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Employee Spotlight: Meet Jake Prince

With his knowledge and experience, Jake Prince knows the ins and outs of Anaplan to help keep your business at the top of its game. This week, we had the chance to learn about what keeps him motivated, what makes Akili different and more.

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it?

I’m a consultant on the Business Planning Team, primarily responsible for building and supporting Anaplan models.  The most satisfying aspect of my job has been the diverse team that I work with.  It has been extremely rewarding to work with individuals who are dedicated to providing the best possible solutions to our clients, while also having a work-life balance, and always having fun.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I’ve always been a people person, and someone who enjoys helping others with their problems.  I started my career as a financial analyst for a small tax company after finishing school, and after several years, the job became very repetitive from month to month.  I was ready for a new challenge where I engaged with people to address a client’s needs rather than being buried in my excel work all day.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

There are tons of reasons that I decided to join Akili, but I’m a firm believer in the 12 core values that Akili had laid out.  They served as a guide to let me know what kind of organization I was joining, and I knew I would fit right in.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?

In any organization, you will have employees who decide to look for new opportunities for growth, or seek out a new challenge.  However, at Akili, there have been at least 3 employees who left, worked a bit at their new job, and decided to return to Akili.  All of these individuals are excellent in their respective jobs and performance had no bearing on their return to Akili; it was simply the amazing culture and atmosphere that has been cultivated here.

In your opinion, what makes Akili different?

The culture – I’ve worked at places that say “We’re going to treat you like adults …” and “Work hard, play hard”, but mostly, it’s just lip service.  Here, the management team is focused on its employees, and it really shows in the culture.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

In my spare time, I enjoy playing guitar and piano, playing sand volleyball, going to live music events in Dallas, and traveling.  Also, I can’t forget about my Texas Longhorns!  Hook’em!

What keeps you motivated?

It is very rewarding to impact a client’s day to day work in a positive manner.  Delivering high quality solutions, and cutting down the time required to do a task from 1 week to 1 day, make the world of a difference to an organization.  I’m always looking for new ways to improve the quality of solutions delivered.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

“Whether you think you can or cannot, you’re right.”  I try to keep this in mind throughout the day.  If you put your mind to something, you will be amazed at what you can do.  However, if you admit defeat right off the bat, you’ll never make any progress.

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Akili PHD: The Explorer

 

By Josh Fadley | ERP Practice Director

The best journeys help provide you answers that, in the beginning, you didn’t even think to ask.”

— Jeff Johnson, Adventurer, 180° South

One of my deepest passions in life is testing my limits and helping those around me to do the same. Regardless of race, religion, or creed it seems to me that there is an inherent call for us, as humans, to wander into the unknown in an attempt to challenge ourselves.

While I have been accused on several occasions (jokingly, I’m sure…) of having a sadomasochistic streak, I will own the fact that I enjoy watching myself and others suffer in a productive way. For example, many of the most joyous experiences I have shared with my children have resulted from seeing them struggle deeply with an intellectual, emotional, or physical challenge, and then watching them persevere through it.

But what is it that compels us to venture beyond our comfort zone? Legendary French alpinist Lionel Terray described mountain climbers as the “Conquistadors of the Useless” and I believe this term can be reasonably applied to a majority of pursuits in life (when going for a run, don’t we typically return right back to where we started?). Often at the end of a struggle, there may have been a zero net tangible change and the only thing that changed during that time was you.

This past summer, I had the privilege of leading my family on a self-supported trek in the Peruvian Andes on one the most strenuous adventures I have ever partaken. One particular day, after several extended days of hiking, my son decided he no longer wanted any of the local mules to pass him on the trail before we reached a particular pass in the mountains. He proceeded to spend the next three hours racing a set of mules over several miles and many thousands of feet of elevation gain. I have never seen him exert himself to that extent, and I have never seen him prouder of himself than when he reached the top of the pass.

And he still brags about that accomplishment today.

