Opportunities for finance
The finance department sits at the heart of any organization. Part of its job is to collect, disseminate and analyze financial and non-financial information - a somewhat time-consuming and laborious process. Finance can therefore be a powerful agent of organizational change. It can use the information that it collects to assist decision-making, achieve objectives, and avoid problems.
However, a lot of finance departments are spending too much time and effort creating financial documentation, and not enough time analyzing their data. This is where Business Intelligence comes to the rescue. Adopting BI practices frees the finance team from manual data collection and report production so that it can engage in more value-added activities.
BI tools can assist with the creation of a data warehousing environment that contains all the data that the finance department needs, with the appropriate rules and calculations already applied. They will also provide reporting, analysis, dashboard, and planning tools that access the data warehouse sources, as well as empower finance users to explore data on their own without help from their colleagues in IT. Once a solid BI infrastructure is in place, the finance department can spend 80% of its time analyzing data instead of collecting it (Wayne Eckerson, 2010).
Imagine a future
- where the CEO calls a meeting and everyone agrees on revenue, profit, and cost numbers, and decisions are made based on facts, not gut feel, tradition, or arm twisting.
- where a CFO checks the company’s overall profit and loss position daily and, with a few clicks, views the contributions of every region, group, and product line, and then drills down to view individual orders and expenditures at a product, customer, or supplier level.
- where a controller can automate the standardization of financial transactions across a global company in a few seconds and generate statutory reports in a few hours or days.
A new role for finance
To add real value to the organization, finance needs to move beyond basic data collection and reporting. It must analyze the information it collects for trends, patterns, and insights so it can advise the business how best to improve operations, optimize performance, and adapt to changing business conditions. More and more organizations are now seeing that BI can be instrumental in pioneering these kind of changes, not just for the finance department, but on a company-wide basis as well.