The role of the CFO is evolving. 79% of the 1,300+ senior finance professionals interviewed in Accenture's most recent survey said that COVID-19 put more pressure on CFOs to expand their roles within their enterprises.

But what is the CFO position evolving into? Accenture says today’s CFOs must not only safeguard financial growth, but also identify value and contribute to that growth. In other words, CFOs can’t simply control finances anymore; they have to leverage their understanding of those finances to execute enterprise-wide value-building strategies.

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Closing the Books on Reporting Pain Points

We sit down with EBM Software CEO Mike Skillingstad to discuss how technology can transform the reporting process.

Nearly every finance person has at least one, if not many, reporting horror stories. EBM Software CEO Mike Skillingstad is no different. “It was 1999, and I was working at ConAgra at the time. I had a new boss, and of course I wanted to impress him,” Skillingstad recalls. “I spent about 3 weeks preparing quarterly reports for him and then proudly presented this great reporting package. In the report, I had calculated everything as a percentage of net sales. As it turned out, he wanted everything in gross sales. So, I basically had to start over.”

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The Tortoise and the Hare Revisited

We all know the story of tortoise and the hare. The hare, with his superior speed, starts off the race with a huge lead. He becomes overconfident and decides he can take a nap before crossing the finish line. The tortoise slowly and steadily catches up and surpasses his opponent to emerge victorious.

Traditionally speaking, they say the moral of the story is “slow and steady wins the race.” In today’s business climate however, both animals would likely be in trouble. Aesop’s fables long predated the age of cloud computing and data-driven insight.

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Escaping the Month-End Nightmare

Let’s face it, month-end reporting can be a huge pain. This is especially true for middle market companies. As your business grows and becomes more complex, so do your monthly reporting packages. Oftentimes, this involves the painstaking process of tying together multiple data sources and heavy manual labor in Excel. Simply gathering all the data and ensuring 2+2=4 eats all of your time, and in the end, you may not have any time left for actual analysis.

That last part can be especially sticky for private equity CFOs, who are under immense pressure to find insights and pilot the transformation from fresh acquisition to a profitable asset. Boards want to see the data that will guide the way, and reporting is dead center in the equation.

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Dealing With A Double-Edged Sword

The uncertainty of COVID-19 has dramatically shifted the priorities of many companies when it comes to predictive analytics. Information that was once “nice to have” has become mission critical. Many of our customers have been widening the scope of their analytics to find additional wins for the business, and one area of great interest during this pandemic has been point-of-sale data analysis.

POS analytics is traditionally a double-edged sword. You can try to do it yourself, which oftentimes involves a painstaking consolidation exercise that usually only nets you summary-level results. Or you can wait several weeks for a third-party provider to do it for you.

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Fixing the Blind Spot

With new COVID-19 cases surging across the U.S. over the past couple of weeks, several states are beginning to tighten back up their lockdowns. At the end of June, Texas backed off reopening the state, closing bars and reducing restaurant capacity to 50%. On Monday, Southern Florida also went back on lockdown, shutting down gyms and restaurants, with more closures expected to be announced later this week.

There is a lot of uncertainty now, and likely even more on the way, as infectious disease experts are predicting a huge resurgence of COVID-19 cases in the fall. It’s an uncomfortable time for businesses, and while restaurants, travel and hospitality have taken the brunt of the blow, the uncertainty doesn’t provide much comfort to many companies in the CPG manufacturing space either.

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Lighting the Fuse

Think back to every 4th of July fireworks display you’ve ever seen. What do you remember, the beginning, the middle or the grand finale? The first 80% if the show might be entertaining, but it’s that final 20% that leaves a lasting impression that sticks in our memories for years.

According to the Pareto principle, 20% of the causes often equate to 80% of the effects. Conversely, 80% of the causes often equate to just 20% of the effect. When it comes to profitability, we’ve found this 80/20 principle holds true quite often. 20% of the SKUs often drive 80% of the profits, while the rest are just along for the ride.

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Painting a Clearer Picture

Forecasting has been a hot topic lately as companies try to recover from the COVID-19 crisis. Ask just about any CFO, and getting a tighter handle on their working capital has likely been priority #1 over the past few months. Companies are facing a myriad of issues that complicate the situation greatly, whether it’s slowed sales, inventory issues or diminished capacity. It is apparent that tight forecasting is a necessity.

To make matters even more complex, epidemiologists have been projecting a powerful second wave of the virus may be on the way this fall. Rising COVID-19 diagnosis rates for many states in recent days would seem to confirm it is just a matter of time before we see a major outbreak again.

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Decoding the New Normal

In a recent Associated Press article on statistical modeling for the coronavirus, Temple University mathematics professor John Allen Paulos was quoted as saying, “Uncertainty is the only certainty.” The same can no doubt be said about operating a business in these times.

