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As people who read my intermittent views on the world of BI and analytics will know, it is my view that the era of selling capability rather than an out of the box solution should by now be past. I have written about Graymatter before, when I was introduced to their excellent package of analytics for managing an airport, and now they have shown me their take on Finance analytics. I have to report that I am once more impressed, because what is on offer here is a ready to use solution that covers the needs of a finance user in truly comprehensive out-of-the-box fashion. By which I mean that it offers prebuilt, dashboard, reports, what if scenarios, and advanced analytics specifically designed to promote best practice. By offering this in an out-of-the-box fashion they are guaranteeing that you should be up and running in 4 to 6 weeks. Having spent my early years working for a consultancy, where we regularly would spend 6 to 9 months with a team of 20 plus to implement the reporting elements once a new accounting package was introduced, this is something that really impresses me. Even more assuring to the vast majority of users is that the solution is built using SAP and Microsoft BI tools as the basis. SAP being both one of the most significant players in the enterprise accounting market, and also being a leading BI platform, and Microsoft being just about the most familiar tool to most enterprise users, all of this means that for the majority of users this is what you want to hear. You have one partner to deal with, using the core products that you rely upon, and they are delivering what you require in a rapid assured fashion, with annual maintenance taking care of the long-term cost of ownership worry as well.
As with any modern solution at the top most layer there is a finance dashboard that provides a graphical oversight of the company’s situation; so at a glance executives can see the current state of the financial health of the company, and any areas of concern are drawn to their attention without the need to wade through mountains of data in search of the vital information to make a timely decision. There are then the dashboards which summarise the situation in each of the major areas covered by the key ledgers, be that Payables, Sales revenue, Receivables etc. Below the dashboards there are then the supporting reports that detail the data that underpins the information in the dashboard.
The advantage of the build being presented like this is that one of the key challenges I have experienced is being given a major boost, which is that the KPIs are being presented to the users. All too often users have major problems in identifying KPIs at the right level, with people either selecting too few so that significant areas are not covered, or so many that they are no longer levers that can be adjusted to address issues, but instead they become part of the general morass of data being presented to managers to try and decipher. Equally Graymatter are explicitly providing standardised data definitions and rules, which are another area of potential confusion to many users who struggle to clearly identify what needs to be in a rule, and how to standardise definition and not rely on local interpretation.
Equally impressive is that the out-of-the-box capability includes what-if analysis to help people to recognise the value of not just reacting to historic events by using the data to predict future outcomes and model how to react in a fast moving world. The analytics includes the really valuable insight that comes from OLAP analysis, the presentation of the facts in cubes with all of the facts being presented by the various measures that you are interested in, be that region, data, department etc so that you can slice and dice through the data to really understand trends and variances and cut through the complexity to build the level of understanding that leads to effective outcomes, where the business controls events and as so often seems to be the way of things that people react unknowingly to complex events after the event with very limited understanding.
The Graymatter solution is remarkably comprehensive including all of the latest key requirements including mobile BI so that the solutions can be presented to managers on the iPads that now seem to be such a vital corporate tool of senior management. Equally the package also offers full integration back into MS Office that is still so key to many of the day-to-day running of finance departments.
This is the sort of solution that I have in mind when I call on people to stop just selling capability and move to selling solutions, it is comprehensive, it is quick to deliver value, it covers all of the bases, it provides a solid basis for moving to class leading behaviour. It appears to address all that I would ask of such a solution and I cannot say much more than that it looks to be a complete solution and deserves to be on everyone’s radar if you are in the market for such a solution. Graymatter have proven with their Airport management solution that they are not a one trick show, they are a long term partner, and equally they have proven that this is not going to be marketing vapourware but a real business answer to real use cases felt by so many. I think anyone in the market for such a solution should take this very seriously.