CFOs Need Mavericks to Boost Data Analytics


We live a data paradox. We feel submerged by data which is all around us and omnipresent, whereas those data could make our lives so much easier are much harder to find and identify. The real problem is most data is not useful. You need to figure out where data can provide you with real insights instead of bringing more complexity or setting people going off in tangents. This is not an easy task. As a CFO, I try to stay focused on the basics (revenues, costs and profits) and build up from there starting with simple data analytics that gives me more clarity on the market opportunities, the go-to-market costs and the different scenarios to allocate business profits. It is only when I feel I have a strong understanding of these scenario’s that I then move to look at big data outputs to try and validate the scenario’s that have been identified.

I know this is easier said than done. Another good ploy is to surround yourself with the right people.

I recently stumbled across an article in Healthcare Finance, referring to a survey by WorkDay, which perfectly summarizes the promise of big datafor the finance functions: data-driven decision-making (rather than intuitions) that makes the CFOs and their teams more resilient and intelligent, delivering quality insights and strategic advantages for the whole organization. But the report also indicates that many corporate finance functions are still unable to deliver these insights, due largely to:

  1. difficulty integrating finance and non-finance data
  2. lack of relevant skills within finance teams, and
  3. ineffective collaboration among C-suite peers on data-driven decision-making.

My previous blogs were about point 3 and, indeed, the need for partnerships, specifically between the CFO and the CIO, which is key to aligning on the right data sets.

Regarding point 1, I do not think that access to non-financial data is a problem, as such. The difficulty is to get data in a trustworthy format that you can easily embed into your own CFO story. There are so many different templates and subsets across departments and business units. This is also where a strong CFO-CIO can help getting everyone in tune.

Where I think CFOs have still a long way to go is, indeed, point 2 and the access to skills.

Chalk and cheese

To refresh the knowledge inside your finance department, I strongly encourage you to search for less traditional profiles. Besides accounting and finance champions, attract some nerdy data scientists and make them feel comfortable in your team. They are so scarce on today’s market that you had better offer these mavericks a motivating challenge, as well as a suitable infrastructure to start getting value out of artificial intelligence. Otherwise, like in this testimonial, they will not stay long in your team.

The infographics here illustrate that data scientists and business analysts are like chalk and cheese. They do not naturally work together. But it is your task, as CFO, to show leadership and make the best of both worlds.

A tactical tip? Introduce some job rotation so that each group of skilled people understands the benefits brought by the other one. There is a kind of trade-off to be found here.

If you keep data scientists and business analysts separated, the risk is that your own exploitation of Big Data may go too behind the wall, disconnected from the business realities. Data science just for the sake of it.

Conversely, if you keep them together all the time, you restrict the power of data scientists to think out of the box and to provide real insights once their job is combined with the skills of the business analysts.

In conclusion, there is not one silver bullet to make your finance department smarter and more resilient, but investing in a good mix of new talents while increasing the data analytical skills of the existing teams… is definitely a sound decision. Though, I must confess, it is based on my own intuition and experience more then on machine learning.

Always happy to read your comments!

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A modernized data protection strategy enables customers to more efficiently transform their IT – delivering benefits all round. 

In the fourth of a series of blogs inspired by influential research published by industry analyst ESG, we learn how modern data protection strategies, tools and processes enable and support IT Transformation. 

Modernizing the IT environment is a fundamental step that companies of all sizes must take on their journey towards achieving IT Transformation – and that includes the implementation of modern data protection devices and processes.

Around the world, data continues to grow at a phenomenal pace. There’s an equally rapidly expanding need for mobility and the intrinsic value of data to business is also increasing. So optimum protection is paramount.

As your customers and prospects make the necessary move to modernize their IT environments – and specifically data center technologies – they need to ensure that their data protection strategies, tools and processes also evolve accordingly.

What does a modern data protection approach involve?

In today’s increasingly digitally driven economy, the typical workloads, service levels and consumption models that organizations have to provide vary widely. So a ‘one size fits all’ data protection strategy is unlikely to be appropriate. Instead, a suitably modern and agile data protection solution should be deployed to meet the unique needs of each environment that it protects.

This should include everything from backup and availability to archiving solutions, all of which should be validated against specific workload requirements and the ways they are run or accessed – whether that’s from on-premises physical and virtual environments, via hybrid and public cloud services or endpoint devices.

The impact of modern data protection on IT maturity

A comprehensive data protection strategy is essential to support effective IT Transformation. It has also been shown to play a key role in the ranking of an organization’s IT maturity.

Earlier this year, ESG conducted a survey of 4,000 IT executives from private- and public-sector organizations across 16 countries to evaluate their progress in embracing IT Transformation1 – and rank them as ‘Legacy’, ‘Emerging’, ‘Evolving’ or ‘Transformed’.

In general, organizations that had achieved ‘Transformed’ status were nearly 10X more likely than ‘Legacy’ organizations to have invested in modern data protection solutions to cover a broad range of environments – ranging from cloud to on-premises to endpoints.

The 88% versus 9% response is clearly a stark difference – and those businesses that have made the move to modernize their data protection strategies as well as their IT environments are also benefiting from other significant operational advantages.

Flexible data protection strategies to fit specific needs

In its Research Insights Brief on how modern data protection strategies support and enable IT Transformation2, ESG reports that 85% of ‘Transformed’ IT organizations have at least three unique data protection mechanisms in place to safeguard assets and data – covering the spectrum from archive software to continuous availability technology. In contrast, more than half of ‘Legacy’ organizations have no more than two data protection technologies implemented.

This is partly due to the fact that ‘Transformed’ organizations already have a greater diversity of workloads and the consequent need to protect a broader range of IT environments.

However, these organizations have also embraced self-service data protection. This enables line-of-business owners and application administrators to manage data protection tasks like setting backup policies and recovering data themselves. Empowering users with these tools has the potential to minimize delays between the creation and protection of data and enable faster recovery of data, among other benefits – because it reduces or even eliminates the dependence on IT to provision resources or resolve issues.

The ESG study found that two-thirds of ‘Transformed’ organizations reported extensive availability of self-service data protection capabilities.

Significant operational and wider business benefits

Overall, the ESG research found that modern data protection strategies, tools and processes delivered significant operational and wider business benefits.

Compared with ‘Legacy’ organizations, the ‘Transformed’ organizations in the study:

  • Were 13X more likely to offer well-established self-service for data protection management.
  • Were nearly 2X more likely to have exceeded their revenue goals in 2017.
  • Were able to recover their VMs 31% faster.
  • Were 14% more likely to hit their recovery targets.
  • Were 8X more likely to believe they are in a very strong competitive position.

Do you still have customers and prospects in the ‘Legacy’ camp? They clearly need to start to consider what they’re going to do to catch up and remain competitive…

Read and share the full ESG Research Insights Brief >>

Discover how a modern data protection strategy can help to improve operational performance and speak to prospects and customers to discuss their specific needs. You can also use the free ESG online assessment tool with them to demonstrate the opportunities and value of IT Transformation.

Explore our dedicated IT Transformation campaign and marketing tools >>

ESG Research Insights Paper, ‘Research Proves IT Transformation’s Persistent Link to Agility, Innovation, and Business Value’, March 2018.

ESG Research Insights Brief, ‘Enabling IT Transformation with Modern Data Protection Strategies’, May 2018.

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