NEXT SUB-SECTION: Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal >>>
The Cubic Model was first identified in developing a robust integration between an operational system and a General Ledger system in the late eighties, a time when fully integrated solutions were relatively uncommon
It was established that the only way that the integration would work reliably EVERY time was by ensuring that the model of the business was exactly consistent
In 1990 James Robertson spent over 1,000 hours developing Spreadsheet Macros to build the Cubic Model and gaining understanding of how the model works in practice
This knowledge is regularly employed today to develop highly strategic Financial Charts of Accounts at the Enterprise Level and is incorporated in a tool named GL Builder which is a sophisticated piece of custom software now in its third generation for the assembly of these sophisticated and extremely powerful coding models
These models provide a basis for a high level of management engagement, high level of accountability and performance management of managers and supervisors and a basis for strategic analysis of Financial information
The model should also be rippled through to all other modules in your Integrated Business Information Systems solution as a basis for ensuring smooth and consistent integration
You owe it to your enterprise to engage with James A Robertson and Associates to understand how the Cubic Business Model can add value to your enterprise
The following is an overview of what I have found to be the fundamental problems with corporate financial data that I am planning to overcome:
1. Partially or totally unstructured when compared with the JAR&A standards.
2. Limited or no code structure when compared with JAR&A standards.
3. Frequently just carried over from the previous system for human convenience resulting in ALL the deficiencies of the previous system being present in the new system.
4. Frequently originally developed by mid-level or junior consultants with no appropriate knowledge or experience who facilitate mid-level book-keeping staff to produce lists that lack any form of structure or strategic insight or logic.
5. Lack of input at an executive level and lack of a correspondingly highly experienced executive facilitator.
6. Senior contractors making some level of sense of the data in order to write reports resulting in persistent dependence on that contractor.
7. Low level changes to the Chart of Accounts break all reports with the result that the organization never gets beyond basic financial statements.
8. If two people try and produce the same report independently they produce results that do not agree, multiple related reports give multiple answers for the same values, nobody trusts the system.
9. Managers keep records outside the system because they do not trust the system.
10. Financial statements are prepared in Excel by highly qualified accounting personnel and take weeks to prepare – cannot drill down to source data without considerable effort by those same personnel.
11. Wait days or weeks to get answers to simple questions or cannot get any answers at all!
I hope that this outline has given some idea of the issues that have given rise to our approach and why our approach is radically better -- contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com
The following is an overview of my approach to Enterprise level Chart of Accounts design and deployment:
1. Mature approach
A mature approach based on over 1,000 hours of Research and Development into the underlying technical fundamentals of corporate financial data in 1990, used repeatedly over the next two decades.
2. Proven high value approach
The value of this approach was proven as early as 1993 – refer case study with regard to V3 Consulting Engineers and 1994 Benefits of Management Info Syst.pdf – refer case study with regard to Rennies Group (about 220 very diverse companies) Information Architecture for FIS.pdf.
3. Holistic enterprise wide solution
A holistic approach to developing an enterprise wide highly structured logical model of the enterprise embedded in the code structures of the Chart of Accounts – the Cubic Business Model™.
4. Highly structured information
All components of the model are comprised of highly structured hierarchical lists (taxonomies) that accurately model the enterprise and enable easy and accurate navigation through the Chart of Accounts and associated models – these hierarchies are developed using conventions proven over more than 20 years.
5. Highly structured intelligent codes
Highly structured codes developed using coding conventions also proven over more than two decades that create “intelligent data™”, data with a high level of strategic human intelligent input embedded in the codes thereby facilitating very sophisticated economic and financial analysis.
6. Sophisticated software support
Supported by sophisticated software designed to build the Cubic Business Model™ with rigour, consistency and precision thereby enabling a level of analytical precision that would be impossible in a manually built model. This software is in its third generation, founded on the software developed in 1990.
7. Geared to high value management information and performance management
This approach is geared to delivering maximum management information coupled to high levels of accountability and performance management thereby greatly enhancing the effectiveness of corporate governance and performance.
8. Yields strategic and operational improvement and efficiencies
Because of the greatly enhanced levels of accountability the full use of this solution leads to strategic and operational improvements and efficiencies, right down to the level of possible headcount reductions and reductions in audit fees as reported in the V3 case study.
9. Enables development of highly sophisticated models and tools
The composite outcome of all the above is the ability to build sophisticated and precise models and analytical tools resulting in the JAR&A Financial Analytical Suite which is currently under development – refer supporting documentation.
I hope that this provides some information to stimulate your interest in what we can offer -- please contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com
The following is an overview of the value that will be unlocked by investing in the JAR&A Chart of Accounts:
1. Single integrated information view across the business
A single high quality Chart of Accounts across all Divisions will facilitate financial integration and a single harmonized view of the business and financial system integration.
2. Exploit Syspro Structured GL functionality
The Highly Structured Chart of Accounts design will enable AutoCast to exploit the full functionality of the Syspro Structured General Ledger.
