The next evolution of the finance function is a future-looking one; it’s using data to spot trends, plan for various scenarios, forecast expenditures, and help guide the business.
Of course, your team needs big-picture planners to help you pull off this transformation, but Realists are equally as critical. Realists are pathfinders for your team, determining the next best steps. Their approach to leadership is exceedingly crucial as they apply a data-driven, pragmatic approach to surviving and thriving in the immediate future.
In times of uncertainty (i.e., the past three years and the next several at minimum), Realists are and will be especially valuable. Mayur Vyas, CFO of Finconoso, agrees: “We’re living in an age where many financial models are useless. Rising interest rates, an abundance of job vacancies (mostly in the service sector), and a US housing market that is at war with itself have never happened in modern times at this scale. Figuring out how to quantify and apply these phenomena into a forecast is proving to be difficult for many CFOs.”
Are you a Realist ready to illuminate your organization’s path forward? Here’s how to get started.
Dig Deeper into Data
Data is the lifeblood of any modern organization. The finance team is well acquainted with using data for reporting and planning—but if you’re a Realist, you will need to level up your analysis skills.
With the proper data management and analytics platform, you can surface more valuable insights with less effort.
1. Consolidate data
Given how valuable data is to a business, it’s remarkable how few organizations take a streamlined, structured, and strategic approach to managing it. If your data hides in departmental silos, it’s time to break down the barriers.
It’s important not to import a copy of data into a central repository—as soon as you copy data, it’s out of date. It’s better to connect data sources to a platform to create a real-time single source of truth accessible to everyone.
2. Automate analytics
Once you have a single source of truth, you can analyze the data to find the deep insights that will help you guide your organization. But you don’t have to take on this analysis manually; relying on human effort makes for a time-intensive process with potentially less-enlightening results.
Instead, work with a platform to automate analysis, sifting through massive data in a fraction of the time. Intelligent analytics can spot trends the sharpest human analyst might miss and do it faster than an entire team of dedicated data sifters.
With automated processes taking on the heavy lifting, your team will be free to do what only humans can do:
- Turn insights into an actionable plan
- Gather support among stakeholders
- Oversee implementation
- Plan to pivot if circumstances change
3. Create smarter reports
Finding and illuminating the best path for your team is only part of the Realist’s role. Another role you assume is convincing your colleagues and co-workers to follow the path you’ve charted for them. To bring your colleagues around to your way of thinking, you’ll need to be able to tell the story of the data in a clear, concise, and persuasive way.
With the right platform, you can create automated, customizable reports to help you tell that story. Supply each stakeholder with a custom dashboard to examine the data, follow the path of your analysis, and ultimately reinforce your conclusions. This self-service approach makes it easier for you to gain consensus without manually generating reports.
Level Up Your Forecasting
In our 2022 CFO survey, 75 percent of respondents said they increased their forecasting frequency during the pandemic. That’s a promising sign and a trend that should continue. While you don’t want to lose sight of long-term goals, your team should be able to forecast more frequently and with greater accuracy than ever before.
1. Pursue proactive, agile, rolling forecasting
Shifting to a rolling forecasting cadence can help your team indicate future success. In our research, 71 percent of rolling forecasters indicated they could implement minor changes in only half a day, while only 57 percent of quarterly forecasters could say the same. Moreover, only 32 percent of quarterly forecasters could roll out changes to all reports in a single day, while over half of rolling forecasters have this capability.
Rolling forecasting can be time-consuming unless your team can automate and streamline the process. If you have a solid data platform in place and tools that promote agile collaboration, however, it’s worth the effort.
2. Let data drive your forecasts
Robust data analytics can help keep your forecasts accurate and agile. Use automated analytics to find patterns in your data, spot trends, and form a complete vision of the future. As a Realist, your experience, intellect, and intuition help you make sense of the data and analytics for others.
3. Collaborate for more accurate predictions
Your finance team is well-equipped to process and interpret data, but the process should include a dialog with the rest of your organization. If you can bring key stakeholders from other departments to the table, you can gain deeper insight into the company that can inform your forecasts.
“While it’s definitely important to include carefully sourced and relevant data in your assumptions, one of the most solid things a CFO can do is inquire inside the organization,” says Vyas. “What do division managers and their staff feel are the challenges they’ve faced in meeting budgeted figures? Review the actuals from last year with an eye on the non-financial KPIs and consider them when preparing for the current year.”
Open communication and generous collaboration are essential for finance teams, as part of taking a seat at the decision-making table is working with everyone already seated there.
Light the way for your team and organization
As the finance function takes on a more prominent role in organizations, it’s crucial to have well-grounded, data-driven Realists on the team. No matter how unpredictable the immediate future may seem, Realists help your team optimize tools and processes so your organization will continue moving forward.