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Using Predictive Analytics For Planning, Forecasting – And Decision-Making

Henner Schliebs

In a global survey of 1,544 CFOs and finance executives by CFO Research, three-quarters anticipate making effective use of Big Data over the next five years. Finance organizations will need to make significant changes in their processes, skills, and technology to use this data to their advantage.

The best finance organizations are using predictive analytics to forecast future performance and drive strategic decision-making. To be clear, predictive analytics refers to the organizational capability to discover and communicate meaningful patterns in data to predict and improve business performance, recommend action, and guide decision-making. Rather than relying primarily on historical information, finance organizations can use predictive analytics to identify trends, analyze key variables, examine what-if scenarios, and so on – live.

Here are some examples of how the smart use of predictive analytics has contributed to the success of some companies and enhanced the impact of the finance organization.

Increasing forecasting frequency, reducing cycle time

Many Americans look to the American Automobile Association (AAA) for travel assistance, insurance, and emergency towing. To optimize service from the AAA motor clubs across the United States and Canada, the AAA national office built a centralized “action center” to provide better insight into member needs. With next-generation predictive analytics, AAA could better understand customers’ needs by having real-time access to data. This led to enhanced marketing campaigns and reduced customer attrition rate.

Live Oak Bank lends exclusively to small businesses and specific professions like veterinarians and pharmacists, and due to the nature of these customers, the bank values speed and flexibility. The bank is guided by executives who are industry leaders in both finance and technology, bringing innovation and efficiency to the lending process. The bank leverages real-time analytics to make better decisions more quickly. With the predictive analytics platform, decision-makers now enjoy greater collaboration and transparency, and the team can respond quickly to managers.

As the UK’s largest insurer and a leading provider of insurance and asset management, Aviva protects around 31 million customers worldwide with insurance, savings, and investment products. Tapping into predictive analytics models helped Aviva gain the insight needed to serve clients with offers most relevant to their interests. The company made use of predictive analytics to generate propensity models for more targeted customer groups, rather than a generic group, which allowed staff members to make better decisions and more accurate projections for clients.

One of the world’s most renowned manufacturers of skylights, VELUX from Denmark, uses predictive finance to optimize the balance sheet by better understanding the financial impact of warranty claims, and therefore improve customer service.

Use cases for different financial processes can add some ideas to your agenda.

Harnessing unstructured data

Traditionally, software has been useful in reading and analyzing structured data, but the volume of unstructured data – from external financial reporting systems, RFID sensors, and social media, for example – is exploding. Predictive analytics can help CFOs harness it for more accurate planning, forecasting, and decision making based on what’s happening now and what’s likely to happen, rather than what happened in the past.

To learn more about how finance executives can empower themselves with the right tools and play a vital role in business innovation and value chain, review the SAP finance content hub, which offers additional research and valuable insights.

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About Henner Schliebs

Henner Schliebs is the Vice President and Head of Global Finance Audience Marketing at SAP. He is a progressive sales/marketing executive with 15+ years business software solutions focused on corporate functions, offering superb marketing and Go To Market skills and proven track record in enterprise software solutions, along with significant experience in solution management and customer engagement.

Real-Time Analysis Tools Critical To Improving Finance Performance [INFOGRAPHIC]

Viki Ghavalas

The majority of finance executives agree that real-time analysis tools are key to making better business decisions, according to a report by CFO Research and SAP titled “The Future of Financial Planning and Analysis.” However, executives polled also believe that their current systems still need more improvement to be able to make a positive impact on the business. Executives surveyed point to four main priorities for their FP&A tools.

Finance executives surveyed expect the demand for real-time analysis tools to grow in the coming years. However, the survey also shows that having these tools is not enough and that stakeholders also expect analysis and insights from finance that are simple and actionable.

Data in financial planning and analysis

Learn more about what finance executives are projecting for FP&A by downloading the “The Future of Financial Planning and Analysis” report.

Are you monitoring business performance in real time? If not, read Boosting Efficiency For CFOs And The Finance Function.

