How CFOs Benefit from a BI Visualization Tool

March 10, 2015
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ImageAppearances matter. The way that data is presented affects our capacity to understand it and influences how quickly and easily the information and insights it provides can be used to inform our decision-making.

This helps finance professionals maximize benefits:

ImageAppearances matter. The way that data is presented affects our capacity to understand it and influences how quickly and easily the information and insights it provides can be used to inform our decision-making.

This helps finance professionals maximize benefits:

  • in their software investments
  • in their role as users of finance data
  • as providers of finance data to other parts of the business
  • as holders of the purse strings for budgeting and investment in IT resources

Why should I care about data visualization? 

By visualizing information, we turn it into a landscape that you can explore with your eyes, a sort of information map. And when you’re lost in information, an information map is kind of useful” saysDavid McCandless, an author and information designer. Simply put – data visualization is a better way of displaying the information that you and others are gathering. Instead of looking at a long sheet of numbers and information, it adds visual meaning to the data – whether it’s highlighting areas on a map, creating intuitive charts, or showcasing trends via interactive graphs. 

For your organization, data visualizations can provide you with the information you need to take sales, operations, manufacturing, and other departments to the next level. Sales managers can use visualization tools to easily observe changes in key performance indicators (KPI) among their team. Visualizations can help operations quickly observe and improve bottlenecks, while manufacturing can use them to effectively measure and observe defects and variance in products.

In essence, data visualizations provide real insight into complex information in a way that is bothpractical and appealing. For example, General Electric (GE) has devoted an entire website for displaying data from their research and studies. These advanced, interactive visualizations take massive amounts of data and present them in a way that is not only aesthetically pleasing, but informative to outside observers. While GE most likely uses an in-house designer for their visualizations, the good news is that there are a wide variety of products that perform similar analysis in a cost effective manner, giving employees access to powerful data functions. For those in the finance function the possibilities span a broad spectrum. At one end are the visualization tools, at the other end is the sort of ‘product beautification’. In between, are the visualization tools built into software for analytics, business intelligence (BI) and corporate performance management (CPM) like Tagetik.

What Benefits do CFOs gain from Best-In-Class CPM Software? 

To survive in today’s fast-changing business landscape, companies must develop exceptional skills in financial planning for the future. But constant economic uncertainty is making accurate forecasting more difficult than ever. 

Historically, using analytics and BI and CPM systems to find the information you needed depended on the involvement of IT, but some software vendors are now offering products that provide the user with access to self-service visualization tools – to great effect. Research by Aberdeen Group found that where interactive visual tools are used to allow employees to explore and manipulate data themselves (with little or no IT input), those employees make more business decisions based on fact and use of the software tools spreads throughout the business, utilizing IT resources more effectively. Perhaps it is time for finance professionals to expect more from software vendors and their products. Advanced accounting systems and analytics tools available today allow CFOs to deliver complex financial information quickly, while positioning them to help management understand the data – speeding the process of achieving company objectives and ROI.

Planning, budgeting and forecasting can be successful with the right CPM Software.

Powerful BI tools can decentralize the organization, optimize workflows and provide CFOs with real-time data access and data analytics. Cloud systems can reduce or eliminate the need for investments in hardware, infrastructure and technical specialists required to maintain upgrades and repairs to the system. At the end of the day, companies need a powerful financial management system that allows them to accurately budget, plan and forecast. CFOs need to be able to get insights across business processes to deliver answers to complex questions not easily deciphered from standard reports or they will not succeed in today’s business landscape. 

My Data looks Beautiful! Now what?

Regardless of how pretty and insightful your data is, the biggest thing to remember about data visualization is that it’s up to you to determine what to do with the insight you’ve gained.

Don’t just look at the information – although it will be very pretty.

Think about it. Take action.

And then, repeat the process all over again.

It’s only through a reiterative process that you’ll truly find value, but it can be done. And if it’s done well by the team behind your business, you can find the insight necessary to improve operations and gain a competitive advantage.

by Francesco Morini