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Responding to Criticism of FP&A

By Karl Kern, Founder/President, Kern Analytics LLC

Criticism is defined as “the expression of disapproval of something based on perceived mistakes.”  FP&A is a learning process that creates insight into what organizations are doing and where they are going. Processes are not perfect; mistakes are likely to occur.  As a result, FP&A practitioners need to recognize that their work is subject to criticism.  It is important therefore to acknowledge criticism and respond to it.

 

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Puzzles, Mysteries, and Big Data

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

Last week I led a workshop on management reporting at the IMA Northern Lights Council’s annual seminar in Minneapolis. While there, I had the opportunity to sit in on several excellent presentations. One of them was Toby Groves’s overview of big data, a powerful software tool that has rightfully gotten much attention, but also has inherent limitations. It sometimes takes real wisdom and willpower to see when we should stop using big data.

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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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.

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