Big Data is proving to be both a boon and a curse to manufacturers -- a boon because companies have access to more information that directly impacts their business than ever before, and a curse because the large quantity of that information often makes it nearly impossible to distinguish between essential data and sheer noise. Analytics has emerged as one of the tools that financial planners use to get at the heart of this data, separating the vital from the irrelevant.
According to research firm Gartner, one of the dominant themes of 2012 was the emergence of data discovery as a component of business intelligence and analytics, as well as increased activity in real-time, predictive analytics. As Steve Player, North America program director for the Beyond Budgeting Round Table (BBRT), explains, companies are attempting to increase their efficiency by embedding planners within the lines of business to better partner with the business, with the goal of responding more quickly to actionable data.
"Executive demand for planning data is also expanding as the consumerization of IT takes hold," Player says. "Executives expect information to have the look and feel of consumer apps on their iPads and simply will not wait. To meet these objectives, finance instantly needs information at their fingertips. Multiple means are needed to reach information anywhere."
In a survey conducted by BBRT and IndustryWeek's sister publication Business Finance, 93% of respondents said that their ability to accurately plan is increasingly dependent on their capability to analyze growing quantities of structured or unstructured data -- no surprise there, given the increasing demands on their time. The survey looks at how senior finance executives are using technology, including mobile devices, to tackle Big Data issues.
"Mobility greatly enhances the ability of finance to convert planning from a monthly batch mode into a continuous planning approach," Player notes.
According to the survey, more than half (52%) of the respondents say that management carries or would like to carry tablets such as iPads to access key metrics and take action on-the-fly. This mirrors the response to another question: What would help your organization improve financial planning and business performance management? The number one answer (64%) was the ability to rapidly turn data into fact-based decision-making.
Currently, only 13% of respondents have already deployed at least one mobile app within their finance organization; another 9% are in the process of deploying such an app, while 31% are considering going mobile. Nearly half (47%) say they are not considering mobile apps right now. However, 72% of respondents expect to see senior management using tablets for financial planning at least 80% of the time within three years, so a mobile shift is apparently on the horizon.
The shift, admittedly, will require redesigning financial planning and analysis processes to take advantage of mobility, Player says, which will include using rolling forecasts, scenario planning and continuous results monitoring. By doing so, he says, "planning will move from a batch mode into a real-time part of management decision-making."