How analytics will transform the finance team

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Business intelligence and analytics tools can turn your spreadsheets into visual stories that anyone in your company can comprehend.

Sam Ellis FCCA is head of operations and finance at InterWorks Europe, a business intelligence consultancy firm. He says that analytics will be a game changer.

“It allows you to do all your core role, but also ask any question you want of the data. We’re used to producing P&Ls and balance sheets. Those are standard reports, known information, known structure. But you also might want to explore a bit. Why is this thing happening? I’ve got a gut feel about this thing. Then you can use the data to answer the question and prove your gut feel. That’s the fun part.”

Your work becomes accessible

It will make the work of finance teams more accessible – and therefore more valued – for other teams in the business as well. By using interesting visuals, Ellis says, finance becomes much easier to understand.

“So much of our daily lives is now oriented around visual. Our phones are visual, and that’s what stimulates us. And that’s where we understand things quickly. So, the more we can adopt that and leverage that, the quicker people will be at getting the message that we’re trying to get across.”

It helps you to speak ‘sales’

Although you can create more visual documents in Excel, it takes a while to build. With modern analytics tools, it can take about half an hour to create an engaging visual report, Ellis says. For a practiced hand, it can take a few minutes to create a unique visual report.

“It gives you a common ground to go and speak to someone in sales: ‘Hey, I was just looking at this data. What do you think about it? Is this something you would use?’ You start to collaborate with people and integrate. I think that’s important that we’re not in this silo, that we do break out of that.”

You’ll ditch the pivot tables

The profession will move away from tables and numbers, he says, because they take too long to create and to explain. “You can spend 10 minutes explaining something, only to see that people did not understand it.

“Whereas if you show someone visually they tend to say: ‘I get it. I see what you’re saying.’ I think we’re not great at [visual presentation] now, but I think we’re going to get good at it.”

Mark Rowland is a journalist and former editor of Accounting Technician and 20 magazine.

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