Tips For Using Spreadsheets For Business Intelligence, Compliance, And Risk Management

Chris McClean

My colleague Boris Evelson, who covers business intelligence for Forrester and serves business process professionals, recently wrote a great post about the use of spreadsheets for business intelligence. He explains that while many BI vendors initially sought to replace spreadsheets in the corporate environment, it's now clear that they are not going anywhere any time soon.

Sound familiar? While many governance, risk, and compliance professionals and GRC vendors continue to work toward helping customers consolidate data and move away from spreadsheets, they are still basically ubiquitous. In fact, several of the top GRC vendors are now working to improve the way their tools interface with Excel... Not just for exporting reports, but for data input and analysis as well.

I recommend reading Boris' post, where he details three best practices regarding the use of spreadsheets for BI:

  1. Create spreadsheet governance policies.
  2. Monitor and enforce compliance with those policies.
  3. Give preference to vendors that work well with spreadsheets.

Creating clear policies for what information will and will not be managed on spreadsheets is critical here, and extremely important for the GRC universe. Unless you have specially-built controls, spreadsheets do not give you the level of security, access control, change control, or audit trail you should have for data related to compliance or risk management. Knowing Office tools are going to be handling substantial amounts of important information for the foreseeable future, so it's worthwhile to review and update your policies and make sure they are being appropriately enforced.

SAP’s European Leaders Describe Its More Customer-Centric Approach

Duncan Jones

I joined an impressively large crowd at SAP’s World Tour event in Birmingham,UK, last week and was able to spend an hour with Tim Noble, head of SAP’s UK and Ireland business unit, and Chris McLain, who leads SAP’s team focusing on its 150 largest accounts in EMEA. I'm writing an update of my 2007 report "Effective SAP Pricing And Licensing Negotiation" and wanted to know what they thought about the clash between traditional deal-based sales incentives and Forrester’s clients’ need for commercial flexibility and more recognition, by their key software providers, of the wider relationship. It’s a topic I’ve raised before (http://blogs.forrester.com/duncan_jones/10-03-19-open_letter_season_sap), and I was very pleased to hear some things that SAP is doing to reduce this conflict.

I explained why, from my research, software vendors’ insatiable craving for recognizable license revenue at the expense of creating shared incentives for success is damaging to customers and to the vendor. Both Tim and Chris clearly understand the problem. Tim keeps reps on the same accounts for several years and rewards them for metrics such as customer satisfaction to avoid the revolving door sell-and-run approach that characterized software selling before the advent of SaaS. Chris has a team of Global Account Directors that works with local sales, pre-sales, and delivery teams to provide the holistic view that Forrester clients want and struggle to get from SAP’s competitors.

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Open Cities, Smart Cities: Data Drives Smart City Initiatives

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

[co-authored with Eddie Radcliffe]

Last year, Internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee called for access to raw data as the next step in the evolution of the Internet. Apparently Transport For London (TFL, UK) was listening and has recently opened its doors to the commercial use of large amounts of primary data sets and live feeds. The data newly available includes: tube and train traffic data, feeds from live traffic cameras, Oyster card top-up locations, pier and station locations, cycle hire locations, and riverboat timetables. Following this up, TFL has announced plans to release further information on bus stops, routes, timetables and schedules. Access to this data represents an opportunity for developers to create travel applications based on real-time information. In one such example a web-based mash-up plots the approximate position of every single underground train. While interesting to Londoners who may be able to navigate their morning commute a little better (there's still no escaping the inevitable squeeze on the Central Line), this is a compelling move by TFL to allow access to the same data it uses to power its own information boards. As we see it, such access:

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Lest We Forget SAP

John R. Rymer

The "smart money" seems to be betting against SAP. I hear all the time about the company's bleak prospects for the future. A client conversation last week reminded me of how strong SAP’s position is, despite its many issues.

This client, a worldwide manufacturer, is investing hundreds of millions of dollars in SAP software for its worldwide supply chain, financial management and reporting, inventory and order management, etc. The new SAP environment will replace hundreds of disparate applications and, ideally, result in far more efficient operations, far better visibility into operations, and far more uniform products around the world. The members of this client’s SAP implementation team have finished SAP implementation marathons before (at other employers). They know the good, the bad, the ugly.

In this manufacturer, SAP is sticky for four reasons.

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Best practices for using spreadsheets as BI tools

Boris Evelson

By Boris Evelson

We all know that the war of fighting the proliferation of spreadsheets (as BI or as any other applications) in enterprises has been fought and lost. Gone are the days when BI and performance management vendors web sites had “let us come in and help you get rid of your spreadsheets” message in big bold letters on front pages. In my personal experience – implementing hundreds of BI platforms and solutions – the more BI apps you deliver, the more spreadsheets you end up with. Rolling out a BI application often just means an easier way for someone to access and export data to a spreadsheet. Even though some of the in memory analytics tools are beginning to chip away at the main reasons why spreadsheets in BI are so ubiquitous  (self service BI with no modeling or analysis constraints, and little to no reliance on IT), the spreadsheets for BI are here to stay for a long, long, long time.

With that in mind, let me offer a few best practices for controlling and managing (not getting rid of !) spreadsheets as a BI tool:

  1. Create a spreadsheet governance policy. Make it flexible – if it’s not, people will fight it. Here are a few examples of such policies:
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that support processes that do not go beyond individuals or small work groups vs. cross functional, cross enterprise processes  
    • - Spreadsheets can be used for reporting and analysis that are not part of mission critical processes
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Oracle OBIEE 11g Launch: "We are back!"

