How Simple Reporting Software can make YOU the VP of something Important
How reporting software got cheap and simple enough to help YOU become the VP of something important.
This paper provides a summary on how to use simple analytic software as one of the stepping- stones to get noticed, promoted or at least the skills to get a better job that pays more.
I often say:
The best among us are usually school-teachers, public servants, or members of Peace Corps, the rest of us need to make money.
It is true, so my hope is that this provides a path on how to create your own luck and how to use analytic reporting tools to your advantage.
I know the subject well because I have been looking after Hyperion, SSAS, TM1, SQL, Power BI, OBIEE and other reporting skills since the year 2000. First as a Hyperion sales rep. then starting in 2002 as a headhunter / consulting company operator, so I know what has worked for many other people and I want to share with you what I learned.
I have helped 100’s of people apply their analytic skills to get to better positions within companies and grow their careers. I have helped just as many people move to better jobs with much better titles & compensation plans when companies choose not to keep up with the compensation needs of people who developed analytic skills. Moving is not a giant problem for people with techno / financial skills like Essbase, TM1, SSAS, Power BI, Tableau, Qlik… because these tools make it a lot easier to help them find better jobs. Smart companies always seek people who can cut costs and improve analytics.
Notice I did not mention Excel or other spreadsheet products as an analytic tool. The reason is that while spreadsheets are a part of any desktop, they cannot get you the ability to do serious analytics. Nor do they provide the means to have one version of the truth and eliminate perversions like copy & paste. All too often, spreadsheets get mixed up, corrupted…Get in your head that spreadsheet tools may seem like an easy fix, they are not, they keep you weak and poor. They will cause you to only work late, for no extra money and shame you when you make mistakes. So, I hope you understand that being “Captain Excel” will not get you to the VP level.
There are plenty of analytic tools around that are inexpensive and enormously powerful like SSAS from Microsoft. I am not pitching SSAS, just using it as an example because it is very affordable, included on most corporate MSFT license agreements and easy to get your hands on. If you do not have other tools at your company, it will get you some skills that are bigger than Excel and other spreadsheets, so you can improve yourself.
In general, do not look to the IT group to help you or provide analytics for you, they are already too busy keeping the ledgers running and the other systems in good order. You will have to lead this on your own.
During the years I was a Hyperion rep, I noticed how the people selected to work on the analytic / reporting projects leveraged those skills to leap past others in a corporate structure. These people did not have super- powers but by developing the skills to use software to do janitorial work instead of using spreadsheets, they moved up much faster than the others.
They also got invited to meetings with the “Bosses”, got noticed, networked with other high achievers, and collaborated effectively to get much better raises than their non-analytic peers. This made it very clear to me that the people with hybrid techno / financial skills, have a great deal of potential but that systems skill set could only take them so far, it’s not quite enough; read on for the rest of the personal attributes that make a difference. If you are lacking in some of the skills needed to be a VP, do not be discouraged, they can all be learned it just takes a bit of work.
Within my diverse pool of clients, I learned that as much as clients would try to explain how they were “Different” or “Specialized” they all have one base requirement that analytic systems solved. They needed to gather and present data from lots of separate software systems to help them understand how to make good business decisions. Some clients had lots of products and channels that were complex, but that was just math, which is simple. Getting the data to be presented in an accurate and timely way was the difference maker. The person who could get that data and insight to the masses was generally the “Hybrid Techno/Financial” skillset.
The other thing I noticed is that those who moved up to the VP level took advantage of many tools from many vendors. Keep in mind that as much as any software vendor will want you to believe they have all the tools you will ever need, it’s not the case, and its career suicide to wait for them to develop what you need if the solution already exists elsewhere.
Therefore, it is critical to act and acquire the tools that are available now instead of waiting. Your company’s competition will not wait for your favorite software vendor to get you the tools you need. Your competition will just crush you and drive their shareholder value up, it is what they are supposed to do, and the way capitalism works.
You must always keep an eye out for innovation and pounce on it. Real innovation generally comes from small companies that are in the same ecosystem as big software companies. Big software companies have a lot of reasons not to innovate to meet your needs, often they are just inept. They are just too big to react to market requirements. That is why nimble software companies can grow so quickly, and the innovation cycle goes from there.
Upstart and scrappy software and services companies generally yield the best results, so that is another tip to keep in mind.
Following the herd only leads you to the slaughterhouse. So do not get tied to any one vendor as there are so many good options.
