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How the CFO can build a data-driven company

While a large number of large companies are operating as effective data-driven organizations, there’s still plenty of work to be done. Ninety-two percent of respondents in a new report, largely C-level executives, shared that they plan to increase the pace of investment in big data this year, yet only 28 percent expressed having a “data culture” in place.

It’s clear that leaders recognize how important an effective data and analytics practice is to remain competitive, but many have not evolved to a point where the use of big data is integrated into business operations and decision-making.

Today’s fast-moving business landscape requires that all decisions big and small are backed by thoughtful analytics, and there’s a tremendous opportunity for the CFO to spearhead this transformation and guide the company through an imperative organizational challenge. They’re equipped to drive widespread change due to their analytics savvy, ability to build organizational processes and most importantly, their influential role in cross-department decision-making.

I recently met with financial leaders to discuss what’s holding financial departments back in this transformation. Here are three things CFOs should focus on to advance and support their organization’s big data transformation.

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CFOs must foster collaboration and embrace an agile mentality

Before investing in technology like AI and machine learning, CFOs must first rethink the processes in which they work. No more silos. Collaboration is the foundation of the future of decision making.

The CFO is no longer just a number cruncher and the signer of checks. They must be far more involved in the nuances of decisions and embrace the responsibilities of a strategic data steward. The new CFO will work with and align on future priorities with the head of sales, marketing, operations and more. This new cross-functional team will deliver better forecasts and deeper insights into how to drive growth while remaining flexible to a changing competitive environment and new opportunities.

Hire for departmental weaknesses and build an insight factory

In order to help their organization stay competitive, the new financial leaders must play a larger role in all drivers of the business. Be open minded to hiring to fill weakness gaps on your team. It’s not just about bringing in the brightest CPAs and CFAs anymore. Fill your team with data scientists and broaden the notion of what a modern financial team truly is, and take the time to understand how the technology that your team members live in works.

You must have the technology and business-savvy people in place to manage and maintain how the analytics run and what the insights mean for other leaders. Think about it as if you’re building an internal insights factory.

Recalibrate the analytics process

With the team is in place, it’s time to identify the most pressing business challenge where analytics can deliver the greatest win. Then consider the toolsets and technology that are used and start building the process. It’s time for the CFO to recognize the need to evolve beyond spreadsheets in order to scale the value of analytics across the organization. Invest in and experiment with new capabilities and technologies like simulation powered by machine learning that will run analytics at the speed in which decisions need to be made to remain competitive.