Boris Evelson

Whoever said BI market is commoditizing, consolidating and getting very mature? Nothing can be farther from the truth. On the buy side, Forrester still sees tons of less-than-successful BI environments, applications and implementations as demonstrated by Forrester's recent BI Maturity survey. On the vendor/sell side, Forrester also sees a flurry of activity from the startups, small vendors and large, leading BI vendors constantly leapfrogging each other with every major and minor release.

In terms of the amount of BI activity that Forrester sees from our clients (from inquiries, advisories and consulting) there’s no question that SAP BusinessObjects and IBM Cognos continue to dominate client interest. Over the past couple of years Microsoft has typically taken the third place, SAS  fourth place and Oracle the distant fifth. But ever since Siebel and Hyperion acquisitions, the landscape has been changing, and we now often see Oracle jumping into third place, sometimes leapfrogging even Microsoft in the levels of monthly interest from Forrester clients.

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Metadata Investments Are Difficult To Justify To The Business

Henry Peyret

Rob Karel and I (thanks to Rob) recently published the second document in a series on metadata, Best Practices: Establish Your Metadata Plan, after a document about metadata strategy. This document:

  • Broadens the definition of metadata beyond “data on data” to include business rules, process models, application parameters, application rights, and policies.
  • Provides guidance to help evangelize to the business the importance of metadata, not by talking about metadata but by pointing out the value it provides against risks.
  • Recommends demonstrating to IT the transversality of metadata to IT internal siloed systems.
  • Advocates extending data governance to include metadata. The main impact of data governance should be to build the life cycle for metadata, but data governance evangelists reserve little concern for metadata at this point.

 

I will co-author the next document on metadata with Gene Leganza; this document will develop the next practice metadata architecture based partially but not only on a metadata exchange infrastructure. For a lot of people, metadata architecture is a Holy Grail. The upcoming document will demonstrate that metadata architecture will become an important step to ease the trend called “industrialization of IT,” sometimes also called “ERP for IT” or “Lean IT.”

In preparation for this upcoming document, please share with us your own experiences in bringing more attention to metadata.

Ensure Your Software Reseller Can Overcome Its Potential Conflict Of Interest

Duncan Jones

Yesterday I attended Computacenter’s Analyst Event. It’s a major independent provider of IT infrastructure services in Europe, ranging from reselling hardware and software to managing data centers and providing outsourced desktop management. My main interest was how it manages the potential conflict between properly advising the client and maximizing revenue from selling software. For instance, clients often ask me if it's dangerous to employ their value-added reseller (VAR) to advise them on license management in case the reseller tips off its vendors about a potential source of licence revenue.

An excellent customer case study at the event provided another example. A UK water company engaged Computacenter to implement a new desktop strategy involving 90% fully virtualized thin clients. Such a project creates major licensing challenges on both the desktop and server sides, because the software companies haven’t enhanced their models to properly cope with this scenario. The VAR’s dilemma is whether to design a solution that will be cheapest for the customer or one that will be most lucrative for itself.

As we said in our recent report “Refresher Course: Hiring VARs,” sourcing managers should decide whether they want their VARs to provide design and integration services like these or merely process orders at a minimum margin.

Computacenter will do either, but they clearly want to do more of the VA part and less (proportionately) of the R. So, according to their executives, they have no hesitation doing what is best for the customer even if it reduces their commission in the short term. But they didn’t think many of their competitors would take the same view.

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What BigFix Adds To IBM’s Portfolio Of Green IT Products And Services

Doug Washburn

Today, IBM announced its acquisition of BigFix, an established client and security management suite vendor. Beyond gaining BigFix’s core competencies in securing and managing client devices and servers, the acquisition adds PC power management* to IBM’s already broad portfolio of green IT products and services.

So why is PC power management important to IBM customers?

While IBM already offers its customers energy-efficient servers and their “Tivoli Monitoring for Energy Management” software for the data center, bigger opportunities for savings exist across distributed IT assets, like PCs, monitors, phones, and printers. In fact, Forrester finds that distributed IT assets consume 55% of IT’s total energy footprint versus only 45% in the data center. And the extent of these savings can add up. For example, BigFix cites a large US public school district with 80,000 PCs saving $2.1 million in annual energy costs (or $26 per PC per year) using BigFix’s Power Management software.

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Will Russia Really Change? Cisco Places Its Bet. But Seeing Is Believing.

Jennifer Belissent, Ph.D.

Russian president Dmitry Medvedev toured Silicon Valley last week, meeting with tech vendor executives and local entrepreneurs.  At Cisco, Medvedev participated in a telepresence session and used a Flip video camera for the first time. He met with representatives of public organizations and academic and business circles at Stanford University.  And, more informally, AmBAR, the American Business Association of Russian-Speaking Professionals, hosted a session in a café in Palo Alto with local students and entrepreneurs.  In each setting, the Russian president hoped to gain an understanding of what makes the Silicon Valley tick and glean some of the best practices developed in the region to take home and apply to his new Skolkovo initiative.  He has been talking about diversifying the economy for some time.  But with this initiative he has plans to develop a Russian “Silicon Valley” just outside of Moscow.  This new “inno-grad” (from “innovation” and the Russian word for city – think Leningrad) will promote Medvedev’s new modernization directions, including advancements in IT, telecommunications, and also biomedical and nuclear technologies. He aims to attract local and foreign high-tech companies with infrastructure, tax incentives, and other government support.  

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