That is intensity. That is the passionate pursuit of excellence. Yes, the goal was completely arbitrary. And yet, aren’t most of our goals? We find something that we deem to have value and then must make a choice to compel ourselves forward, step-by-step, until we reach it. And yes, in the end what we have worked toward may not be as valuable as we originally thought and our net tangible change may ultimately be zero. But the end has never really been the point – it is always about the journey. The result of the perseverance is that we have reset our limits on what is “reasonable” and have discovered far more about ourselves than we ever thought we would.

How often, when we reflect back on our more lowly moments in life, do we realize that our greatest frustration and disappointment was borne from apathy rather than from a true challenge and the testing of our mettle?

For several of us at Akili, there has been an ongoing fascination with the Barkley Marathons, a race covering approximately 120 miles in the mountains of Tennessee with a cumulative elevation change totaling TWO TIMES that of climbing up and down Everest. This is a race in which few can enter and far fewer even come near the finish line. In over 30 years, out of approximately 1,000 incredible participants, only 15 unique individuals have completed the race to date.

In that documentary, a former competitor makes an offhanded comment that I find deeply profound when he says, quite simply, “I think we would all be better off with a little more suffering in our life”.

I believe all humans are hardwired to desire to challenge ourselves. Whether found in statements from a known atheist in Edward Abbey, who wrote, “May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.”, or passages from the Christian Bible that describe, in Romans 5:3, that “we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance”, most human experience indicates that the most profound personal development comes from the most intense challenges we face.

Most simply, we can look at the foundation of physical strength development and the fundamentals of the human body for affirmation of this principle – we only grow stronger by tearing our muscles down. I believe this concept is baked into the very essence of our spirit and our souls.

Certainly, there are countless avenues through which people can identify their own physical and mental trials. While I often find my greatest opportunities for growth by traipsing through the wild world, whether it be running, hiking, trekking, or climbing, your area of passion may be something entirely different.

But, I would argue that desire is there for all of us. And I would encourage you to passionately pursue your own mountains.

In the words of Rudyard Kipling in his poem The Explorer:

“Something hidden. Go and find it. Go and look behind the Ranges—

“Something lost behind the Ranges. Lost and waiting for you. Go!”

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The Roadmap for BW/4HANA

By David Allen | SAP S/4HANA Solutions

September is the start of planning season for most companies. Everyone is gathering data to support the 2018 budget proposal and that data is located throughout the company. SAP data is being reported through the SAP Business Warehouse, existing planning data may be on a separated SAP Business Warehouse environment, non-SAP data may be aggregated in a separate data warehouse, and then there are the thousands of offline reports compiled manually in excel. Unfortunately, this disaggregated view on data management and analysis is common across companies, but there is a better way with SAP’s release of BW/4HANA and the time to plan for this is now.

SAP BW/4HANA is a next generation data warehouse that is built entirely on SAP HANA, the advance in-memory platform. SAP BW/4HANA offers enhanced data modeling and governance, high-performance solution development, a modern user experience, and incredible flexibility including the management of SAP data, third party data, and unstructured data on a single platform.  A key difference of SAP BW/4HANA compared to other data warehouse solutions is that SAP BW/4HANA does not focus on centralizing and duplicating data but connecting data in a logical format to streamline the reporting, to eliminate the data silos, and to ensure data is tuned for results and cost.

SAP focuses on four key themes when discussing the changes in SAP BW/4HANA.

Most of these are achieved by leveraging the capabilities in the SAP HANA in-memory platform and removing any previous redundancies that were required in a traditional database approach. This eliminated millions of lines of code between the warehouse and the database and interweaves SAP’s Business Warehouse into SAP HANA. Furthermore, SAP BW/4HANA leverages the SAP HANA development environment, is enhanced from the advance analytics in SAP HANA specific libraries including predictive modeling and machine learning, and can be deployed in an on-premise or cloud-based environment.

One of the key questions asked by our customer is … What is the migration strategy to SAP BW/4HANA?