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About Viki Ghavalas

Viki Ghavalas is worldwide program manager for the finance line of business at SAP.

Why Banks Should Be Bullish On Integrating Finance And Risk Data

Mike Russo

Welcome to the regulatory world of banking, where finance and risk must join forces to banking executiveensure compliance and control. Today it’s no longer sufficient to manage your bank’s performance using finance-only metrics such as net income. What you need is a risk-adjusted view of performance that identifies how much revenue you earn relative to the amount of risk you take on. That requires metrics that combine finance and risk components, such as risk-adjusted return on capital, shareholder value added, or economic value added.

While the smart money is on a unified approach to finance and risk, most banking institutions have isolated each function in a discrete technology “silo” complete with its own data set, models, applications, and reporting components. What’s more, banks continually reuse and replicate their finance and risk-related data – resulting in the creation of additional data stores filled with redundant data that grows exponentially over time. Integrating all this data on a single platform that supports both finance and risk scenarios can provide the data integrity and insight needed to meet regulations. Such an initiative may involve some heavy lifting, but the advantages extend far beyond compliance.

Cashing in on bottom-line benefits

Consider the potential cost savings of taking a more holistic approach to data management. In our work with large global banks, we estimate that data management – including validation, reconciliation, and copying data from one data mart to another – accounts for 50% to 70% of total IT costs. Now factor in the benefits of reining in redundancy. One bank we’re currently working with is storing the same finance and risk-related data 20 times. This represents a huge opportunity to save costs by eliminating data redundancy and all the associated processes that unfold once you start replicating data across multiple sources.

With the convergence of finance and risk, we’re seeing more banks reviewing their data architecture, thinking about new models, and considering how to handle data in a smarter way. Thanks to modern methodologies, building a unified platform that aligns finance and risk no longer requires a rip-and-replace process that can disrupt operations. As with any enterprise initiative, it’s best to take a phased approach.

Best practices in creating a unified data platform

Start by identifying a chief data officer (CDO) who has strategic responsibility for the unified platform, including data governance, quality, architecture, and analytics. The CDO oversees the initiative, represents all constituencies, and ensures that the new data architecture serves the interests of all stakeholders.

Next, define a unified set of terms that satisfies both your finance and risk constituencies while addressing regulatory requirements. This creates a common language across the enterprise so all stakeholders clearly understand what the data means. Make sure all stakeholders have an opportunity to weigh in and explain their perspective of the data early on because certain terms can mean different things to finance and risk folks.

In designing your platform, take advantage of new technologies that make previous IT models predicated on compute-intensive risk modeling a thing of the past. For example, in-memory computing now enables you to integrate all information and analytic processes in memory, so you can perform calculations on-the-fly and deliver results in real time. Advanced event stream processing lets you run analytics against transaction data as it’s posting, so you can analyze and act on events as they happen.

Such technologies bring integration, speed, flexibility, and access to finance and risk data. They eliminate the need to move data to data marts and reconcile data to meet user requirements. Now a single finance and risk data warehouse can be flexible and comprehensive enough to serve many masters.

Join our webinar with Risk.net on 7 October, 2015 to learn best practices and benefits of deploying an integrated finance and risk platform.

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About Mike Russo

Mike Russo, Senior Industry Principal – Financial Services Mike has 30 years experience in the Financial Services/ Financial Software industries. His experience includes stints as Senior Auditor for the Irving Trust Co., NY; Manager of the International Department at Barclays Bank of New York; and 14 years as CFO for Nordea Bank’s, New York City branch –a full service retail/commercial bank. Mike also served on Nordea’s Credit, IT, and Risk Committees. Mike’s financial software experience includes roles as a Senior Banking Consultant with Sanchez Computer Associates and Manager of Global Business Solutions (focused on sale of financial/risk management solutions) with Thomson Financial. Prior to joining SAP, Mike was a regulator with the Federal Reserve Bank in Charlotte, where he was responsible for the supervision of large commercial banking organizations in the Southeast with a focus on market/credit/operational risk management. Joined SAP 8years ago.

