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Gaining value from advanced analytics in finance and controllership­

Part one in our Center for Controllership™ analytics blog series

In the Center for Controllership analytics blog series, explore the benefits and applications of data and advanced analytics in finance and controllership.

Why data and analytics are so important

January 30, 2020
A blog post by Mike Seng, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Business dynamics—such as regulations, disruptive technology, and competitive growth—are driving the need for advanced analytics and insights in controllership and finance. These dynamics are also reshaping finance’s role in the business, impacting everything from cost management and risk management to forecasting, planning, and service delivery models.

The importance of advanced data and analytics for the controllership function often resonates with finance professionals, but it is rarely executed using a consistent framework and strategy.

Understanding the overall benefits of data and analytics is becoming more relevant as the application of these advanced controllership tools continues to offer more opportunities to use high-quality data as a foundation for analytics methodologies that empower professionals to enhance the role of controllership.

To help maximize the benefits, controllers and finance professionals should first understand the potential benefits of controllership analytics and then explore how the application of these technologies can impact controllership.

Understanding the benefits of advanced analytics in controllership

Many organizations are getting involved in advanced analytics tools that focus on providing better visibility and accuracy. They are looking at predictive analytics models, better sales forecasting, and the ability to predict large cost pools.

—Mike Seng, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP

A wave of emerging tools is disrupting finance organizations. While advanced analytics in controllership and finance is just one component of this new digital ecosystem, it has the potential to be one of the more valuable controllership tools for the function.

Examples of analytics tools
Cloud computing—agility and efficiency with everything-as-a-service
Robotic process automation and cognitive automation (RPA/CA)—faster, cost-effective, and better data
In-memory computing—manage more information about more transactions
Cognitive computing—automated insights via natural language generation
Advanced analytics—deeper insights, better predictions
Visualization—making information real-time and accessible

Advanced analytics in finance and controllership leverages data from across an organization, including sales, operational, and financial data—coupled with third-party data—to provide insights focused on a company’s strategic priorities. This data helps controllers obtain more comprehensive insights, create initiatives based on those insights, and execute on those initiatives to benefit the overall organization.

Some value-adds of advanced analytics in finance and controllership include:

  • Tools that may offer a user-friendly capability filter and pivot data for an in-depth analysis of key business drivers and variances
  • Interactive self-service applications, forecast scenarios, and enhanced cognitive insight
  • Data automation, which may not only free up resources, but also offer analysis, cognitive insights, and commentary based on in-context datasets to predict and support future business actions

There are three layers to advanced analytics. The first is the layer that extracts, transacts, and loads (ETL) data. The second layer offers advanced data science tools and statistical methods that analyze data. The final layer is visualization, which simplifies the data and brings it to life with visuals that drive insights. With innovation and emerging technology, we are also starting to see some tools that encompass all of these layers together into one efficient and effective solution.

—Mike Seng, partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP

Questions to help you apply tools

The benefits of advanced data and analytics are better understood through the context of these emerging controllership tools' possible impact on the controllership function. If these tools are to contribute to a more valuable controllership, then let's explore some of the questions finance professionals can ask to better grasp how these tools can empower controllership and the organization as a whole.

Cost management: How are costs allocated, and where are the most significant opportunities for cost reduction?
Advanced analytics’ potential value: Map cost allocations, identify spending trends and outliers, and provide scenario analysis to understand how to increase savings.

Forecasting and planning: How can we better predict and visualize our revenue, costs, and overall business performance?
Advanced analytics' potential value: Predict revenue, costs, and other key performance indicators using internal and external data, and visually identify trends or concerns.

Risk management: How can we better anticipate potential financial risks and prepare our responses?
Advanced analytics’ potential value: Identify potential threats and use scenario analysis to understand the implications and plan a response.

Internal and external reporting: How can we improve our reporting efficiency and accuracy?
Advanced analytics’ potential value: Reduce reporting volume, eliminate redundancies, and streamline the reporting preparation process.

Service delivery methodology: How can we improve our finance service operations?
Advanced analytics’ potential value: Evaluate geographical distribution and headcount against key benchmarks, improving understanding of business partner overlap.

Business partnering: How can we partner with other functions to drive more impactful insights?
Advanced analytics’ potential value: Leverage cross-functional data and reports to improve forecasts and better understand key drivers of trends.

Read part two in our series where we explore current trends and advances in data and analytics, as well as insights into how controllers can get started on their analytics digital journey.

To hear more about advanced analytics for controllership, including industry discussions and use cases, listen to our full Dbriefs webcast: Controllership analytics: From data to value

Visit the Controllership Insights blog for additional blog posts.

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