With Maine experiencing the early signs of Fall, we once again hosted our annual Seminar by the Sea. We would like to thank our customers, partners and staff for making this year’s Seminar another success. For those who were unable to join us, here is an overview of the event:
Seminar 2013, Day #1
Wednesday Sept. 4th, 2013 began with introductions of Quantrix staff and customer attendees, by Els Scholten, Quantrix customer and partner relations manager and Seminar organizer.
Attendees came from Bermuda, U.S. West Coast, Mid-West & Pennsylvania, Italy, Mexico, England, Ireland, and Austria – verticals included financial services, higher education, software, reinsurance, energy, legal compliance services, consumer products, management consulting, and agriculture.
Special IDBS staff traveled from the UK to Portland, including Alison Campbell (Head of Quantrix support) and Brian Hobbs (IDBS Lead Developer).
Laurence Painell, VP of Quantrix, presented an overview of his background, the IDBS-Quantrix relationship, and Quantrix product history. Laurence also spoke about the future of the products, and asked everyone to give him feedback, particularly after the Day #2 Roadmap/Roundtable discussion. In short, it was a great presentation!
Brian Cabana, Quantrix Development Manager, presented the upcoming Quantrix 5.1 and Qloud 3 (the Interactive Qloud). Brian described the Quantrix Modeler 5.1 Timeline feature (the “smart” time dimension), DataLink enhancements, and many other improvements.
After a break, two training sessions (Beginners, led by Quantrix Professional Services Leesa Jones, and Advanced, led by former Quantrix employee and now Tesser Consulting’s Valerie Grenier) commenced.
Following lunch, a Customer/Partner Case Study was presented by John Taylor of Planning Models, Ltd. John uses Quantrix for business modeling (planning, analysis, performance, scenario what-if’s). After a presentation of some amazing history, John demonstrated how he uses Quantrix to help educational institutions model their businesses amidst challenging changes, so they can forecast student admissions, retention, appropriate teaching staff, facilities needs, grants, tuition and more.
Training classes resumed after lunch, followed by a reception at the hotel. It was a great way to cap off a productive day.
Seminar 2013, Day #2
Thursday began with a review of the day’s agenda by Els, and was followed by an introduction to the Quantrix interactive Qloud by Brian Cabana. Brian discussed the current plan for hosting, and some of the Qloud functionality in more detail. These included new Qloud features such as the tabbed design, visual cues for users, ability to use notes, widgets, export to xls and csv, permissions, how to use a Qloud model in DataLink, download Qloud models, and much more. Brian discussed model size limits, versioning, locking and what may be in the future for the Qloud product. Dave Phillips contributed information about the current e-commerce plan for Qloud users who have edit permissions.
After a break, Ben Wake, who developed Quantrix’s new Timeline feature, presented Timeline. As Ben described, Timeline includes: a Wizard to easily set up a timeline; drag and drop to link an entire timeline to another matrix; ability to have different timelines on different matrices within a model (such as calendar year on one matrix, fiscal year on another, or to have weeks, months and quarters on one matrix and years on another, etc.); simplified recursion formulas and the ability to convert pre-timeline models to timeline.
Next, John Montana presented a fascinating Customer/Partner Case Study describing how his firm uses Quantrix to manage the complexities of
information governance, including legal requirements and risk management to multiple verticals in many countries. Huge data sets have to be managed and analyzed for litigation discovery, recalls, lawsuits, ethics requirements, document production and retention, and more. A single Quantrix cell might contain multiple, multi-page documents. John pointed out that if some businesses retain data longer than required, it can cost them millions.
Quantrix is their primary business tool, and their key output is generating a set of rules from Quantrix, for a given entity for managing the data sets. John maps the laws to the data sets, then analyzes the requirements and instructs clients about how to execute the rules against the database, which is Quantrix.
A Quantrix Roadmap/Round Table followed, with attendees in two groups contributing feature requests. These requests were collected and collated for analysis. We thank our participants very much for their feedback, as it helps provide us with product direction.
Quantrix Tips & Tricks was presented by Lori Templeton. Lori walked us through examples of refined searches and encouraged everyone to try finding the answers to their questions in the updated Online Help. Lori demonstrated the following tips:
Using the Paint Icon to quickly copy cell formats, using the right-click menu to select “item only”, reordering items, deleting more than one folder at a time, and organizing with Notes & Perspectives.