Who advances professionally and who does not:
The ones that move up or at least make a lot more money fall into three basic categories:
- 1. The lucky ones
- 2. The deal makers
- 3. The strivers
1. The Lucky Ones. They are often wicked smart, and lucky enough to be working for a selfless boss that fosters talent and innovation. They also must be surrounded by colleagues and a company culture that has a thirst of innovation. Bosses at these companies are personally secure in their own jobs and are measured in part by helping others achieve. These companies are usually growing quickly so people feel like they have real mentors with opportunities to move up or sideways if they hit a roadblock. I am sad to say that there are very few of these kinds of companies.
My experience is that bosses tend to self-preservation. They want to stay on top of the heap, so a lot of their daily effort is put into maintaining their position. Its natural to do this, there are few jobs for bosses, they have often invested years of effort to be where they are, and they lack the will and skill to otherwise stay relevant. These people need to coast to a dignified retirement if possible. So, they like things to stay the same.
2. The Deal Makers. Those who make alliances or come to some understanding with the top-heavy boss to look after the bosses and concurrently their own interest. This works for perhaps a couple of years, but it turns against you because you become locked in a role to serve one boss who really needs you yet at the same time subjugates you.
That boss cannot let you move up because your hard work keeps them in their position as the boss. So, in this situation you will be at best, well paid but only to the limit that HR allows in the “Banding Chart”. What that means is that the boss has limits on what he or she can do in terms of your compensation based on oversight from HR.
It is a sad & funny thing at the same time, salary banding is really a perverse form of corporate socialism that keeps the masses as downtrodden members of the corporation. I promise you that none of the sr. level employees suffer from salary banding. Banding in my view is counter-productive because those high achievers who can leave for better jobs, do leave for better jobs. The replacements hired are usually paid at the rate the last person wanted, plus the company had to pay a headhunter to find the talent! It is crazy, but lots of perversions happen in the corporate world that make no sense and would enrage the shareholders if they knew.
3. The Strivers. The strivers and innovators who ignore the politics of the status quo and tinker with analytic software tools to create little side projects that benefit the company and build their own skill sets. This improves their resumes so they can be liberated by headhunters who put them in better companies.
I have seen strivers circumvent roadblocks put in their way by perverse bosses who had agendas that did not align with company nor shareholder goals. By delivering solutions, they may have annoyed their current bosses, but large numbers of Users benefited. They also shared their achievement with careful timing. They made sure they got noticed by somebody above their boss, which protects them from being attacked / punished; because they either saved or made the enterprise money. If you need to take the path of being a striver, then only tinker with applications that save or make the company money. They are the only ones that matter.
This takes a bit of extra work. but it is worth it to your professional development. If you do not have the self- starting ambition to better yourself, work some nights & weekends, then you will easily be passed by those who do.
Successful people are generally self- starting strivers. I have noticed that the smarter & harder people work, they luckier and wealthier they are!
The best approach for strivers, is to work on a project quietly, do not waste company resources, learn from failings in a test environment so not to embarrass yourself. Best to only share that analytic accomplishment when its complete and there is measurable benefit to both you and the company. This paper will provide you with some ideas.
There are many stories of smart people who automate large portions of their jobs so they can work on projects and solutions that get them promoted instead of just being busy.
Busy does not pay very well! So be smart instead of busy.
Summary Steps that will help you move up to be a VP of something important:
Expand your tool options, and always be looking for better:
Get in your head that being the best “Techie” of all time is not a path to success nor job security. Some folks have a hard time with that as it looks like being the reporting systems admin. is a safe place to exist, it helps a lot, but you need to stay current on software options that drive efficiency.
Your techno / financial skill set is what really matters. Companies are compelled by the competition and their shareholders to seek ways to cut costs. Globalization dictates that jobs get done by as few humans as possible and that labor be applied in the least expensive geographic location. Financial systems displaced a lot of spreadsheets and bookkeepers in the last 20 years. It also freed smart accountants to work on analytics. It shifted labor to a place of higher value.
Utilities designed for reporting systems make existing tools from Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, SAP…faster cheaper better…and displaces wasted time and effort, so make sure you are using those tools, as there is ALWAYS a budget that can be created for tools that save the company money. www.answer-factory.com is an example. These tools allow you to get reporting tools to adapt more easily and inexpensively to change, eliminate steps like: Hierarchy maintenance, new cube creation with no ETL or metadata process, change calcs. on the fly, add dimensions, automate MDX code…basically renovates instead of replaces your software investment, making YOU look like a hero.
Outsourcing some tasks lets you keep your job and get promoted:
If you are in N. America, you are under pressure from a cost standpoint. To keep you job, you must create the circumstances whereby that job getting done by you or your selected crew is the most cost-effective option for your company. This means that on top of using utilities that make your reporting software more efficient, you must acquire others to do the janitorial side of your job. The other thing that helps you move up is to use outside services to support what you cannot do or are not skilled at. Smart outsourcing of janitorial tasks costs less, so you cannot fight it, you can only manage it, so it does not get you fired.
