Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Xcelsius 2008

Xcelsius 2008 is the software that integrated with Excel. It has dynamic and customizable data visualization that enables users of different skill levels to create insightful and engaging dashboards from any data source with point-and-click ease. Xcelsius 2008 is making it easier than ever to put the power of relevant intelligent information into the hands of business users.

I am so satisfied with this software. It helps a lot with my work especially with the CEOs. My CEOs have problem with seeing lots of data, short span of attention and short span of memory are their chronic illness since they sat on top management [I guess we all do when we're in their position], they just want to point and click to know what happen in the company. This software is an answer to that.

Unfortunately, not every kind of analysis and modelling can be put in Xcelsius. Usually I only use Xcelsius when I have reports that already have standard format, my job is only to update it regularly.

The list of appropriate use for this software are:

1. the KPI dashboard of every divisions or business units.

2. the Sales performance reviews by branches, regions, products.

3. the Financial performance reviews

4. Profitability Analysis

5. The budget vs actual reviews on expense, sales, profit, etc.

view demo [you must have flash player installed in web browser]

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Why a Changing Heart?

On June 12, 2008 I got a final call from a CPO company; they said that they already accept me for a financial analyst position. This company is a subsidiary from a Singapore listed company. The owner is one of the conglomerates in this country.

I feel excited but also sad, because this means these days are my last days in this company. I have so many good memories here with my co-workers.

As a business development or someone who assist the CEOs to make decisions, I feel that expanding my knowledge horizon is very important. We must become a generalist, not a specialist. That is one main reason why I will accept the job in that company.

I already had certain knowledge about transportation industry, including 3PL and operating lease from my current company. If there is an opportunity to know other industries, I think I will take it.

In this case, I will get the opportunity to learn about CPO [Crude Palm Oil] industries. The CPO company itself is a major vertically integrated agribusiness group with principal activities that span from research and development, oil palm seed breeding, oil palm cultivation and milling to the refining, branding and marketing of cooking oil, margarine, shortening and other palm oil derivative products. The Group is also a producer of Crude Coconut Oil in Indonesia.

My position as a financial analyst will be much likely the same, assist in drawing in-depth conclusions and make recommendations to Board of Directors from financial, operating and planning data; also involve in some projects to acquire or build new business units.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My Comfort Zone

I found this quotes in pravsworld.com, and I think it is very precise for me. This quote tells exactly how I felt. I want to take this quote as my resignation letter.

“I used to have a comfort zone where I knew I wouldn’t fail.
The same four walls and busywork were really more like jail.
I longed so much to do the things I’d never done before,
But stayed inside my comfort zone and paced the same old floor.

I said it didn’t matter that I wasn’t doing much.
I said I didn’t care for things like commission checks and such.
I claimed to be so busy with the things inside the zone,
But deep inside I longed for something special of my own.

I couldn’t let my life go by just watching others win.
I held my breath; I stepped outside and let the change begin.
I took a step and with new strength I’d never felt before,
I kissed my comfort zone goodbye and closed and locked the door.

If you’re in a comfort zone, afraid to venture out,
Remember that all winners were at one time filled with doubt.
A step or two and words of praise can make your dreams come true.
Reach for your future with a smile; success is there for you!”

Working in my company right now is like being in the comfort zone. I know my work very well and the people I work with are very predictable. I don’t say that work here is not challenging, I learn a lot last year. But ever since this company strategy is changing from expand the business portfolio to only maintain it, I feel that my learning curve is mature, and it’s time to move on.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Survival Books in The Corporate World

In this post I am not going to tell you to read ‘boring’ management books. Probably you know about those books more than me.

I will tell you to read books that are not theoretical, not boring; in fact it will be the most fun books you’ve ever read.

I like to read witty and humorous books about corporate world. Sometimes I need that to understand our CEOs perspective or to analyze what’s going on in the board room. What are those books?

