Linking business intelligence to strategy: helps CFOs stay relevant: if financial executives want to make strategic business decisions that move the company forward, they must have useful information that goes beyond historical financial data.

Author:Morio, Jason

While finance plays a role in corporate strategy, other business units are finding they have as much, if not more, influence on key business decisions. What is spurring this shift from finance to operations is the relatively easy access by operational business units to business intelligence (BI): tools purpose-built to serve the business unit.

Data is everywhere, yet much of it is not integrated and a remarkable few are using data to their benefit, particularly in finance. In a recent Gartner Inc. study, "The CFOs' Top Imperatives: Results of the 2014 Technology Issues for Financial Executives Survey," and a subsequent follow-up survey of financial executives, an interesting theme has emerged: Finance executives are looking for tools to help them obtain accurate data they can use to influence corporate strategy.

The Role of "Business Intelligence"

Traditional business intelligence is a rapidly evolving industry with many players vying for attention. Traditional analytics has given way to big data and the need to gather, store, access, analyze and optimize it. Companies want to know as much as possible about their customers and prospects so any BI they can aggregate to help them understand customer behavior patterns, market segmentation and other predictive analytics is considered a Holy Grail.

Who is using this data, though, is where the breakdown seems to be occurring. Most BI tools function within business units. Even when the tools are in place, finance relies on conventional data found on balance sheets and static spreadsheets (often created by the business units), all of which presents a historical view of what has already happened and possibly why it happened.

Finance takes a backseat to operations when it comes to influencing business decisions. For finance to claim its rightful place, there needs to be a shift in perspective for many finance departments, from backwards thinking to forward thinking, and an investment in tools that support the business. This will require a shift from the traditional understanding of "business intelligence" to a re-contextualized concept that finance should embrace. Using the right technology, real-time "business Intelligence" can be accessible and leveraged by finance to earn its seat at the decision-making table.

The Proof is in the Numbers

According to Gartner's CFO study, it appears many finance organizations are getting the message. Those who are committed to playing a role in the direction of...

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