The following is a contributed article from Bill Koefoed, CFO, and Scott Stern, director of product marketing, of OneStreamSoftware. Opinions expressed are authors' own.
Surviving, and thriving, in today’s volatile economy, requires finance teams and line-of-business executives to have steady access to financial results and detailed operational metrics. Although analytics software is evolving to provide detailed information, these tools often give only a partial view of the business.
Many organizations have financial and operational data silos comprised of fragmented business intelligence (BI), analytics and corporate performance management (CPM) tools. They struggle to integrate financial and operational plans and results, which leads to multiple versions of the truth. This greatly hinders decision making and can deter leaders from collaborating.
To break down these silos, organizations are embracing finance-governed analytics — a managed approach that brings financial, operational and transactional data together for an integrated and unified view of the business in a way CFOs can understand. In addition to offering significant cost and time savings, governed analytics can greatly reduce data latency and improve accuracy and security while ensuring that decision-makers are working with up-to-date, accurate information.
There are three steps organizations can take to move towards finance-governed analytics.
Let finance take a strategic lead
CFOs and finance teams have historically delivered accurate and trusted financial results, making them the ideal internal champions to enable governed analytics strategies that extend planning and reporting capabilities beyond finance into sales, marketing, operations, and HR. By providing timely, accurate financial and operational insights to decision-makers, finance teams can take steps to earn the trust they need to become the go-to business partner for strategic, financial and operational decision support.
CEOs and boards are increasingly looking to finance chiefs to provide strategic insight and analytical support to drive business value. But according to FSN’s 2019 Future of Finance Systems Survey, finance still lacks the tools they need.
- 53% of finance leaders say they have the information to be a board advisor and strategist
- 42% say they have the information to support functional business partners
- 31% say their financial systems provide a dependable platform for decision making
- 23% say their finance systems respond quickly to market changes
What do finance leaders need? According to the FSN survey, top capabilities for future finance systems include built-in analytical tools, the ability to extend the data set and the ability to hold unlimited amounts of data.
Select a unified platform that integrates data, processes
To empower the finance team to become more strategic and provide the enterprise with finance-governed analytics, you’ll need a unified technology platform.
Rather than relying on fragmented software, a unified platform can bring financial and operational data sources together in an environment that’s comprehensive, controlled and consumable for users. As organizations migrate from spreadsheets, standalone BI tools and legacy finance systems, you'll need a platform approach that's capable of unifying core finance processes such as budgeting, forecasting, financial close, reporting and governed analytics.
Here are a few benefits of taking a unified platform approach:
- Eliminates fragmented tools and reduces total cost of ownership (TCO) by leveraging one platform for planning, reporting, and analytics across finance, sales, HR and line-of-business operations.
- Integrates financial and operational data by supporting the capture, validation, mapping and blending of summarized financial results as well as millions of rows of transactional data from internal systems (e.g., ERP, CRM, HCM, data warehouses) for speed-of-thought reporting and analysis.
- Eliminates data latency and replication that is often caused by fragmented BI tools to ensure decision-makers are leveraging timely and accurate information for strategic, financial and operational decision-making.
- Increases speed to value by promoting self-service dashboard creation for Finance users, line-of-business analysts and power users for super-fast, drag-and-drop ad hoc analysis against summarized financial results, or millions of rows of operational data.
Empower users with self-service reporting and analysis tools
Assess the target users in each department, understanding what type of information they require to support their day-to-day decisions and provide them with the tools that best meet their needs. Executives and managers might prefer interactive dashboards and visualizations that allow them to spot key business trends with the ability to drill down into the underlying details to answer business questions quickly.
Others might prefer standard reports or tables of information that present the details right up front. Some might prefer Microsoft Excel spreadsheets as their primary reporting and analytic tool.
Whatever the case, new technology can support self-service access to data for a variety of users. This includes the ability to access the finance-governed data source directly via Excel or a reporting tool, while others might require pre-built reports or dashboards that are configured to their specific needs.
Governed analytics in action
Here’s an example of governed analytics in action. A $10 billion professional services firm leverages governed analytics with nightly creation of more than 500 million rows of data to create a unified analytic view of book-of-record financial data and daily operational insights. Finance and operational leaders now have an analytical solution to review and analyze financial statements and drill through to customer, project and employee-specific analytics all within a single data model.
By providing the finance team with a software platform that enables governed analytics and allowing them to provide deep business insight, your organization can save significant time and costs while becoming better prepared to make the right decisions despite a volatile economy.