What would Machiavelli Do? By Stanley Bing
This book is brutal, witty, to the point, and sarcastic. Don’t ever be too serious in practicing what’s in this book. Use this book as your guidance to understand some weird act of your CEOs. Maybe they have been practicing one of Machiavelli method.
I keep this book as my ‘bible’ to sail the corporate world, especially as the ‘CEO Prompter’.
So, What Would Machiavelli Do?
  1. He would realize that loving yourself means never having to say you're sorry He would feast on other people's discord
  2. He would establish and maintain a psychotic level of control
  3. He wouldn't exactly seek the company of ass-kissers and bimbos, but he wouldn't reject them out of hand either
  4. He would kill people, but only if he could feel good about himself afterward
  5. He would use other people's opinions to sell his book!

The Dilbert Principles, By Scott Adams
If Stanley Bing writes how to be a Machiavellian leader, Scott Adams writes from the workers point of view. The "Dilbert Principle" say that the most ineffective workers are systematically moved to the place where they can do the least damage: management.

Chapters include such titles as "Pretending To Work," "Machiavellian Methods," and "Engineers, Scientists, Programmers, and Other Odd People." The book is full with such advice as "The worth of any project is how it will sound on your resume" and "Never walk down the hall without a document in your hand". He stresses the importance of using the business jargon as often as possible and discusses the value of computers in pretending to be busy. We all familiar with this cynical, satirical story of corporate life. This book is very funny.

The World is Flat, By Thomas L. Friedman.
You can come out from your ‘cubicles’ and see what’s going on around the globe by reading this book. Soon, how the world works will be changing dramatically and of course we don’t want to ‘miss the train’. We must change how we think and how we act, because the world is also changing rapidly.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Must Have Internet Software

Internet is one of the important needs for a BD analyst. How can we learn about new concept or ideas if we don’t have internet? How can we think outside the box if we just sit in our cubicles and in front of the ‘offline’ computer?

We can’t depend on books and training, it is obsolete. Internet is the new world, and with it we can change how we work, how we think, and how we deal with problems. I usually just goggling someone or something that I want to know.

There are some software that you need if you want to safe your time researching the internet.
  1. Internet Download Manager
    A must have one, because it is faster and reliable, and you also can retrieve the entire website if you want with IDM.
  2. AVG Anti-Virus Software
    There is a free edition for this software that you can download in its website, but it is better to buy the complete package. Internet is also risky with new kind of viruses or Trojan. You never know what hits you until all your data are lost.
  3. Internet Explorer 7 or Mozilla Firefox
    The IE 7 and Mozilla are the faster and more secure way to surf the web. It can prompt or give a warning if there is some program force to download.
  4. Adobe Acrobat Reader
    You must have this software in order to read some documents downloaded from the net.
  5. WinZip or WinRar
    Some documents that are in .zip or .rar format needs to extract with this software.
  6. Flash Player
    Surfing the net is not fun without Flash Player. You can make some presentation in Flash Player too for more interactive performance.

    The lists are still long if you want to have an advanced experience surfing the net. Maybe you can help me add some.

Network Planning & Development Project

My company had already built 23 branches all over the country since 1980s. Due to our business expansion, it was easy to define where we wanted to build new branches. We also didn’t really care about the feasibility study. Usually we just did the market study and estimated how big the potential market in that area is.

This day, with fierce competition in operating lease business, it is possible to build a new branch of course, but we must act more carefully to estimate the initial investment, payback period of that branch, sales target, and many things else.

I think the company didn’t think or concern about this earlier because our CEOs background mostly from sales or operation. Usually they just see from the opportunity but didn’t go detail about the financing concern.

We highlight this concern in Business Process Reengineering [BPR] project. Network Planning & Development is one of the projects that still on going in my company.

The idea is if we have potential market in one area, we can’t just decide to build a branch there only based on market study. We must consider the financial study and make a feasibility study.

