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Q&A: Renee Lorton: Plot Your Progress Toward Performance

Renee Lorton ran three product lines at PeopleSoft before joining Cognos early this year as a senior vice president and general manager. She shares her perspective on taking a strategic, enterprise

Renee Lorton

Some see performance management as the next step after business intelligence (BI). Others see it as a very different discipline. What's your take?

BI is an integral part of performance management. You're pulling data from underlying transaction systems into knowledge stores and then making sense of it. The executive information systems that we all dreamed about in the past are actually coming alive now that the technology is available. Companies are able to drive global and cross-enterprise performance through a single vehicle, using tools around BI for reporting and dashboard presentations to the right stakeholders at the right time ... You really can't separate good performance management, good reporting and good BI.

You led a recent speaking tour that presented strategy management as the next big thing in performance management. Can you explain the term?

It's about driving strategy throughout an organization ... not just in the finance department and at top levels. That means using technology to get away from spreadsheets and arbitrary ways of measuring progress in financial and workforce performance. It's a holistic system that gives you a scorecard and a readout on how you're doing against objectives that are driven by your strategy.

Scorecards are cropping up all over, but are they really being used in a coordinated, strategic way?

Absolutely. I think that's one of the biggest trends we're seeing. Companies have been implementing various metrics and scorecards departmentally for some time. Now they're taking it one step further and going to the enterprise level, implementing metrics and scorecards, as well as the ability to measure across functions, not just within finance. In effect, you're radiating strategy beyond finance and beyond the executive level and driving it deep into the organization.

You talk about moving beyond the finance department, but has performance management been broadly embraced for budgeting and planning?

Palladium's study on performance and strategy management found that only 25 percent of companies use an integrated corporate performance management platform, yet 75 percent of respondents acknowledged that they need to move--and intend to move--to an integrated CPM platform that brings together planning, consolidation and BI.

You've described a Performance Management Evolution graph with access to data on the horizontal axis, moving from departmental to enterprise, and decision-making on the vertical axis, rising from reactive to strategic. Where are most companies now?

The trend is toward the top-right quadrant, where you see companies move from divisional reporting and planning, in the center, toward an enterprise performance management system. That's where they're bringing together enterprise planning versus just financial planning; and enterprise reporting, metrics and scorecards versus spreadsheets and departmental reporting. Some feel it's more important to make information available across the enterprise and it's a BI agenda. Others feel it's more important to take a financial focus, and that's a strategic-planning agenda. But all this will come together into a fully integrated system to keep that trend line moving up toward the high-performing enterprise.

Outtakes

What do you miss?

I grew up in Indianapolis, and I miss the flavor of the local corn and tomatoes.

Most memorable travel?

Guangzhou, China, where we adopted our twin girls (now four years old).

Previously published online in a different format