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Why Business Intelligence Turns CFOs into Strategic Advisors

Increasingly, companies are striving to be data-driven. Decisions are not only informed by data but are made precisely because of data. This enables companies to make more prudent and productive decisions which can help them discover and leverage their competitive advantages. Financial data has emerged as one of the most important sources of such crucial insights.

Financial business intelligence (BI) is a vital component in the C-level decision-making process. Correct and sound financial data helps companies understand their profit margins, costs, cash flows and other business-critical metrics. Since it falls into a CFO’s responsibilities, this role needs to be reconsidered in line with the new business requirements of today.

In the past, a Chief Financial Officer was frequently viewed as little more than a glorified record-keeper. However, many CFOs have been taking on increasingly strategic roles in their companies, becoming vital players in business intelligence efforts. Many CEOs and other executives now rely on CFOs to act as strategic advisors who help them formulate and execute complex strategies using financial data insights.

Now, let’s look at how financial business intelligence can redefine a CFO’s impact at an organization.

Becoming More Proactive

BI stands for using the tools and processes to gather information and then making sound business decisions based on the findings. BI platforms have emerged as important tools for gathering, analyzing, and presenting such data, which simplify BI processes for employees, including C-level executives. Indeed, accessibility is one of the biggest benefits of modern business intelligence platforms.

Whereas corporate finance was once a reactive field often focused on past data, CFOs are increasingly using BI tools to become proactive strategists who use financial projections to chart their company’s future. What’s more, business intelligence allows fully integrating financial data with other data types used by a company for a complete picture of its performance.

Integrating Disparate Data Sources

Financial data is likely to be utilized more effectively than other corporate data types, owing to its importance and the fact that most companies are obliged to track it. Still, few companies are maximizing the potential of such data, especially since it is stuck in its own silo. The same can be said of other data sources, such as marketing and operations, with each being siloed as well.

For many years, companies wishing to analyze their data had to build entire research departments, complete with data experts and IT staff. Often, if a company executive or anyone else wanted data, they’d have to liaise with the research team, put in a request, and then wait for the data to be compiled, analyzed, and presented. This process was time-consuming, and by the time data reached the decision maker it was often out of date.  

Meanwhile, financial teams often had to depend on the corporate research department to integrate financial data. If CFOs wanted to combine or compare it with another data source, say, from the sales team, they would need assistance from one of the data scientists on board. This bottleneck made it all the more difficult for CFOs and other financial experts to be proactive strategists and decision makers.

However, modern business intelligence platforms overcome this limitation and make it easier for CFOs to both access and work with data from a wide range of disparate sources. They allow integrating financial data and applying it effectively to decision making.

What to Factor In when Choosing a BI Platform

Many of today’s business intelligence platforms are self-serving. If a C-level executive or other employee needs to access and even work with data, they can use the BI platform without calling for a data scientist. A well-designed and well-thought out BI platform should be easy enough for just about any tech-savvy employee to use it.

However, not all BI platforms are well-designed and user-friendly. Many legacy platforms remain difficult to handle for anyone outside the data research team. Many modern BI solutions are also convoluted and difficult to work with. Further, many-out-of-the-box BI platforms are inflexible and may not suit a particular company’s needs. BI experts from Itransition suggest defining your company’s objectives before selecting a solution.

Additionally, financial data offers a particular challenge as it needs to be both standardized and customized. The data and all corresponding algorithms for processing it must adhere to industry standards to ensure that it is sound, accurate, and can be understood by outside parties. At the same time, companies need to remain  flexible while working with and compiling their financial data.

A custom BI platform is often a better solution. Despite that it is immensely difficult to develop, these efforts will be justified with tailored user experience and easy-to-comprehend user interface, while also making it possible to integrate the platform with other complex technologies in a company’s ecosystem.

This is especially crucial when it comes to big data, and with more sources integrated, the more complexity usually ensues. Custom or customized platform-based BI solutions are capable of managing this load, working equally well with structured and unstructured data.

BI to Empower CFOs

Business intelligence technology is gradually sipping into corporate decision-making processes, and now CFOs can grasp this opportunity to become strategic advisors with the help of it. A well-thoughtout custom business intelligence platform makes it as easy as never before to gather, analyze, and visualize financial data to derive valuable insights. With such platforms, CFOs can become more proactive and gain clarity on their company’s performance from multiple sources without integration barriers. Now is the time to embrace this definitive technology aiding in sustainable business development.

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Sophia Brooke

Sophia Brooke

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Independent Consultant

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22 Apr 2018

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Brussels

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Business Knowledge for IT

This community aims to provide links, resources, book suggestions, tips and insights to facilitate learning and development of IT professionals in financial services, and to develop a forum for IT professionals to exchange views on various related items.


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