The empowered enterprise: How CFOs are putting insight at the heart of a purpose and performance-driven business

picture of the company’s impact in its communities and on the environment.

Taming the data tiger

These new data types offer an exciting glimpse into the future of insight-driven business strategy. Businesses can now capture and analyse both structured and unstructured data, as well as more experiential and qualitative customer insights. This data may come from both within and outside the business.

Through digitech and the clever use of automation and AI tools such as RPA and natural language processing, capturing data of all types is now easier. The next step is to make sure that what is captured is accessible, digestible, and delivers value, and does so with minimal cost and time delay. And that requires building the right kind of systems and processes to create a flexible data infrastructure to deliver real value. “We’ve done a lot to try to simplify the data that we have available to analyse within the business. Like many businesses over the years, we have probably grown to have data dotted around the place and actually getting that in more consistent shape has been a big challenge,” says Standard Chartered CFO Andy Halford, who works alongside 85,000 employees across a banking giant with a presence in 59 territories, serving customers in close to 150 markets. Halford’s story – where finance takes the lead on centralising data – is increasingly typical. Acting as de facto director of data, the CFO is now able to bring the traditional finance disciplines to bear. That means prioritising standardisation and efficiency of process in order to improve the quality of the data pool and harvest more compelling data sets. Installing systems that deliver clarity, however, isn’t always so simple. “I think sometimes some businesses can end up with so much data – and so much analysis – that it actually becomes quite confusing as to what you take away from it,” Halford reflects. And he believes the CFO is in the perfect position to articulate to the business how data can underpin better strategic decision making by looking and asking, “what is going to be the thing that’s going to change; are we riding the crest of that wave; are we off the pace with that; what more do we need to do to position ourselves in the right way to take advantage of this?”

Releasing the power of data Halford is clear about the next steps: “Now we can take unsorted data and derive insight from it,” he says. “I think knowledge has been important over many decades in taking businesses forward, and we are fortunate that, with technology, the ability to

Finance Director Europe /

actually crunch very, very large amounts of data very, very fast is huge.”

And beyond that lies a further frontier, as finance uses its facility with data to empower other business units to make better decisions backed up by insight. “As CFOs we have to understand that the ambition as well as the demand from the business is increasing everyday,” says Ilkka Hara, CFO of Kone, a manufacturer and service provider of elevators, escalators and flow solutions. In his view, the basic ‘ticket to play’ in the data sphere means steering the finance function to a position where it can deliver compliance, risk- management and the capability to record what happened in the past. But that’s just the beginning. “Then it’s a question of what you can do in terms of really helping the organisation to look forward and understand not only what happened, but also what you should do about it,” he says. “You need to be in a position where you help the whole organisation by giving them visibility as well as an understanding of the data that is coming from finance.”

For a seasoned CFO like Hara, it’s no longer enough to understand where the deviations or exceptions came from. “Now, it’s really about saying what are the decisions we should take today – and tomorrow – based on the data we have available,” he explains. “I need to be able to understand how we should lead the business going forward. And I think that’s clearly more of an ask to finance than it ever has been before.”

“We now have a situation where CFOs have a direct view of disparate data, which is used to help them to develop insights for the business to take action; now fi nance can do that themselves.”

Vivek Saxena, F&A service line leader, Genpact

“How we analyse and apply data is not only improving efficiency in projects and processes, but also enables finance to be a better business partner. “That means we need to enable the people who are doing the work every day, maintaining the elevators and escalators, to make the right decisions; and they make thousands of decisions every day,” Hara explains. “It’s really important that we are enabling the transparency and availability of the right data to the right people.”

Automated service

Genpact CFO Ed Fitzpatrick believes that automation is the secret sauce to not only gathering data and


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