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Archive for January, 2013

Sales Forecasting Is Not A Sunday Night “Discipline”…

January 30th, 2013 Comments off

It really doesn’t matter what industry you might be used to working in as a Finance professional, there always seems to be a common set of “battles” that are waged within a company. I use the term battle very loosely, but I’m really referring to the persistent collection of information by Finance so as to further our efforts and reporting capabilities.

Since there’s really not a Finance clock that dictates when I need to update my Forecast, I’ve always rolled with the timing that has been set by the Sales department. After all, the update of a Sales Forecast is their meeting and not mine. I just happen to be along for the ride. As I have always approached a Forecast, I have constantly preached the approach of being intimately involved in the business and not allowing the Forecast to be a spreadsheet exercise based on some narrowly assigned variable calculations. It needs to be based on the “beat of the street”…if you will, the heartbeat of what is actually happening. Don’t get me wrong, many times, the Forecast is a top down number that has to…or must…be achieved for the Company. However, there is the area where the two need to meet. Whether that’s in the middle of the Quarter or the end, promises have to be delivered on and results achieved.

Fast forward to the Sales Forecast meeting. I LOVE this meeting! This is where the rubber meets the road every week and you hear about all the fantastic things going on…or perhaps you don’t. For me, this is not the place to be surprised. This is the meeting, where if there is an issue, it has already been tabled in advance, and the meeting might be used to rally the troops for a solution, or in a worst case, a revision of the Forecast. I strive for not allowing the latter. I have always strived, and typically accomplished, an extremely low level of variability to a Forecast.  However, this can only be accomplished if you have good information. Information that is filtered to you on a daily basis. Information, that when constantly streaming from your Sales team, is an affirmation of the Forecast in place, or a signal to potentially make adjustments in future Quarters. With this approach in mind, forecasting is not just a Sunday night exercise for the Sales team or Finance. It’s a collaborative exercise that needs to happen daily. For me, discussing the sales pipeline is like watching my heartrate or wattage output on a training ride. It’s an indicator of whether performance is sub-par or if you’re coming in hot and need to bring in additional support.

You can’t gauge your progress with a once per week check-in. You can’t measure the discipline that is truly in place when there is only a once per week check-in. You can’t truly measure the passion of your team with a once per week check-in. This should also not be misinterpreted as extreme micro management either. At its most basic level, this is just as simple as constant communication between a Sales team and the Finance group. What’s your cadence?

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

On The Path of Acquisitions & Vulnerabilities…

January 17th, 2013 Comments off

While I tend to have a bit more fun writing on the topic of Finance and corporate financial performance, I can’t help but take another opportunity to brag about the fantastic organization that has been assembled here at Cylance and additional accomplishments that we’ve announced today.

Stuart McClure, Cylance Founder, has a tremendous talent for identifying advanced technology and great people, which is what led us to the acquisition of SpearPoint Security Services. SpearPoint primarily assists businesses protect industrial control systems. In a further affirmation of their talent, the two founders of SpearPoint, Billy Rios and Terry McCorkle, were just recognized for a vulnerability discovered in a Philips medical x-ray machine, which subsequently gave them access to additional peripheral information. The find is now further affirmed with the involvement of the FDA.

I’ve also previously stated that I work with some scary brilliant folks. Now we can add Eric Cornelius to that mix, who just stepped down as Deputy Director and Chief Technical Analyst with the Department of Homeland Security’s Control Systems Security Program. Additionally, we’ve hired Glenn Chisholm as our CISO, who was the former CISO for Telstra Corp, an Australian telecommunications supplier. While I’ve always said “Finance is Fun”, working with such a tremendous talent pool has really changed the game.

Although it’s only been a week or so since we stepped out from behind the curtain to announce other developments, it’s back to stealth mode and back behind the curtain. Already looking forward to future announcements we’ll be sharing.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

Cybersecurity – A 2012 Year In Review…

January 9th, 2013 Comments off

As most of my colleagues know, I’ve been head down and charging in this new start-up called Cylance. Working with an incredibly talented group of folks, we’ve primarily been working in our own private stealth mode with only the occasional PR blip on the radar. A few acquisitions, some press releases on discovered vulnerabilities, and the occasional conference key note by our Founder, Stuart McClure. Today was one of those days where we were able to offer a brief glimpse of our company and the folks working behind the scenes. Stuart, who has blue chip pedigree in cybersecurity, and a founding author of Hacking Exposed, partnered w/ two other key members of our team to present the Hacking Exposed 2012 Year In Review.