3. Supports a high level of posting accuracy
The highly structured Chart of Accounts implemented with associated manual disciplines will support a high level of accuracy in postings and once staff are properly trained and working at maximum efficiency might lead to reduced administrative staffing costs.
4. High level of financial ownership and accountability
The Cubic Business Model™ design facilitates a high level of management and supervisor ownership and accountability with regard to the financials.
5. Potentially reduced Audit time and cost
Provided the necessary disciplines are applied with regard to ownership and accountability of financials a reduction in Audit time and cost can probably be expected.
6. Analysis and reporting easier, greatly enhance Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Investments
Highly structured, highly logical data makes reporting and analysis easier and fully supports the power of Data Warehouse and Business Intelligence Technology.
7. Reduced dependence on spreadsheets and improved spreadsheet reliability
Ease of analysis and reporting reduces need for spreadsheets and, where spreadsheets are required, makes design, maintenance and control easier and more reliable.
8. Foundation for access to proposed JAR&A analytical and reporting tools
Lays a foundation for use of various analytical and reporting tools that are being designed by JAR&A at present.
9. Attractive to potential investors – increased share price
Greatly improved quality of financial information and financial governance will make the business more attractive to potential investors and might result in an improved share price.
I hope that this outline has given some idea of the value that can be unlocked through this investment -- James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com
I am continuing to see that virtually no-one is “getting” the value of what I am talking about when it comes to the Cubic Business Model™ or CBM™.
I see a picture of something that is so valuable it is almost beyond belief and, so, almost nobody believes me and I am not sure that anyone understands me fully
Following is a stab at answers to some questions that I you may need to ask me:
1. What is the CBM™ REALLY?
What is this thing you call the Cubic Business Model™? – REALLY?
Answer: The Cubic Business Model™ is a portfolio of logic that accurately describes the practical components of any organization all of which comprise Divisions (business units) Locations (where we do what we do) Functions (what we do) and data elements such as costs, revenue, assets, liabilities, plant, people, etc
This is coupled with a large body of standards that were originally developed in 1990 and have been proven in a number of projects over the years – we can offer white papers to back this up
What has “modelling” got to do with Accounting – we deal with facts!?
Answer: The term “modeling” refers to the organization of information in such a way that it correlates closely at a logical level with the practical components of the organization – all these elements are associated with precise definitions of financial accounts and other measuring bins such as allocation of people, assets, products, etc
ALL ERP’s operate with these models but the need for the level of precision that is advocated here is generally NOT understood
3. James, what does an engineer know about accounting?
James, you are an engineer, how do you presume to suggest you understand accounting?
Answer: This is NOT about accounting – it is about the logical, systematic, structured ordering of information (including but NOT limited to financial information)
Your organization employs accountants so there is no need for me to be an accountant – I have enough accounting experience amassed over nearly 25 years of working with accountants to be able to have an intelligent conversation and interaction with an accountant to the extent that it is necessary for me to act as a facilitator and advisor in developing a Cubic Business Model™ -- I know how to interpret Tee Diagrams (DrTCr)
My strength is in analyzing and structuring data – that is the gap you have, your job is to supply the people who know your business intimately and also the accountants – you are welcome to bring in your auditors as you consider necessary
4. This used to be done with a 24 column cashbook and now?
We used to do this with 24 column cashbooks and now you want us to spend tens of thousands of Pounds / Dollars / Euros / etc developing something we have never heard of??
Answer: Gartner have reported that most organizations are not making better decisions than they did five years previously – this is precisely because most ERP installations are implemented like scruffy 24 column cash books and NOT as the massively powerful data processing engines that they actually are
5. The big players don’t talk about this so…?
The big 5 don’t talk about this, they do not teach it at University, in fact I do not know a single accountant who knows about this let alone thinks it is important!
Answer: That is because I did not learn it from any of them – I worked it out myself from first principles as a synthesis of a very UNUSUAL mix of knowledge and practical experience
Most of the established players have a major problem making the paradigm shift necessary to see that there is a far better way of doing things because it will potentially massively detriment their revenues in the medium to long term
6. Reduced audit fees? – presumptuous!
You talk about reduced audit fees but you are NOT an auditor – that is SERIOUSLY PRESUMPTUOUS! – what makes you so confident?
Answer: Maybe – but I have had cases where it happened (completely unexpectedly) – once you accurately model the business then everyone uses the ERP and the GL and associated systems with appropriate discipline and the quality of the financial information improves dramatically with the result that the business essentially becomes self-auditing with the result that in the end there is much less work for the auditors to do AND the quality of the financial statements improves dramatically as well – this is subject to you using the disciplines which are part of the total CBM™ package -- refer paper Benefits of Management Info Syst.pdf
By the way, in many organizations virtually NO operational managers make use of the financial system for operational performance measurement
7. We need to keep our history!
What about our history?
Surely this is going to trash all our historical records – your design will be totally INCOMPATIBLE!
