By Varsha Ramesar, Managing Executive, Data and Analytics, iOCO
For decades, finance teams steered the business using a rear-view mirror to provide the information they needed to make decisions. New service delivery models, emerging trends, and rapidly changing consumer expectations have ensured that looking behind while attempting to steer forward is no longer an option – at least not for companies wanting to stay competitive.
Today’s finance leaders not only have to steer while keeping their foot on the accelerator, they have to have the reflexes to make a sharp turn when markets, demand, and competitors change. Better, faster decision making is therefore the key to success in today’s dynamic – and sometimes challenging – business environment.
Think about the decisions that go into developing a new product, or entering a new market. Think about how the availability of time and data limits the number of decisions you can make. What if you could make 12 decisions instead of four? What if you could make 52 instead of 12?
It’s time to drop the training wheels
One significant obstacle to speeding up the decision-making process and multiplying new opportunities are the tools companies use. For finance and other business units, spreadsheets are often the go-to solution. Spreadsheets can be incredibly valuable as an individual productivity tool, and for small companies, they may work well enough at first.
But spreadsheets weren’t built for company-wide planning and collaboration. Spreadsheets can create data and productivity silos that become barriers to real-time collaboration. Workbooks become too complex to handle … and interminable to open. Errors crop up in budgets, forecasts, and reports. Long budgeting cycles result in too much time collecting information – and not enough time planning for various outcomes.
In short, spreadsheets can become a serious barrier to accelerating the business. Finance spends its time on manual tasks, such as consolidating and validating financial information across dozens or hundreds of spreadsheets, leaving them unable to pivot quickly enough when the market changes. While Excel will remain a much-loved (and used) business tool, it’s time to take off the training wheels and start using the company’s data to improve operations.
Seeing finance through a data lens
According to Gartner, CFOs can’t afford to wait and react to trends as they mature. They must proactively monitor, experiment with and exploit key data and analytics trends to respond to crises, innovate and rebuild, the analysts believe.
What finance teams need is to start seeing everything they do through the lens of what they can do with their data. This is about more than automating core processes so that finance can focus on becoming the advisor to business, and about more than leveraging predictive analytics to stay ahead of competitors. It’s about getting an unbiased view of the big picture that allows for actionable insights when they are needed, where they are needed.
You know your data really well, so you know the potential value of that data. Imagine if you had the time to analyse that data, and the freedom to use those insights to help improve the business. Technology is facilitating this process, but there is no point in implementing technology for technology’s sake. The right solution should create a current, accurate, and complete data foundation, facilitating faster decisions, while giving teams the time and space they need to make more accurate decisions.
The best solutions will of course reduce manual intervention, and bring efficiencies to financial processes, but they will also empower staff with a secure environment where their performance is not restricted to what Excel can provide. This may seem like a gargantuan task, but it’s not. If the solution is designed for addressing pressing business issues upfront, it can not only change how you do finance, but also improve employee wellness and reduce burnout.