have received such high ratings from our customers, who are ultimately the driving force behind our success” said Kevin Phillips, CEO, IDU

“Rankings on G2 Crowd reports are based on data provided to us by real users,” said Michael Fauscette, chief research officer, G2 Crowd. “We are excited to share the achievements of the products ranked on our site because they represent the voice of the user and offer terrific insights to potential buyers around the world.”

Learn more about what real users have to say or leave your own review of idu-Concept on G2 Crowd’s review page!


About G2 Crowd

G2 Crowd, the world’s leading business solution review platform, leverages more than 440,000 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, more than one million people visit G2 Crowd’s site to gain unique insights. Co-founded by the founder and former executives of SaaS leaders like BigMachines (acquired by Oracle) and SteelBrick (acquired by Salesforce) and backed by more than $45 million in capital, G2 Crowd aims to bring authenticity and transparency to the business marketplace. For more information, go to G2Crowd.com.

Thursday, 6 June 2019

The 10X employee



The myth of the 10X programmer has long done the rounds in the software world. Stories abound of unicorn software engineers that can churn out 10 times, or 100 times, as much code as the average programmer. The rockstar coders that accelerate startups with their ninja skills.

For some people there is no doubt that the 10X programmer exists, and is essential to success. The argument goes that programming is not linear, so 10X programmers can compound experience, knowledge, an uncanny ability to achieve efficiencies, and a creative flair for coding that allows them to outstrip their team mates.

The other side of the argument goes that it doesn’t matter whether or not they exist, rather that very often these 10X programmers cause so much disruption (of the unhelpful kind) in the long-term, that they aren’t worth the short-term wins. This chaos ranges from technical debt – where down the line the fallout from their “genius” causes a whole lot more coding and debugging work; to poor culture fits: the stereotype of the unapproachable, unwashed, sleep-deprived coder.

Whatever your views on the 10X programmer, it is very clear that we all need to 10X our skills and experience to remain relevant in a rapidly digitalising, fourth industrial revolution world. This challenge was rather beautifully summed up, as only an accountant could, at our user conference earlier this year.

“Am I an asset to my company?” asked one of the attendees during a keynote and Q&A session with Sameer Rawjee, the founder of Google’s Life Design Lab, and currently working with companies and schools to tackle continuous learning and purpose at work.

“Or am I just OpEx?” the attendee continued.

The rest of the audience of accountants chuckled that he had managed to avoid using the word “liability”. But this insightful question really gets to the heart of a matter that affects us all, as individuals and business owners in a rapidly changing workplace. How do we ensure we stay relevant in our own roles, plus, as leaders, how can we help our people stay valuable in our companies?

I think that on day one of our jobs, we are all assets to our company. But that we run the risk of depreciating every single day, unless we actively work to ensure our growth, to 10X ourselves and the people around us continuously, to keep pace, stay relevant and remain impactful.

Darwin nailed it when he highlighted adaptability as the key to survival. And today, as digitalisation gains pace, we need to adapt over a shorter time frame than ever before. However, if companies and their people adopt the right mindset, this offers immense opportunity.

Much has already been written about how AI and automation promises to relieve us from repetitive, mundane work. And it is becoming increasingly clear that companies will need to spend some of the savings and increased earnings gained from digitalisation’s greater efficiencies and productivity on helping their people continue to learn. In the same way that businesses have an imperative to digitalise in order to survive, they have a moral obligation to their people to help them adapt around these changes.

Ensuring that we stay one step ahead of the machines, doing the things that AI can’t yet, or won’t ever, do is the sweet spot of how we can 10X our careers. A good way, and perhaps the only way, to focus on the things that the machines can’t do, is to hone in on the skills that require emotional intelligence. One of the challenges here is that these skills are difficult to measure and grade in the formal learning system. But, ironically, they could be the key to successful uptake of automation and AI in an organisation as well: communicating change effectively; listening empathetically to people’s concerns; leading the way in this new way of working. These are all “soft” skills. Others that will be critical to the take up of digitalisation are creative problem solving and ethical judgement.

A way that this ongoing learning can happen, I would suggest, is that responsibility needs to be shared. Individuals must identify their areas of growth, and companies need to ensure that everyone is very clear about the business’s vision, goals and plans, so that the two can align.