Answer: Well, directly YES it is and NO it does not matter! And there ARE ways of dealing with it
Put the history into a custom designed data warehouse, put the new data into a NEW custom designed data warehouse, map the old codes onto the new codes and, if necessary, put that data in an extension of the new data warehouse to the extent necessary to actually use the history. I have a tool for undertaking this mapping on a rigorous basis and it is part of the process
In my experience most organizations scarcely use the history at all except at a very summarized level and by forcing the implementation of your new ERP to comply with the old data you make the new implementation look just like the old implementation so there really was no point in putting in the new system
Generally when people build a new building they demolish the old buildings on the site!
8. What if it doesn’t work?!
This is a HUGE RISK – what if it doesn’t work?
Answer: What is the risk?
The fact that you are reading this document indicates that your present system is probably a MESS :)
How will carefully thought out content that you have personally overseen production of to ensure that it accurately models the real world in which your business operates produce a worse mess than the unstructured spaghetti that most organizations have at present?
And, YES, you will have to do the job carefully and thoroughly and precisely because a sloppy mess WILL place the business at risk – which is a GOOD reason NOT to use conventional ERP implementation methods
9. This needs DEEP knowledge and experience of our industry
We need a person with DEEP knowledge and experience of our industry to do this, NOT an engineer who hardly knows our business
Answer: You and your team have the deepest knowledge of your business and your business in your industry right here in your organization.
If you really want to you can contract in further industry experts but I doubt that will be necessary
I bring a deep knowledge of information classification, the Cubic Business Model and other logical constructs coupled to over 24 years practical experience facilitating this work in diverse businesses
TOGETHER we can produce a superb high value outcome that YOUR organization will own fully – provided everybody does their part
I hope my answers to these questions have helped you to better understand what I am saying
I look forward to the opportunity to discuss this with you -- James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com
What EXACTLY is this thing that I call the Cubic Business Model™ or CBM™?
1. Logical representation of the organization
The Cubic Business Model™ (CBM™) is a logical, structured representation of any organization – what we do (function) and where we do it (location) to a level of precision that is far beyond traditional approaches
2. A holistic and integrated set of standards and methods
The JAR&A CBM approach is the culmination of over 1,000 hours or unremunerated Research and Development in 1990 and the practical application of this technique over more than 24 years
3. Software to build and maintain the model
Because of the very high standards of precision that are required to achieve a viable and sustainable model that accurately models the business we have developed software to assist with building and maintaining the model. This software, currently in its second generation is called “GL Builder”
4. Macro “activity based costing” model
It is a coarse but highly reliable high level activity based costing model
5. Unitary ownership of every cost and revenue element
Correctly implemented the CBM gives unitary ownership of every division location function cost / person / asset, etc bin
6. A governance model for performance measurement
The CBM is therefore a governance model that provides a mechanism for the business to uniquely define accountability for every logical element of the organization
7. Inherently stable and long lasting
Because it is based on a fundamental first principles analysis of what we do and where we do it the CBM is inherently stable over long periods of time
8. A data logical model that makes inquiry simple
The CBM provides a logical model in the data that makes slicing, dicing, drill-down and roll-up of data corresponding to the logical building blocks very easy
9. A collection of precision taxonomies
The CBM is built in accordance with ALL the fundamental standards and principles of Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies (SEPT™)and Precision Configuration™ and therefore embraces and delivers all the benefits of these concepts
10. A systematic framework for reporting
CBM provides a systematic framework against which combination and roll-up of reports to all levels of supervision and management can be quickly and easily accomplished
11. The foundation on which all decision support is based
Because it accurately measures the real world the CBM becomes the foundation on which supervisory, management and executive decision making inquiry is based and when implemented in accordance with the disciplines that form part of the CBM concept it is largely self-auditing leading to significant reduction in audit costs
12. Gives rise to system operational efficiencies
Because it is so logically structured and because there is a such a high level of ownership, allocation of transactions becomes faster and more accurate frequently resulting in a reduction in administrative and other staff costs
Taking all these factors into account the JAR&A Cubic Business Model is an accounting innovation that every progressive business should acquire
The following are the stages in developing a Cubic Business Model based Group Chart of Accounts:
A Cubic Business Model based Group Chart of Accounts comprises Divisions (legal or operational entities), Locations, Functions, the Master Chart of Accounts and the final enterprise Chart of Accounts – development each of these components takes time
Division definition may be trivial for a small uncomplicated enterprise but may require several iterations for a larger multi-divisional enterprise – the Divisional hierarchy must accurately model the logical structure of the entire organization
3. Locations – WHERE we DO what we do
Location definition – where we do what we do – is frequently more complex than expected as different executives and managers may have different views of how best to model the enterprise. If well managed with all the right people in the room three iterations will generally suffice. For a large complex organization such as an enterprise with a number of large and complex mines or factories the Location model design with plenty of room for growth is critical
4. Functions – WHAT we do
