Data: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

As the role of the finance function continues to evolve, CFOs are starting to recognize that obtaining a real-time view of the business is imperative for success. But to obtain this view, finance needs advanced technology and analytics capabilities. For some CFOs, data intelligence can be a burden and is sometimes mismanaged, but it is understood that it is core to running a business in the digital age. In other terms, if revenue is king in the boardroom, data is the crown jewel.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I thought I’d recap some of the gifts data has given me as a CFOs this year.

  • Checking the list twice: Like many of my peers, thanks to predictive analytics, I’m working smarter than I ever have in my entire professional career. I’m in a much better position in terms of forecasting, planning, and more. Of course, I still needed to act on the information I receive, but with advanced technology, I have the ability to harness it. And as more companies continue to digitize this year, I’ve had a lot of fun helping customers and fellow CFOs explore new opportunities to help transform their business environment.
  • Christmas came early: This year, data analytics has made me a better CFO, and I’m not alone. A recent Oxford Economics research report found that high-performing finance leaders believe automation is improving the finance function’s efficiency at their company, giving its executives more bandwidth for value-added tasks. It’s certainly enabled me to be much more advisory this past year as I’ve shifted from classical accounting duties to driving the business. If you’ve harnessed the predictive capabilities of data within your own organization, you’ll most likely have had a similar experience this year. If you’re just at the starting point of your transformation, don’t be afraid to broaden your skillset and embrace what it will bring you.
  • Bah, humbug: I still meet people who have blinkered misconceptions that predictive analytics is either expensive, takes a long time to implement, or is difficult to operate. I find this incredibly frustrating, as I’m guessing they’ve had a very different year than I have.
  • Santa’s little helpers: Just like in many industries, data has also disrupted the role of finance. As human beings, we’ve had to learn to coexist with new artificial intelligence and machine learning because of how well we can now harness data. We’ve seen low-impact use cases where machine learning and AI are being used as an augmentation tool, improving the efficiency of everyday jobs, enhancing tasks, or providing new alternatives. In my own team, we’ve had to job-map different categories within finance that might be at risk of having their job replaced or affected. And we’ve anticipated what shrinkage we can expect because of these new automated efficiencies, what reskilling and people development needs to take place, and what actions we as employers need to take to positively embrace this change.
  • Naughty or nice: 2017 saw data move from a big potential opportunity to a big potential liability as the GDPR deadline loomed on the horizon, demanding that data is managed fairly and lawfully. I personally think this is a catalyst that will trigger a fundamental shift in the digital ecosystem. It certainly isn’t something that should just be left solely to compliance teams. CFOs have an opportunity to lead from the front. By transforming how we handle data and manage associated risks and compliance, it strengthens our ability to compete on the digital playing field, making us more agile for long-term success.
  • The wise men: All of this reminds me of the Chinese proverb: “When a wise man points at the Moon, an idiot looks at his finger.” Without a doubt, 2017 has been a year where data and data analytics have let us see the bigger picture and seize the opportunities within it. If you didn’t manage to do that this year, don’t spend 2018 repeating the same mistake.

You can download a report on how finance leaders are powering success in EMEA here.

This article originally appeared in Global Banking and Finance Review: Data: The Gift that Keeps on Giving. It is republished by permission.

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Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

About Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock

Emmanuelle Brun Neckebrock is CFO of SAP France. With more than 20 years’ experience, she is responsible for the coordination of SAP activities in France linked to acquisition and integration. She has recently taken over the responsibility of developing the healthcare sector within SAP France with a mission of actively promoting digital transformation in healthcare. Emmanuelle holds a degree in Finance from HEC Paris. Her blogs discuss the strategic challenges and topical issues facing CFOs.