SAP provides several approaches to the transition to SAP BW/4HANA but ultimately, the decision will be very personal for each company based upon how they are currently utilizing SAP Business Warehouse and other enterprise data warehouse solutions. SAP currently documents three core approaches.

 

New Implementation or Fresh Start approach is a straight forward scenario for companies that never utilized SAP Business Warehouse or believe their past approach will be very different to their future plans. As companies focus on data as more of an asset to their future decisions and not just an outcome, this approach will be very common for companies.

System Conversion approach is an in-place conversion and focuses on a full system conversion of an existing SAP Business Warehouse environment. This requires the SAP Business Warehouse to be on SAP HANA prior to converting to SAP BW/4HANA.

Landscape Transformation approach is a remote conversion of an existing SAP Business Warehouse environment(s). It is based upon a new installation of SAP BW/4HANA and the existing SAP Business Warehouse environment is converted into the new SAP BW/4HANA environment. This conversion is best when the company is focused on a carve out or consolidation scenario for the current SAP Business Warehouse environment. A consolidation scenario could be for regional SAP Business Warehouse environments or if the company has SAP Business Warehouse solutions focused by use. This can include having specific solutions for Business Objects reporting or having a separate SAP BPC landscape.

Many companies will look at the transition to SAP BW/4HANA as a technical project that needs to be scheduled as part of an overall SAP upgrade strategy. First thing to note is that you can start the transition to SAP BW/4HANA prior to deciding on what to do with SAP S/4HANA. SAP Business Warehouse is setup in a separate environment and can be accelerated to achieve success on the analytics front.  Second thing to note is that SAP BW/4HANA is not just a technical project, but a tremendous business value driver when people think of data as a core asset to predicting the future of the company. When thinking about SAP BW/4HANA, think of the outcomes your company requires and not the technology stack. SAP BW/4HANA is focused on tuning your company’s data across your company’s environment and driving real business results.

Overall, the start to a modern data warehouse will be different for each company. To help you in understanding more about your company’s roadmap to SAP BW/4HANA, I encourage you to participate in our webinar on Thursday, September 28, 2018 or contact us at info@akili.com to discuss an assessment of your current environment and data strategy.

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Employee Spotlight: Meet Christi Giffin

Christi Giffin knows how to make a new employee feel right at home, and will help keep you on the path to success when it comes to developing as a member of Akili. This week, we had the opportunity to learn a lot more about her and her role:

What’s your role at Akili and the most satisfying aspect about it? 

I am Akili’s Talent Development Manager. I am primarily responsible for learning and development activities, onboarding, and consultant staffing. The most satisfying aspect of my job is enabling and equipping our consultants to progress on the Akili Career Path to meet their professional goals and ultimately, to better serve our clients.

How did you become interested in your line of work?

I started my career as a Change Management consultant at a large consulting firm. After several years on the road, I decided to move to an internal resource management role to better align with my personal and professional goals. I have now spent more of my career in operational roles than I did as a consultant, but I still consider myself a change management practitioner. The only difference is that now my “client” is our consulting team.

What about Akili made you decide to join?

I decided to join Akili for so many reasons! But one of my favorite things I noticed was that despite being in such a casual and relaxed atmosphere, everyone I met still had an intense passion and drive for the work.

What’s a memory that stood out to you at Akili?

During the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, we hosted our own Office Olympics with events including Beer Pong, Tortilla Discus, and a hoverboard race. Everyone pitched in to design and build the events and it was a really fun day of competition in the office!

In your opinion, what makes Akili different?

I have worked several places where the motto was “work hard, play hard”, but sometimes the scale tipped too far in one of those directions. I appreciate how our core values of intensity and fun are both highly valued and lived out, but so is balance. We work hard/play hard and have fun while doing so, but are also encouraged to maintain a balance between our professional and personal lives. In my experience, that is a tremendous differentiator in the professional services industry.

What do you enjoy outside of work?

My husband and I have an 18-month-old son who keeps us very busy these days! In addition to spending time with my family, I enjoy working out at Camp Gladiator, cooking and cheering on the Texas A&M Aggies. Gig’ em!