Function definition – what we do – can become significantly complex and challenging to develop as a single holistic model that accommodates the complexities of all divisions in a logical structure that will accommodate all foreseeable growth. Three to five iterations may be required. For a large and complex organization with different business units each of which has very different business functions the development of the overall Function model with plenty of room for growth is critical
5. Size and complexity
The Master Chart of Accounts can easily run to 1,000 to 3,000 accounts including headings depending on the size and complexity of the enterprise. As many as 5 to 10 iterations and possibly 2 or 3 restarts / restructures will be required with the final Master Chart for a large enterprise in order to effectively model the full complexity of the organization. With large and complex enterprises the development of a comprehensive holistic Chart of Accounts that handles current complexities and provides sufficient space for foreseeable future growth is time consuming but critical
6. Standard account blocks
Development of master personnel cost blocks, master asset asset and cost blocks, master product cost and revenue blocks, master project blocks, master customer blocks, etc as applicable to any particular enterprise, are also significantly time consuming. These blocks must be harmonized and integrated with all other modules in the ERP and associated systems. This harmonization can take a significant number of iterations
7. Cross ticking with existing Charts of Accounts
The above stages will be accompanied by one and possibly two cross ticking exercises against the existing Charts of accounts in order to ensure that the Master Chart caters for all foreseeable Locations, Functions and Accounts. The Master Chart is the heart of the solution, it is not finished till it is finished – the cross ticking should take place after about 3 or 4 iterations in the design of the Master Chart and this may trigger significant restructuring if elements have been overlooked – the quality of the early stage input has a huge impact on the extent to which this ticking exercise is a formality or a major painful restructuring
8. The Location -- Function Matrix
Developing the full matrix of the face of the Cubic Model will typically take at least 2 and possibly 3 iterations to fully model the real complexity of the business in terms of Locations and Functions and generally stimulates discussion in depth regarding the real world governance and logic of the business – executive involvement at this stage is vital as this model will determine the default management model going forward
The creation of the individual sub-Charts of Accounts for each Location-Function cell on the matrix will require a minimum of two and possibly three iterations to ensure that exactly the right accounts are allocated to each cell from a perspective of the real world governance of which manager or supervisor can incur costs and generate revenue against that cell – the precision of this mapping has major implications for the effectiveness of overall corporate governance that is supported by the Cubic Business Model Chart of Accounts
10. Mapping of old accounts to new accounts
The final mapping of old accounts onto new accounts will typically require a minimum of two and possibly three iterations to ensure that all old accounts are properly catered for – the more precise the ticking during the earlier stages of the design of the Chart of Accounts the quicker and easier the final mapping will be
Once all the above have been done the Final Chart is ready for deployment – typically in the first instance into a Data Warehouse rather than into the operational ERP.
12. Financial Statements
Associated with this a complete set of standard financial statements must be produced together with a comprehensive analytical model in the data warehouse and business intelligence environment together with specialist economic and other models – these components collectively represent further time and cost investment but are the elements that deliver the value to the business at the end of the day.
We have developed concept specifications for a suite of tools and models that we term “The JAR&A Analytical Financial Suite” which will take clients to a totally new level in terms of capabilities
Contact us on James@James-A-Robertson-and-Associates.com
The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice
SAICE 15th Annual Conference on Computers in Civil Engineering
Dr James A Robertson PrEng & Reg M Barry, Financial Director, V3 Consulting Engineers
The advent of commercially available practice management software for the South African Consulting Engineering Industry some years ago, introduced the possibility of introducing far reaching, tailored, management information systems into the professional practice. This paper sets out to highlight some of the experiences and particularly the benefits derived from one such installation two years after implementation. The system comprises an integrated job costing, billing, debtors and creditors system linked to a comprehensive financial management system and an executive information system offering a wide range of management reports and graphical analysis.
Benefits experienced include the reliability and timeousness of the information, financial results are typically available within ten days of month end and year end financials within the same time frame at reduced audit cost and greater precision. A wide variety of reports are available and the organization can be viewed as a "Rubics Cube" of information in which the information can be grouped and examined in a wide variety of ways allowing project, client, profit center and other views of performance according to management's needs. Full activity based financial analysis and overhead distribution is supported eliminating the approximations typically made in assessing profit distribution and recognizing marketing and management contributions.
Senior management have had their workloads on mundane analysis greatly reduced while obtaining more accurate information faster. Information is also available at different levels of the organization at different levels of detail. Enquiries from a very summarized executive view to a very detailed transaction level analysis allow effective management by exception with drill down to specific problems. The variety of analyses possible offers great scope for effective management and directed marketing in a manner which should allow the company to create and sustain competitive advantage.
The evolution of computer technology in the late eighties gave rise to a situation at V3 Consulting Engineers in 1989 where the existing projects system was becoming obsolete and no longer able to cope with the demands of the firm. Over the period 1989/90, the management of the firm undertook a number of preliminary reviews of commercially available software and subsequently commissioned a detailed study of the firm's requirements in which the relative strengths and weaknesses of the commercially available software packages was evaluated (Robertson 1990).