As we see some statewide lockdowns being lifted and areas of the economy beginning to reopen, the rules of engagement in retail have changed dramatically. With constantly shifting conditions which may limit traffic or the number of stores open, put limits on production, or significantly alter the supply chain; time-relevant data will be more important than ever. You simply can’t wait 4 to 6 weeks for insights into what is happening. The “new normal” is anything but normal, and running a thriving business during this time requires real-time insight.

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4 Steps to Help Protect Your Business in Unprecedented Times

The coronavirus pandemic has put immense pressure on businesses across just about every industry. With most everything in business and in life, there is some kind of precedent, but we’ve never seen anything quite like this before. No other incident in the modern era has been able to completely shut down business in nearly every industry for an indefinite period of time.

Many businesses have been left scrambling trying to figure out what to do, with only vague indications of a timeline and little information to help us predict what the “new normal” will be when people are allowed to venture back out into public.

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Bearish Conditions Could Set Up Private Equity to Save the Day.

As the market becomes increasingly bearish and cities across the United States brace for the impact of a potential quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners are left with many distressing questions. How long will this last? How badly will the cash flow be impacted? Will we be able to pay our bills? Will we survive?

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Governments around the world are scrambling to react to the growing threat of COVID-19. While it’s drawn frequent comparisons to the SARS outbreak of 2003, much has changed in the last 17 years, especially when it comes to data. In turn, new methodologies are being used to combat the coronavirus, with implications that are both exciting and scary.

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Asking the hard questions

Asking the Hard Questions A Chat with Quality Assurance Manager Mike DeBoer We recently sat down with Mike DeBoer, who is the Quality Assurance Manager for EBM Software. Mike works with the Catalyst software development team, where he has bolstered QA efforts with his experience and automation expertise.

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The Dirty Data Problem

“There is more data now than there has ever been at any point in history.” You can make this statement now, a week from now or two years from now, and it will always be true. At our current pace, it is estimated that we generate 2.5 quintillion bytes of data on a daily basis, and with the continued growth of IoT (Internet of Things) technologies that are constantly recording data, that number will multiply significantly in the years ahead.

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From Frightful To Delightful

Halloween is a great time for a good scare. Some people like to pull pranks. Others prefer haunted houses or scary movies. But one thing nobody likes is staring down at a monthly reporting package that looks like it was sewn together by Dr. Frankenstein. If you struggle with building aesthetically pleasing reporting packages in Excel, you’re not alone. Excel doesn’t exactly have a “Make It Pretty” button. But with a few simple tricks, you can easily turn them into a visual treat.

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4 Ways to Simplify Data Analysis Through Technology

Time is the great equalizer. You can have all the intelligence, experience, expertise and data in the world, but without time, meaningful analysis is pretty much impossible. The Pareto Principle, or the 80/20 rule, sums up a conundrum the almost every analyst faces: 20% of the effort leads to 80% of the results, and 80% of the effort leads to 20% of the results. Most analysts will tell you they spend at least 80% of their time preparing data and 20% of their time, if that, actually analyzing it.

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5 Ways to Save Time in Your Monthly Reporting Cycle

Monthly reporting can take days, even weeks out of your month. Time is precious, and for many, the most frustrating part of the monthly reporting cycle is how little time you get to spend actually analyzing your reporting to make recommendations that add value to the business.

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5 Ways Catalyst Revolutionizes Your Planning Process

For many businesses, annual planning and budgeting for 2020 is just getting underway. For many, the process can be quite painful. The reality is, many companies still rely on Excel as a planning tool, which it’s not. A dedicated business performance tool like Catalyst offers infinitely more depth and flexibility for financial planning and analysis.

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Solving the Mystery Behind Dark Data

In the known universe, there are 100 billion galaxies that all share the same fundamental problem: they should all be torn apart. Galaxies are rotating with such astonishing speed there is no way the gravity generated by all their stars and planets could possibly hold them together. It was this fundamental conundrum that led scientists to discover that 85% of the matter in the known universe is a mysterious substance called dark matter.

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4 Ways to Bridge the Data Accessibility Gap

Data today is a lot like gunpowder once was. There are haves and have-nots, and when they go head-to-head, the have-nots are in a lot of trouble. But unlike gunpowder, data is not always distributed to the entire army. For many companies, there are critical gaps that inhibit true data-backed decision making throughout the organization. In some cases, people who could benefit from the data don’t have access to it. In others, the data exists, but employees don’t have the means to understand it. Both are common problems that plague companies of all sizes across all industries.

