I’ve spoken with many finance executives over the years and a question often comes up – how do I motivate the spreadsheet gurus in our company to embrace a different tool for financial modeling? This kind of question is not unique to Quantrix; it is often the case in any implementation of new software that people express some reluctance to taking the time to learn a new skill. One of the reasons in our particular domain is that many individuals who have gained mastery in spreadsheets feel that part of the value they provide to their company is being the “go-to” person whenever anyone has a question about how to do something. They have spent many years learning how to make spreadsheets do things they weren’t necessarily designed to do. However, in my experience, most of these spreadsheet gurus catch on to Quantrix Modeler in very short order. When they begin to use Quantrix, a light often goes off in their heads with the realization that they can do their tasks with much more speed, nimbleness and accuracy than they could have with the spreadsheet. In a real and tangible way, they are able to take their financial modeling skills to a new level and offer even greater value to their organization. That is a great motivating factor! On an organizational level, this is a major benefit to finance executives who are asked to make their teams more productive with fewer resources and is one of the key reasons they come to Quantrix. On an individual level, proficiency in Quantrix Modeler is a desired skill in the marketplace. Quantrix has over 1000 customers in 50 countries and we are often asked to refer individuals to employers who are looking for talent. So, investing the time to develop Quantrix skills will pay dividends in one’s career. For those who use LinkedIn, I highly recommend adding Quantrix Modeler to your skills in your profile. Simply log in to LinkedIn, go to Profile|Edit Profile, scroll down to Skills and Expertise, click Edit (blue pen icon), and type “Quantrix Modeler”. Then hit the Add button. You never know where your Quantrix Modeler skills will take you!
The Quantrix team would like to thank our customers and partners who participated in the 6th Annual Seminar by the Sea. This year’s event included three days of training and presentations during the peak of Maine’s leaf peeping season. While we spent most of the time indoors participating in sessions, we also enjoyed a “wicked walking tour” of the Old Port where we learned about Portland’s colorful and haunted history. This year’s event offered a variety of beginner and advanced topics, as well as a number of customer presentations. Special thanks to Armando Gonzalez who discussed his project with SABMiller, Max Jungjohan who presented his projects within the Chilean transportation market, Jim Heagney who reviewed his “CFO for Hire” projects with several start-ups, and Henry Shin who talked about his Quantrix-based data analysis and risk management solution for the California energy market. Our customers also benefited from ad hoc demos and discussions regarding all the interesting ways people are using Quantrix. We are already looking forward to next year’s Seminar!
We recently published our 2nd annual Budgeting, Forecasting and Planning Survey. Not surprisingly, we found that business professionals are spending too much time on manual spreadsheet-based processes and not enough time doing actual analysis and decision-making. Key takeaways from the survey are as follows:
• Business and finance professionals spend almost three-quarters of their time – 72% – administering the overall process and collecting and validating data, leaving little time for value-added analysis.
• Spreadsheets continue to be dominant, but business and finance professionals are not happy about it: more than 50% report that they plan to reduce their reliance upon spreadsheets for finance activities.
• Business and finance professionals continue to spend a significant amount of time recasting budgets and responding to ad-hoc queries. Most companies – 58% – rework budgets quarterly, and half of all respondents provide four or more ad-hoc scenarios per year.
We also asked Rob Kugel, SVP & Research Director at Ventana Research, his thoughts:
“Over time, business and finance professionals find that it’s hard to modify and adapt spreadsheets for changing business conditions, and that it’s too time consuming to use them for anything more than simplistic scenario planning. But there are a new generation of spreadsheet alternatives such as Quantrix that are designed to be used by business and finance professionals, not just IT departments, which can improve their planning, forecasting, and budgeting.”
On a positive note, we found that respondents feel the business outlook is improving, as they report that “preparing for growth” is the most important driver in developing their budgets, forecasts, and plans. If your company is also in this enviable position, that’s even more reason to switch to Quantrix. Quantrix models are significantly more flexible and scalable than spreadsheets. So spend more time positioning your company for success, and less time hunched over your spreadsheets!
Click the following link to download the survey report. I hope you enjoy the read!
Back in 2002, I was hired as the first payroll employee for Quantrix. I am now approaching my 10 year anniversary at Quantrix so I thought it would be fun to take a look back at our product release history. We have certainly accomplished a lot in the past 10 years!
November 2003 – Version 1
After 14 months of development, Quantrix 1.0 was released to the world. This version introduced our core concepts of multi-dimensional matrices and formulas separated from the cell structure. We leveraged the internet to market our product and our first sale came from a small consultancy in France. As we received feedback on our first version, subsequent version 1 dot releases were made available that introduced the beginnings of data import, HTML export, the Quantrix API, and Export to Excel.
June 2005 – Version 2
Quantrix 2.0 introduced our popular DataLink functionality that allows Quantrix to connect to a wide variety of data sources. Scalability of Quantrix models was a key aspect to this release as we were finding that with increased flexibility, users were creating much larger models than we originally anticipated. Subsequent version 2 dot releases introduced more fine-tuned controls for DataLink and more features in the charting package as well as OS X compatibility.
