2016: The Year of Big Data in Context

Tagetik CPM software for the Office of Finance



The New Year is over a month old now and I’m sure you’ve read your fill of pundits making technology predictions for 2016. So, I will not add mine to those lists. Instead, I want to take a practical, down-to-earth look at the business and technology trends that will impact the Office of Finance in the months ahead. Not surprisingly, most of these trends relate to using data more effectively and efficiently, as well as gleaning insight from the increasing amount of data you can now access (or should be able to do so). Which is why I’m calling 2016 “the year of big data in context.”


In 2015, everybody was talking about big data. Articles touting the power of data, the importance of analytics, and the role of emerging chief data officers dominated business and trade media. Everyone knew “big data” meant “lots of data,” but most were not really how it would impact them – including the Office of Finance.


But increasing pressure to go beyond standard financial reporting - both to meet compliance requirements and to support strategic decision making - is forcing CFOs to grapple with big data. Today, CFOs need to collect and combine more data from more sources and govern its use across multiple internal and external reporting requirements – such as P&Ls, management reporting, board books, earnings releases, annual reports and regulatory submissions. They must use this data to drive complex financial and business modeling with full confidence in the financial accuracy of millions of lines of data and very granular calculations.


While taming big data offers great opportunity for CFOs to be seen as strategic business advisors, it also brings great risk potential. Inaccurate data, improper calculations, inconsistent reporting, latency, redundancy, auditability – any of these can ruin reputation and cost a business many dollars. 

According to a 2015 Information Age article, 46% of CFOs survey said they still rely on gut instinct for business decisions in lieu of supporting internal information. I would guess one of the main reasons so many executives still ‘go with their gut’ is a lack of confidence in the data they can access. Logic would say that if you have the data -- and you trust it -- you would use it to guide decisions rather than your gut.


Clearly, 2015 proved that data collection is only a first step in the journey to capitalize on big data. Its real value can only be realized when it is mined and analyzed, vetted and governed in ways that generate insight into the business and confidence in the CFO.


The market today offers a range of incredibly powerful analytic tools. Microsoft Power BI, Qlik Sense, and many other products are continually making great strides in performance, scale, data visualization, and analytic capability. But in many companies, data access and analysis is limited to the finance staff. Some CFOs don’t feel there is sufficient governance in place to release data to “the masses.” In other organizations, business users don’t have the skills, training, or time to turn data into actionable insight.


Our job at Tagetik is to find ways to harness the power of these leading-edge tools in ways that allow you to provide data access to more decision makers while maintaining control in the office of finance. So, in 2016, we’ll continue to focus on new ways to incorporate big data into your finance processes, in context and with governance, so that data analysis becomes a regular process rather than a separate technology initiative. This is what will move more CFOs to make decisions based on big data rather than gut instinct.


In posts to come, I’ll be talking about other data-related trends – from in-memory computing to multi-cube processing to data visualization – and the impact they are having, or will have, on the Office of Finance. The underlying theme of all these posts will be the importance of timely access to meaningful information, in context and with confidence.



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