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AI, Deepfakes and Facial Recognition Raise Questions About Security

Last week, social media channels were filled with the aged faces of celebrities, friends and family members alike. FaceApp, which uses AI and facial recognition to create highly realistic facial transformations, was the most downloaded app on the web. Originally launched in 2017, the app surged last week as celebrities began taking the “FaceApp challenge” – creating a geriatric version of themselves – and millions of others followed. But as quickly as they hype rose for FaceApp, panic began to set in. After users discovered a Russian developer was behind the App (with some dubious fine print), people immediately began speculating that the Russians were stealing our faces and pickpocketing the photos off our phones for some nefarious purpose.

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Training for an Automated Workforce

With any form of major technological advancement, jobs are both created and destroyed. The breakneck speed of advancement in automation and artificial intelligence is no exception. We are, perhaps, on the brink of the largest meta-shift in the workforce since the industrial revolution; and transitioning the global workforce to fit the new paradigm will likely be the greatest challenge of our time.

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Catalyst Gets a Makeover

You might have noticed Catalyst has an all-new look and feel. While the software itself still offers the same functions and navigation as before, we’ve updated our logo, font, color scheme and website to more closely align with our vision for the software and what it stands for, going forward. If you were curious about the changes, we thought we’d give you a little inside look at the reasoning behind the changes, going behind the scenes with our marketing team. Let’s dive in!

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5 Ways IoT Technology Will Make Companies More Profitable in the Next 5 Years

It is estimated that there will be an astonishing 75 billion devices connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) by the year 2025. While some of these might seem like luxuries to us now (Amazon Alexa or Nest thermostats for example), many more have very real and very practical implications. In the business world, new IoT technologies are growing like wildfire. Here are five areas where we feel these devices will be making a very tangible positive impact on profitability in the next 5 years.

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Libra: 4 Reasons to Pump the Brakes (and 4 Reasons it Might Succeed)

Facebook’s Libra announcement was met last week with a ton of hype, dominating the news cycle for several days. The proposed cryptocurrency is designed to be a stablecoin – backed by several international securities to avoid volatility – making it easier to use for everyday transactions than currencies like Bitcoin, which experience regular large fluctuations in value. The question on everyone’s mind right now is, “will it work?” Cryptocurrencies have been around for some time, but few people can name one outside of Bitcoin. Even fewer have actually owned or transacted in any type of cryptocurrency. So for all the hype, the fact is Libra, and any other cryptocurrency for that matter, is a long, long way from becoming a major currency. Here are four of the major hurdles Libra is facing on it’s path into the payment world:

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Next-Gen Moneyball: AI and Big Data Help the Raptors Claim Their First NBA Title

Last week, the Toronto Raptors won their first NBA Championship, beating the perennial powerhouse Golden State Warriors. While the Raptors had a slightly better regular season record, many considered them to be heavy underdogs against the star-studded 3-time champion Warriors. But the Raptors knew something many of us didn’t. In fact, they knew a lot of things many of us didn’t. And that’s a big reason why they won.
For those who have read the book or have seen the film “Moneyball”, you’re likely well aware how statistical analysis, scouting and team building have seen a monumental shift in the last 25 years. In basketball, APBRmetrics – like Sabermetrics in baseball – shifted the focus from traditional statistics like points-per-game to more advanced stats like estimated wins added (EWA), plus-minus rating and player efficiency rating (PER).

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Landlords of the Last Mile

Blackstone Group, the world’s largest private equity firm, just completed the single largest private real estate deal in history. So, what did they buy? Lush oceanside property primed for development? Perhaps a commercial district in the heart of the Big Apple, ripe for revitalization? Or maybe a cherry spot in one of the world’s hottest travel destinations?
Actually, it’s none of the above. Blackstone just invested $18.7 billion in boring, boxy, windowless warehouse space. 179 million square feet of it, to be exact.
Why? The answer is simple: e-commerce logistics.

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Payment Technologies Seeing A Flurry of M&A Activity

Payment services like PayPal, Square and Venmo have revolutionized the way we pay for goods and services, allowing retailers to conduct business seamlessly both online and in-person. The payment industry overall has taken a definitive turn away from cash in recent years, with retailers moving to solutions that support an omnichannel model, and investors have responded accordingly.
Venture capitalists have jumped head-long into the $1.9 trillion dollar payments and processing industry, and have been rewarded handsomely with billions of dollars in VC funding. Nearly $18.5 billion was invested in the sector in 2018, a 500% increase from 2017. That trend has, in turn, resulted in a flurry of M&A activity, with little sign of slowing down.

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What will 5G mean for the future of M&A?

Over the past couple of weeks, the airwaves have been flooded with news regarding the ongoing U.S. ban of Chinese telecom giant and 5G pioneer Huawei. While the current ban might have slowed down the implementation of 5G in the U.S. slightly for now, it is only a matter of time before the blazing-fast next-gen networks begin to roll out.
5G is set to be one of the most game-changing technological advancements of the decade. With speeds up to 100x faster than 4G it will make ultra-high-speed internet – measurably faster than most current Wi-Fi networks – available over the airwaves.

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