April 2008 – Version 3
Quantrix 3.0 introduced the Presentation Canvas feature. The UI got a total re-work with the introduction of the tabbed user interface. A launch panel was introduced as well as a new roles and permissions framework. The subsequent version 3 dot releases were the most aggressive in company history introducing many new tools and products for our customers. They included:
• 64 bit support for Windows and OS X
• DataNAV for easy drag and drop interfaces with Data Sources
• DataPush to update matrix data to Databases
• Quantrix Development Kit (QDK) for deeper access into the Quantrix code source to allow users to extend Quantrix functionality in custom ways
• Rewrite on the charting application to introduce the “Chart Grid” functionality
• UI enhancements including the Model Browser Filter, Clear Type Font Smoothing, Synchronized Views and Saved Perspectives
March 2011 – Version 4
Quantrix 4.0 focused on usability and performance. The Quantrix Qloud was introduced which was our first foray into thin-client model delivery. We also made significant improvements to our calculation engine where some models showed up to 85% improvement in calculation times. Scripting was introduced to our users as a way to automate repetitive user tasks in a model. Version 4 dot releases introduced a problems panel to identify and fix formula errors in one location, images and hyperlinks support in cells as well as improved charting controls.
We are not quite ready to let the cat out of the bag yet, but it is safe to say we are thinking web-based, multi-user solutions in a BIG way. We want to make the process of building models easier for the core groups of modelers in an organization and allow for many users to view and use models via web browser. Exciting times are ahead so stay tuned!
About the author
Mike Salisbury oversees the Customer Support and Quality Assurance programs at Quantrix and helps set the product direction and strategy of the Quantrix Modeler application. Mike enjoys meeting with customers to discuss how Quantrix is used in their organizations and brainstorm ways to improve the application. You can contact Mike at email@example.com.
There has been a good discussion in the Quantrix Users Group on LinkedIn as to why consultants continue to use spreadsheets for servicing their clients. As we all know, spreadsheets continue to be entrenched as a modeling tool in spite of their shortcomings and risks. As the marketing manager at Quantrix, I speak with a lot of consultants who are interested in using Quantrix to better serve their clients, particularly as they scale up their firms. Many consultants bring value to their clients through a combination of financial modeling skills and domain expertise. So naturally, one of the main issues that consultants often bring up is how to protect the intellectual property which is embedded within their model. When they send a spreadsheet model to a client, they lose control over their IP. One way to address this concern is through user roles and permissions. With this feature in Quantrix, consultants are able to expose only the parts of the model they wish. In effect, they are able to deliver a high performance model without showing what’s under the hood. As we move towards new web-based capabilities in Quantrix, there will be even greater benefits to consultancies in the way they deliver models (and value) to their clients.
Here is the first in a regular series of interviews with Quantrix customers. James Heagney is CEO of a consultancy based in Chicago, Illinois.
Tell us about you and your company:
I am a professional CFO. I provide CFO services on an outsourced basis for early stage, small and middle market companies. My clients range from non-profit to technology to brick & mortar style businesses. Most of my clients engage me because they cannot otherwise afford to pay for a professional CFO, so they hire me on an outsourced basis.
What business challenges lead you to seek out a solution from Quantrix?
Managing complex workbooks for multiple clients had become unruly and difficult to manage.
How has Quantrix helped you solve those business challenges?
One of the first things I do when I engage a client is to build a comprehensive, integrated financial plan. Building such a plan enables me to thoroughly understand the business quickly, and provide advice and guidance accordingly. Quantrix has enabled me to build these plans, as well as help my clients use them to manage their financial future.
What are the key benefits of the Quantrix solution for your company? The key benefits I have received from Quantrix have been to dramatically change the way I develop, deploy and manage integrated financial plans for my clients. I utilize a “FAST” model development methodology, which stands for “Flexible, Accurate, Structured and Transparent model development philosophy. Quantrix has been a great help in enabling me to deliver such a model to my clients.
What advice would you like to give others interested in Quantrix?
Quantrix has a “hockey stick” learning curve…it goes slow at first, but then all of a sudden the light bulbs go on…so stick with it!
If you would like to share with others how Quantrix has impacted your company or career, please send me an email.
(207) 775-0808 ext 108
Are you looking for a structured approach that helps you to quickly build high integrity models? I would imagine so! Well, Quantrix has developed the Quantrix Modeling Methodology (QMM). QMM provides a systematic approach to creating models with Quantrix Modeler. Regardless of skill level or experience with Quantrix, business modelers should consider using a quality process as it will save time and effort when designing models and often increase the utility and impact of models. The process begins with a simple question and progresses to the new business understanding or insight. QMM also ensures on-going understanding of the current and forward-looking business environment through the data updating loop (DataLink).
QMM traces its origin to a proven standard process model. In 1996, an initial committee with representatives from DaimlerChrysler of Germany, SPSS Inc of the US, and NCR Systems Engineering of Denmark began to create a structure to facilitate the immature data mining market. The committee received funding from the European Commission to further their research and activities and sought input from data warehouse vendors and management consultancies. The committee created the Cross-Industry Standard Process (CRISP) which was intended to be an industry, tool and application-neutral structure to build low-defect data models. When CRISP 1.0 was released, there were nearly 300 organizations involved in the CRISP special interest group. Quantrix has employed this structure as a starting point for creating a modeling methodology that conforms with the Quantrix Modeler paradigm.
Click the following link to read more about the Quantrix Modeling Methodology.
I would like to hear about how you build your financial models. Please post your feedback in the Comments section below.