Stuart partnered with Glenn Chisholm, our CSO, as well as Shane Shook, another industry leading expert. While the learning curve has been steep working with such a talented team, these guys are certainly helping me get up to speed pretty quickly through their knowledge sharing. Today’s webinar, which will be posted at www.hackingexposed.com  and YouTube, outlined a number of interesting observations, none of which I am going to try and articulate in any technical detail.

Generally, cybersecurity has now entered both mainstream media, as well as entertainment. From a media perspective, it’s now an impossibility to turn on the tv and not hear about security legislation, breaches, and perceived threats. From an entertainment perspective, a fictional VP is essentially assassinated when a covert group accesses the coding for his pacemaker and remotely triggers a heart attack. This same type of remote medical breach was actually presented by Stuart months earlier during an industry keynote speech.

Breaches. You and I are only made aware of these when we get the random call from our credit card company advising that a customer has been breached and our card will be reissued, thus costing us hours to update all our accounts. In 2012, those breaches included brands that are common to us – Billabong, Zappos, Adobe, LinkedIn, EHarmony, and Blizzard.

Passwords. Passwords can no longer be the set and forget mentality it once used to be. Passwords need to be constantly updated, not only in our personal lives, but in the form of stronger operational controls. In fact, recent efforts have shown that any 8-character password can be compromised in less than 2-days.

In closing out the webinar, there was an overview of some of the more serious threats that we’ll likely be contending with in 2013. Much of the discussion focused on the embedded world and how new breaches will be focused on embedded processors and other similar technology. Certainly some great information presented today, and worth being aware of. A visit to the Hacking Exposed site, listed above, will give you a link to today’s webinar, as well as some other great reference data. For now, it’s time to move back behind the curtain and keep charging…

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael

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When Not All ERP Implementations Are Created Equal…

January 7th, 2013 Comments off

As a Finance leader, one of the projects you can always count on having to lead, or at least becoming a key stakeholder in, is the implementation of an ERP program. For myself, I’ve been “lucky” enough to participate or lead the implementation of Fourth Shift, MAS-200, Oracle, and most recently the global SAP initiative with DC Shoes and Quiksilver. All of those projects were with companies that were relatively mature, had established revenue streams, and long histories to contend with in the implementation. However, with a start-up, the rules are entirely different and there’s actually a slightly higher degree of difficulty.
With the SAP implementation at DC/Quiksilver, there was not only the history to deal with, but the “democracy” of finding a solution that everyone could agree on. Not to mention, we also had to go through the process of outlining our processes for the consultants, which up until that point, were mostly undocumented. That SAP implementation became more of an S&OP project as we found ourselves scrutinizing internal process more than the ERP systems we were entertaining as solutions. Nonetheless, there was significant history that played a key contributor in finding the proper solution for our business.

For a start-up, what do you have? Yes, you might have a business plan, but at that point, it is basically still a vision. A vision that does not have a definitive, or at least realized, revenue streams, established & matured expense structures, or even the functional area titles that have been tested and affirmed. While the business plan will be the 95% version and the blue print everyone refers to, it is still subject to change…and will change. That’s the one level of certainty in a start-up. With that in mind, you are then tasked with defining your needs and the vision of the company to the consultants. You need to be able to take an honest look, while understanding the business well enough, lead the consultants through the process and outline your specific needs, not just in the current time, but for the needs your business will have 2-5 years down the line.

Your solution will not be based on what platform is offering the best end of year discount and implementation package, but the best solution for what the business will need and the ability to accommodate the growth and properly report on its activities. At a start-up, you better be able to honestly assess what the needs of your company are down to every level or you shouldn’t be in the position. At a start-up, you won’t have a team of consultants doing the heavy lifting…it’s going to be you. You’ll be the one building the import files, building the vendor files, and configuring the general ledger structure to report at the desired level of detail. You’ll be the one defining the customer and product hierarchies for your management reporting.

It’s definitely a much more challenging task than an implementation for an established company. But then again, that’s what makes life at a start-up so much fun and a test/testament to what you’ve really been doing during your career.

Thanks for reading…

Jeffrey Ishmael