Financial managers who are searching for ways to work more quickly and intelligently are exploring the possibilities of big data. Big data undoubtedly has a lot to offer those working within the financial industry but having a mountain of data will not get immediate results without implementing a solid strategy and equipping oneself with the tools required to convert such data into usable insights.
Time to reflect
Generally speaking, financial managers value having more time above all else. More time allows them to take on the role of a strategic partner who supports the decision-making of the board with specific financial evidence. They want to waste less time on manual tasks such as going through reports, collecting information and decrypting what the state of affairs actually is at any given moment. Reliable automation for such activities allows financial managers to save time and therefore increase their efficiency and accuracy. Wasting less time allows them to reflect on what really matters.
The more processes which are supported by IT within a business, the larger the potential data mountain. The average financial manager is aware of this and will be keen to see how this mountain of data can be translated into meaningful results. While this is certainly a good idea, even the biggest mountain of data is worthless without considering the six key points below.
1. Clean data
A crucial question to begin with is whether you are allowing yourself a realistic chance of generating usable insights.
A business has to be able to rely on its figures which is why it is important to consider how ‘clean’ your company data actually is. One of the biggest risks is the use of multiple systems for managing financial information such as local solutions at foreign locations or different implementations which communicate via Excel. In addition to these, there are many global elements that make a successful consolidation so challenging including multiple ERP systems, currencies or accounting systems.
The more you relocate, import, export or manually transfer data, the more the likelihood of errors occurring increases. Figures can quickly become obsolete and data can be duplicated or even forgotten. The more a company works within one system, the ‘cleaner’ their data is likely to be. A central source of data and fixed definitions mean that everyone works within the same version of the actual and current business situation.
2. Strategic focus for the right KPIs
Choosing the right KPIs is crucial in order to properly assess whether business results are in line with your strategic objectives. From the mountain of information available, managers must be able to quickly identify any positives, risks or genuine problems. Ensuring clear parameters when filtering and monitoring data makes it possible to spend time managing exceptions, instead of constantly checking everything.
To be able to do this effectively, you should be absolutely clear about what you wish to achieve. What are your main corporate objectives and what exactly do you need to measure in order to evaluate their progress? Do you need to look at increased order size, less customer turnover or a shorter sales cycle? Perhaps it is a combination of a number of these things. You will only be able to compile the correct KPIs by identifying and prioritising precisely what information you wish to monitor.
3. Mapping the process
Once your strategic KPIs are clear, it is time to look critically at whether existing processes can support these with usable data. Do you have a standardised way of working in all countries? Can you make the processes leaner to accelerate the collection of data? Do all of your countries use the same financial definitions in their reports? Operational excellence by standardisation and clear communication is vital for producing clean, consistent data.
4. Clear requirements for data collection
Whether you want to analyse your purchasing or sales process or identify the ROI of your marketing campaigns, ensure that data collection requirements are clear to everyone. Be clear about your expectations and ensure that everyone supplies any crucial information regarding their daily work activities. If you are looking for more insight into why you’re not closing deals, it is important to ensure that your entire sales team understands how they should proceed with a lead in the system. Quality is crucial but data is only really usable above a certain quantitative threshold.
5. Streamlined data collection
The choices you make at an IT level will help your colleagues to compile up-to-date information as well. If your salespeople are able to update the CRM system from a mobile app, a real-time sales funnel is a realistic option. If consultants can track their time and input any costs while on the road, you will be able to stay up-to-date where billability, turnover and budgets are concerned. Working within the cloud will also enable the shop floor to better update the system where and when required in retail organisations.
6. The right tools
Even clean and usable data will remain worthless without the tools to decipher it. Without the ability to quickly discover anomalies and identify their cause, financial managers and organisations as a whole will not be able to save time.
An example of a tool that can help you decipher your data is a ‘Plug & Play’ solution which instantly connects with your ERP database. You could also generate user-friendly dashboards and offer the option to completely segment the data as required: from business unit level to individual transactions; enabling users to identify relevant data themselves with minimum effort.
Utilising Big data effectively
Big data offers financial departments many potential benefits. However, it only works when used in line with corporate strategy, when the right tools are available, and when a business provides accurate, prompt, and complete information. Data analysis makes anomalies visible, allowing financial managers to invest time in planning different scenarios, using `what if’ questions, and setting up models for potential new opportunities.
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Who is Elementary Business Solutions?
Elementary Business Solutions is an Exact Certified Partner. Our technical business consultants have all been through the rigorous certification programme to ensure that they not only understand the Exact software solutions but also understand how they can help your business reap the benefits.
What makes Elementary Business Solutions different?
Whether it’s Exact for Accounting, Time & Billing, Project Management, Wholesale Distribution or Manufacturing, the transition from implementing your new software to establishing a process where you are confident in being able to use it is crucial. We will work with your company and act as problem solvers, trainers and mentors to ensure your business reaps the benefits that your all-in-one integrated software solution can provide. We put in place the tools that will deliver lasting change and equip your business with what it needs to grow. This in turn will provide your business with a more efficient process of working, allowing you and your workforce to focus on the more important tasks at hand.