Business transformation focuses on maximizing profits while minimizing costs. In the era of advanced data analytics and digitalisation, the concept of ‘digital transformation’ has evolved. It involves leveraging cloud technologies, AI and predictive analytics to gather, organize and optimise large data sets. The CFO role has evolved to prioritise data-driven decisions over instincts or past experience. According to a recent survey by Deloitte, CFOs have identified key decision-making priorities for 2023 and 2024:
A significant number of professionals place emphasis on the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation technologies. This is closely followed by the implementation of improved forecasting and scenario planning methodologies and ensuring consistency in key performance indicators (KPIs). There is a growing focus on developing robust analytics capabilities to extract timely and high-quality insights from data. Lastly, organisations strive to enhance operational efficiency with a culture of speed, agility and transparency in decision-making. Data-driven CFOs and finance teams are vital for addressing data and analytics challenges.
What data challenges are faced by CFOs?
Efficiently using data is a constant challenge for CFOs. To harness the power of data, modern CFOs must proactively address key challenges:
No Single Source of Financial Truth
According to an Accenture survey, 76% of CFOs believe that without a unified version of accurate data across all business divisions, their organisation will struggle to achieve its goals. CFOs struggle to gain insights from data due to a lack of unified analytics views, hindering their ability to establish a single source of financial truth. Fragmented data across systems and departments hinders the establishment of a unified and accurate financial view. Modern CFOs need to establish interconnected relationships among diverse sources of information to adopt an integrated and in-depth approach to their work. This requires advanced capabilities like enhanced traceability, operational reporting, and integrated financial analysis covering customer segmentation, product analysis, service analysis and revenue security.
CFOs Serve a Diversified Range of Stakeholders Who Rely on Fast and Accurate Data Reporting
CFOs focus on financial reporting and provide tailored data analytics to meet the specific requirements of enterprises and line-of-business leaders like performance indicators, time frames, stages of summarisation, and visual design elements. CFOs face challenges in serving stakeholders due to the absence of appropriate analytics views, hindering fast and accurate data reporting and meaningful data insights. The lack of information integration hinders providing comprehensive data to stakeholders, limiting informed decision-making based on the complete financial picture. Adapting to changing conditions and regulations makes reporting improvements complex, requiring extensive planning and restructuring for statistical analysis. To meet stakeholders’ data reporting needs, CFOs should invest in efficient data tools for timely and accurate reporting.
The CFO’s Office Handles More Enterprise-Level Analysis and Reporting Than Any Other Business Unit
The CFO’s office generates financial data, reports, analytics strategies and KPI metrics to prioritise efforts and allocate resources. The executive team needs accurate estimates of cash flows and balance sheets as they can fluctuate unexpectedly without clear reasons or factors. The CFO’s office struggles with managing analysis and reporting at the enterprise level due to the absence of suitable analytics views for deriving meaningful insights from the data. The lack of integrated information hinders the CFO’s ability to obtain a comprehensive view of the organisation’s financial performance for effective analysis and reporting. Supporting the CFO’s office in their analysis and reporting responsibilities calls for the use of advanced analytics tools, data integration capabilities and reporting systems.
The Burden of Poor-Quality Data on Finance
According to a report by PwC, highlighting the extent of the issue- Firms tend to spend nearly twice as much time gathering data, compared to analysing it. Financial professionals often become technical clean-up specialists, manually seeking and modifying data to ensure high reliability and precision, but lack the adequate technology. Poor-quality data burdens finance by hindering data understanding and interpretation due to the lack of suitable analytics views, exacerbated further by the absence of information integration, making it difficult to extract accurate insights for informed financial decision-making. Professionals spend excessive time modifying spreadsheets and refining organisation-wide data to eliminate poor-quality or unwanted information. By implementing a comprehensive approach to optimise data management, enhance data quality, provide suitable analytics views and enable information integration, firms can overcome the challenges and empower their professionals to make more informed financial decisions.
In times of economic uncertainty, the absence of suitable analytics tools hinders CFOs from extracting meaningful insights, impeding their understanding of economic conditions and ability to make informed decisions for navigating turbulent times. Moreover, Fragmented data across departments and systems makes it challenging to obtain a comprehensive and unified view of the organisation’s financial status. This calls for comprehensive data analytics platforms that give CFOs robust visualization and seamless data integration, empowering them to make informed decisions and navigate economic uncertainties effectively with a clear and holistic view of the data.
What does a ‘Data-Driven CFO’ mean? And how a data-empowered CFO benefits an organization?
