Performance tools rank high on the IT spending priority list

Two organizations say corporate performance management (CPM) software represented a wise investment.

For several years, the Edmonton-based Alberta Worker’s Compensation Board (AWCB) used a balanced scorecard approach to measure how their operating plans aligned with their corporate objectives. But the information derived from those measurements gradually became a burden, said Dirk Smith, the AWCB’s director of program development and risk management.

“As information flows upward in the organization, it gets packaged into smaller details,” he explained, adding that there was no way of streamlining the information so that senior executives got the more general items they needed.

Duplication of information was another problem. “You’re constantly replicating data descriptions, so often you get almost the same measurements on multiple score cards.” Storage was also being strained, Smith said. “We all ended up storing the exact same information, and instead of having a corporate repository, we created individual repositories,” he said.

Mike Smith, corporate performance management product marketing manager for Ottawa-based business intelligence software vendor Cognos Corp., said his firm’s CPM solutions were able to address all of these issues. By using Cognos Metrics Manager, which presents plans or strategies as a set of inter-connected performance indicators, executives without a lot of time to peruse full reports can “start at the summary, find out what the problems are, and move to specific parts of the report. It gives you that kind of big picture of how your organization is performing, and where problems are, and allows you to then look at them in more detail.”

ACWB’s Smith said the move to a CPM solution was “a natural evolution” for his organization. Metrics Manager has become for AWCB a “daily interactive management tool,” he said, explaining that performance can be evaluated in real-time. “This way we get away from a paper copy of a report that comes out monthly and we have one chart with all the information on it.”

Users can click on a particular metric on the chart to compare performance to previous years, and from there they can e-mail questions to those responsible for certain measurements. The questions and answers are saved, so that “others can see answers to that question and track through them,” rather than re-asking the question.

Scotia Capital, the corporate and investment banking arm of Toronto-based Scotiabank Group, is using a performance management solution by enterprise analytics software vendor Inea. Scotia Capital’s Mike Krupanszky, assistant general manager for performance management, said the financial institution was using spreadsheets for its financial planning and forecasting. One spreadsheet would contain the consolidated numbers, and other spreadsheets contained the details. A change made in one but not the other “caused confusion when the detailed spreadsheets didn’t total up to the numbers in the big one….We wanted to eliminate as many spreadsheets as we could and present a consolidated, consistent view of our results to our finance and business senior management,” he said.

Scotia Capital looked at another bank’s request for proposal before choosing Inea Performance Management Suite, which now “provides a consistent view of information – people are going in and seeing the numbers from a reporting standpoint in same fashion that they can see the forecast and for planning purposes.”

CPM was high on the list for Scotia Capital because it addressed some issues related to customer satisfaction, Krupanszky said. The bank had conducted a customer survey asking senior executives how they felt about the bank’s ability to provide information. Between their expectations and the bank’s abilities lay “a pretty big gap,” he said. “One of the things they said was, ‘The financials we get from you are bad, confusing, and we don’t trust them.’ After that, my boss made management information systems – related to performance measurement – the top objective for our division for that year.”

Nevertheless, Krupanszky said IT managers should be prepared not to see early adoption of CPM by others in their organizations. “Regardless of whether (users) realize that the process they’re going through and the things they’re doing now are slow, clunky and inefficient, they’re comfortable with them, and trying to get them to change takes time. You’ve got to be willing to work with them closely to show them how this new system is going to be better for them.”

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