Steven Johnson, Partner and COO
If someone wanted to prove that change is the only constant in life, then they have to look no further than the evolution of the CFO role. Over the last three decades, CFOs have stepped out from the confines of number-crunching, tax, and compliance to evolve as an architect of business value, fueling performance, profitability, and substantial growth. Keeping pace with the tides of innovation and unprecedented change, the stewards of shareholder value are leveraging data to improve efficiency, drive value, and enable strategy, apart from producing the numbers and managing technology investments.
This expansion in their management role has spurred a notable development in corporate governance, wherein, the thin line between the CFOs and the COOs is beginning to blur. As a consequence of the nexus between these roles, the office of finance necessitates not just data but actionable, predictive insights for business strategy, competitive analysis, and enterprise performance management.
If there is one man who has closely observed this evolution that has permeated the enterprises, it is Steven Johnson, Partner and COO, Grandview. Backed by years of rich experience in financial planning and analysis, business planning, and consulting services, Johnson has seen firsthand how organizations continue to struggle to optimize efficiency and effectiveness. According to him, the modern CFO is not only accountable for financial statements and corporate performance, which addresses “what happened”, but is also tasked with understanding and communicating “why it happened”. In order to present the complete story, he/she has to dissect and pull the operational data apart for the analysis and drive efficiency based on the insights. However, he is quick to point out that many of today’s CFOs are already overburdened and lack the enablement and the technology that can make their job easier.
This is where Johnson and the team at Grandview are really moving the needle. With over 30 years of experience in the analytics space, Team Grandview is empowering the office of finance to “differentiate with data”. Grandview brings to the table a combination of strategy, technology, artificial intelligence, and data-driven intuition to solve most complex business challenges. “Be it traditional financial planning, financial reporting, financial analytics, operational analytics, or operational optimization, we provide everything the executives require to have greater insight into the organization for driving intelligent decisions that create value,” says Johnson. In doing so, the company embeds analytics across the enterprise, providing clients with the ability to synthesize information from all data sources, explore trends and glean insights into operational performance and the workforce faster. “As a strategic leadership team, more than 1,600 projects have been successfully delivered, as a result of which we have reusable components that can drive greater business value in a timelier fashion to our consumers,” he adds.
Driving the Right Outcomes and True Business Value
So how exactly does Grandview help its clients overcome process and planning challenges with data-driven insights?
At the core, Grandview equips clients with insight and AI to streamline planning, reporting and analysis. The company provides services and solutions that leverage automated and managed reporting to help the office of finance gain insights, identify performance gaps, and adopt data-driven decision making. At a time when most organizations continue to utilize end-user tools to squeeze data out of multiple databases, spreadsheets, and other departmental solutions, Grandview automates the entire process by creating structured and repeatable processes with technology platforms.
As a strong proponent of AI, Grandview also enables the fast development and deployment of AI solutions allowing organizations to unlock the value. Its strategic partnership with IBM enables augmented intelligence for its clients. As an IBM Gold Partner, Grandview combines decades of experience with advanced analytics from next-generation technologies, including IBM Cognos Analytics, IBM Planning Analytics, and IBM Cloud Paks to improve agility and allow for intelligent decisions that create value. Yet another internal asset offered by Grandview is their own Board Book Accelerator, a one-of-a-kind tool in the industry.
The Board Book Accelerator has been specifically developed to capture and process raw data into a management book that can be easily created once and quickly re-executed as needed. This unique offering enables the office of finance to step out of the data collection role and put their efforts into financial analysis.
As a company laser-focused on delivering successful and valuable outcomes, Grandview blends strategy, technology, AI, and data-driven intuition with customer strategy to drive the right outcome for them. Johnson summarizes that the company overcomes the clients’ critical pain points by helping them optimize their assets. For a company having a huge capital expenditure budget, Grandview ensures the client maximizes it, knows when and how that is going to hit their financials, and also plans for the detailed levels. “Depending on the type of capital the client is purchasing, we can help them manage more efficiently. For instance, Grandview provides predictive maintenance on assets that may cost several million dollars, thus helping the client maximize the value,” informs Johnson.
From the operational effectiveness and optimization perspective, Grandview, as a good steward to the company owners and the shareholders, adopts their goals and assists them in building a strategy around maximizing shareholder value. While the office of finance continues to invest more time in collecting and consolidating the operational data than analyzing it, Grandview steps in to shorten that life cycle of obtaining detailed analysis, which otherwise costs them 45 to 60 days each year. “This time-consuming and slow process results in missed opportunities to take corrective action early and come out of the situation stronger. Moreover, it could cause irreparable harm to the company because of the lack of proper insights,” explains Johnson. Grandview’s Board Book Accelerator steps ahead of the conventional manual process of aggregating periodic snapshots of the clients’ companies by automatically pulling all data and storing them as a PowerPoint or PDF file. Then organizations can rerun the application whenever there is a need for an updated report. “Most customers spend over 80 percent of their time in simply attaining the data, which does not leave enough time to explain that data to their shareholders. In situations such as these, our Board Book Accelerator makes it easy for clients to attain the latest information with a simple refresh,” he adds. In the case of a PowerPoint, all information can automatically be collected in relevant slides and/or pre-designed templates enabling clients to focus on the creation of additional slides and preparing explanations for the result.
Analytics beyond Profitability
The analytical prowess can be best explained with a customer success story that involved the largest furniture company in the world, with 200,000 employees operating in 52 countries. It couldn’t see if it was fulfilling its mission. The business challenge for the client boiled down to measuring the positive impact it had on people, society, and the planet. The company needed a solution that could not just show financials, but also holistically fulfill its mission. In a single dashboard, they needed insight ranging from population counts to carbon emissions involving data spanning from wool production to landfill impacts. Grandview worked with the leadership team to understand the key business dashboard metrics and how to collect, track, and relevantly present that information throughout the organization. Grandview designed a tailored decision support application that aligned thousands of data points into specific categories measuring key aspects of the company’s mission. To provide situational awareness, the platform allowed country managers or business KPI owners to add descriptive narrative to explain result variances or causal factors. Those comments became part of the report, enabling executives to understand the business drivers behind the KPIs and thereby make better, contextually aware decisions.
As the project matured, Grandview saw a gap in the project scope. While the CEO could analyze the data from his dashboard, he still had to convey that same insight quarterly to the board of directors. Each quarter, numerous employees spent two weeks compiling information into a board book to support the presentation. To solve the problem, Grandview built a custom module leveraging IBM Cognos (now known as the Board Book Accelerator) that, with a click, instantly published the entire quarterly report in a formatted PowerPoint or PDF for the board’s consumption. In a nutshell, Grandview’s solution helped the client reinforce the company’s mission throughout the organization, and communicate and gain deep insights through a common framework.
Scripting similar success stories, Grandview aims to hold the top position in the market as an analytics partner for IBM. “With IBM’s state-of-the-art technology coupled with Grandview’s cumulative experience and reusable assets, Grandview is on a mission to Deliver Excellence by maximizing the value of the technologies into actionable tools,” concludes Johnson.