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CEO Connects the Dots: Choose Your Attitude

I was out over the Thanksgiving weekend doing some shopping. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best frame of mind. Quite frankly, my attitude needed an adjustment. Instead of enjoying the hustle and bustle of people out doing their thing, the company of my wife, or the beautiful, crisp, November weather, I complained to myself about why we were there. I’m certain my body language was poor and even more certain that I had the Grinch’s puss on my face.

And then we walked into an old country store and I saw a rustic framed quote from Charles Swindoll:

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company … a church … a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude … I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me, and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you … we are in charge of our Attitudes.”

Wow! These were powerful words and they showed up for me to see, just in time. I’m certain my day would have degraded into something terrible and probably would have ended with a spat with my wife by the end.

Instead, I took charge of my attitude and changed my entire day.

I realized just how right Swindoll is. Every single day we have a choice. Happiness is a choice. Embrace a positive attitude and start the day differently than maybe what feels natural in that moment (like staying in your bad mood & being a Grinch through the holiday season).

As we head into the holiday season, there is no better time to choose your attitude. The stress will mount each day both in your personal and professional life as the year comes to an end. Recognize that life is going to happen, and we can’t stop it. Just reflect on what Chuck Swindoll teaches in his quote, 90% of life is HOW WE REACT. Let life happen, and make the conscious decision to be positive in reaction.

Choose a great attitude starting today & let’s finish the year strong!

Do you know why we are called 9DOTS ?? We Solve Problems

I bet a lot of you don’t know why we call ourselves 9DOTS. This is especially relevant because we are changing that. 9DOTS is making sure that everyone accesses our website knows who we are and what we do. Additionally, 9DOTS made some changes that started THIS MONTH. As a matter of fact we will continue to make changes going forward because we love to listen to our clients, we think outside the Box, and we solve problems.

Starting June 1st 9DOTS’ social media presence is stronger, customer support improved, and finally a maintenance bulletin is on the website. As a company, we say we are “Decidedly Different.” For example, 9DOTS chooses not to be a vendor but most of all seek partnership. We are always straight forward, yet offer a hint of sarcasm. We are completely transparent in responses and due to our personality. 9DOTS recognized that the website seemed jumbled, blogs posted few and far between, and social media slacked. We are problem solvers, and that means we solve even our OWN problems.

Did you know 9DOTS is named after the answer to a puzzle?  The Nine Dots Puzzle poses the challenge to connect nine dots using four straight lines or less. Don’t lift the pencil from the paper! Challenge yourself and start below.

9DOTS puzzle solve problems9DOTS  encourages unconventional thinking to generate decidedly different business intelligence strategies. We don’t just hand out software and tell companies to be on their way! Yes, 9DOTS uses Business Analytics to solve problems, but it’s the way we think that makes us stand out from the rest. There is a box filled with Business Intelligence companies. Creativity, dedication and 9DOTS sit outside of that box.

Some people start to solve the puzzle by drawing the pencil in a box shape.  If that is you, then you aren’t the only one! The ANSWER though, is to think OUTSIDE of the box shape. Try to solve it! The answer is below. 9DOTS puzzle solution solve problems

 

To know more about how 9DOTS can solve your problems,  contact us  & Follow us below on FB, Twitter or LinkedIN to stay up to date on all of our info!

 

Data, Data Everywhere! But is There an Answer Insight?

businessman-with-binoculars-44303560-resized-600In blog posts, our LinkedIn Groups, on Facebook, we tend to throw the words “data” & “insight” around like they are one in the same. I know, I know, last week we talked about “Excel” vs. “spreadsheets” this week it’s “data” & “insight.” Has 9DOTS Thinking Outside the Box blog suddenly become a long-winded vocabulary lesson!? I promise you the answer is no, AND I am going to keep it short. The difference between the words “data” and “insight” are just as important as last weeks post (found here), if not more important, because we ALL use the words as synonyms–even previous 9DOTS blogs!

To keep it short & sweet:

  • Data = unprocessed facts, in no organized fashion, from multiple different sources
  • Insight = actionable knowledge that comes from data

This may seem like something small and insignificant, but it is critical to identify the difference. You see, that while it is great to have tons of data, you may not have all of the information or knowledge you really need to gain competitive advantage. How many products did you sell last month? You probably know that number off the top of your head! But why? Why did you sell (or not sell) that amount? What will you accomplish as a business next month, in 6 months, based on the data & numbers you have from last year? Is that change in marketing that you made working positively?