It was established that neither of the major packages available were ideally suited to the needs of the firm and further analysis was undertaken to establish in greater detail the scope of modifications required. Following negotiations with the vendors, a scope and budget for the required changes was agreed and a final decision taken as to which system to purchase. The selected system was a South African developed package already in use at a number of consulting engineering firms.
A period of software enhancement by the developers was followed by testing and pilot operation, the system was commissioned and ran live in the Cape Region of V3 in October 1991. Thereafter the system was installed in the Free State and Transvaal regions, running live from March 1992.
This paper outlines some of the experiences with the implementation with particular emphasis on the benefits derived from the use of the system.
The system selected comprised a number of major components:
The projects system comprises a suite of programs including projects and personnel databases, salary and rates information. A company parameters module allows configuration of the system to model the organizational structure of the practice to take account of offices, departments and associated companies as well as to define the nature of the general ledger interface. A variety of set-up options allow further customization of the operation of the software.
The projects system provides full features for the entry and processing of time and expense information with comprehensive analysis of Work in Progress (WIP). WIP is maintained on an open item basis such that once captured, all items remain in the system until they are either recovered through billing to the client or written off. Full audit trails and analysis reports are available on the WIP. The project system includes a largely automated billing system.
The projects system also provides a wide range of facilities for structuring up to 5 levels of project detail and associated analysis together with activity codes and a variety of project budgeting and reporting options.
The projects system is integrated with debtors and creditors modules to allow full management of these accounting functions with project related reporting in debtors and both project and non-project expenses posted in the creditors program.
All financial components of the projects system are integrated on a batch basis with a commercial general ledger package.
The financial system comprises a commercial general ledger package together with integrated cash book software. This is linked on a batch basis to a commercial salary package. The financial system has recently been extended by the acquisition of an integrated assets register package and barcode reader. The financial system replaced 24 column manual cash books.
The general ledger chart of accounts accommodates a comprehensive, fundamental analysis of all income statement and balance sheet items in a manner that is linked to the business model of the organization in terms of cost and profit centres including physical branch offices and administrative, technical and support departments. A hierarchical, structured coding scheme is employed in order to facilitate allocation of expenses on an activity basis, and to allow progressively more detail in enquiries. Associated with the chart of accounts, a variety of financial reports allow summary or detail reporting for the region, office or department as required, including summary and detail income statements, balance sheet, cash flow projections and ratio analysis.
The financial system is linked directly to the projects system in a manner that is designed to support activity based costing and allocation of income and expenses in a manner that permits clear definition of ownership of information with a view to achieving a high level of internal auditing and a resultant improvement in accuracy and reduction in audit delays.
In the past year, procedures have been implemented to permit all financial results to be consolidated nationally at the detail level, thus permitting the extraction of a wide variety of detailed and summary analyses. Various controls on inter-region charges have also been implemented together with procedures for accumulation and distribution of corporate overheads.
Executive Information System
Recently a graphical Executive Information System (EIS) has been developed to operate on the underlying operational projects and financial systems. This EIS has been developed using a commercial, windows based tool and provides a high level of graphical summarization of certain key values in the projects and financial systems. Development is continuing.
The EIS system has been developed with the objective of enabling senior management to see key values summarized graphically in a meaningful way that allows them to rapidly identify potential problems and drill down to the detail in any way that they may consider necessary. Particular emphasis was placed on achieving a user interface that was intuitive for senior management and did not restrict enquiries on the basis of simplifying assumptions made during construction. The EIS also provides an interactive mechanism for overhead distribution on an activity basis, whereby all income and expenditure relating to non-production business units is distributed over the production units on an agreed basis. The model has been designed with a view to providing management with the means to examine the effect of alternative allocation formulae on the profitability of individual business units without altering the underlying data which has been allocated on a fundamental basis.
The ultimate objective set for the EIS is to support a "paperless board meeting" in which all relevant information is projected onto a screen in the board room so that managers can analyze and query information interactively and pro-actively thus facilitating management by exception rather than tabling large volumes of information.
OBJECTIVES FOR THE SYSTEM
A number of short term and long term strategic objectives were set for the system at the time that the initial investigation (Robertson 1990) was undertaken. Particular emphasis was placed on specifying the objectives and requirements for the system with the objective of meeting the long term strategic requirements of the firm with a view to avoiding the need to replace the system after a few years. Objectives set included:
- Provide tools to monitor and improve productivity and profitability.
- Enable profitability to be measured on a project, department and office basis using the cubic model proposed by Robertson.
- Assist the firm to offer the highest possible levels of service to it's clients.
- Ensure that charges for work were realistic and that work was performed effectively for the client.
- Provide comprehensive budgeting facilities for projects and financials.
- Assist in the evaluation of current and future directors with respect to appointment and promotion.
- Provide concise management summaries.
- Permit a global view of the practice.
