From the biggest global events to the smallest local news, companies are (and always have been) faced with change in one form or another. However, the current pace of economic, political and technological change affecting businesses is unprecedented, and that includes its effect on the finance function.
‘Stepping into the Unknown’, a recent report from software vendor Oracle, revealed that 46% of European finance leaders found their forward planning to be more complex and uncertain.
Finance roles are changing hugely and are only increasing in their scope and complexity. Finance is also no longer a rear-view mirror department, with 53% of finance leaders responding to Oracle’s report stating that their role is more focussed on forward planning than ever before.
As finance staff are generally among the most analytical people in any business they are often leaned on to collect and analyse data to understand if the business is performing against its key performance indicators – even if those numbers aren’t purely financial. Modern finance leaders are having to assimilate a much broader set of data, distil insight and outcomes, perhaps with the aid of new processes or tools.
But when managing in uncertain times finance can only try to model and anticipate where impact will occur, and try to answer questions such as: ‘where is risk apparent in our firm?’ ‘How do we mitigate that risk?’ And 'what are our options?’
While no business can know for certain what’s coming next, speaking as part of AccountingWEB’s ‘making modern finance decisions’ webcast, Oracle’s David Hobson believes that the collection and analysis of data can help businesses get ‘match fit’ for change, however big or small the change is.
Better sources of clean, trusted data – including non-financial
As previously covered on AccountingWEB, a common theme among modern businesses is how to get the most from data generated and held by systems and processes.
Organisational structures, hierarchies and cost centres aligned to specific teams tend to be focussed on one specific area, with little opportunity for data to cross over to other departments or be examined on a company-wide scale.
“Take a company’s HR function as an example”, said Hobson. “They’re focussed on recruiting the right talent, nurturing them or managing their succession through time. When we’re talking about HR data a lot of businesses will say ‘that’s an HR project, it’s nothing to do with me.’
“But if you take a standardised quote-to-cash or opportunity-to-cash scenario, HR data actually spans lots of areas – what are bidding for? Can you afford it? How do you create value? All these things are connected”.
You also can’t underestimate the power of social data. According to Hobson, Oracle often uses the retail example of Michelle Obama’s red dress. Suddenly a product becomes popularised and consumers want access to something similar. Companies that are able to take in social data and combine it with their own supply chain information will inevitably be in a better position than their competitors.
“These things won’t change with events like Brexit,” said Hobson. “They’ll still be happening – but for UK companies trying to figure out their route to market or how to grow, they have to work out how to assimilate this data and make it actionable”.
You can watch the full webinar on demand and free of charge by following this link and registering your details.
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Contributions from the AccountingWEB.co.uk editorial team.