With the right analytics, data can be pulled together from different sources, be organized and help you gain knowledge you didn’t even realize you could have about your organization. Many businesses use data to drive actions and decisions, but if information gives you actionable insight you are much closer to finding value. Turning data into INSIGHT creates the narrative you need to tell your story. As long as you have the correct tools to do so, you will see drastically less unorganized numbers and much more actionable knowledge and information.

Don’t Be a Statistic in 2016, Gain Competitive Advantage!

2015 is coming to an end, and so has your budgeting season.  If you have been reading along, or even if you haven’t, here are a few facts we learned through different surveys and research throughout the year.

A study by Grant Thorton, LLP shows that only 36% of businesses use scenarios and “what-if” analyses to re-check possible outcomes of a strategy.

A study by F1F showed that, out of 1,200 senior managers surveyed yielded stastics like “17% of large businesses suffered financial loss due to poor spreadsheets, and 78% say that key financial decisions are supported by spreadsheets.”

Companies spend weeks or even months completing the annual budgeting process, because it is so important. But too many companies fail to supplement the annual budget with planning activities that could strengthen performance management, gain competitive advantage, and of course drive profit!

Read our white paper to figure out how NOT to be a statistic in 2016, and instead stay ahead of the competition. 

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PwC Finds Pricing & Profitability Law Firms’ Top Priority

PI_Jan15_art3PwC has posted their findings from their 2015 Annual Law Firms’ Survey. Through interviewing the Top 100 firms, they have discovered that a top priority for the future of law firms is to focus on pricing and profitability.

Firms are continuing to invest in business improvement programs. The focus of these programs for Top 10 firms is to drive profitability and enhance support services, whilst firms outside of the Top 10 continue to feel pressure to reduce costs to remain competitive. “A growing number of firms have identified the problem and the solution. Pricing capability and sophistication at a firm-wide and individual partner level is being harnessed and for those firms it is having a swift and significant impact.”

It all falls back into the main idea that communicating and understanding your clients is what leads to a successful law firm. A one-size-fits-all process is no longer the most useful. It results in unhappy clients, and a less profitable law firm. “This depth of understanding the client is a critical precursor to being bale to create and articulate to the client an effective pricing strategy or methodology on a particular matter.”

Providing partners with the right tools and methodology for pricing decisions is also considered key. The article discussing the study mentions that pricing improvement has a very quick ROI. “The PwC report found that even IT projects whose objective is improvement of matter pricing, have an average ROI timescale of only four months.” A lack of correct pricing tools “results in what most firms regard as an unacceptable level of what the report referred to as Unplanned Fee Income Write-offs.”

But, the good news is there is a problem AND a solution. With the right tools, they write-offs are significantly reduced. “Pricing capability and sophistication at a firm-wide and individual partner level is being harnessed and for hose firms it is having a swift and significant impact.”

The Detriment of Spreadsheets

error_spreadsheetBI Solutions that eliminate the complicated use of spreadsheets create stronger, efficient organizations. In the last post I shared that the use of a business intelligence tool eliminates spreadsheet errors and creates confidence in numbers.

FIF9 conducted research with YouGov and obtained empirical data about just how detrimental making an error in a spreadsheet can be to your business. It is understood that many people feel safe in familiarity. Where spreadsheet use may be complex, changing our ways can be equally as taxing. This study shows the negative effects staying in the “spreadsheet comfort-zone” can have on your organization. More notes and statistics on the use and abuse of spreadsheets can be found in the F1F9 study here.

The research was conducted with help over 1,200 UK-based senior managers

Data supports what we see in the market everyday: spreadsheets play a critical role in business decision making globally.

With a statistic like “17% of large business suffered financial loss due to poor spreadsheets,” it is necessary to read about an alternative solution. After all, 78% of British businesses say that key financial decisions are supported by spreadsheets.” As easy as it may be to stay safe, making a change in your processes can be exceedingly beneficial.