- Permit detailed enquiry on all aspects of operations and job costing.
- Require minimum management time and manpower to operate system.
- System must be affordable.
All of these objectives have been met at the current time although costs have been greater than expected and would be handled differently if the project was undertaken today. Certain specific benefits are discussed in more detail in subsequent sections.
The implementation was undertaken in a phased manner, as outlined previously. Problems were experienced in terms of availability of senior personnel in-house at certain times and in terms of commissioning the system in other regions using in-house personnel. This was undertaken with a view to cost containment but ultimately gave rise to increased costs associated with correction of problems experienced.
With hindsight, more use should have made of outside assistance in the implementation in the second and third regions. In-house staff were not experienced enough and the time they spent in other regions placed pressure on their own region's operation.
Time taken to achieve understanding and commitment to the new system by managers and staff at all levels proved to be greater than anticipated and required focused and firm action by top executives before all required information was provided by project leaders and other staff and proper use was made of management reports. Experience tends to support the widely reported view that a paradigm change of this magnitude requires between three and five years to become permanent in an organization.
BENEFITS OF THE SYSTEM
The projects system has now been in operation in the Cape Region of V3 for close to two years and in the rest of the country for eighteen months while the financial system has been in use country wide for eighteen months. As stated above, the objectives set three years ago have all been met. Specific benefits are discussed in the sections that follow:
Reliability and Timeousness of Information
Information is readily available, in many cases almost instantly. For example, analysis of time sheet data and other data captured to projects is available within two working days of the end of the month.
Full analysis of project performance for the month is available immediately data capture is completed including a wide variety of budget, costing and profitability reports. Up to date sales journals are available at any stage as are debtors and creditors age analyses. The EIS projects analysis can be made available within twenty four hours of month end or updated more frequently as appropriate.
Full financial statements including summary and detailed income statements, balance sheets and cash flow projections are generally available ten days after month end and include all closing and balancing adjustments for the period in question so that there is considerable confidence in the reliability of the information. The EIS financial analysis can be made available at the same time.
Because of the wide variety of combinations and groupings in which the information can be presented and the wide variety of controls built into the system, it is possible for all information to be reported in a manner which allows recipients to accept full ownership of specific sets of data. This facilitates verification and control and allows senior management to operate on the basis that, "if all subordinate managers have accepted the accuracy of their figures, the consolidated figures must be correct". This ensures a high degree of reliability and confidence in the information.
As a result of the detailed analysis contained in the general ledger, it is possible to operate the financial system in such a way that very little additional processing is required at year end over that required at month end. While some difficulties were encountered at the end of the first year of operations since not all procedures were fully in place, it was still possible to table the year end figures 17 days after the end of the year and they were signed off without qualifications by the auditors approximately five weeks later.
The Cubic Business Model
The business model referred to earlier allows the databases to be viewed as a multi-dimensional "Rubic's" cube which can be rotated and viewed in a wide variety of different ways. This permits the financial and production information to be grouped and summarized by office, department and region. Production (project) information can also be viewed by project leader, technical director, marketing director, client market segment, project discipline and client thus providing a fully market focused information capability. This information can then be used to focus marketing efforts and identify different marketing and management styles required for different market sectors as well as enabling management to evaluate the performance of individuals in terms of marketing and management contribution as well as production contribution.
In conjunction with these facilities, the activity based allocation of administrative overhead contribution by technical staff permits an accurate measurement of true profitability of individual business units or sub-units at a level which permits "level playing field" comparisons of business units. This eliminates the traditional problem of professional service organizations where the business units of those involved in management and marketing are penalized since only the production contribution is measured. Through this approach, inappropriate management decisions resulting from incorrect cost allocation can be avoided.
The system also supports attribution (allocation) of income from professional fees to the business unit employing the person doing the work. This permits the profitability of business units to be measured in terms of true, salary linked, revenue contribution as well as by the traditional method of project profitability and reduces the dependence on relatively arbitrary, rates based, costing approaches.
Senior Management Work Load and Effectiveness
Senior management have had their work load on mundane analysis greatly reduced as many of the analyses previously performed using spreadsheets have been incorporated into the system and are therefore available automatically with greatly reduced effort. Time spent resolving problems of mis-allocation and addressing queries with regard to year end has also been considerably reduced.
The multiple levels of summarization in conjunction with the high level of detail of the underlying data enable management to receive very summarized reports for routine management while affording them the capability to rapidly "drill down" to progressively more detail in order to answer queries.
The wide variety of analyses available and the ready availability of information have freed management to be more effective while devoting less time to management and administration. At the same time, management have greatly improved scope to identify opportunities to improve operational effectiveness, increase delegation and improve profitability. They are also able to identify market related factors that can have a bearing on marketing strategy, product mix and other matters. These factors all enable the firm to offer innovative and competitive services in a competitive market. This is expected to assist the firm in creating and sustaining competitive advantage over the medium- to long- term as part of it's commitment to providing relevant, appropriate and cost effective services.