As soon as you have competent analytic systems skills, you need to shift the lower Admin. work to a service provider that fills gaps you cannot fill and does the grunt work that is keeping you from solving important business issues that get noticed and you a raise & promotion.
The other thing to realize is that having a large staff can make you a target. Large departments are easy to notice and often get reviewed for cost cutting opportunities by CFO’s. For some reason CFO’s are happy to fund projects and consultants instead of headcount, even if it costs more. This is likely due their compensation plans. So, you do NOT want a big staff, you want big achievements and a reputation for helping to grow margins, revenue and cut costs. If you do this, companies will likely pay you very well and let you augment your janitorial systems tasks with vendors. The other good thing about vendors is that if they do not perform to your expectations, they are easy to remove. Removing an employee can sometimes take months or years depending on your company and cause you all kinds of trouble with HR. If you really want to be the boss, use vendors. Lots of staff will just annoy you. An example of smart outsourcing is a company called Ayudatek. www.ayudatek.com .They handle the janitorial Admin work but are vastly different than any other firms. They use a USA only FINRA certified team, and employ BOTS, so the quality is outstanding.
The biggest difference compared to other consulting firms is that Ayudatek protects you from what you can never do and can cause you both functional and political problems. They handle the feeder systems to the analytic systems you use + other financial & operational applications, so they really cover your back and you can avoid the shame, conflict and competition that sometimes comes with dealing with the ERP team. If you have a vendor like Ayudatek working for you, then you always have solutions to problems. This makes you look like a guru instead of a, “One trick pony”, that is easy to replace.
This is vastly different from a single product managed services team, so do not get them confused. Many single product managed services firms attempt to say they are specialized, and that is sort of true. The problem is that most software products interact with other software products, so your managed services company needs to cover a ton of software products or you will have coordinate with multiple managed services vendors and that will cost you a lot more money and stress. So pick a managed services vendor who covers a wide range of products and is FINRA certified.
Ayudatek also performs this work at a price point that is lower than offshore options so there is no long term future in trying to protect your turf as the, “Do it all” reporting systems person, you have to separate yourself from that fate, by working on development that drives revenue and cuts cost.
So, immerse yourself into learning what the key performance indictors and drivers are at your company. Make a lot of effort to go and learn, talk to people, make connections, find problems to solve. The role as the systems / financial analyst needs to be a temporary stepping-stone for you on your way up.
Learn how to get funding for what you want:
There are only two ways to get funding approved by the CFO / CIO:
- 1. Unlimited amounts of money will be paid if an issue directly effects the CFO / CIO in terms of their own comfort, reputation, ego, and job security, for which there is no limit on what they will pay. So, if you can fit yourself or project into this category, the money will easily flow forever.
- 2. A documented and guaranteed cost justification that gets approved by the CFO / CIO. This gets done with a business plan based on the facts – not brochures. It also gets done based on making and keeping promises that get people either fired or promoted. Understand that the CFO / CIO is accountable so you also must be accountable to be trusted, respected, and get what you want. CFO’s & CIO’s are great at smelling fear or weakness, so the only way to overcome that is to have a convincing case that makes the decision easy for the CFO / CIO. Unfortunately, most corporate staff, even managers do not know how to push to get budget dollars approved. Some are simply scared, and most others are lousy communicators and cannot make a convincing case. If you are weak at this, call us. We can get you a plan that increase your chance of getting what you want.
The dumbest thing to do is to go and just ask your boss for money, without describing first how much the problem is costing the company, and then providing documented proof that the software or service you are proposing will solve that problem and make your boss a hero. It is a simple formula. State the problem in money terms, then provide the solution in terms that claw back that wasted money. Any other path is difficult to justify if you seek funding.
Bosses are like mini CFO’s & CIO’s so treat them that way. Do not ever be a complainer about anything, complainers get fired first. Your boss already knows there are elements of your job you do not like or find difficult. Find a complete solution or accept that they are paying you to suffer until they can find a better way. Without a written justification and proof for those dollars you want, you will just shame yourself. People who just ask for money like little kid, just get No for an answer and they deserve it. If they keep asking and get annoying, they get fired.
There is No such thing as No Budget.
When bosses say there is no budget be wise enough to read between the lines. What they are really saying is “Do not ask me until you can prove it”. Therefore, the only path is to take budget from someplace else to get what you want! So, when you are told there is no budget, ask, “How much money a project needs to save or make to divert budget from somebody else?” You need to be a little bit Machiavellian to get what you want.
