Decision-making: why technology and good data go hand in hand

Can self-service reporting provide the answer to the challenges currently facing finance directors? As businesses continue to be unwilling to increase headcount in the finance department, all too often it is seen as a panacea. But this optimistic view is often very far from reality.

“Whatever the benefits of self-service reporting, all too often the result is what we call ‘Excel plastering’ and the siloing of data, as well as poor control over that data,” says Dominic Policella, general manager UK, Nordics, Middle East and Africa at BOARD International, the leading provider of decision-making analytics. “As data arrives from increasingly diverse sources, finance directors should be particularly concerned about the integrity and accuracy of the data that they’re using.”

According to the Future of the Finance Function Survey 2016, two thirds of CFOs admit they have not mastered the volume and variety of the business data they use.  Maintaining comprehensive governance of data requires technology that provides CFOs with a unified, validated, consistent and timely data vision, regardless of source.

Alongside these challenges, cognitive computing is set to revolutionise financial reporting. “This is because it’s making data interaction as easy and natural as the interaction between human beings,” says Mr Policella. “It’s increasing the ability of business-users to extract new intelligence from the data available to them. However, this technology will allow more business-users to use information without having any knowledge of where it comes from, so the accuracy and correct provenance of the data used in this process are, in fact, a potentially greater risk.”

This means that the more we increase the level of automation of financial processes, argues Mr Policella, the more we need to feed our systems reliable, validated data if we want to avoid creating what he calls a “financial Frankenstein”.

“The effects of using inaccurate data are more serious here,” he says. “Organisations must therefore invest time and resources, so they have sufficiently automated and structured data foundations to take full advantage of these new technologies, and to reap the huge benefits that they are already offering to early adopters.”

More and more fast-growing, agile companies are benefiting from faster, more accurate decision-making based on BOARD’s unique combination of business intelligence, corporate performance management and business analytics. Technology means that it’s now easier than ever for decision-makers to enjoy a single view of a company’s data, and to leverage it for analysis and planning to break down data siloes and reintroduce the idea of a single source of truth, says Mr Policella.

“Companies need the ability to collect, integrate and analyse information at enterprise level, and our clients like the way in which we allow their decision-makers to interact with this information in an intuitive, visual way, with drag-and-drop capabilities,” he says. “They also have the ability to simulate, monitor and then plan for the impact of their decisions on their company’s performance.”

With the arrival of cognitive computing, he argues, there is a greater need for organisations to modernise their financial reporting and analysis by unifying planning, simulation and analysis in a single platform. It’s to meet this demand for more unified systems that over last 20 years a growing number of successful companies, including H&M, KPMG and VW, have started to use BOARD’s decision-making analytics.

“The companies who lead their sectors are benefiting from this new dynamic modelling, and are already seeing considerable improvements in their ability to make timely and accurate decisions,” says Mr Policella.  “They know that this technology is the future.”

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