The components of a management information system (MIS) and associated financial and executive information systems have been summarized based on the experience of V3 Consulting Engineers. Certain experiences during implementation have been summarized and the objectives set for the system at the outset are reviewed. It is noted that these objectives have been met.
The benefits experienced by the firm are discussed with particular reference to issues such as timeousness and reliability of information, flexibility of analysis and control. It is noted that the work loads of senior management have been reduced while more accurate and detailed information is made available more rapidly. The ability to summarize the information in a great variety of ways while providing the ability to undertake enquiries at a very high level of detail when required, is noted as a further benefit.
It is concluded that the system has met most of the objectives set for it at the outset and that it is assisting the firm in it's objective of creating and maintaining competitive advantage through the provision of focused, appropriate and cost effective consulting engineering services.
Robertson J A (1990) Report on Investigation Into Professional Practice Management Information Systems for Vorster, van der Westhuizen and Partners Unpublished report, October 1990.
Download the V3 Consulting Engineers: The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice -- Article in Adobe pdf format
011 The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice -- by Dr James A Robertson PrEng from James Robertson
Download The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice v 003 -- Slides in Adobe pdf format
Download The Benefits of Management Information Systems to the Professional Practice v 003 -- Original Paper in Adobe pdf format
A rigorous (engineering approach) to strategic planning using critical issues based analysis techniques and structured gap analysis techniques to develop a comprehensive and rigorous multi-year plan that is measurable and actionable and traceable back to the original analysis in order to produced high value outcomes, requires effective strategic facilitation
There is a more detailed version of this document at the end of this page for larger projects with a more detailed procurement process
Business Systems NOT delivering?
Call the Business Systems Specialist
Dr James A Robertson -- has been involved in the effective application of Business Information Systems, including but NOT limited to ERP, since 1987 and in the profitable and effective use of computers in Business since 1981.
Drawing on a diversity of experience, including formal military training in Quick Attack techniques at the Regimental Commander level, Dr Robertson has developed highly effective methods of investigating any sub-optimal Business Information Systems situation -- be it an established system or a stalled project or any other source of Executive frustration -- quickly and concisely diagnosing the root cause of the problem and prescribing concise practical actions that Business Executives can effectively act on see the Pulse Measurement page and also the Sample Reports page for redacted real reports.
He has also developed highly effective methods of strategically enriching systems to unlock the full potential of existing investments, see the Precision Configuration page and couples this to architecting small pieces of clever software that harness the full potential of your investment, see the Software page.
If you are having problems with your systems, your project or your IT Department, call The Business Systems Specialist
Business System Failure is RIFE -- we offer insight into why this happens AND WHAT is required to prevent it.
Failure is at epidemic levels with massive damage done to client companies -- if you are NOT aware of the extent of the problem please visit the About Failure page for a catalog of major failures running to billions of Pounds and Dollars.
All evidence indicates that the established players do NOT know how to deliver stable, reliable high value solutions that WORK.
There HAS to be a better way!
This website provides information relating to that way with a large collection of white papers, presentations, standards documents, etc that you can use to start bringing the situation under control
We also offer high level advisory services with regard to the application of the principles advocated on this website
We offer an ENGINEERING APPROACH to addressing these issues
By Engineering I mean the formal, structured, highly disciplined, highly systematic, highly practical approach that consistently delivers results in ALL areas of human endeavor where formally trained and certified engineers are the ONLY practitioners permitted to operate -- think large buildings, factories, motor vehicles, aircraft -- highly complex systems that work at a level that we take it for granted that they WILL work and where failure is all but unthinkable and, when it happens, attracts immediate public attention and rigorous investigation directed at ensuring that such failures are prevented in the future -- in fact, everything that the management consulting industry that implements complex software systems is NOT
This approach is discussed further on the Engineering Approach page.
In 2003 I undertook an in-depth analysis of all the information and experience that I had gathered with regard to the factors giving rise to Business Information System failure including ERP and general IT and classified this information into a number of categories including "The Factors Causing Failure" and "The Critical Factors for Success" based on this I developed a two day Course "The Critical Factors for Information Technology Investment Success" which is still offered today.
Based on this I wrote the book of the same name, which is available in electronic form here for download:
James has a very detailed profile on LinkedIn should you require further information about him.
You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/in/DrJamesARobertsonERPDoctor
James has an open networking profile -- click on "Connect" and use email address James@LinkedIn-at-JARA.com.
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You can contact us on
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Mobile: +44 (0) 776-862-2875
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Fax: +44 (0) 844 774 4580
There is a large body of white papers, articles and other content produced by Dr James Robertson available on this website
Please click here to visit the detailed listing of articles
About Dr James A Robertson PrEng -- The Business Systems Doctor -- and Other Topics
Catalogue of Major Business Information System Failures
About the Engineering Approach
James Robertson's Value Add
Attributes of a HIGH VALUE solution
Recognizing Business System Failure
The Critical Human Foundation
Old Software IS Viable
From South Africa
Competencies of Dr James A Robertson PrEng
About Professor Malcolm McDonald
Table of Contents
About my relationship with the Almighty Creator, Yah the Eternally Self-Existing
Comments relating to the Business Systems Industry and other topics
Testimonials and other positive material regarding James Robertson
List of Articles
Achieving High Value Business Information System outcomes
Executive Custody -- What is it and HOW do you get it?