From Spreadsheets to Business Intelligence Solutions: Becoming a Profitable Organization

why-excel-kills-your-schedulingSometimes it can feel like you are swimming in a sea of spreadsheets. This wouldn’t be too much of a problem, if spreadsheets didn’t cause so many of their own. Using Excel spreadsheets limits the ability to perform high-value, forward-looking analysis. They are prone to data errors. Errors in data will cause many more days of diving back into that sea of spreadsheets to try to fix the problem. Knowing all of this—that spreadsheets lack supportive features such as work flow and metadata management, that they can’t handle the complicated processes of business modeling, and that they are potentially making your organization less profitable than they can be, why are so many businesses still using them?

In 2014, Grant Thorton, LLP conducted a study of 130 finance executives from companies of $1 billion in annual revenue. The findings showed that nearly 39% use spreadsheets only. The people of Grant Thorton, LLP believe that the annual budgeting process alongside planning tools will create the most efficient, accurate and profitable organization—but this can’t happen with the use of spreadsheets:

“Companies spend weeks or even months completing the annual budgeting process, which is not surprising given that the budget serves a variety of high-level, table-setting purposes in most organizations. But too many companies fail to supplement the annual budget with planning activities that could make performance management more agile.”

  • A little less than half of all surveyed currently practice continuous planning and adjust resource allocations in response to changing conditions.
  • Only 36% use scenarios and “what-if” analyses to re-check possible outcomes of a strategy.
  • When asked why no one has improved the Financial Planning and Analysis aspect of the business to add value, 62% (nearly two-thirds of participants) stated that they were too buried in basic financial management duties.

Read more about this study here. There are a large number of organizations that could benefit from using a business intelligence tool and jumping out of that sea of spreadsheets. Companies that have been using business intelligence tools don’t feel behind. Instead, they find that theirs is the organization that is competing and still growing.

“Do Self-Service BI Tools Push IT to the Side?”

self-service-bi“The term self-service might imply that business users can do everything themselves and don’t need help from IT and BI teams to gain valuable insights from business information.”

The world of big data has not always been for everyone. Viewing and analyzing data could require extensive, expert consultation or scripting. Jumbled, confusing data means relying on other people in your organization in order to complete a task and get the job done. With intuitive and easy-to-use interfaces, “Advances in hardware sped processing and lowered costs, enabling the development of software that supported more complex analytics and ever richer visualizations.” Even the less savvy business users can take advantage of what smart analytics have to offer.

Business users can begin to use predictive analytics without complicated procedures. That being said, this article from techtarget.com shows us that IT is not pushed to the sidelines with self-service analytics and that the definition of “self-service” only extends so far. “Users of self-service BI tools should think not about gaining independence from IT and BI teams, but about developing a better working relationship that will make it easier to analyze data faster and more accurately.” Smart Analytics provide organizations with a lot of benefits. Without having to rely on IT to complete tasks, business users are more efficient. IT is able to strengthen their position and develop and enhance your organization’s team as a whole.

 

Analyzing the Gap: The Revenue Differentiator that Bridges Top-down (Demand) with Bottom-up

“Are You Thinking Ahead?”

I’m sure you are after reading last week’s post and thinking about your financial future. We’ve talked about risks and obstacles that can be thrown your way in business. Accurate forecasts offer us different tactics to avoid the stress those risks Top-Down Meets Bottom-Upand challenges put on us. Now, sales are rolling in and each month you need to prepare for the next, increasing your sales and generating profit. The question is, which forecasting approach is best for your company?

A top-down approach is driven on market demand. An understanding of the market through historical trending data and/or the sales pipeline to gage expected revenue is necessary. Then, align your organization’s expenses. The challenge is whether or not the business is structured to capitalize on market demand–a high market demand means you may be losing opportunity if you don’t have the necessary resources aligned internally.

A bottom-up approach is driven on resource supply. It answers questions like “how many hours of work can I bill?,” “how many widgets can I get produced?” and “how much crop will my fields yield?” Estimate potential sales revenue of a product in order to establish the total sales figure.

Both of these approaches can end up with differing results, and there is an extra component to forecasting that enables you to compares those differences–the gap analysis. With only the top-down approach or the bottom-up, there is no comparison and it can be misleading with revenue or supply. Gap analysis allows for a more holistic view of the business. Viewing the difference between a Top-down and bottom-up can give you actionable intelligence. For example, more market demand means you can safely hire more people, or a constraint on resource supply could determine the possibility of raising prices to increase margins.

Each business’ need is unique based on the industry and market conditions.  But having the ability to view and compare all three models with ease could potentially give you a competitive advantage.