Cloud-Based Analytics: A Business Case For CFOs

Christian Brandl and Seda Agasarjan

Part of the “Digital Finance Transformation” series that provides a framework for CFOs to move forward confidently on the journey toward digital transformation

Emerging technological advances resulting from today’s digital reality are penetrating all business fields with an impressive velocity – including financial operations. According to Gartner, “Leading organizations in every industry are wielding data and analytics as competitive weapons.” Cloud-based analytics is one of the contemporary innovative digital assets for finance operations that need to be assimilated into the strategy of any competitive market player.

Traditionally, CFOs aim to lower overall costs, mitigate any potential financial risks, and ensure smooth operations. Yet finance leaders are not in the front rows of “early adopters” of cloud-based analytics solutions, despite having a primary focus on data insights driven from their operations. Nonetheless, the maturity of today’s cloud computing environments has advanced to the extent of being an indispensable part of most enterprises’ business activities. The initial resistance of CFOs related to cost and security concerns about cloud-based analytics solutions seem to be a thing of the past, given the current level of cloud maturity.

Why should CFOs care about a cloud-based financial solution?

An insight-driven financial leader recognizes that with the evolution of Big Data, analytics does not refer simply to a daily operations handling process but is rather an inexhaustible source of valuable intelligence on the overall business well-being of the enterprise. According to the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot, commissioned by SAP in 2019, the top desired outcome of the surveyed companies’ current analytics and business intelligence (BI) efforts is increasing business agility and enabling faster decision-making. Data analytics in a digitalized market cannot be divided into silos, and financial insights should be driven in real time with up-to-date data.

Cloud-based analytics, regardless of the chosen deployment model (private, public, or hybrid), provides the following advantages to CFOs in their leadership of internal financial operations:

elements of cloud-based analytics for a CFO

Cost efficiency. Costs generally decrease due to lower capital, maintenance, and downtime costs burdening the enterprise. This results in an overall lower consumption of IT resources and total cost of ownership. The service is a good “pay as much as you use” deal.

Security and data management. Current cloud-based analytics platforms provide the best and most up-to-date security protection. Providers are ensuring coherent upgrades, effective loss prevention, and rapid disaster recovery. Cloud-based analytics systems ensure adherence to data-governance standards and processes by providing data security (roles, authorizations, etc.), restricting access where applicable. Further, a cloud-based analytics platform grants the ability to build and maintain a central metadata repository (i.e., creating a data lake for the organization) across the entire landscape.

Business scalability and agility. Enterprises can scale usage according to their own needs and number of employees by increasing the number of users. In the same way, data storage volumes can be easily adjusted to a growing business environment. Cloud-based analytics solutions provide a flexible platform for future growth without incurring additional costs (other than subscription fees) or time-consuming upgrades.

Improved decision-making. Any authorized member of the organization can obtain real-time and efficient data insights that can be accessed anytime, anywhere, and on any device.

Improved productivity. Analytical data is consolidated and gathered in one place, breaking process silos and improving and speeding up overall processes. An analytics platform connects a wide range of disparate data sources, ranging from structured enterprise and third-party applications, in one place. It improves the analytical process by providing a large spectrum of applications, tools, and features, enabling intelligent and efficient discovery and processing of data. Furthermore, the best solutions offer a user-friendly, intuitive interface and facilitate collaboration over users’ business content.

Resource advantages. Cloud-based analytics enables a better allocation of data scientists, considering advanced features that save unnecessary manual effort in traditional data analytics.

Cloud-based analytics solutions are only improving with time and providing even more embedded features, such as artificial intelligence, that will only enhance the power vested in financial leaders. This marks the beginning of a new era, where analytics in combination with new digital tools recasts the role of the CFO. A CFO is no longer responsible for simply putting together a report to show the situation of the past, but is rather the core player in providing real-time strategic insights into business operations. Cloud-based analytics helps the CFO leverage the value of a large amount of data, make strategic predictions, and determine the overall direction of the enterprise.

For more insight, download the Forrester Opportunity Snapshot.

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Christian Brandl

About Christian Brandl

Christian is a principal business consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP. Christian has technical and functional knowledge in the areas of corporate planning and reporting. In the last few years, he has worked with national and international customers on digital transformation projects. Christian received his M.B.A. with a focus on corporate finance and controlling from Purdue University (USA).

Seda Agasarjan

About Seda Agasarjan

Seda Agasarjan is a business enterprise consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP. Seda has functional knowledge in the areas of financial processes and outsourcing setup. In the last few years, she has been engaged in various national and international projects.