Next up was how to work with the Presentation Canvas to create reports using cell widgets and how to display or and turn off the display of the cell outline. Finally, she demonstrated how to create user input forms to collect user data for your modeling needs, including presenting the canvas for input using perspectives or sharing the canvas in the Qloud to collect the data from users on the web.
Thursday’s social event included a sail on a historic schooner, Wendameen. Wendameen (over 80 feet long) was designed by pre-eminent American yacht designer John Alden, and she was built in 1912 in East Boothbay, Maine. In 1933 she was acquired by a yacht broker and stored in New York for years. She was extensively rebuilt, subsequently fell into disrepair, and was ultimately bought by Capt. Neal Parker in the late ‘80’s. He put a tremendous amount of work into her, launched her about 1990 and sailed her for years. In 2005 he sold her to Portland Schooner Co., where she sails out of the Maine State Pier in Portland. And Maine State Pier is where
we all gathered to board her for a wonderful sail out by Portland Head Light, Ram Island Light, past Cushing Island, along the back shore of Peaks Island, passing along the end of Great Diamond Island and into Diamond Cove, where we dined at Diamond’s Edge Restaurant. The boat and crew waited for us at the dock, and then we motored home via Diamond Pass, with a clear sky and bright stars!
Seminar 2013, Day #3
After Els reviewed the day’s agenda, Ben Gruba presented Scripting for Quantrix. Ben did an overview, a demo, and an exercise. As many of you know from his articulate presence on the Quantrix forum, Ben is our scripting guru.
After the break, Luca Erzegovesi, professor at the University of Trento, Italy, presented a Customer/Partner Case Study detailing how he uses Quantrix and scripting to manage his Financial planning class. Luca demonstrated a creative and effective use of scripting to manage student registrations, evaluations and dynamic communications to students about their exams. Luca employs sophisticated techniques to achieve his ends, including string comparisons, filtered list generation, message construction using variables, importing data from Sqlite3, image management and more. He illustrated each step of his process, so it was easy to see his inputs and results.
Finally, Brian Cabana returned to present Scripting on the Qloud. His presentation offered interesting possibilities for using scripting in a web-based collaborative environment.
For those who would like to see the bio’s of our wonderful customer-presenters, here they are with great thanks from the entire Quantrix team!
John is the founder of Planning Models Ltd., which became a reseller for Quantrix Modeler in 2007. PML provides product training and consulting services to Quantrix Modeler users in the UK. John is a specialist in business planning and in the application of computer modelling for planning, forecasting and strategy development. John also has experience in the development of processes and systems for business performance management.
John was previously a consulting Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers, where he co-founded and led the Business Dynamics practice, part of PwC’s strategic services, which provided analytical and modelling services to UK and multinational organisations. After leaving PwC in 2002, John was the CEO of Cartesis UK Ltd, a software house providing financial consolidation, budgeting and reporting systems to multinational companies. He then worked with Information Management Group Ltd. to set up and lead their corporate performance management practice, based on Microsoft and SAP business planning technologies.
John Montaña is a principal of Montaña & Associates, Inc., a records and information management consulting firm. He advises corporations, law firms and non-profit organizations on records and information management. His work has included analysis and advice on a wide variety of records and information management issues, including records retention scheduling, advice on the legality of various information storage media, regulatory compliance, litigation and discovery, and other matters likely to impact information management considerations; as well as analysis, critique and modification of practices, policies and procedures, and retention schedules developed by others and start-to-finish development of records retention schedules, records management policies and procedures. He is widely recognized as one of the foremost records management experts in the country.
He has published four books on records management issues, as well as dozens of articles for magazines and professional journals, and is an active seminar speaker on records management topics. He holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Denver. John can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 610-255-1588.
Luca Erzegovesi, is Professor of Banking and Corporate finance at the University of Trento (Italy) and deputy director of the Department of Economics and Management at the same university. He has published numerous works on financial markets, financial management in banks, and small business finance. He has designed and developed information systems for asset and liability management and market risk management in banks, and promoted the adoption of the XBRL standard for companies’ statutory filings in Italy.
An enthusiastic Quantrix user since 2005, Luca has adopted Quantrix Modeler as a teaching tool in the Financial Planning Lab (Laboratorio di pianficazione finanziaria), a class in the undergraduate program in Business Administration at the University of Trento. In the Lab, students learn how to build Quantrix models for cash budgeting, pro-forma financial statements, cost accounting, project evaluation and strategic financial planning.
We are already looking forward to next year’s Seminar by the Sea. We hope you will join us!
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