There isn’t a finance function in operation today that can’t be improved by leveraging advanced business analytics and automating processes, says Pramod Iyengar, CFO of Veem, a San Francisco-based company that provides a digital payments platform for small and medium-sized businesses.
Iyengar has more than 25 years leading financial and administrative organizations in the Software-as-a-Service, artificial intelligence/machine learning, e-commerce and financial technology industries. He spoke with StrategicCFO360 about what data can do today and how to make sure you are using it to drive operational efficiency across departments.
What do you see as a top trend for CFOs today?
The most important trends that I have seen evolve across my experience in finance, particularly over the past few years, has been the shift toward more advanced business analytics and automation of processes—both with an eye to driving more accuracy and scale to the finance and reporting functions, as well as providing more real-time business insights to drive better forecasting and decision making. I think this has elevated the CFO and the finance function in general into a more proactive role in understanding the needs of the business and correlating that to key metrics and drivers of growth.
Automation goes hand in hand with this shift, encompassing not only timely and automated reporting of key metrics but also back-office integration of systems and processes, allowing for more resource efficiency and, more importantly, a greater emphasis on analysis and strategic improvements.
Is this something that you have or are planning on incorporating into your own company? Why or why not?
Absolutely. Early on, we identified the need to invest in our data and business intelligence architecture—people and tools—to optimize our ability to collect and report data real-time, which now enables us to rapidly assess product and sales strategy changes and deploy company resources more efficiently. Process automation is essential to building scale and removing barriers to growth—this is what enables fast-moving companies to take advantage of transformational events quickly.
Which industries are best able to take advantage of this trend?
The trend toward advanced analytics is applicable across many industries. It’s tempting to think that this is only an issue for high volume/high transaction businesses, or SaaS-type companies, but I think this trend has impacted how data is collected and used across a wide range of industries.
For example, in the consumer packaged goods space, this is a game changer for large enterprises in terms of making product placement and pricing decisions to drive growth. It is also important for healthcare companies that have invested in business intelligence tools to understand patient journeys leading to better patient outcomes and higher turnover/lower costs.
What should a CFO’s first steps be toward implementing more automation and data analytics in the workplace?
It is key to assess the organization and business as a first step. The emphasis and trend on analytics and automation requires building or shaping a team that is adept and capable of building scalable processes, and that starts with providing guidance and structure in organizing the finance and IT functions.
At the same time, it is also important to ensure key stakeholders across all functions are aligned to implementing these changes, as the insights that can be brought forward through automation must be aligned to internal strategy and resource planning to ensure the benefits are realized across the company.
Finally, it is all about planning—making significant investments in infrastructure requires an understanding of emerging technologies and how they can optimize your business, so being proactive in assessing such trends through industry research, competitor analysis, etc. is essential.