The global concept is like this:

So, the output or deliverables in this project are:

  1. Branch Classification
    We made a branch classification matrix based on Unit in Operation numbers and percentage of sales dealing. We follow-up this classification to define the branch man power standard, office and building facilities, benefit and employee level for every branch class.

  2. Man Power Standard
    Together with HR department, we made a Man Power Standard. Each branch has different class, therefore we define different standard for them. Example, a 90% sales dealing and a big branch can’t have junior administration head; it must have a senior and maybe an assistant too.
    With this, we also can make their career path, they can start from branch that has lower classification and then climb up to higher branch class.

  3. Office Facilities Standard
    Building and office facilities will be varied depend on the branch classification.

  4. Template of Feasibility Study
    Now, this is the difficult one. The effort to build this template has to make me learn again about Excel function in more advance way.

    Generally, I am proud of the project result, because right now, it is possible to make a financial projection to build a branch.
    The Feasibility templates will calculate:Profit and Loss Projection for 5 year; Cash Flow projection; Loan Payment Schedules; Sales target and Cost budgeting; Payback period [for op lease branch 5 year pp is not enough ^_^]; IRR; and NPV.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Knowledge Management Portal

Employee turn over rate in my company this year is nearly 25%, the usual turn over is 10%. The HR department is starting to feel overwhelm to recruit new candidates. [Poor ‘wally’ ;p]

As a ‘CEO Prompter’ like everybody said, I don’t have the accurate analysis of why this thing happen. Many factors have caused it; hijack from our competitor and not satisfied with the leadership maybe are the major reasons with the leave.

New employee needs to be taught about how this company works. They must learn the operating procedure, monthly performance report, department policies, job descriptions and many thing else.

Sometimes the transfer knowledge from the former employee is not completed. So, this new employee has to learn from the start. They must even build again some simple analysis or report template because they don’t know that it had been done before.

We suggest our CEOs to build a knowledge management portal in the intranet. So everyone from all over the branches can have an online learning portal about the procedure, policies, job descriptions, and even can download some work templates.

The idea of this portal is simple. We just design a user friendly intranet where user can browse everything they want to know. We put all the documents, templates, and procedures in the portal, so authorized user can download it. There will be no hassle, no repetitive work, and new employee can make a productive work immediately.

The follow-up idea for this KM portal is to make a ‘dashboard’ for everyone so they know the company performance and have a broad view outside their department.

Of course there is some concern about data security. What happen if the employee got hijack by our competitor and they brought all this knowledge?

But my answer is this; the competitor can have all the documents, policies, operating procedures, and even the employee; but in the service business ‘the brand image’, the work culture, and the system can’t be easily copied.

If we consider the risk and benefit, like my favorite CEO one said, “I worried more about calculating the wrong cost structure because our sales lack of knowledge, compare to that knowledge steal by our competitor”. Organization and its knowledge are always changing and evolving, so today solution is a tomorrow problem. Why we must worry?

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Order Generation & Customer Analysis

“Nothing new under the sun” The quote reminds me of this project. My company had been a market leader in car operating lease since its establishment.

Our way of selling the services, which are: car for long term leasing, car rental, and driver services, is the proven way until recently. Today, our consultant for BPR brought a new idea about selling [not so new because many companies had already done this, ex: IBM]. They told us not to ‘selling boxes’ anymore, instead we must transform to ‘consultative selling’.

Selling boxes is to sell what we have to customer and pay little regard to what they need. Example: we have Toyota or Daihatsu brand, so that’s what we offer to customer. We don’t care about helping our customer reach the cost efficiency in their fleet management.

Consultative selling in the other hand is we observe the customer problems first, and then offer the right solution. We answer their problem using our expertise in fleet management.

The results for this method are our customer will have more efficient fleet cost, reduce lead time, transfer the transportation risk, and fewer headaches. [But more headaches and risk in us ^_^]
Of course we charge management fee for this ‘added value’ services, and we can create bigger profit for this services because the customer can’t compare the price to other competitor. If we still selling boxes, then the customer are always choose the cheaper one.

