How CFO’s can act on Analytics

By: Kevin Simon

It has traditionally been the role of the Chief Financial Officer to manage, plan, budget and forecast the strategic, long-term objectives of the organisation. But the growth of “Big Data” is fundamentally changing the role of the CFO, giving them the opportunity to have a greater impact in all operational levels of an organisation. CFOs must seize the opportunity to employ analytics in their operations. Otherwise, they could be ceding responsibility for a critical new business function to other departments in the organisation, such as marketing, operations or information technology.

How companies are using analytics

Most companies using analytics have customer-centric focus, using big data to create strong relationships with the people that purchase its products or services. However, the next leading use for big data is focused on operational support. The IBM Institute for Business Value 2014 Analytics Study showed that use of analytics by CFOs would be an increasing trend among financial departments, with a focus on financial and risk management objectives, as well as rooting out fraud. A key means of utilising big data analytics is ensuring that its full digital capacities are integrated into the business processes. Social media and mobile devices are one area where an organisation must be focused on digital transformation.

CFOs positioned to lead on analytics

The CFO is the ideal member on the executive leadership team to “own” Big Data analytics projects. In most organisations, the CFO and their financial team are already established leaders in analysing data. The unprecedented scale of data being collected by businesses today gives CFOs new opportunities to improve organisational discipline, including finding better revenue streams, improving efficiency and increasing market share.

Moving beyond spreadsheets

CFOs and their financial teams are already experts at using spreadsheets for analysing costs, revenue and other financial data. But by utilising advance Big Data analytics software, CFOs can move data examination and integration beyond the spreadsheet. Advanced software can bring the power of Big Data analytics to new professionals, including business analysts, business managers and front-line users, giving them the ability capture data from a variety of sources. The result is that through a familiar spreadsheet environment like Excel, advanced expertise can be developed over a wide range of performance management processes, including planning, forecasting, budgeting, reporting and modelling.

Speed in analytics

For CFOs to use analytics to the best advantage for the organisation, speed is the key element that differentiates your company from the competition. It starts with the speed at which the organisation acquires data, then blending the traditional data infrastructure with newer elements of Big Data information. To gain insight from these datasets, organisations can use advanced analytics software to examine a wide rage of information, including customer engagement data from social media channels, point-of-sales or RFID data on internal processes, and third-party data that address demographics, geography and competitor strategy.

Acting on analytics

Advanced Big Data analytics software can give CFOs the power to act on the speed that analytics delivers, though property integrating these digital systems to get the most from data analytics is crucial. By integrating algorithms and predictive model actions into business process, advanced analytics software can optimise results from processes like call centres, online interactions and manufacturing productivity. Plus, Big Data analytics can make processing this information easier with a wide-range of visualisation options that make it easy for members of the financial team to interpret what the data means, from CFO down.

Generating returns on investment

More organisations are now seeing a return on their investment in Big Data analytics. In many cases, an organisation will see a return on investment from analytics software within a year of implementing a system. The 2014 Analytics Study showed that more than half of organisations that rely on big data analytics are seeing a 10 per cent year-to-year uptick of positive returns. Organisations that are the most likely to capitalise on this return on investment are the ones that look for advantages in speed, fuelled by the advantage Big Data analytics software provides.

From better decision making to improving marketing and service offerings to crafting corporate strategy, analytics not only gives CFOs the power to find key budget efficiencies, but it also provides an opportunity to expand the impact the entire financial team can have on an organisation’s operations.