The word "eureka" has long been used as an exclamation of shock or surprise after finally solving a vexing problem. Legend has it that Greek polymath Archimedes joyfully shouted the word upon realizing that the water level of his bath rose once he lowered himself into it, thus explaining the forces of buoyancy and what is now known as "Archimedes' Principle." After the solution came to him in a flash, he is said to have run naked through the streets of ancient Syracuse in jubilation.
Business executives in just about any industry are always on the hunt for a "eureka moment" like this, even though they might not celebrate in quite the same way Archimedes did. But what exactly does it take to get to this point? Chief finance officers and other executives may each have their own unique ways of encouraging inspiration, but the reality is that it takes time and a lot of work.
Thankfully, that time and energy is being more effectively used in the modern age of business software and technology. While some may look at it as a double-edged sword, the potential for finance and accounting services, and the CFOs managing them, to really move the business toward sustainable growth has never been greater.
Staying creative with data
In an article for CFO.com, Chris Schmidt explained the challenges involved in "Enabling 'Eureka!'" CFOs and their associates today find themselves in a very dynamic, fast-paced environment where solutions and problems are numerous, but putting them together is the hard part.
- Schmidt cited a survey of finance executives from SAP, in which respondents said their greatest risk to effective use of F&A services is either having too much data, too little data or not enough reliable data.
- The vast majority of survey respondents did agree, however, based on current business trends, finance teams need to become better at finding solutions and understanding data "in the moment," or essentially, instantly.
All this data can be either immensely useful or immensely destructive. As many have pointed out in relation to the "big data" trend, the answers to any question are certainly out there, but without the right tools and processes to extract them, what good is any of it? According to some estimates, like one from IBM, businesses are creating and attempting to manage an unfathomable amount of data every day, and it's only growing.
As explained by Schmidt in his CFO.com article, the push for big data solutions in recent years hasn't focused enough on actually putting it to good use.
"One of the biggest obstacles finance leaders say their functions are grappling with is the amount of manual intervention required by their current systems," Schmidt wrote. "The more time finance professionals spend in making sure that data generated by different information systems matches up and is credible, the less time they have for working with business managers to provide high-value financial analysis."
The tools that enable this level of automation are out there, but now must also be able to work with the myriad other software suites and shared services that businesses rely on. The solution to actually freeing up enough time to focus on value-adding tasks, according to Schmidt and the SAP survey results, lies in a seamless approach. Most survey respondents – 76 percent – said increased collaboration between users and systems would result from a unified F&A solution. Seventy-five percent also expected a greater degree of flexibility and customization from this approach.
That unified solution to marry automated processes with a synthesized approach to finance is well within a CFO's reach. Consero has been partnering with businesses to deliver F&A process automation as well as consultative, data-driven strategic ability. By first connecting and collecting a business's disparate systems and data into one program, Consero can begin streamlining basic F&A functions that would normally consume a significant amount of time for most finance heads. This frees up both team and leader to do the kind of work that makes a difference, and makes "eureka moments" much easier to come by.