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Data Debate: Should Finance Own Data Intelligence?

  • By Nilly Essaides
  • Published: 12/1/2014

The results of a recent AFP Data Intelligence Survey suggest that finance should own the data intelligence function. Over 70 percent of finance professionals said data intelligence is a top area of focus for their departments. And 76 percent of the companies that said they have successful programs pointed to finance as the chief area of focus. Further, 84 percent of successful data intelligence programs have finance as a major participant. “Data intelligence can provide the finance function with a number of opportunities to improve processes and results,” the survey noted. Among them:

  • More robust reporting
  • Examining KPIs to better forecast receivables
  • Improved liquidity management
  • Reviewing operating disbursements.

“What we’ve found with the evolution or revolution of big data that analytics is a theme in the various divisions: marketing is looking at customer insight and behavior,” said the head of financial planning and analysis at a retail company. “Product teams are looking at product trend and styles. Supply chain is looking at ways to drive efficiency. If we’re not careful, all these analytics groups can develop their own set of facts they may not all jive together in coherent way. The risk is that executives will hear different stories across different analytics groups. The big challenges for FP&A is to be a coordinating voice for these diff analytical groups. and make sure those line up with what we’re seeing holistic basis.”

The key: technology enablers

Experts see a growing role for FP&A and the CFO office in owning the analytics function, particularly as new technologies are enabling finance to access, visualize and analyze data more quickly and intuitively.

“As cloud platforms become more prevalent the office of technology will likely refocus on application management and move away from managing and supporting platforms, most notably analytics. This seems like a perfect opportunity for the office of finance to step up and take a leadership role in enterprise-wide analytics,” said one FP&A consultant.

Another FP&A expert added: “I have seen the next step more and more have finance, and in particular FP&A, own the development of the system and the output through the inception stage. The system gets transferred and supported from an application standpoint, e.g., making sure it’s always up and backed up, etc., and IT owns that but FP&A owns all data and all reporting including development of future reporting needs. With cloud-based solutions, I have seen no IT involvement at all—purely finance.”

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