Black Swans, Big Data, Our Intuition, and the "Birthday Paradox"

Randall Bolten, longtime Silicon Valley CFO, author of "Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You” and adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley Extension

SPOILER ALERT: This post is based on a fascinating old riddle. If you want to play along, cover up all but the first paragraph below and ponder it.

At a dinner party last night, one of the guests posed a question: Imagine a roomful of people chosen at random. How many people need to be in the room for there to be at least a 50% probability that at least two of the people have the same birthday? (For you smarties in the audience, that’s birthday, NOT birthdate, and the room contains no twins, triplets, etc.)

RANDALL BOLTEN grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a CIA intelligence officer and a history professor. He is passionate about the importance of presenting financials and other numerical information in a cogent and effective way, and in his current life is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

He is a seasoned financial executive, with many years directing the financial and other operations of high-technology companies. His experience includes nearly twenty years as a chief financial officer of software companies.

He has held the CFO position at public companies BroadVision and Phoenix Technologies, and at private companies including Arcot Systems, BioCAD, and Teknekron. Before his CFO positions, he held senior financial management positions at Oracle and Tandem Computers.

He received his AB from Princeton University, headed west to earn an MBA at Stanford University, and ended up staying in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to writing Painting with Numbers, he currently operates Lucidity, a consulting and executive coaching practice focused on organizing and presenting complex financial information. He divides his work time between Glenbrook, NV and Washington, DC, and maintains an office in Menlo Park, CA.

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The Most Useful Graph Ever

By Randall Bolten, longtime Silicon Valley CFO, author of "Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You,” and adjunct professor at U.C. Berkeley Extension​

Well-designed incentive compensation plans – especially sales commission plans – are an incredibly powerful way to motivate great performance. But designing a great plan is both an art and a science, and prone to design mistakes that are expensive and end up not motivating the desired performance. The commonest and most serious error plan designers make is to lay out the rules before deciding just what it is the enterprise is trying to accomplish. You can avoid that mistake with a simple, straightforward graph that I’ve drawn hundreds of times in my career. Follow these steps:

RANDALL BOLTEN grew up in Washington, D.C., the son of a CIA intelligence officer and a history professor. He is passionate about the importance of presenting financials and other numerical information in a cogent and effective way, and in his current life is the author of Painting with Numbers: Presenting Financials and Other Numbers So People Will Understand You (John Wiley & Sons, 2012).

He is a seasoned financial executive, with many years directing the financial and other operations of high-technology companies. His experience includes nearly twenty years as a chief financial officer of software companies.

He has held the CFO position at public companies BroadVision and Phoenix Technologies, and at private companies including Arcot Systems, BioCAD, and Teknekron. Before his CFO positions, he held senior financial management positions at Oracle and Tandem Computers.

He received his AB from Princeton University, headed west to earn an MBA at Stanford University, and ended up staying in Silicon Valley. 

In addition to writing Painting with Numbers, he currently operates Lucidity, a consulting and executive coaching practice focused on organizing and presenting complex financial information. He divides his work time between Glenbrook, NV and Washington, DC, and maintains an office in Menlo Park, CA.

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Ten Key Considerations for Effective FP&A Communication

By Simone da Silva Collins, Finance Manager, Polycom

Communication is a key soft skill that FP&A professionals should master. Getting it right the first time enables FP&A professionals to be more effective and efficient. Effective communication enhances their integrity and credibility.
Communication is a two way process.  This sounds a cliché but it is true. Communication is not a monologue, even when you are using the written form as I am here. There is the sender and the receiver of the message.

Simone da Silva Collins is an FP&A professional working in Polycom, an industry leader in unified collaboration solutions.

She provides business partnering to various departments of Polycom in EMEA. She was previously the Group Finance Analyst supporting the Executive Team at Intec (now part of CSG), a provider of Business Support System (BSS) software and related services, primarily for the telecommunications industry. She also worked for Telewest (now part of Virgin Media) for over 7 years providing commercial and financial support to the Interconnect team.

Simone is originally from Macau in SE Asia. She gained her Masters at Manchester Business School. She has also recently achieved FP&A accreditation.

Adding Value to Entrepreneurs through FP&A

By Karl Kern, Founder/President, Kern Analytics LLC

This blog post looks at the ways of how FP&A can help entrepreneurs to accomplish their goals.  

The action that entrepreneurs take is described through financial reports.  Financial reports establish a communication process that reveals what entrepreneurs want to do and how they will do it.  Financial reports also establish a learning process that provides insight into the ability to achieve objectives.  
These processes are linked to the value proposition that entrepreneurs present.  What entrepreneurs present is a value proposition that creates wins for stakeholders.

 

Three Stages of Rolling Forecast Maturity

By Larysa Melnychuk, Managing Director at FP&A Trends group

Rolling Forecasts  are an essential tool for financial planning and analysis (FP&A), with a potential to radically transform corporates’ traditional budgeting process.
The London FP&A Board of senior practitioners’ most recent meeting focused on why Rolling Forecasts  are ideal for financial planning and analysis (FP&A) professionals. It also discussed best practice and the ‘Three Stages of Rolling Forecast Maturity’ model, summarised in this article.

The latest meeting was again jointly sponsored by Metapraxis, the consultancy, analytics for financial professionals and software provider and Michael Page, the global specialist recruitment firm.

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