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Context is everything


Analyzing company performance inevitably leads the analyst to wonder how internal results measure up against the competition. Without context, there is really no way of telling how well a client (or business) is really doing. One of the problems is the inaccessibility of competitive data; competitors generally do not want to share their information with other businesses in the same sector unless the idea is to merge or partner up. Registered corporations do offer financial information, but quarterly tracking is not enough and is delayed to the point of being virtually useless for anything else than historical analysis. Statistics agencies provide some information about sector turnover and trade, but these are based on relatively small samples and also delayed. What we need is a much higher sample size at much higher frequency.

Our Jupiter platform emerged after spending a decade working with financial reports and generating competitive analysis reports based on data from various sources. When we were called upon to fuse the three leading Icelandic banks into a single consolidated bank statement for the Icelandic Parliament Special Investigative Commission, we were able to do so in 14 days as we had the underlying technology already up and had been using it for a similar projects. The result of that particular project was a banking report containing the individual banks along with over 200 ratios and growth indicators that shed light on their operating strategies. Now what if every business could measure itself in such a way against its own sector?

Recently we implemented Jupiter as an internal solution for an insurance firm in the US where it generates automated performance tracking of its branch network and subsidiaries. It has proved very effective and has helped management of all these individual operating entities measure own performance against the consolidated performance of all. This led us to think seriously about how we could make that available to all. The first challenge was how businesses could be persuaded to enter own information on an external server without running the risk of exposure. That problem was solved through a three-layered security mechanism. The second challenge was getting a sufficiently large sample size to make the results valid which led to the association approach. Any association that runs Jupiter can not only provide its members with accurate benchmarks and sector performance indicators down to individual financial ratios and growth rates, but also engage directly in comparison with sectors in other regions of the world. This means that if the Florida Retail Federation (FRF) can measure itself against the National Retail Federation (NRF) total, the NRF can measure itself against the British Retail Consortium (BRC) and can do so at a much higher frequency. The third and fourth challenges were how to make this type of solution available for micro firms with very limited capital resources and often limited formal management and analysis training. This was solved by making Jupiter free for members by securing revenue inflow to sustain the platform for an external source and arm the platform with explanatory texts and support materials that literally teach users what the figures reveal and what they may mean for their own business.

Context is critically important for strategic planning and tracking and affects decisions made at the micro business level to government policy. Old data and small samples increases the inaccuracy and effectiveness of the strategies implemented. By increasing the accuracy from the bottom-up, Jupiter directly affects decisions at all levels and ensures that the strategies developed reflect current affairs. A stronger business environment leads to greater economic growth and stability and stabilizes employment and consumption levels. The only way to get there is by providing the contextual framework and that is what Jupiter aims to do.

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