Live Zoom Discussion – Session Summary (23/6/20)

In this weeks session, we discussed the changing world of Business Intelligence and Data. We are all now well aware that management teams and boards are asking for more than just a copy of the financial reports from the last period. To become a valuable business partner/leader, you need to be bringing insight to the table to help decision making against your overarching objectives.

We were joined by a special guest this week James Green who is the Head of Data, Analytics & AI at Ancoris, a Google Cloud Premier Partner that focuses on supporting finance teams with analytics and valuable insight via their CFOLab platform.

Below I have summarised our conversation for those who missed out.

What is ‘real’ business intelligence?

Business intelligence comprises the strategies and technologies used by enterprises for the data analysis of business information. BI technologies provide historical, current, and predictive views of business operations.

This session was designed to showcase the art of the possible. Whilst everyone is at a different stage of their journey towards ‘real’ business intelligence and some have limited budgets for this area, we wanted to show the community what utopia can look like with predictive analytics and insight.

Firstly it was highlighted the importance of walking before you run. Make sure you have all these stages in place first:

  1. Quick access to your Financial Reports (P&L, BS, TB) … you should be able to get instant access to these reports. They should ideally offer drill-through capabilities to the source data so you can review and analyse the figures further. Modern accounting software should support this as standard.
  2. Period End Management/Board Reports (Excel, dashboard or similar) …. you should be able to generate these instantly, not take numerous people 2 days to collate the information. Again, modern accounting software should support this.
  3. Real-Time Dashboards (Self Service) ….. this enables leaders around your organisation to access data themselves and when they need it. There are many data visualisation tools available, some of which will enable you to display not only financial data but also data from other sources around your business or from third parties.
  4. Real Insight … this is where ‘real’ business intelligence comes in. Providing future predictions not just ‘this is what has happened’. Lots of innovation is happening in this area to help businesses with forecasting, scenario planning, cashflow etc… Getting to this stage really enables you to become a valuable partner to the leadership team. Looking at a combination of finance data, data from other sources around your business (such as operations and marketing) and third-party data (such as competitor and industry data)

It was noted that finance teams will have differing resources and budgets to achieve this. However, a lot can still be achieved on a modest budget.

Some modern finance software provides a lot of the above functionality as part of its core software. For others, plug ins will be available from their app marketplace. There are also several stand-alone third party solutions that will integrate into your core software via API.

Those that are more mature in their journey are looking at what data (beyond financial) they can leverage. Some ideas of data outside of finance you should consider tracking are:

  • (Marketing) The volume of leads, quality of leads, conversation rates of leads etc… Level of engagement with marketing campaigns, cost of customer acquisition, session times on your website (especially relevant if you have an e-commerce offering) etc…
  • (Project Management) Performance against deadlines, quality of outcomes etc..
  • (HR) The number of empty positions, retention stats, diversity, training and development, staff survey results around job satisfaction (consider a review of third-party organisation comparison sites such as glassdoor) etc..
  • (Customer service) Performance against SLAs, customer retention, the performance of your NPS score etc…
  • (Operational) Productivity ratios, quality stats etc…
  • (Sales) win rates, performance against target, market, which competitors you loose against and why etc…

Once you are comfortable you are tracking all the key internal metrics you should be looking to see what third-party data is available to help compare yourself to your competition and to help you identify opportunities and threats in your industry. (Some examples include; GlassdoorCapterraGartnerCrunchbasePitchbookBeauhurst etc 

Key Consideration

Despite all of the above, it was highlighted how important it is to forget about tracking everything. If you are preparing a 300-page board report you are wasting a lot of time. They will only digest a fraction of the content with a lot of the pages unread. Ensure that the key metrics you chose, link directly to your overarching business objectives. ‘Nice to knows’ are largely pointless. All the presented data should be able to impact the leadership teams decision making.

Special Guest

We then welcomed James Green who provided us with an introduction to his organisation (Ancoris) and showcased some of the innovation he and his team of data scientists have been working on. 

You can have a read of his full presentation here:

In summary ….

  • “We understand data is challenging. We help our clients regain control of their data; promoting innovation, simplification and high-value, actionable insights.”
  • There is a lot you can do with your own data (especially from a visualisation perspective) but the deeper you dive and the more complex it becomes will begin to highlight the value of engaging experts to help.
  • Ancoris provides centralised data warehousing, AI & Machine Learning to help analyse your data and a visualisation tool to display your data.
  • The highlighted that in a recent survey, CFOs ranked ‘Cashflow’ and ‘Real-Time Information’ as 2 of the top 3 things that keep them up at night. Both of which they are in a position to help with
  • They showcased their latest innovation ‘CFOLab’ that provides users, the ability to run various scenarios and, leveraging a combination of your real-time data along with various algorithms created by their data scientists, to model complex cash flow forecasts & predict future payment compliance.

Many data visualisation tools are available on the market to suit all budgets including; LookerSharperlightPowerBIDomoDatapineTableau etc…

If you are looking for a cheaper alternative to CFOLab there are some other options available including FluidlyFutrli and Float App.

Find out more:

If you have any further questions James Green is happy to connect with any GrowCFO members on LinkedIn and discuss this topic further.

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