Cloud-based Analytics: A Powerful Tool for the CFO.
Emerging Era of Cloud Analytics
Technological advances emerging from today’s digital realism, penetrate all with an impressive velocity. Financial operations of an enterprise are not an exception. As a result, analytics, as part of those operations, has evolved into one of the essential cornerstones of the backbone of an enterprise. According to Gartner, “[l]eading organizations in every industry are wielding data and analytics as competitive weapons.”1 Today, we are not referring to simple reports that provide insight into the financial well-being of an organization, but to a complex mechanism offering an extensive portfolio with large spectrum of solutions. Analytics performed via a cloud platform (i.e. cloud-based analytics) is one of the contemporary innovative digital assets for finance operations, that needs to be assimilated in the strategy of any competitive market player.
Despite the evolution of analytical processes, the Chief Financial Officers (hereafter “CFO”) do not tend to be the frontrunners of cloud-based analytical solutions. The CFOs, in their role, target on lowering the overall costs, mitigating any potential risks and ensuring small operational flow. This can be achieved only through derivation of data insights derived from their operations. It is essential for the financial leaders to recognize the invincible advantages that an effective analytical process can entail. The resistance against specifically analytics performed via a cloud platform is primarily connected with cost and security concerns, which can be declared as fully outdated, considering the current level of maturity.
Cloud- based Solution for Analytics: Why Should Financial Leaders Take a Closer Look?
An insight-driven financial leader recognizes that with the evolution of data into “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 wellbeing of an enterprise. According to the Forrester Commissioned Study in 2019 on BI Efforts2, the top desired outcome of the surveyed companies on their analytics and BI efforts is the increase of business agility and the enablement of faster decision-making process. 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 (be it of a private, public or hybrid nature), provides the following advantages to CFO’s in their leadership of internal financial operations:
Cost Efficiency. The costs are generally decreased due to lower capital costs, maintenance and downtime costs burdening the enterprise. This results in an overall lower consumption of IT resources and TCO of the solution. The service is a good “pay as much as you use” deal.
Security & Data Management. Existing cloud-based analytical platforms are providing the best and up-to-date security protection. The providers are ensuring coherent upgrades, effective loss prevention and rapid disaster recoveries. Cloud-based analytical systems ensure that data governance standards and processes are adhered by providing data security (roles, authorizations etc.) restricting access where applicable. Equivalently, it grants the ability to build up and maintain a central metadata repository (i.e. creating a data lake for the organization) across the entire landscape.
Business Scalability & Agility. The enterprises can scale the usage per own needs and per the number of employees by simply increasing the number of users. In the same way, the data storage volumes can be also be easily adjusted to a growing business environment. Cloud-based analytics solutions provide a flexible platform for future growth without incurring additional cost (other than subscription fees) or being time-consuming.
Improved Decision-Making. Any authorized member of the organization can obtain real-time and efficient data insights which can be accessed anytime, anywhere and on any device.
Improved Productivity. Analytical data is consolidated and gathered in one place, breaking the process silos and making the overall process highly efficient and quick. It 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 user-friendly, intuitive interface and facilitated collaboration over business content of all users can also not be overseen.
Resource Advantages. Cloud-based analytics enables a better allocation of data scientists, considering advanced features that save unnecessary manual effort in traditional data analytics.
Moving data analytics to cloud is a decision of wise CFOs that would like to benefit from a highly effective infrastructure. Cloud-based analytics can become the key for every financial leader to empower own organization with most contemporary tools to keep their hands on the pulse of their organization.
The Ultimate Power of Cloud Computing is Vested into the Hands of Each CFO.
The good news is that the cloud-based analytical solutions are only improving with the time and provide more embedded features (e.g. artificial intelligence) that will only enhance the power vested in the hands of financial leaders. This is marking a beginning of a new era, where analytics in combination with the new digital tools recast the role of a Chief Financial Officer in the eyes of enterprises. A CFO is not anymore responsible for simply putting a report together to show the situation in the past but is rather the core player in providing real-time strategic insights into the business operations of a company. Cloud-based analytics plays a crucial role in aiding the CFOs to leverage the value of a large amount of data, making strategic predictions into the future and determining the overall direction of the enterprise.
This article was created in close collaboration and with the contribution of Christian Brandl, a principal business consultant in the business unit CFO Advisory within SAP Germany.
This blog post is also published on the D!gitalist Magazine (link).
Sources used in this article:
 “Why Data and Analytics are Key to Digital Transformation”. Smarter with Gartner. Christy Pettey. March 8, 2019 (https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/why-data-and-analytics-are-key-to-digital-transformation/)
 “Optimize Business Intelligence Efforts with Embedded, Application-Driven Analytics” Forrester Opportunity Snapshot: A Custom Study Commissioned By SAP. March 2019 (https://www.sap.com/products/analytics.html?pdf-asset=ccab099c-467d-0010-87a3-c30de2ffd8ff&page=10)