How Much Will Digital Cannibalization Eat into Your Business?

Fawn Fitter

Former Cisco CEO John Chambers predicts that 40% of companies will crumble when they fail to complete a successful digital transformation.

These legacy companies may be trying to keep up with insurgent companies that are introducing disruptive technologies, but they’re being held back by the ease of doing business the way they always have – or by how vehemently their customers object to change.

Most organizations today know that they have to embrace innovation. The question is whether they can put a digital business model in place without damaging their existing business so badly that they don’t survive the transition. We gathered a panel of experts to discuss the fine line between disruption and destruction.

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qa_qIn 2011, when Netflix hiked prices and tried to split its streaming and DVD-bymail services, it lost 3.25% of its customer base and 75% of its market capitalization.²︐³ What can we learn from that?

Scott Anthony: That debacle shows that sometimes you can get ahead of your customers. The key is to manage things at the pace of the market, not at your internal speed. You need to know what your customers are looking for and what they’re willing to tolerate. Sometimes companies forget what their customers want and care about, and they try to push things on them before they’re ready.

R. “Ray” Wang: You need to be able to split your traditional business and your growth business so that you can focus on big shifts instead of moving the needle 2%. Netflix was responding to its customers – by deciding not to define its brand too narrowly.

qa_qDoes disruption always involve cannibalizing your own business?

Wang: You can’t design new experiences in existing systems. But you have to make sure you manage the revenue stream on the way down in the old business model while managing the growth of the new one.

Merijn Helle: Traditional brick-and-mortar stores are putting a lot of capital into digital initiatives that aren’t paying enough back yet in the form of online sales, and they’re cannibalizing their profits so they can deliver a single authentic experience. Customers don’t see channels, they see brands; and they want to interact with brands seamlessly in real time, regardless of channel or format.

Lars Bastian: In manufacturing, new technologies aren’t about disrupting your business model as much as they are about expanding it. Think about predictive maintenance, the ability to warn customers when the product they’ve purchased will need service. You’re not going to lose customers by introducing new processes. You have to add these digitized services to remain competitive.

qa_qIs cannibalizing your own business better or worse than losing market share to a more innovative competitor?

Michael Liebhold: You have to create that digital business and mandate it to grow. If you cannibalize the existing business, that’s just the price you have to pay.

Wang: Companies that cannibalize their own businesses are the ones that survive. If you don’t do it, someone else will. What we’re really talking about is “Why do you exist? Why does anyone want to buy from you?”

Anthony: I’m not sure that’s the right question. The fundamental question is what you’re using disruption to do. How do you use it to strengthen what you’re doing today, and what new things does it enable? I think you can get so consumed with all the changes that reconfigure what you’re doing today that you do only that. And if you do only that, your business becomes smaller, less significant, and less interesting.

qa_qSo how should companies think about smart disruption?

Anthony: Leaders have to reconfigure today and imagine tomorrow at the same time. It’s not either/or. Every disruptive threat has an equal, if not greater, opportunity. When disruption strikes, it’s a mistake only to feel the threat to your legacy business. It’s an opportunity to expand into a different marke.

SAP_Disruption_QA_images2400x1600_4Liebhold: It starts at the top. You can’t ask a CEO for an eight-figure budget to upgrade a cloud analytics system if the C-suite doesn’t understand the power of integrating data from across all the legacy systems. So the first task is to educate the senior team so it can approve the budgets.

Scott Underwood: Some of the most interesting questions are internal organizational questions, keeping people from feeling that their livelihoods are in danger or introducing ways to keep them engaged.

Leon Segal: Absolutely. If you want to enter a new market or introduce a new product, there’s a whole chain of stakeholders – including your own employees and the distribution chain. Their experiences are also new. Once you start looking for things that affect their experience, you can’t help doing it. You walk around the office and say, “That doesn’t look right, they don’t look happy. Maybe we should change that around.”

