• Laura Landmark

The year the Scandi’s drank all our wine!

The last time it was this hot for this long

Whilst enjoying our early summer heatwave I am reminded of the hot Scandinavian summer of 2004. As temperatures soared in July 04 the Vikings reportedly took extended relaxing breaks in the sunshine, lapping up vitamin D.

Long balmy days spent at the cabin or on the terrace with a glass of something fresh and cold in hand meant no one overheated in the last summer of hot melting sunshine. As for May 2018, well the wine and bubbles were certainly flowing as I sat in the picturesque port town of Stavanger last week.

The thirst is quenched!

Back in 2004 I still lived in England and worked for a South African wine company. The Scandinavian heatwave meant frantic activity. As a wine company we combed Europe for excess supplies of white box wine that we could redirect to the Nordics who were apparently running dry!

As CFO at this small and busy office my role during this supply shortage meant analysing recent orders to work out where there may be excess stocks. It was all hands-on deck, including us in Finance, we were all a crucial part of solving this problem.

The shift in the last decade shows a steady progression towards Finance becoming an integrated part of the wider business. We have become partners rather than back office “bean counters” responsible only for number punching and record keeping.

Moving beyond re-view reporting

Accountants now recognise the need to move beyond rear view compliance reporting to focus on the future. Budgeting, planning, forecasting has long been at the forefront of the Finance function, but now accountants are going further. Finance professionals are engaging in identifying business drivers, creating or understanding the business models and discovering how businesses can create and preserve value.

Whilst at the wine company I needed to develop a deep understanding of the underlying variables that translated to a healthy bottom line. We took part in scenario planning to determine production capacity. Vines are planted or grafted years before the grapes are ready for picking and pressing, so the cycle time from concept to delivery is looooong. This gave scope for significant changes and the necessity to develop plans A, B and C. We looked at weather patterns, tastes and trends, buyer behaviour, cultural preferences and product shelf life.

Hitting the sweet spot

We took part in planning campaigns, promotional displays and trade shows. The focus on “what’s next” helped us optimise client satisfaction by trying to hit the sweet spot with the right product in the right bottle at the right price point at the right time. This is difficult to do with any accuracy so far in advance being that much that happens that is beyond our control. Regardless, it was important to have transparency and access to good information enabling quick reactions to changing conditions.

None of this was easy in excel being our only Business Intelligence or planning tool at the time. Our intention was good and our methods were thorough but relying on excel made us frustratingly slow and ineffective. This two-dimensional tool, although great for some purposes, is not a powerful multi-dimensional planning tool such as those available on the market today.

Life is getting easier

Today we have the luxury of using tools designed for the job. We can forecast, communicate, chat, scenario plan all from one platform. No more need to make frantic phone calls around the globe chasing our tails (although nothing beats a call in some circumstances). Today we can centralize, streamline, consolidate and remove the chance for human error by distancing the people from the grunt work. Going forwards life becomes easier still with machine learning and predictive analytics (i.e. robots) coming increasingly online to help us become super slick.

No doubt a modern integrated system will have predicted the impact of a forthcoming heatwave on wine supplies avoiding the last-minute panic. I assume everyone has enough wine in their fridge this year?!

The onset of the fourth industrial revolution means effective data management and the non-numbery competencies become more important, representing a critical success factor in how the business competes and performs.

Competietion vs compliance

The P&L and Balance Sheet and a fixation on the financials are no longer enough for running a business. These statements are compliance documents, not strategic tools and tell you little about your opportunities and threats.

Analysing business drivers and key performance indicators on an online Business Intelligence platform are the future for our profession and where we can leverage the biggest and best results. We at Mantle specialise in making the right data available in the right format for the right people at the right time so that companies such as my old employer are never again caught short! Contact us if you would like to discuss what we could do to help you in your business.

Laura Landmark (ACMA,CGMA) is Co-Founder & CEO of Mantle Analtyics AS, a company dedicated to building business intelligence solutions to provide new insights with speed and depth for companies that want to grow.


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