Some demoralized people think that it is not their job, to seek better software and service offerings for the enterprise. If your job does not provide a path or authority to get budget dollars to better do your job, then it is time for a new job. If you do not have the tools to do your job properly it is just a matter of time until you are somehow blamed, so the path is clear. You must either change this or if you cannot, you need to go to another company and start again. It may seem crazy to the shy people who read this but leverage salespeople to help you with this. Your job is to guide the salesperson to provide the cost or operational justification to get you what you want. For many successful people I know, the vendor writes the justification and then the systems / financial analyst presents the case with the salesperson in the room to the bosses. Do not try to make a business case alone you do not have the experience. Salespeople have way more experience at this. This ends in a better chance of getting what you want.
Find things to fix with analytic tools:
Get interested and volunteer to fix reporting problems with other business functions. So, make connections in: Supply chain, sales, HR, Payroll, treasury… Some say that pandemic makes that more difficult, but I disagree, it is simply different. Team members are now more accessible than ever because they are home waiting for their cell phones to ring. There are no real business hours anymore so you can talk early or late, and lots of people are lonely so they will talk to you if they understand you are trying to find improvement. Your team members in other departments are also trying to remain relevant and important. So, they need a way to stand out & you can help.
So, do not be afraid to call them and collaborate. Another observation is that I have never met shy VP, so being shy is not an option. Start with an email if you are nervous then if they want to talk you are on your way and the is nothing to be nervous about.
Talk to salespeople & consultants:
Bosses sometimes speak poorly of salespeople because they want to keep knowledge to themselves. Some bosses are very afraid you will learn something and want better! The more ignorant you are of what possibilities are available, the weaker and more controllable you become. Commercials on TV are an example, they open your eyes to what can be. Some things advertised like medication can change your life, you decide but you are the better for it because you can see options. There is no more concentrated and direct way for you to know about options and circumstances that effect your career than talk to the people who talk to lots of other people. So, talk to sales and consulting staff on the phone, you cannot email your way to a VP level position, and as I mentioned I have never met an introverted VP. Ignoring sales reps or getting repulsed by them because they want to sell something is very wrong and small minded.
The only reason you even have a job is because somebody sold a lot of our company’s product in the marketplace. So, it’s fine that sales reps. want to sell, that is why the good ones make a lot of money. They earn it, so embrace them! Just make it clear to them that the salespeople with the best: Tool, value proposition or path to serve your career goals get business from your company.
Any decent sales rep. will be fine with that and will respect your time. The other thing that is very unwise is to think that your Purchasing or IT dept. will provide you with what you need. Get that thought out of your head. They may handle some commercial elements, but they are in no way staffed with enough people or equipped to help you. The real way things get done is to take the indirect path of communication and getting a boss to want something. When bosses call Purchasing or IT, things get done. Sending an email to Purchasing or IT will not work, you need to make a real business case to your boss and sr. management.
Areas where analytic tools can be applied but for some crazy reason usually is not:
Just because your current reporting environment takes feeds from the general ledger does not mean that your tool set is limited to that system. You can use analytic utilities to make a major impact on other work streams that will get you the recognition you need to get promoted and better paid. If it does not, then you have a great story for the next company what will hire you. Your techno / financial skill set is worth much more than a common accountant. You have a level of mobility they cannot ever match, so remember that.
Supply Chain / Operations – Supply chain and operations usually have more Key Performance Indicator (KPI) opportunities than the corporate HQ because of the detail level needed to run these properly. There are massive opportunities for reporting and dashboards in these underserved areas. Somebody must lead the charge and get promoted because of it, that somebody can easily be you.
HR / Payroll – There is a ton of manual reporting and reconciliation work that happens here. Payroll is often the highest cost as a percentage, of revenue compared to any other expense. So, if you can make it more efficient, you get promoted, or a raise or at least have a great story for your next job.
Treasury / Foreign Exchange – Depending on the company, treasury and FX is a complicated mess when it comes to reconciliations, which can be automated with separate tools that compliment and lift your reporting systems.
Sales Ops. – There is an unending need for reporting and analytics in this group. Some of Oracles toughest competitors have developed amazingly large successful business with substantial market caps just on this area alone.
For some reason, like Supply Chain and operations, systems / financial analysts ignore this important area. Just so you know, the chances at a better bonus come if your boss is the VP of Sales instead of the Controller. The VP of Sales has more power when it comes to money. There is a different mindset with the sales team, it’s a happy place for those who support that group, the outings are at nicer hotels, there are outings for team building at expensive fun places, the dinners are fancier, they are way better at paying people…and the sales team will really appreciate you for the wizard you are. I know this from experience.
If I can be a resource to you or help you get software or services projects funded, do not hesitate to contact me.
609 750 8887
About Jim Burke
Financial Systems Automation and Back Office / Operational Cost Containment Leader, leveraging software tools and best practices to drive margin improvement for clients that do not have money nor time to waste.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org Office 609 750 8887