What keeps you motivated?

I love being a part of a small and growing company. Akili is tremendously nimble, so things change quickly in our environment. Each day is different and brings a new challenge and opportunity, which is both exciting and rewarding.

Tell us about some of the greatest advice you’ve ever received.

“Don’t sweat the small stuff”. It is easy to get caught up in the small details and lose sight of the big picture. I’m a little OCD and detail-oriented, so I’m not always taking this advice myself, but I’m working on it!

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Webinar Replay: How to Navigate SAP BPC’s Changing Solution Roadmap – BPC 11 Announcement

Are you looking for a new planning solution and considering SAP Business Planning and Consolidations (BPC) solution? Are you an existing BPC User considering your upgrade options?

If so, you have probably heard that SAP recently introduced BPC V11. BPC V11 is a significant step in the evolution of SAP’s cornerstone Enterprise Performance Management solution. This solution runs on BW4/HANA to leverage the new simplified structures, streamlined data modeling, and enhanced performance capabilities. This is a great opportunity to learn more about this exciting new solution from SAP.

Watch our BPC 11 webinar to learn about:

  • BPC new features and capabilities
  • What is BW4/HANA and why is it important to BPC 11
  • Upgrade options based upon SAP current roadmap
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Akili Core Values Series: Service

 

By Alan Boyer | VP of Delivery

Service: No exceptions, no compromises. Our fiduciary responsibility is to ensure that our professional attitudes and actions serve the best business interests of our clients.

This is a pretty lofty goal and a very bold statement. The question is, how do you make this real? What does it look like when you focus on serving the best business interest of your clients? Can we really serve their interests and Akili’s interests?

I recently heard a story of a consulting firm that found themselves conflicted between their business interests and their clients. This firm had a customer that was interested in exploring a migration of their ERP solution to a cloud solution. The firm was purposely steering the customer away from a cloud solution that might have had substantial economic benefits to the customer because the firm did not want to lose existing hosting and managed services contracts.

Definitely not serving the interests of the customer!

In contrast, Akili once assisted a customer in a system selection process. After looking at many options, the client did not feel that any of the solutions identified met their needs. The customer asked Akili to develop a custom solution and we agreed to a contract to make it happen. Before we began the project, we found a solution that would address the customer’s needs. It would have been easy for us to move forward with the project and never tell the customer about another potential solution. But, we took the solution to the customer and told them that they should look at the software.

In the end, we tore up our contract with them and they moved forward with the solution and had a successful project. This was a win-win for Akili and the customer, as Akili did work for this client for many years in various capacities. Investing in our customers in this way has led to many long-term client relationships. These relationships are clearly valuable to Akili and are also incredibly rewarding from a professional standpoint. It is fun to work with others when this kind of trust exists.

We recently had a potential customer ask if they could talk to someone about their experience with one of the solutions we implement. We arranged a meeting with the customer and a CFO that we have worked with for some time. After several questions about the product, the customer was satisfied. Before he ended the call, the CFO asked if he had selected a partner. The customer said that they were not at that point yet. The CFO told him when he was ready to implement, he should choose Akili. When the customer asked why, the CFO said that Akili was the only consulting firm he has worked with that he believed would always tell him the truth.

That is what Service looks like for us.

 

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Akili Core Values Series: Performance

 

By Mark Butler | Business Process & Organizational Change Management

It is my distinct pleasure to have been invited to write a blog on Akili’s core value of Performance.

This core value is stated as follows:

Performance: Failure is simply not an option. Our projects are not judged to be complete until the expectations of each individual client have been met or exceeded.

We often say that no one of the 12 core values is THE most important. It would be a bit like asking, “Which of the four tires on your car is most important?” Or, “Is the engine more important than the transmission, or the transaxle than the steering wheel, or the gas pedal than the brake?”

No. Every key component is mission critical: it all has to work well together in order to ensure the safe and reliable high-performance outcomes you can trust. And so it goes with the delivery of Akili’s consulting services. High performance demands the best of all contributing elements with every day and each client engagement. No exception.

