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Changing role of finance as an analytical engine for the organisation

Traditionally, finance has been entrusted as the caretaker of numbers and reliable insights and analytics for the organisation. However, the explosion of data from within the connected enterprise and business ecosystem is challenging that.

Today, data rolls into and out of every part of an organisation, making it possible for any part of the business to pull insights that inform decisions to drive it forward. Moreover, easy access to hyperscaler cloud-based analytics tools and low code AI and reporting tooling have further democratised information assimilation and dissemination. Businesses have gained efficiency, reducing planning cycles to evaluate dynamic business models using scenarios and simulations, and are increasingly looking at finance functions to be the ultimate business partner focusing on top line growth.

With its role rapidly changing, finance is facing a clarion call for change, and the function must quickly transform to regain the pole position as the analytics engine of the organisation. Deloitte has been watching closely this transformation and has predicted following eight trends for finance leading up to 2025:

1. The finance factory – As core finance processes such as reconciliations or journal entry continue to automate, the focus will shift to translating financial information into business insights, and target improving end-to-end processes affecting multiple business areas, not siloed activities. Cost- effectiveness remains critical, increasing the pressure on finance to lower their costs to serve while introducing new capabilities and taking on more analytical work. Finance factories of the future will be the engine rooms of analytics and insights as operating processes become increasingly touchless.

2. Focus on service, business insights and analytics – As they did during the COVID-19 pandemic, CEOs will look to finance for an integrated view of the business performance. Financial planners will need to bake operational components into financial models to assess potential top- and bottom-line impacts—even as the goalposts keep moving. The number of factors impacting business models continue to rise exponentially and will require power of machine learning and artificial intelligence to enable timely predictive business modeling.

3. Finance cycles – With quarterly reporting becoming less relevant as the only source for investors and management when it comes to timely decisions. Finance will be expected to remain agile in its ability to post results and generate insights between regulatory cycles, and still meet evolving reporting requirements. The evolving business-to-government interaction requires more automated tax filing and regulatory reporting. Clean, single sources of financial data, driven by a common data model and advanced analytics engine for the organisation, is a crucial pre-requisite for this.

4. Self-service – While the notion of self-service data for the wider organisation might never sit well with finance, it will be embraced as a way to rationalise reporting requirements and special requests. That said, for self-service to flourish, CFOs need to determine where strong data governance and standardised reporting is required—and then let go of financial data that doesn’t meet those criteria. Self-service also means that while the overall definitions of KPIs need to be harmonized across the organisation, the information delivery needs to be a pull and not a push to enable insights-driven decision making.

5. Operating models – The 2020 pandemic proved that it was possible to close the books 100% virtually – something few CFOs thought possible. Finance leaders will lock in remote work’s cost efficiencies while accommodating employees’ desires for mobility. Remote work is here to stay and leading finance organisations will be set up to accommodate it. The finance operating model was already being challenged, and in this new normal, pressure to cut costs will increase. Finance should look for opportunities to adopt digital twin technology for non-value added but essential work, including a lot of FP&A reporting activities that are amenable to hyper-automation

6. ERPs, automation and transformation – The big ERP players will continue to drive finance automation and digital transformation, particularly since new capabilities offered as part of upgraded are often readily adopted. will accelerate the trend of moving ERPs to the cloud, with consequential benefits in data access and real time insights generation.

7. Good data driving good business - Standardised, high-quality data will become even more important, as data is the foundation for business insights, automation, and touchless operations. Finance will establish a common data model as the cornerstone for analytical insight and for the rest of the organization to adopt. Finance will also double down on massive data cleanup efforts, led by a data czar empowered to ensure data integrity and set the right governance strategy. The key mantra: Get clean and stay clean.

8. Workforce and the workplace - Companies have hired more data scientists – but not in finance. Data scientists will, however, increasingly collaborate with the function on data integration and analysis. Finance will hire more people who can configure and customise digital tools to generate insights and have a digital edge. The war on such digital-ready finance talent is real and, as a result, work will increasingly be done remotely as hybrid workplaces will provide relief on talent crunch locally.

In the next series of blogs, we will deep dive on how finance can transform itself as an analytical engine for the organisation and drive business value:

  • CxO finance challenge – Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) for management reporting
  • Financial planning – An overview of solutions and capabilities for financial planning
  • Predictive analytics – An overview of solutions and capabilities for predictive analytics
  • How to be successful in FP&A – Enabling an insight-driven finance organisation with the right technologies, techniques and governance
  • Deloitte and the future of analytics for finance – Live demo from the SAPinsider Conference 2022 in Las Vegas

The years ahead hold great promise for finance functions that want to create more value for the organisations they support. Getting there may not be smooth and easy, but it will certainly be exciting.