Now that business intelligence tools have become easier and more intuitive to use and sophisticated data mining and data visualization can be purchased in the cloud without having to jump over CAPEX hurdles, individual departments can begin to gain the full benefits of better analytics without the involvement – some would say interference – of IT or the BI Capability Center. The BI genie is finally out the bottle, – and it’s never going back.
Many marketing departments abandoned their own corporate IT folk years ago and diverted part of their huge promotional budgets to purchasing analytic services from third-party providers who today provide unparalleled expertise in techniques such as market segmentation, customer retention and campaign response modelling. No matter how pervasive BI becomes I cannot ever imagine marketing departments bringing such analysis back in-house, purely because when they use a third-party provider, they are buying into years of cumulative expertise and best-practice that these agencies have developed with other clients. And when you’re spending millions of marketing dollars on insights gained from data mining; it’s always safer to have an outside provider to point the finger at if it all goes wrong.
But what’s the future of analytics within Finance? Sure they always need someone in their team who is a wizard with SAP Crystal Reports and SAP Crystal Dashboards (aka Xcelsius) for presenting figures and charts. But that’s mere cosmetics. Aren’t there compelling reasons for Finance to ramp up more on analytics per se?
- Typically Finance suffers from exactly the same issues as marketing and other business functions in that they have lots of information, but it’s not exactly clear whether there is a relevant story to be told. And accroding to the research few have the necessary skills to find out. For instance, Preparing for Growth; The Accenture 2013 CFO Survey found that 28% of senior finance executives said they had little or no information to predict the performance of their business in 2013, and another 54% said they had only half the information needed to provide visibility into performance.
- Secondly, there is the issue of credibility. Because they are one of the few functions with the company that has to file data with external regulators and is subject to external audit, research has shown that business users have most confidence in information that comes from accountants and less when it is supplied by other departments. Finance teams are expected to be the purveyors of a single source of the truth and if they cannot guarantee the lineage or accuracy of the data they use for performance management, their status will become tarnished.
- Then, as integrated reporting and sustainability reporting become more main-stream, there is a growing need for accountants to capture, analyse and report on whole realms of new non-financial data.
So at a time when Finance teams are increasingly partnering with the business and embracing a wider remit for performance management, it is clear that many still struggling with BI and analytics. Unlike their peers in marketing, Finance cannot shift this responsibility to an outside provider, but as today’s BI tools are so user-friendly and need next to no involvement from IT, Finance can do so much more on their own.
Now that you can subscribe to analytic tools through cloud services means Finance can take incremental steps in improving their analytic capabilities and a low risk way to start at the moment is by taking advantage of the 30-day free trial of SAP Predictive Analytics. or SAP Lumira. You may not need their full raft of sophisticated capabilities, but their ease of use will help boost confidence in what is easily achievable.