The definition above has two parts that combine to define ultimate performance, or success.

First, “Failure is Not an Option.” Our reputation is our real business card. Our reputation for the delivery of high value adding services is all we have to offer. It is our stock in trade. We simply cannot afford to accept failure: and we won’t. Our CEO Shiek Shah has told us, “In the worst of circumstances, we may not make money, but we will deliver the promised results.”

Our clients do not engage us to maintain the status quo. They engage us to move the dials. Dials do not move unless we make real and meaningful changes in our client’s ability to increase performance. It is a two-way street: high performance on our part, leads to high performance outcomes in our client’s business processes.

The second part of Performance is, “Our projects are not judged to be complete until the expectations of each individual client have been met or exceeded.” Truly improving performance demands shifts along three key dimensions: People, Process, and Technology. We cannot just show up and deposit a “technology solution” on the doorstep, collect a check, and walk away calling it a success.

Performance is not an event, it is a way of life. It has to be a DNA level commitment. It is different from one-hit wonders and more of a lifetime achievement award. High Performance is an outcome, not a driver trait, per se. It is the result of a collection of important factors working in collective harmony and with the added mental expectation that you must perform and you must produce rock-solid results.

For Akili, high performance lies in the quality of our relationships and our ability to quickly assess and diagnose with laser-guided precision the factors that are impeding high performance. It lies in our ability to envision, describe, and collaboratively develop process and technology changes that liberate our client’s genius, enabling permanent performance improvement.

That is what moves the dials.

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How to Navigate SAP BPC’s Changing Solution Roadmap

 

By Alan Boyer | VP of Professional Services

SAP announced BPC Version 11 for BW4/HANA, the next generation of the Business Planning and Consolidations (BPC) product, on June 15 at the SAPinsider Financials Conference in Amsterdam. This is the first significant update to the standalone version of BPC since 2014.

So, let’s explore a little of what this new version means.

What’s new?

  • When SAP released BW4/HANA last year, one of the glaring omissions was the lack of a planning or consolidations solution. That gap has now been closed as BPC 11 runs on BW4/HANA, providing complete planning and consolidations functionality to SAP’s new enterprise data warehouse platform. BW/4HANA is a very open solution and all methods of bringing data into BW4HANA are, of course, available to get information into BW. Getting master and transactional data from S4 is still very easy, but it is also easy to load data for other non-SAP sources. This diagram provides an overview of the integration approaches available:

  • Tight integration to Analytics Cloud is also a highlight of the new BPC version, including user initiated data synchronization that includes delta loads. Analytics Cloud also supports live connection to BPC for enhanced analytics capabilities. This opens the use of the Predictive capabilities in Cloud Analytics to be used to create forecasts/plans that can be synched to BPC.
  • BPC 11 also provides the ability to enhance the performance of the system even with large sets of data. Fox formulas can now be “pushed down” into HANA to speed execution times.
  • Interface – The homepage and navigation have been redesigned to the latest Fiori standards. Enhancements include the ability to capture favorites, easier navigation between tasks and an enhanced “My Activities” section.
  • Improved Modelling tools in BW4/HANA makes it much easier to create the planning structures for embedded models. Of course, these models can be connected to the BPC admin tools, which allow users the ability to use BPC Admin functions to manage the system.

What happens to other versions of BPC?

The BPC 10.1 NW and the 10.1 MS versions will be supported for some time. However, these versions will receive maintenance only. Enhancements will no longer be delivered for these versions. BPC Optimized for S/4 and BPC for BW4/HANA will be the primary versions of BPC going forward. The chart below depicts the product history and path going forward:

It is important to note that BPC 11 for BW4/HANA is a new legal version. Customers that plan to upgrade to this new version will need to acquire new licenses.

What’s the same?

