Data Intelligence Challenges for Finance
Finance Departments face many challenges that interfere with gaining Data Intelligence:
1. A Multitude of Disparate Data Sources – Finance owns the accounting and financials data, but also needs to access data from every other function, from the CRM system, to the supply chain system, to the transactional and operational databases, and even marketing and HR systems. Outside of these is staff generated data stored in spreadsheets, whether they are forecasts, performance trackers, or special analyses. Ultimately all of this information needs to be mashed up to get the whole picture.
2. Limitations of Tabular Reports – The first generation of information reporting has been the tabular report, whether structured as in financial statements or essentially print-outs of a database. These are useful for presenting the facts, but not for telling the story. Not until those data dumps are imported into a spreadsheet, massaged into metrics, and turned into charts can analysts begin to tell stories about the data.
3. Too Many Reports – Relying on reports also leads to ever growing libraries of static reports as new ones are requested for each new question that comes up during the course of running the business. The libraries become overrun and disorganized, leading to potential confusion and errors, and certainly inefficiency.
4. Too Much Manual Reporting – Without self-service access to data, staffers make their own reports, importing, or even worse, copying and pasting data into spreadsheets and creating their own reports. This leads to more inefficiency, and worse: errors.
5. Spreadmarts – With operational data stores being so hard to change and not suited to key metric calculations and aggregations, finance staffers often resort to creating their own spreadsheet “databases.” No longer tied to the systems of record that might be updated over time, the result is competing versions of the truth.
6. Dependency on Data Scientists – the era of Big Data means there is an ocean of data that potentially could be analyzed, but most organizations don’t have the expertise to tackle the challenge.