Our CEOs are very interested in this concept, so do our divisions head.
They don’t realize that this concept was already proposed by our former boss last year and the year before. [Maybe that’s why he quitted ^_^]

My conclusion is, for a concept or an idea to become acceptable, all depends on who is the ‘singer’. The consultant in this case, is the stranger with a briefcase; we have more trust in outside appearance than in the inside.

Maybe after this, I’ll work with Consultant, so my voice will be heard even tough I’m ‘singing’ the same song. ^_^!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

P2P: Pay to Perform

“Pay peanut, get monkey” Do you familiar with this quotes?

A company can get a low pay employee to do a job, but don’t expect a high quality result.

Actually, the salaries in my company is not bad, many people say it is above average if we add other benefits beside money. For example: the 8 to 5 working hour, rarely overtime, internet access, no fierce competition among co worker, etc.

What I learned after working for several companies is this, if the company doesn’t have the accurate tools to measure your performance, it is better to negotiate the salary as high as possible on the first time. It is because later you cannot be sure how you can climb the corporate ladder or get a salary raise, so better to get what you want from the start.
There are some big companies that still don’t have a KPI for every position. In this case, when doing the performance analysis for employee they tend to be subjective or they measure the ‘wrong’ KPI, like lateness, absence report, etc.

How can you perform, if the only measure for your salaries future is the absence report? That’s why you must put everything in early salary negotiation.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Standard Costing & Pricing

Not every business has a standard price for their product or service, especially service business. They can’t just put price tags or price menu for all their services. One particular business that has a very customize pricing is 3PL [Third Party Logistics], this includes transportation and vehicle operating lease. This is happen because the cost for selling the service itself wide-ranging.

So, estimating how much we want to sell for our services depend on how much the cost [cost plus method]. Also, for some companies, they also decide by seeing who the customer is [cost to serve method].

Cost estimating and analysis is challenging for many companies including mine. We got a long term impact from the risk in doing wrong cost estimation. Operating Lease business is a long term contract and we feel the impact, if we are wrong in setting the price, in the end of the contract.

One of our BPR project is to make standard calculation for costing and pricing. So every branch will have the same method when they calculating the cost and the price. We made standard of how to calculate all the cost factors not on the pricing itself.

We also going to record the cost structure in our system [SAP], so every key person knows how much the budget for each customer. The objective for this is to control the margin. For example, if we set a maintenance cost for US$ 5000 a year, then we can compare it with the actual cost in that year.

This is an important project and very complex because we must combining ideas from the entire key person. Also, changing the culture and made people do the new calculating standard is even more challenging.

I just hope that our CEOs have a commitment to make every one doing this. We are just the CEO prompter; the one who assist with the concept and do the paper work; in the end, it is the CEO who must ‘sing’ the concept to everyone.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Microsoft Excel - The blood of BD Analyst

Can you imagine doing an analysis work without software like Excel? A one day job of data analysis can be one week or even a month, what a waste of time.

As a business development analyst, I deal with a lot amount of data. Our job is to make that data useful information to make decision. Sometimes, if we already know what we are going to do with that data, it is a simple work with Excel. But many times, I must clean up the data, think about what kind analysis is the most appropriate, and build the modeling calculation in Excel.

I must say that Excel has help me a lot and I am still try to use it to the fullest.

Kinds of analysis or modeling that I usually made:
  1. Feasibility Study : this was the most comprehensive one I ever build.
  2. Capital Budgeting : for make decision to buy or lease a machine or vehicle or any kind of investment.
  3. Corporate Valuation : to decide whether how much the value of one company, usually we use this if we want to buy or sell a company.
  4. Incentive design : I build this for our new sales incentive scheme.
  5. and much more [I usually start some simple analysis and then develop it to a more complex one]