Bridging the gap between data analysts and finance

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New opportunities for automated data consolidation extend the reach of financial reporting and analysis. But will this be enough for CFOs?

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When I was CIO, no department demanded more data than finance. Finance had a team of financial analysts who manipulated data into a myriad of spreadsheets and reports, and a demanding CFO who always wanted more data.

Financial analysts and CFOs were hard to please. They wanted daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly reports, as well as data for risk assessments and what-if-scenario analyzes. Finance used a plethora of reports to extract the information it wanted to see, but it never seemed enough.

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“The main problem CFOs face is not lack of access to reports,” said Didi Gurfinkel, CEO and co-founder of DataRails, a financial reporting and process automation. “CFOs can (potentially) get the information and reports they need to make financial decisions, create models, produce management reports, and so on. The biggest concern is the cumbersome process for producing these reports. “

This tedious manual process involves a full team of financial analysts pulling financial data from systems ranging from ERP and General Ledger to CRM and Sales. The data from each system is reviewed daily, and at some point the data from those systems must be manually aggregated and fed into a spreadsheet capable of answering both standard and non-standard questions.

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“When using this process, what CFOs, financial analysts and business leaders lack is full and unimpeded access to consolidated reports and having all the information available from the data at their fingertips. main, ”Gurfinkel said.

This is where analytics tools like dashboards and top-down analytics start to make sense. They make it much easier to navigate data and, more importantly, allow timely insights to be learned.

However, to get to this point, data from multiple systems must first be consolidated into a central database and this work should not be done manually by a financial analyst handling a spreadsheet. Instead, data consolidation can be done with system automation. This saves financial analysts time, reduces the risk of human error, and speeds time to market for reports. The end result is a dashboard that sums up the data and gives you the ability to drill down into details. This allows finance to create numerous reports and scenarios with data that will help them meet their insatiable need for information.

Gurfinkel mentioned a use case where a company’s finance department spent hours of work manually consolidating financial information from multiple data sources. Information from QuickBooks was exported to Excel spreadsheets and then reconciled, which required tedious work. Afterwards, finance would go through hours of editing to ensure accuracy and prepare the information for business and management use. By moving to automated data consolidation, staff were able to see instant version comparisons and generate reports through a single, interactive, consolidated platform. “They are now saving more than 15 hours per week, time that was once spent on tedious manual processes,” said Gurfinkel.

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This does not solve all the reporting needs of finance. But data consolidation and automation that supports analytics can bring more data from various sources together faster and save employees time while doing it. The process also makes finance more IT self-sufficient.

However, “A main difficulty when suggesting automated data consolidation is the willingness of companies to take the leap of faith. This is understandable because financial executives who have calculated numbers and produced reports manually through spreadsheets for decades naturally do not want the whole system to change drastically in a short period of time, ”said Gurfinkel.

That’s one reason why IT and other tech managers should be aware of the change (and resistance) in business processes when trying to implement automation for analytics.

As with most analytics and automation efforts, finance needs to be fully involved in the project and determine how they want their business processes to change in order to take advantage of the automation.

“With the help of automation, data consolidation is a way to revolutionize the way finance does business, with far-reaching implications for the business; however, implementation is the key to a successful digital transition, ”said Gurfinkel.

I would add that a successful implementation depends on IT and finance guiding the new process towards full acceptance into the business, starting with the CFO.

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