Business Intelligence Buyer's Guide

Insight Driven Finance: The Self-Service BI Advantage

Solutions Review’s Contributed Content Series is a collection of contributed articles written by thought leaders in enterprise technology. In this feature, Prophix Chief Customer Innovation Officer Susan Gershman offers commentary on the self-service BI advantage when it comes to insight-driven finance.

The focus for businesses has shifted from whether they are using data analytics to how deeply these analytics are integrated into companies’ operations. Data analytics have extended beyond the confines of technical teams and IT departments. Increasingly, various areas throughout organizations are benefiting from data-driven decision making and analytical insights. And as a result, companies are in search of solutions that can deliver these capabilities more broadly and instinctively, reaching into new departments and involving individuals without specialized technical skills. This is where self-service business intelligence (BI) plays a pivotal role.

Self-service BI is an approach to data analytics that enables users to analyze and explore data sets without the aid of an organization’s data scientists or BI team. These tools make it easy for users without a background in traditional analytics to gain insights from their organization’s data. While self-service BI can aid departments across organizations, finance teams are especially benefitting from the speed, efficiency, and agility of self-service BI. In today’s ever-evolving business landscape, finance professionals are focusing on ways to keep up with the pace of change and level-up their strategic value. The ability to rapidly gain financial intelligence and apply that insight to drive significant business results is key to their success.

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Self-Service BI in Finance

The New Era of Finance

Finance teams tend to be an independent, self-sufficient group. They want to be able to do their own analysis and use their own tools, without relying on outside help. These teams are also typically equipped with a baseline analytical skill set — most finance professionals are comfortable using Excel or similar tools. But now that the pressure is on for finance teams to move beyond spreadsheets, they’re looking for more advanced software that can provide higher-level insights…so long as they can still navigate the tools without leaning on technical teams. Adopting self-service BI tools within the finance department is a natural transition as teams look to bolster their analytical capabilities to drive business impact.

The finance department needs to move faster than it was ever previously expected. To be most impactful in their roles and make informed decisions quickly, rapid access to data is simply vital. Yet many teams remain bogged down manually gathering details from other departments or waiting days for a BI team to return the report they requested — only for circumstances to change once again, requiring a new report. Instead, they need tools that empower collaboration, efficiency, and improved decision-making.

The Benefits of Self-Service BI in the Finance Department

Self-service BI makes accessing critical data insights faster, meaning decision making can get done faster, too. With self-service BI, everything can be contained in one place, avoiding any unnecessary steps or bottlenecks. Having this single version of the truth is essential to the

finance department for accurate and efficient planning, reporting, consolidation, and account reconciliation. This means that all decision-makers can undertake key financial processes and analysis from one location while maintaining data integrity and accuracy, and reducing time spent on manual input that is inherent with spreadsheets.

As AI continues to improve at seemingly breakneck speed, self-service BI tools are also getting more powerful and easier to use. With natural language processing, users can interact with BI tools as if they are having a natural conversation, asking questions of the data and getting immediate insights. These developments enable finance professionals to interact with the data in an intuitive way, instead of the manual slicing and dicing required when working in a spreadsheet, or even the more traditional analysis methods typically found in classic BI tools.

The most transformative shift in finance over the past few years is the imperative for finance teams to go beyond reporting and metrics to driving business strategy. Automation has done away with a lot of the rote tasks that finance teams have long been known for, leaving room for finance professionals to step up into more strategic roles. The CFO’s role has transformed from budget guardian to leader and business advisor within the organization. Self-service BI gives finance executives the power to identify, monitor, and improve the metrics that are most important to their company’s performance, solidifying their rightful and growing influence in organizational decision-making.

In Closing

Enabling self-service BI requires more than just deploying user-friendly tools. Self-service tools don’t work unless an organization has robust data collection capabilities and the data is kept clean and ready-to-consume. No matter how self-sufficient and technically skilled a finance team is, the organization needs to be fully committed to ensuring these tools are able to be used effectively.

Adoption of self-service BI in finance departments is growing as teams look for efficient and effective solutions that will empower them to be the best they can be in their roles. With these tools, they can rapidly gain the intelligence they need and apply that knowledge to drive positive business results.

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