  • Both standard & embedded are still available in BPC 11.
  • The EPM add-in will still be available and will be the proper interface for standard models. Analysis for Office will be the proper interface for embedded models. (Note that EVDre will no longer be supported in BPC 11).
  • BPC will still provide a single unified platform for Planning and Consolidations.

That gives you a quick preview of what’s coming in BPC 11 on BW4/HANA. Stay tuned for additional information coming soon.

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May You Live in Interesting Times

 

By Shiek Shah | CEO

 

Interesting times indeed – Whether you get your news from the daily papers, TV or from social media, you cannot escape the news of the tremendous amount of disruption that is going on in the business world caused by changes in consumer behavior.  It started with online shopping for books at Amazon and has now progressed to just about everything imaginable done online. You can buy diamonds (Blue Nile), groceries (Amazon Fresh), and automobiles (Tesla), deposit a check online, consume music and entertainment on demand and so on and so forth.

This massive disruption has caused ALL incumbent industries to shake in their boots. Walmart, the biggest company in the world, acquired Jet.com (an unprofitable startup) for $3.2 billion last year to compete with Amazon. Bebe closed all of its stores because it could not compete with Amazon. Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears, Michael Kors and a bunch of other retailers are shutting a large number of their stores as consumers become increasingly comfortable with online shopping. Banks will continue to close branch offices as most banking can now be done online. Grocery stores are not immune either. Amazon just announced that they are buying Whole Foods – wait, what? I suspect Amazon will use Whole Foods to improve Amazon Fresh and Amazon Go.

The effects of technology on industries that are a century old are swift and deep. Take the auto industry – the combustible engine was developed over 150 years ago and while we have made great improvements over that time, the basic principles have not changed. The battery technology is changing all of that. Electric cars are here to stay. Autonomous driving technology is developing rapidly. Ride sharing is gaining popularity. So if you are a 100-year-old Ford Motor Company that manufactures gasoline cars, you should feel threatened. The future isn’t bright. Ride sharing means less cars to manufacture. If you make less cars, there are less car loans to grant and therefore less drivers to insure. Electric cars means fewer parts to repair. So if you are an auto loan company, an auto insurance company, or an auto repair company, take heed – changes are coming.

Pick any industry and I will show you how technology is rapidly disrupting it. If you are an intermediary (think stock brokers, real estate agents, insurance agents, and bank tellers) – worry! Technology will replace you – it’s just a question of when! The cascading effects are astounding and the rate of change is accelerating.

So, what do you do if you are a company in an incumbent industry? My recommendation is to first become nimble and agile. You have to make sure your company can react quickly to changing trends. Most of the time, the legacy IT systems are dead weight on companies trying to become nimble and agile. As you refresh your technologies, think about how you can retool, so you can pivot on a dime. If the functionality that you are refreshing is the basic foundation for any enterprise (think payroll processing, AP, AR for example), look at cloud solutions, outsourcing solutions and best of breed solutions so you can not only refresh faster, but expand and contract as necessary. Then innovate, innovate, innovate. What was true 5, 10, 20 years ago is most likely not true today. So hire bright, young people that may not know much about your industry, but do know the trends for their generation. Companies who make decisions based on data have started hiring anthropologists to help mine their data in a holistic way. They ask questions that your typical data analysts do not and in doing so, may uncover trends earlier and then react more quickly than fellow competitors. Bottom line – become the disruptor or risk being disrupted!

Interesting times indeed! – Should you be excited or worried? It all depends on your perspective …

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Webcast Replay: Learn the Advantages of Akili’s SAP Consolidations Quick-start Solution

Watch Akili’s SAP Consolidations Demonstration Webcast Replay

Akili’s SAP Consolidations Quick-start solution can be implemented in as little as 8 weeks — A quicker implementation = less business disruption and lower cost.

Watch Akili demonstrate a month-end close in SAP BPC. With Akili’s SAP Consolidations Quick-start solution, companies get a highly automated system that makes closing the books faster and simpler.

Included in our quick-start solution are standardized reports to meet regulatory requirements, as well as management reporting to help drive key business decisions.