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How data is transforming the role of finance professionals

by Mike Jones in finance 03/12/2019

The significant rise of data has created a number of new opportunities and as a result, the role of finance professionals is expected to change. In order for the industry to be continually viewed as a value-added service, finance professionals must continue to change and maintain pace with changing technologies. Laura Timms, representative of MHR Analytics highlights a number of significant changes we are likely to see in the years to come.

Rise of business consultancy in finance
Finance professionals have conventionally had to rely on historical data to generate insights. This technique created certain limitations and lacked a clear insight into how our decisions would shape the future. Predictive analytics has enabled finance teams analysis to progress from a stage of asking ‘why did it happen’ to focusing on ‘what will happen next’? The availability of richer insights has allowed finance professionals to monitor customer information in real-time and progress further than just maintaining records to deliver in-depth data analysis. The role of finance professionals has progressed beyond the days of working on numbers in the background. The future of the finance role is likely to see more individuals using new systems and analytics to position themselves in a more strategic and stronger position within a business. The power of information will enable finance teams to measure and interpret anomalies and patterns within a business. This information can be communicated within internal management to enable important decisions to be made.

Remote Working
The rise of cloud computing has significantly transformed opportunities for finance professionals. Traditionally fixed to the office space, the cloud has enabled more flexible working and remote work opportunities, creating a number of benefits for employees and further cost savings for businesses. Further security within cloud systems will allow finance teams to measure and share insights from any location without having concerns about handling sensitive information outside of core office locations. In the not so distant future, finance teams will be capable of sharing and analysing information with their colleagues simply by clicking a button and generating a real-time portrayal of business activities to multiple locations.

Implementing Non-Financial Data
For years, financial data has been the core focus of finance activities. This represented the data where patterns were identified, reports were generated and general observations were made. In reality, financial data only represents one part of a business. As data availability continues to rise, there will continue to be other sources of information capable of using to expand on financial data. For example, customer data on behaviour patterns can be used to identify fraud and suspicious activities. Finance professionals can use other data sources such as employee performance data to assess the ROI that each individual can provide for a business.

Implementing this type of data into the general assessment of business supports revenue generation and provides greater value for financial information. Studies have proven that finance teams that use non-financial data sources with their standard financial data are able to create forecasts with accuracy levels exceeding 90%.

High standard of service
The continued rise of data analytics is enabling an augmented work environment, enabling simpler tasks to be completed by machines rather than people. Augmented analytics will enable many administrative duties that have traditionally been part of a financial position to be replaced and swapped for other important duties, creating a more efficient way of working. This will enable finance professionals to work closely with data, generate leads and insights for their business. Data will leverage the skills of finance teams, allowing them to focus on creating a high-value service. Overall, data analytics will enhance industry performance, with both businesses and clients recognising the influence these roles can have on business profits.

Developing data-focused positions
Augmenting traditional positions will lead to the creation of data-focused alternatives to conventional bookkeeping and accounting jobs. As data becomes more important and embedded in finance, businesses will become even more reliant on financial insights to improve their strategy and the relationship between finance and data will become even more clear.

In the future, most finance professionals are likely to require to have some understanding of data analytics. Before this transition occurs, we will likely experience a rise in data science roles, created out of demand for data specialists in the business. Finance professionals that are training to become more skilled in data analytics are likely to be the type of talent in demand over the next few years.