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What your CFO needs to know about big data

By Shannon Williams, Wed 6 May 2015
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Every CFO in a company must develop an enterprise-wide strategy and set clear priorities to unlock the real value of a company’s data. 

That’s according to Matt Goss, managing director for Concur, Australia & New Zealand.

“In the last few years many organisations have started to develop enterprise-wide big data strategies, but businesses are still far from discovering how data can deliver real insight from a financial point of view,” he says.

“Financial controllers are now able to have complete visibility and control over money coming in and out of the business through the use of technology.”

Goss says Concur believes there are three things CFOs need to know when tackling big data.

1) The types of data being collected Goss says every action taken online can be collected, stored and analysed, but that doesn’t mean that every organisation must collect every type of data. “Decisions regarding what gets stored and how vary across organisations,” Concur says in a statements. “It’s important to know exactly what types of data the organisation is collecting, and why, to make sure executives get the most appropriate information.”

Goss adds, “Incomplete or missing information could lead to the wrong conclusions. Having context for how, when, and why you have a particular data set will help you interpret it more accurately, and make better business decisions that deliver success.” 2) The different ways to analyse that data  The amount of information generated by users, employees and supply chains is massive: hence the term ‘big data’.  Concur says without the right tools to manage and analyse the data, it can be overwhelming. 

There are a number of options available for sifting and sorting through raw data. According to Concur, no matter what you’re using the information for, ensuring that the data is accurately interpreted is imperative to the success of the data analysis project. 

“It is vital that CFOs sit down with data analysts so that both parties can understand what the analysis project entails,” Goss explains. “The CFO should share their goals with the analyst, while the analyst should explain the different processes available to extract the insights required.”

He says, “Frequent collaboration can yield exciting and unexpected results. For instance, when it comes to travel expenses, CFOs and data analysts can work together to look at what types of travel and expense arrangements yield the best results for everyone involved.” 

3) How to care for the data you have “Transparency laws and security breaches have made it more important than ever to treat data with extreme care,” Concur says. For organisations that want to win public trust, keeping data safe should be a high priority.

“Make sure that the tools you are using to store data are secure and up-to-date. Check controls often to ensure that unauthorised people don’t have access to sensitive information,” says Goss. 

“Finally, make sure that you show your work. Give clients and customers a reason to trust you with their information, by explaining exactly how you keep private data secure.”

He adds, “Big data is an exciting resource for many organisations. Patterns found in data can help mitigate risk, open the door to better customer service, and widen profit margins. 

“Big data isn’t limitless or perfect, but it offers CFOs the ability to refine the way they do business, letting them make smarter decisions based on facts.” 

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