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When Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning are not only a marketing layer

Mar. 27 2020 by Anton Niculescu, Managing Partners - Spoke Global

Performance Management Business Intelligence & Analytics

A state-of-the-art CPM solution enables your business to increase reaction speed, relevance, accuracy and has a strong positive effect in determining actionable actions that closely align with the business targets and goals. Such a solution does not happen by accident, it is the careful result of the synergy between requirements planning, domain expertise, technical knowledge and a strong software platform; in other words, expert consultants using the right toolset.

As solutions providers, the Inulta - Spoke Consulting group of companies invest heavily in consulting education but also continuously evaluate available software products checking out of the box functionality, reliability, and ease of implementation / maintenance. During this scrupulous evaluation process, often enough we find that for some vendors, there’s a total disconnection between the pre-sale marketing claim and the crushing reality of implementation requirements. One such flagrant area of software marketing, barking much louder than their bite is in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Predictive Analytics.

In the last couple of years, every CMP/EPM software vendor has devoted space on their websites and associated blogs to Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Predictive Analytics. Some of these software vendors have come up with proprietary, trademarked names, to market the promise of a data driven approach to forecasting and budgeting. They pitch a very seductive promise of tapping into the collective intelligence inherently available in the millions of data points stored somewhat inertly on presumably dusty servers. As these technologies are starting to cross the theoretical threshold into the practical, the first step towards usability is, unfortunately many times, marketing hyperbole. You are being sold Excel “IF” statements disguised as Ex Machina.

So, let’s explore the reality of AI and ML, and start with the current situation.

The best AI can currently do, is consume very large amounts of data and analyze it based on specific rules. You see this every day, suggested music and movie lists, traffic light sequencing, fraud detection software and so on. CPM applications can be useful but limited in scope to mostly “What-if” and “Goal-seek”, analysis, linear regression, interpolation, Monte-Carlo simulations, and other algorithm-based data modelling scenarios. Vendors who understand this, will build their environment to provide practical solutions for real world everyday scenarios. The intent is not to provide THE answer, but to provide users a starting point from where they can evolve based on their business acumen and domain expertise.

Part of AI, ML is different in that although it uses algorithms, the reliance is not explicit. Machine learning relies on patterns, contingencies and inference. Early results will be less reliable, but as validation routines provide a self feeding loop, accuracy starts increasing without user interference.

At this stage, as a point of full disclosure, Inulta - Spoke Consulting have selected CCH Tagetik as the CPM platform of choice to anchor all our implementation. This choice is further validated by the pragmatic approach to functional enhancement of the CCH Tagetik development team based on real needs detected by the field and solutions vetted by adopters. Their approach to AI/ML Predictive Analytics is no exception.
Let us explore some real-world examples of predictive functionalities you can have as of today by leveraging CCH Tagetik Finance Transformation Platform:

CCH Tagetik Level-Set Planning technology allows for real time, instantaneous creation of a Budget or Forecast entirely based on historical analysis, thus removing all qualitative bias. This feature is very useful to standard-set and establish variance guidelines. This will provide all users a data driven plan that they can alter based on additional qualitative specific information (market share, competitive positioning, case by case activities, etc.) to arrive at a complete plan that unifies both data information and user analysis in one. Will this result in the be all, end-all of your planning process? Absolutely not. But it will give you a data driven starting point that you may massage (based on value judgement aspects) into a very accurate plan.

CCH Tagetik Intelligent Optimization technology enables users to determine the optimal resource allocation to maximize competing objectives. When faced with the choice of maximizing a target KPI at the expense of another, Intelligent Optimization tool set will provide the lines of best fit resulting in overall maximization of the overall KPI set. Often the hardest part is starting with a blank sheet of paper. Intelligent Optimization provides a starting point by providing mathematically correct potential solutions which may then be incrementally changed, while staying within the zero-sum parameters of optimizing the allocation of scarce resources.

CCH Tagetik Strategic Fulfilment functionality allows users to translate strategic objectives into action items. In other words, users can now precisely plan how to achieve the executive strategy through a specific set of actions mathematically derived through finding the optimum solution where Top down strategy and bottom up implementation considerations meet. This functionality makes much easier the process of accurately determining allocation bases and drivers, lowering the chance of material mis-allocations.

The functions I described above have one real advantage: Immediate Applicability! No marketing hyperbole. No sales pitch only. It’s all immediately applicable to customers leveraging the power of the CCH Tagetik Finance Transformation Platform.

I cannot emphasize how valuable this is to a consulting company such as ours. Meeting client expectations in a stressful time/budget perimeter is our lot in life. Working with software that helps us keep our promises is the difference between a happy referenceable client and major re-work and redesign, so whether you’re reading this as a client or a consulting partner, we urge you to do your homework and peel the marketing layer to reveal the functionality you are actually purchasing.

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