Finance is a crucial support function in any organization. From achieving regulatory compliance to making irreversible decisions that determine future business direction and priorities, financial data must first and foremost be accurate and insightful to shine the light on new growth opportunities and increase customer and client success.
However, an extensive global survey with over 700 senior finance leaders in global cities including US, UK, and Singapore, revealed that over a third of respondents spend more time collecting data than analyzing it, with 59 percent of large organizations citing “difficulty extracting data from legacy platforms” as a major challenge to achieving their analytical goals.
This shows that finance leaders are increasingly finding it hard to keep up with the rapid pace of business and the demand for real-time financial information. As a result, there is a high chance that the accuracy of data may have been compromised over time.
One might say that this is because finance professionals have previously left the organization’s decisions around improving its analytics capabilities to others. However, recent high-profile scandals of financial misreporting and pressure on support functions to take on a strategic role have instilled in them the urgency to start thinking about how technology enables greater control and visibility of data across the organization.
Unlock Strategic Opportunities for Finance
From long-term projections to short-term reporting, finance teams must consistently provide an error-free assessment of investment risks and business operations, but nobody comes to work being excited about chasing after data. They simply want answers to their questions.
So how can financial professionals make data work harder and faster for them? There are a couple of factors. At the foundation of every modern finance team is a reliable Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software that comes with analytical capabilities to automate mundane tasks and generate actionable insights. This allows finance professionals to transit from a spreadsheet-dependent, collect-and-report business to one that can leverage data to make strategic decisions across functional areas – for example, shifting the marketing and sales strategies in a region based on projections of supply and demand. It’s a complex process involving big changes to business processes across teams, as well as to data management and access, and the very culture of decision-making in an organization.
Yet another important aspect is the new approach to analytics for finance pros, giving them tools that make it easier to stay informed about key financial measures. For example, they should be able to set alerts on the most-relevant KPIs, review data through visualizations and narratives, and share their findings with colleagues via social media platforms on their mobile phones or laptops.
Going one step further to optimize the experience of business users, analytics capabilities should also be tied into the everyday work experiences of employees and their workgroups. What this means is that data should come to the user, rather than having the user go to the data. The most modern ERP software is built on a cloud Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform and embeds machine learning algorithms that are constantly learning how each user interacts with the system, so it can further personalize data and streamline processes. This allows for highly personalized KPI visualizations according to each user’s needs and determines thresholds for each measure, runs what-if scenarios, and tracks progress towards goals.
As Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) and their finance teams play an increasingly strategic role driving investments in emerging technologies, which increase insights and agility and enable new business models. For them to take charge of business processes and important decisions in an organization, ERP software must be designed to deploy quickly with best-practice KPIs powered by machine learning that provides predictive insights and enables users to monitor business performance against the metrics they set, drill down into details, look at trends and other measures, and finally make decisions wisely and quickly.
Riding the digital wave in ASEAN
In ASEAN, where digital transformation is a top priority for businesses across all industries, many including CFOs and Chief Information Officers (CIOs) have been quick to catch on, with many moving ERP software to the cloud to better streamline workflows and improve outcomes across the board.
In the Philippines, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) launched the E-Government Masterplan (EGMP) 2022 as part of its mission to have a digitized government. With this in the place, the Philippine government is expected to simplify processes, optimize business processes, maximize the use of information for effective business operations, and improve the digital literacy of the government workforce.
Driving organizational change
Looking ahead, with more and more aspects of the production and consumption of data insights augmented by automation and Artificial Intelligence, we can expect a dramatic reduction in the human effort involved in insights generation and more access to data and analytics for the business end-user.
When finance teams start to proactively take charge of their digital capabilities and use data to outpace change, the path is paved for them to drive their organization forward.
The author is the head of applications at Oracle Philippines