The Evolution of Finance

Leaving Spreadsheets Behind on the Move to User-Friendly Analytics

Though CFOs might historically be known as bean counters, today they are in possession of corporate data that is an untapped source of business intelligence, analytical insight, and competitive advantage for the business.

But can CFOs and their teams deliver that type of real-time insight on profitability measures, financial risk, and growth opportunities? And what types of resources are needed?

To dig deeper into this topic, ASUG recently conducted a survey with nearly a hundred members of its Financial Special Interest Group.1 The results demonstrate that finance leaders and IT professionals are aware of both the massive need to evolve toward more analytical thinking and the new class of technologies that can help them do so. There are, however, several immediate challenges to deal with first. Let’s look at three highlights from the survey.

Apps in Need of Improvement

In thinking about their portfolio of financial applications, a whopping 92% of respondents reported that analytics — including “easier reporting or self-service” — was the biggest area in need of improvement.2

The next-highest response was user experience (including mobile access), cited by 63% of respondents. Following that: simplification of IT landscape and architecture, data quality improvement, integration with external systems, speed and performance, and integration with internal systems.

Business peers expect easy-to-consume analytical insights that exploit financial key performance indicators.

Moving to the Cloud

We asked about respondents’ enthusiasm for moving financial data to a cloud or hosted environment. In light of the abundance of cloud hyperbole, it was surprising that just 6% said they were “already doing so.” Of the rest, 14% stated they were “very likely,” 26% were “slightly likely,” 30% were “unlikely” to do so, and the remaining 21% didn’t know.

Of those who were hesitant, 85% cited security and risk as the top reasons for why they are reluctant to move financial data to a cloud or hosted environment.3 Other reasons included not wanting to spend money on migration (41%), regulatory or compliance restrictions (25%), not seeing the value (24%), and too much reliance on legacy systems and spreadsheets (22%).

2015 Priorities

Finally, the survey asked ASUG members where they intended to invest in 2015. The top choice (55%) was self-service access to data. When you combine that response with the importance placed on user-friendly analytics, what finance needs to deliver is pretty evident: Business peers are already (or soon will be) expecting easy-to-consume analytical insights that exploit financial key performance indicators (KPIs) and other related data.

It’s clear from the responses that finance professionals are cognizant of the legacy challenges staring at them as well as the real opportunities for change that are close at hand. Of course, SAP is betting big on financial departments’ wish to ultimately leave behind spreadsheets and the “way we’ve always done it” mindset.

The question that remains, then, is: How fast are finance leaders going to move in 2015?


1 “Finance Function — Challenges and Opportunities at ASUG Member Companies” (2014; ASUG members can download the full survey report via [back]

2 For this question, we allowed for multiple responses. [back]

3 For this question, we allowed for multiple responses. [back]