Business Intelligence

Vanguard System™ Business Intelligence

Business Intelligence (BI) systems apply statistical analyses to explain the present. Vanguard System™ leverages modeling and simulation to forecast the future. What else?

Vanguard System is knowledge-centric rather than data-centric. We capture management estimates and insights from individuals throughout the organization and merge this with historical data for high-level business modeling. The shift in emphasis from pure data to total knowledge advances proactive, strategic decision making.

Traditional Business Intelligence (BI)

A Focus On Historical Data

Traditional BI systems use reporting mechanisms to access centrally stored transaction data in summary and ad-hoc formats. The common user interface is the dashboard of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

The theory here is that we can improve what we measure using some sort of feedback. With a traditional BI system, we’re no longer driving blind. But because all information is historical, our only view of the world is through the rear-view mirror. If the road is long, featureless, and straight, we stay on course with only small corrections and continued rear-view monitoring of how the road drifts behind. However, if there is a fork in the road ahead (an opportunity) we won’t see it until it passes. And if there is a sharp curve, we crash. What we need is a forward view.

BI vendors have responded, partially, with their version of Predictive Analytics, or finding trends and patterns in historical data to extrapolate. Such forecasts are not a prediction of the future but an extrapolation of the past. We’re still looking backwards, but we predict that because the road behind is straight, the road ahead will continue in the same direction.

Typical BI systems help us respond to performance changes after the fact, or as they begin to occur. But they do not help us anticipate changes that deviate from historical patterns. Nor do they remain effective as we extend our planning horizon far into the future — the predictive efficacy of historical data fades. So, we’re still short on input for classic decision analysis. We can enhance operational management but not strategic planning — not yet.

Vanguard System Intelligence

A Focus On Strategic Decisions

Vanguard System is forward vision for proactive and strategic decision making. Vanguard captures management knowledge as well as historical data to spin forward the most effective planning possible.

Vanguard System delivers results to decision-makers via client-server network architecture, similar to that of traditional BI systems. However, where traditional systems collect and organize data to deliver information as reports, Vanguard System captures and assembles business knowledge to deliver results as decision-support models.

How is Vanguard Output Different?

Some events such as product launches and major competitor actions will prove strategic game changers once they occur. Until then it’s all hush. Somebody in the organization might have foreknowledge, but that insight will never show up in historical data. It will never be brought to bear on today’s strategic decisions, the ones that shape the future. Not unless Vanguard Software can leverage historical data with insider estimates, expectations and insights. Have a look …

Enterprise Simulation Model

One way to apply Vanguard System is in building a company simulation model. This real-time, collaborative model can have hundreds of contributors who maintain knowledge about portions of the company under their direct control. This knowledge rolls up into an enterprise-level model that reflects the expected operations of the entire organization.

One of many reports this system can generate is a bell curve showing the profit expected over the next 12 months. Because it is impossible for any system to tell you exactly what is going to happen, this system displays the range of possible outcomes by factoring all risks and uncertainties gathered from individuals around the company. The first graph (single hump) is an example of such a report. It tells you that the most likely profit the company will earn is just under $400 million. However, profit could be as low as $250 million or as high as $600 million.
Suppose the next day you look at the same report and see the distribution displayed in the middle graph. The most likely profit has not changed much; it is still about $400 million. However, the system is now projecting a significant chance that some event could wipe out profits. This chance manifests as a new hump centered on a profit of zero.

What has changed? By drilling into the model, we discover that a purchasing manager has learned that the supplier of a key raw material is experiencing financial difficulty. If the supplier goes under, new prices negotiated with alternate suppliers are likely to be higher.

Since this possible event has not yet happened, it will never show up in a historical reporting system. And although the event is unlikely, it might not show up in status reports. Furthermore, since the purchasing manager does not have a full understanding of how the price of this material affects all aspects of the organization, he might not recognize that the potential price increase is a serious risk.

Using Vanguard, the purchasing manager can modify the component under his control to reflect the new risk and all parent models will show the impact of this change instantly.

Cash Simulation Model

The CFO can use the same company simulation model to estimate future cash requirements by generating a report such as that shown in the cash-flow line graph.

Although typical cash flow is positive, the company must have access to at least $111 million to be 95 percent sure it will have enough cash to cover all planned investments. Moreover, if everything goes well, the company could see an excess cash flow of $290 million.

This type of report is directly actionable. We can use it to help plan contingencies on both ends of the cash spectrum. Clearly, we need to make sure cash is available to support the company if operating cash flow is negative. However, a well-run company will plan for the most positive outcome. If there is an excess cash flow of $290 million, are there projects in the planning phase now that will take advantage of the new resources? Idle cash will reduce the company ROA.

Tap Management Insight

Traditional BI systems are limited by architecture, not analytic capability. By centering on historical data, they fail to help answer questions such as:

What are the major risks we face now?
How much cash do we need to be sure we can cover all planned activities?
In which projects should we invest to maximize the portfolio effect and cancel risk?
Should we go forward with a planned expansion?
How will acquiring a competitor affect our expected profits and risks?
Should we sell an underperforming division?

The input required to answer these questions includes management estimates and knowledge about markets, suppliers, manufacturing techniques and much more. Vanguard answers these questions using cohesive, future-focused models based on the combined knowledge of your organization.

Vanguard Software Applications

Our collaborative, web-based forecasting applications unite roles, teams and departments in achieving the most accurate forecasts in the world – bar none.