Finance has historically been a function slow to change, given the industry is heavily regulated. Yet other teams across organizations have embraced technology and the shift to digital, and finance functions should be no different.
Finance has historically been a function slow to change, given the industry is heavily regulated – and even though finance spends more money on technology investments as a proportion of its revenues than other industries, the office of finance is still struggling to strategize how to implement the much-needed digital transformation. Other teams across organizations, ranging from sales to marketing to product development, have started to embrace technology and the shift to digital, and finance functions should be no different.
Leaders of today's organizations recognize the competitive environment they are in. They know they have to be open to change – and adapt to those changes quickly – in order to remain profitable and retain valuable customers who can easily choose between numerous other companies that offer the exact same, or at least very similar, product or service. While there has been considerable buzz around machine learning, process automation and other technologies, effecting digital transformation in the office of finance truly starts with creating new value and revenue opportunities from existing data assets.
It is easy to imagine that finance teams are very comfortable with data. Much of their days are spent in Microsoft Excel, inputting numbers into spreadsheets and financial statements that show how a company is tracking against its goals. On the other hand, big data, another term that has received a lot of buzz in recent years, is much different than the usual hard numbers finance deals with – but it is still on their plates to digest and analyze for the better of the organization.
Over the course of their years in business, companies amass large amounts of unstructured data that is not necessarily related to the hard numbers finance teams deal with on a daily basis – this is what we mean when we say “big data.” As more of this unstructured data is accumulated, it will undoubtedly become even more difficult to keep up with the vast quantity of information available, which is being retrieved and stored by other technology tools, such as mobile devices, software logs and wireless sensor networks. So, the big question at hand is: How do organizations today implement a strategy that takes data from volume to value?
Here are a few ways the office of finance can ensure they are creating value and revenue from tapping into existing big data:
1. Leading finance organizations have ushered in enterprise-wide digital transformation by cultivating a culture of continuous performance measurement and monitoring. Circulating data throughout a company is a considerable challenge – yet, by leveraging cloud applications to mobilize resources and make data analysis less cumbersome and more accessible to everyone, finance leaders are helping to define the epoch of digital transformation.
2. Keeping an eye on emerging technologies that can help the finance function utilize data more smoothly and efficiently – and investing when the technology is a good fit – is also key. As global trade and science-driven data become more integral to strategy, finance departments are expected play an increasingly strategic role in business development. To keep pace with new expectations, financial executives need modern and dynamic tools that can be easily integrated with existing systems. Financial management systems software should include not just reporting and transactional features but also tools for financial consolidation, business intelligence (data visualization and forecasting), corporate performance management (CPM), business process management and online user communication tools.
3. Last but certainly not least, finance needs to utilize data in order to help with the end goal of keeping customers satisfied. Cloud-based applications and business analytics are rapidly providing data that results in ever-evolving customer bases adapting to new networked technologies and business models. This convergence is creating tremendous growth opportunities for companies across all industries, with a clear focus on value creation while still providing an outstanding customer experience. Today’s cloud companies are rightly focused on the second "S" in "SaaS" (i.e., "service"). After all, in the service economy, customers will always remain central to demand-driven, fast-moving value networks.