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The what, how, and why of seamless data integration in Finance

28th Apr 2022
Brought to you by
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Konsolidator is a Scandinavian SaaS company that delivers a 100 % cloud-based consolidation tool.

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What are the most essential points you should know about agile data integration? Furthermore, the value it can create for you and your financial team. 

When operating with an increasing amount of data, the need for several different software and systems increases. The demand for faster financial insights based on valid high-quality data also increases. Especially in the uncertain and changing times we have experienced over the past year, it is more important than ever to present forecasts and recommendations to solve problems and keep your business going.

To stay relevant as a finance professional, you must deliver recommendations to influence management’s and board’s decisions. You can achieve this by automating the parts of your workflow where you are using a lot of time on manual processes and where the risk of errors is high. When using multiple types of software and systems in your finance department, agile data integration becomes an interesting factor to look at when automating processes in the workflow.

Using agile data integration for handling, processing, and presenting financial data is a simple way to ensure a smooth automated workflow at the finance function. Data integrations come in many different forms. Some of the most common ones are Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and Application Programming Interface (API).

USE DATA INTEGRATION TO OPTIMIZE THE WORKFLOW AND INFLUENCE DECISIONS 

In finance today, we often talk about optimizing the workflow to deliver faster real-time insights for management to base their decisions on. We want to work smarter to be more efficient and gain time for in-depth financial analysis to improve our business. So we want to be efficient and fast, but at the same time, we also want to be able to trust our data and increase the data quality.

There are 5 hot topics when talking about trends in the finance function 2021 we need to have our eyes open to:

  1. Big data: Big data involves a large volume of data from different sources, handled by other software and people.
  2. RPA: Robotic Process Automation is all about letting robots take care of manual, tedious tasks to save time and minimize the risk of errors. 
  3. AI: Artificial Intelligence is manufactured intelligence demonstrated by machines. It is not seen so much in the finance function yet, but we foresee it will soon be a big part of the finance department.
  4. Machine Learning: Machine learning uses machine power to estimate the future by creating forecasts.
  5. Visualization and communication: The role of finance professionals is changing. It is becoming your job to communicate and present relevant recommendations based on real-time insights made from reliable, quality data.

AVOID DROWNING IN DATA AND COMMUNICATION OVERLOAD  

As the finance department gets access to more and more data, it becomes increasingly important to structure all your data but communicate only the relevant parts. You must keep the big picture in mind; otherwise, you will get lost, overinformed, and confused. Data and communication overload will also confuse management and the board because they will be drowning in data. Instead of facilitating a faster and better decision-making process, you will slow it down. 

To avoid overload, structure your data to determine what, how, and when to present it to get your message across. Here, agile data integration between your systems will be a significant advantage for you and your team. By using, for example, APIs or RPA to handle manual workflow processes when processing data, you free up time for cognitive and creative tasks like making in-depth financial analyses and recommendations based on your analysis. You also minimize the risk of errors when, for instance, moving data from one system to another.

From this perspective, implementing agile data integration into your workflow will be a differentiating factor. On a practical level, it means that you save time, reduce the risk of errors, and increase the efficiency and flexibility of the workflow. It also means that you get to do the tasks that challenge you professionally and deliver results that can add great value to your company. 

4 STEPS TO IMPLEMENT AGILE DATA INTEGRATION IN YOUR FINANCE FUNCTION

#1. The first and most important step to take when implementing agile data integration is simply to get started! 

Your agenda needs to have a plan for how you and your team can access and use more data faster. With this, become the catalyst for faster and better decisions in your group.  

But how? You might ask.  

Start by slowly getting to know and using the tools and integration services you find interesting during your off-hours. The next time your manager asks for a specific report, show your manager how easily you managed to deliver it with the help of software and integrations. It might seem like a small thing, but doing a little is better than not doing anything. Getting started on using agile technology is the one thing that can prevent you from lagging behind in the finance business. 

So, get going!

#2. Step number two on the way to smooth and automated data integration are to be proactive.  

It can sometimes be frustrating in the beginning because there can be a lot of roadblocks, and it can seem like you will never get to the finish line. But you should focus on the tasks you actually can do rather than the ones you can’t do at the moment.  

For instance, focus on the skills you have in your department and take the lead on the tasks which can be done very quickly by you and your team. Instead of waiting for IT to create a data integration setup between your software, this approach will get things done. This way, you will have control of the project and will be able to deliver results and move closer to your final goal. 

#3. Step three is, to begin with, the end, so to say. Think of your end goal: What do you want to communicate? 

There are several ways to achieve your goal, but along the way, you need to consider: 

  • What should your future report look like to achieve your goal?
  • What tool should you use to get the look you want for communicating your data?
  • Which other tools are needed to communicate with your reporting tool? How can you ensure an agile flow of data from one system to another when trying to get a message across based on your data? 

#4. Step four towards implementing and using data integration in your finance function is to put first things first. 

You must start by taking small steps and focusing on the tasks you can do. But, as previously described, it is equally important to prioritize these tasks and the plan you have made to succeed.  

If you don't prioritize the necessary tasks, other daily tasks and deadlines will hinder you from getting to the finish line. As a finance professional, you will lag behind with your plan since you will be stuck in the same pattern while others embrace agile data integration and other workflow automation projects. 

To avoid ending up in this situation, you must prioritize and follow your plan to ensure the implementation of agile data integration in your group. 

If you find it hard to plan and get started, then find some role models for how your reporting can look. Follow these role models, maybe talk to them to get inspired and exchange ideas – networking is gold in this process. Look to more prominent companies within your industry, as they could be reporting something you would like to report too, but on a smaller scale.

THERE IS NO WAY AROUND AGILE DATA INTEGRATION 

The reality is that there is no way around agile data integration in the modern finance function. Remember, it is all about decision-making and how to facilitate better and faster decisions supported by valid quality data. That is the overall outcome. We tend to look at all the data we gather and sometimes drown in it, so the big picture is vital to keep in mind.  

So ask yourself: What is the big picture for my business? 

When you know what it will take for you to get the bigger picture, then convince your management this is the way to go through results. Start for yourself by, for instance, exploring how to get data from your ERP system to your consolidation or reporting system. Take small steps and when you have something worthy of showing, then present it to management to see all the benefits of agile data integration and workflow automation. 

Read more about how data agility is becoming a competitive advantage in finance, especially when looking at the consolidation process in groups.