Fawn Fitter is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. 

To learn more about how to disrupt your business without destroying it, read the in-depth report Digital Disruption: When to Cook the Golden Goose.

Download the PDF (1.2MB)

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3 Ways HR Can Break Through Barriers To Digital Transformation

Susan Galer

If it’s true that every company is in the technology industry, human resources (HR) is at the forefront of this metamorphosis, well-positioned (or not) to help people and the organizational processes they use evolve.

For the most part, technology isn’t necessarily the problem. Companies can feast on an expanding menu of technologies providing them with the ability to adopt HR cloud-based platforms, use analytics for more informed decisions, and infuse daily work with social and mobile capabilities. Even so, most HR practitioners and their companies are in the early stages of digital transformation.

Industry analyst, Lisa Rowan, research vice president of HR, Talent and Learning Strategies at IDC, said her firm’s latest research shows more companies are opportunistically pursuing digital transformation:

“Our digital maturity model in HCM shows that most companies are stuck in opportunistic mode when it comes to having a digital mindset around technology adoption, meaning applying mobile, social, big data and cloud,” she said. “Some technologies are being used but it’s not pervasive. So for example, they might have some mobile but don’t allow it for everything.”

Unfortunately, the price of disconnected HR these days is high, often resulting in talent pipelines overwhelmed bv low-quality applicants, not to mention lost productivity. I talked with Rowan about the top three factors holding back HR’s ability to impact digital transformation.

Educate against risk aversion

While company climates may view mobile and social as risky channels, HR has to champion cloud-based technology.

“HR needs to step up and say this might have been seen as riskier three years ago but most data incidents have involved breaches in the company’s own data centers. You are actually safer if you are in a third-party data center because they have that much more security around them,” said Rowan. “HR has to educate the business on the fact that cloud is no longer as risky and this is why.”

HR can also dispel misperceptions about social platforms. “When people hear social they sometimes think that’s employees going out on Facebook which they shouldn’t be using during business hours. They’re misconstruing that social is not necessarily outside the firewall. Social collaboration across intra-company platforms is now the norm,” said Rowan.

Understanding the nuanced benefits of social are just as important. Rowan said HR needs to realize that social is about letting people speak their mind internally. Companies often make better decisions as a direct result of letting employees have their say. This is precisely what happened at a major retailer that implemented an internal social platform for employee ideas and input.

“The beauty of social is that it’s the bottom-up sharing of ideas. Who knows better than how something will sell than the people in the store selling it all day,” she said.

Fix broken processes first

Embarking on a digital transformation journey means take a hard look at how work does or doesn’t get done. “You can’t digitally transform something that’s broke to begin with,” said Rowan. “If you’re not getting tasks done efficiently because processes like recruiting are too clunky, it takes too long to do things, or there are disconnects between learning and HR, software alone won’t solve the problems.”

Set digital policies

Championing new technologies is all well and good, but HR isn’t always at the leading edge of the company’s adoption of advances like mobile and social. This is where HR assumes the voice of reason in policy development.

“It’s amazing how many companies are using multiple collaborative networks and where HR hasn’t established any kind of standards or guidelines,” said Rowan. “HR can play a role in developing realistic policies around social and mobile that establish some level of consistency so that employees can collaborate across departments. HR can help implement sensible policies that take into consideration the reality that people will use their own cell phones, and will want to use social technology. With that kind of understanding, HR can be the voice of reason putting in place policies people will follow.”

In the digitally transformed workplace, companies can quickly find and hire quality people through internal development, or access to contingent, contract, or freelance talent. Software applications are ubiquitous in this environment, boosting collaboration whether employees are in the office or working remotely. Company culture adapts to support the business strategy and operating philosophy around digital.

Many companies have already made this leap, having realized that the employee experience is key to the customer experience.

This story also appeared on the SAP Business Trends community.

Follow me on Twitter, SCN Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

Image: Shutterstock

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