I recently attended the Financial Force Community Live 2017 and Host Analytics World conferences. Both events were great opportunities to connect with other finance and technology thought leaders and discuss trends happening in the industry. Attending these conferences is worthwhile for both customers and those interested in learning about the future of finance leadership. These conferences offer the opportunity to network with peers but also attend training sessions and learn more about the innovations helping finance leaders run successful businesses.
Looking back on the discussion points from these events, the recurring themes were speed and efficiency. The mantra at the FinancialForce conference was “Speed is the new currency.” These discussions got me thinking about how an agile framework can be applied across an entire enterprise. When the Finance team is operating with an agile mindset, it operates more efficiently and finance leaders make well-informed decisions more easily.
What it means to be agile
Agile is a software development methodology, which focuses on continuous evolution and rapid iteration and feedback loops to drive innovation. The idea of being agile is related to how a business operates in terms of speed and agility.
Here at Motus, we’ve implemented agile frameworks across our technology teams to adapt more quickly and move faster. Agile frameworks allow for prioritizing tasks, dealing with unforeseen roadblocks and being able to adapt to meet deadlines for complex projects. As a result, our technology teams provide continuous improvements to our platform through short sprints, which enables us to deliver increased value to our clients.
Applying Agile to the Back Office
Agile frameworks are not only useful for development teams. These methods can be applied across the business, including the Finance team’s approach to reporting and analytics. From my perspective, being agile is a combination of interconnecting these different tools that enable teams to move much faster with the ability to close, report and then layer on additional analytics to produce predictive insights to the finance leader.
At Motus, we’re taking steps to be more agile by interconnecting our data across the business and analyzing the aggregated data to iterate more quickly and speed up the decision-making process. We’re able to get feedback more quickly and either move forward or adapt based on the findings. This is a challenge many finance teams are presented with when trying to uncover ways to be more agile. In fact, an IBM Study of CFOs and senior Finance professionals found that “there are large gaps in most Finance organizations between the importance placed on delivering insight and their ability to deliver it.” The IBM research further states that “inconsistent tools/applications and fragmented information” are the reasons for these information gaps.
Connecting the Data
The first step towards rapid analytics is to examine how your data systems are set up across your business to ensure you can aggregate information across the enterprise. A key advantage of using cloud-based tools and leveraging APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) is that you can decouple suites of software and get the point solutions that work best for your team.
For example, at Motus, our agility comes from how we’ve architected our data systems with various cloud solutions, taking advantage of APIs and ETL tools to pull data from our operating platform, CRM, financial management and accounting system (FinancialForce) into our cloud-based forecasting and budgeting system (Host Analytics) to calculate KPIs and model different scenarios. Our last step is to aggregate all of this data into a system like Domo, that presents it back in a holistic view to myself and the executive leadership. We’re still in the early innings of this transformation but it has definitely shifted our focus from historical reporting to providing valuable analytics.
As businesses strive to be more agile to compete in the market, they’re looking to layer on other third-party business intelligence sources as a competitive advantage. At Host Analytics World, they pointed out their integration with Prevedere as part of this initiative, where their solution takes macro financial trends and applies them against corporate data to reveal correlations. For example, comparing marketing to sales performance and adapting the strategy based on those insights. Systems like Prevedere offer the capabilities to reach beyond your own data and provide predictive insights to finance leaders, enabling them to make more accurate forecasts and business decisions.
This is an exciting time for Finance. The digital transformation that has taken place across the enterprise has arrived in the back office. By leveraging SaaS solutions designed specifically for Finance teams, CFOs can position their businesses to move quickly.