This is not dissimilar to how I advise companies to canvass the grassroots of their organisation during the budget process as they know what needs to be done at the coalface, especially during tough times. Likewise it’s the people on the ground who know what they need to learn to remain relevant, and happy, in their roles. They may not always get it right but it is the role of management to guide them and help them align their goals with what the company needs to survive and grow. 

Working to continuously 10X our careers, and those of our people, is going to ensure we remain true assets, constantly appreciating, and continuously adding value in ever-changing times. And never becoming expenses, or worse, liabilities.

As published on ITWeb - June 2019





Wednesday, 29 May 2019

Why cloud-first shouldn’t mean cloud-only



It’s been ten years since Oracle’s Larry Ellison had his Thomas Watson moment, dismissing cloud computing as a fad, nonsense and absurd. Clearly, in the same way that the number of computers in use around the world didn’t cap out at five units, as IBM’s Watson predicted in 1943, cloud computing has gone from strength to strength, with worldwide spend on cloud infrastructure in 2018 estimated at in excess of $80 billion and still growing.

Fast forward a short decade, and it’s almost as if cloud computing is barely worth a mention. It’s a bit like saying an appliance is powered by electricity. Well, obviously… We take cloud’s economic model as table stakes now: allowing companies of all sizes to access the best services for them, quickly, cost-effectively and with minimal support required, whether or not the vendor has set up shop in their country. Cloud services helped break the stranglehold of the black box ERP vendors giving companies flexibility, user-friendly interfaces and solutions to niche requirements. Crucially they, on the whole, improved security and allowed SMEs, and even individuals, to access enterprise-grade software services.

But, in comparison to the latest headline grabbing buzzwords, such as AI and machine learning, in some quarters cloud is now fairly middle of the road. So why am I still writing about it today?

Well, it’s not plain sailing just yet. And it’s worth checking in on some of the assumptions around cloud we might wrongly think are foregone conclusions.

I’ve written about one before: the incompatibility between the latest legislation to protect personal identification information, such as Europe’s GDPR, and laws trying to fight terrorism, such as the US’s CLOUD Act (Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act), which allows the US authorities to request data from US service providers, wherever in the world this data is stored, and without telling the people whose personal data is involved. Given that four out of five of the top cloud service providers by market share are US companies – that’s a lot of personal information about a lot of people including US and non-US citizens. CLOUD and GDPR are clearly in direct opposition to each other, and furthermore both complicate cloud services where the service provider, the data centre, the company collecting the personal identification data and the customer could be each located in separate countries. For now, the stalemate between GDPR and CLOUD continues.

Another assumption that we should be careful of making is that everyone around the world has the same access to internet bandwidth and data as the highly urbanised regions of the developed world – where, typically, cloud services are designed and built. Despite the massive advances in internet connectivity around the globe, it is still the case that some countries, and also remoter regions in well-connected nations, don’t have the level of access to always-on internet connectivity required by cloud services.

Take Tuvalu, the South Pacific island nation, and one of our clients. Ironically, for a country whose second biggest export is the .tv top level internet domain name, it is one of most unconnected countries in the world. While connectivity via a submarine fibre optical cable is in planning, it is currently connected to the rest of the world via limited, and expensive, satellite communications. Cloud computing services are simply a non-starter here.

Likewise that branch office in a small town that still only has basic DSL or dial-up connectivity, or a mining operation in a distant province, won’t benefit from the same advantages of the cloud-based service as the head office in the city, and, in a worst case scenario, may end up in a complete disconnect from the HQ.

And, even when internet connectivity is broadly universal, a secondary issue such as regular power outages could impact a company or individual’s ability to access cloud services. An SME in a big city like Johannesburg or Lagos that can’t afford a generator could be disconnected from basics such as email during a power outage.

In a cloud-first world, these branch and field offices, and SMEs, won’t have the same options of services to choose from and subsequent productivity gains thanks to a better fitting offering. Instead of being able to self-service, they’ll be stuck in the black box consultant loop, with lengthy installation and customisation loops, and an invoice to match. Their ability to collaborate will be limited, their data will be slightly out of date and out of joint, and they’ll miss out on cloud economies of scale. And mothership will miss out on critical input from the coalface of their organisation.

So sure, think cloud-first, but don’t think cloud-only. Consider ways to practically enable your people who don’t have the same access to the cloud that you do, without regressing back to the days of the mega-installation of on-premise kit.

As published AccountingWeb - May 2019