Data-driven CFOs base their strategic decisions on data analysis and interpretation. According to KPMG’s Top performer’s insight, 75% of finance leaders believe efficiently leveraging enterprise data can drastically shift the business model.
A data-driven strategy enables CFOs to make impactful decisions by evaluating and organizing data with the latest tools and technologies, while also fostering a culture of improved data understanding among employees through:
- Data-Driven Decision-Making: By leveraging data analytics, a data-empowered CFO makes informed decisions, accessing real-time insights to identify opportunities, mitigate risks and optimise financial performance.
- Improved Financial Planning and Forecasting: With robust data and analytics tools, a data-empowered CFO enhances financial planning and forecasting. They can perform accurate analysis, scenario modeling and predictive forecasting to improve strategic planning and resource allocation.
- Enhanced Cost Optimization: Data empowers CFOs to identifying cost-saving opportunities, optimising expenditure, pinpointing areas of inefficiency, streamlining operations and implementing cost-control measures through detailed analysis of financial data to improve overall profitability.
- Risk Management and Compliance: Through harnessing data, a CFO empowered by data can effectively manage financial risks and ensure compliance with regulations. They detect anomalies, monitor key risk indicators and implement robust internal controls to mitigate risks and safeguard the financial well-being of an organisation.
- Strategic Partnerships: CFOs empowered with data act as strategic partners to other departments and business leaders, offering valuable insights and collaborating on data-driven initiatives to enhance company-wide decision-making.
- Enhanced Stakeholder Communication: Communicating financial performance, forecasts and strategic initiatives to stakeholders clearly through meaningful reports, visualizations and presentations, data-empowered CFOs facilitate better understanding and engagement.
- Increased Operational Efficiency: By leveraging data and automation, a data-empowered CFO streamlines financial processes, reduces manual efforts, enhances efficiency and enables finance teams to prioritise value-added activities and strategic initiatives, driving business growth.
- Improved Performance Measurement: By establishing relevant metrics, key performance indicators (KPIs) and dashboards, CFOs can measure and track financial performance, enabling timely performance evaluation, goal tracking and course correction when necessary.
So, how to become a data-driven CFO?
A data-driven CFO must have data-driven decision-making skills beyond merely understanding and analysing numbers. Their analytical findings must be shared with different departments to provide value to the organisation:
Gain a Thorough Understanding of Your Company’s Financial Situation
To be an effective strategist, a data-driven CFO understands the current financial state and accurately assesses future business strategies. They need to integrate financial data with other departments, go beyond static reports and spreadsheets, and establish a unified system of dynamic metrics and validated data to address operational and strategic inquiries.
Invest in Good Tools and Technologies
Due to the absence of adequate data collection tools, your business may be missing out on crucial information, which becomes even more challenging when data is scattered across several platforms and networks. As one contemplates investment in data analytical tools like ERP software, they study the data requirements and establish compelling reasons for using them by outlining their advantages to the rest of their C-suite before selecting the most suitable technologies to fulfill them. For instance, organisations in the manufacturing sector profit greatly from an ERP for manufacturing industry, and the benefit extends across production, shop-floor management and purchasing, to data analysis for finance and sales operations.
Adopting cloud technology helps CFOs enhance their data and analytics capabilities, enabling accurate information presentation and real-time monitoring. This empowers Financial Planning and Analysis executives to establish comprehensive data control and management, ensuring consistency, improving communication and mitigating risks. It eliminates discrepancies, provides a reliable foundation for decision-making and replaces time-consuming spreadsheets or emails for data reporting.
Elaborate Data Using AI and Augmented Analytics
Data-driven CFOs are shifting their focus from predefined dashboards to the compelling narratives that emerge from the data, moving beyond reliance on traditional reporting methods. Research by Accenture reveals that 61% of finance operations have adopted AI technology for data processing, and 74% of finance functions use predictive analytics. Machine learning automates data management tasks and creates a comprehensive data catalog. AI and native language creation provide contextual insights by automatically analysing data. Investing in these solutions automates data management and enhances information clarity.
According to Gartner analysts, the CFO holds a critical responsibility in determining the digital strategy and objectives of the organisation. Consequently, it is imperative for the CFO to adeptly navigate the complexities of growth for the long-term success of their organisation. By implementing the best cloud ERP systems, AI, and analytics to collect, structure and optimise the use of data, you establish yourself as a data-driven CFO capable of integrating financial objectives with more significant business requirements. Are you looking to invest in the latest technologies like an ERP that can help you achieve data-driven goals? Contact us to learn how Epicor cloud ERP solutions can help you achieve the benefits of digital transformation through innovative methods of managing business data.