The REAL Issues in Integrated Business Information System Success
Part 1: Introduction
Part 2 -- Mythology and Lack of Executive Custody
Part 3 – Strategic Alignment and Precision Configuration
Why your ERP is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
IT Project Management
CEO Anthony Lee Comments on his experience of the Pulse Measurement
No Charge Guarantee on the Pulse Measurement Service
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes
Critical questions regarding the Pulse Measurement™
The Pulse Measurement Workflow
The Critical Factors for Business System (ERP+) Investment Success in the Pulse Measurement
Indicative Pulse Measurement Durations
What is a JAR&A Pulse Measurement?
Survival of the fittest – why it makes sense to measure the pulse of your business
Examples of Pulse Measurement Outcomes over 24 years
Sample Pulse Measurement Reports
Strategic Essence: The Missing Link in Business Information Systems
Strategic Essence: Overview
Strategic Essence: Part 1 -- Strategy Defined
Strategic Essence: Part 2 -- Differentiation
Strategic Essence: Part 3 -- The Essence IS Different
Strategic Essence: Part 4 -- The Essence should be the Point of Departure
Strategic Essence: Part 5 -- Discovering Strategic Essence
Strategy -- the Essence of the Business: What is it and how do you develop actionable strategic plans?
Simple Steps to Increase the Strategic Value of your ERP Investment
Free Strategic Snapshot Toolset and Manual
A strategy focused planning system beyond traditional budgeting
Tough IT and ERP Procurement and Contracting that Works
Robust Business Systems Procurement
Part 1 -- Introduction
Part 2 -- Bill of Services, Laboratory, Go-live Certificate, etc
Part 3 -- Executive Engagement, Bid Compliance, Adjudication and other matters
Guidance and Advisory Services
The Art of Project Leadership
Why Regular Communication with the CEO is Vital
The Business Simulation Laboratory
Precision Configuration and Strategic Business Information Architecture
Precision Configuration based on Strategic Engineered Precision Taxonomies
The JAR&A Cubic Business Model
Highly Structured Strategic Chart of Accounts -- a Vital Element of your Corporate Information Arsenal
The Product Catalogue -- an Essential Element of any Precision Configuration
Attributes -- answers to the questions you have NOT yet thought to ask
Case Studies of Notably Successful Projects with high value Precision Configuration
092 Doing things differently and better -- ASCO Case Study 2-- BPM Summit 2013
088 Strategic ERP Invesment -- ASCO Case Study -- Service Management Conference and Exhibition Africa
026 Information Architecture and Design of FIS for Rennies Group -- Financial Information Systems Conf
018 CRM Risk Control: Designing and Implementing an Integrated Risk Mgmt Sys -- Integrated Risk Mgmt Conf
011 V3 Consulting Eng: Benefits of MIS to Professional Practice -- SAICE 15th Ann Conf on Computers in Civil Eng
Strategically Enriching your Business Information Systems
Part 2 -- Principles of Data Engineering
Part 3 -- Steps in applying these recommendations
Simple Steps to increase the strategic information value yield from your Business Systems Investment
The Full JAR&A Taxonomy Manual
Part 1: Introduction, Problem Statement, Definitions and Examples
Part 2: Why Use JAR&A, Required Knowledge and Experience, Cubic Business Model and Chart of Accounts and Taxonomy Software
Part 3: How to do it, Case Studies and White Papers and other References
Example General Ledger Manual
Business Process -- Irrelevant, Distracting and Dangerous
The RIGHT Approach
Custom Strategic Software Design and Oversight of Construction
Standards for Custom Software Specification
What IS Software?
Critical Factors for I.T. Success
A Moral and Ethical Dilemma -- Systems that Fail
Case Studies examining Business Information System failures
The BBC Digital Media Initiative Debacle
The Bridgestone -- IBM Conflict
Speaking and Training
Showcase of Conference Presentations
Most Viewed Presentations
Briefings and Seminars
Why your ERP/BIS is NOT delivering and HOW to FIX it
ERP and IT Procurement that Delivers Results
The Critical Factors for IT and ERP Investment Success
Conferences and Public Presentations
Conferences 80 to 99 -- 2009 to Present
Conferences 60 to 79 -- 2005 to 2009
Conferences 40 to 59 -- 1996 to 2005
Conferences 20 to 39 -- 1994 to 1996
Conferences 01 to 19 -- 1989 to 1994
On-Line Seminars (Webinars)
Webinar on Preparing and Presenting Webinars
Contacting James A Robertson and Associates Limited