The Future of Finance: Data


Part 3 in the Future of Finance blog series. You can view the full series here.

Better data means better business decisions.

When Finance and Accounting have access to real-time data, their value to the greater organization increases significantly, and they become true partners to the business.

InTheBlack brings accounting and finance experts together to realize that value, while sharing knowledge and industry best practices to launch finance operations into the future.

Last year, BlackLine CFO Mark Partin hosted a panel on the Future of Finance, featuring: Molly Boyle, Director of Solutions Marketing at BlackLine; Manny Korakis, Global Corporate Controller at American Express Global Business Travel; and Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, Chief Accounting Officer at Xero.

In part two of this blog series, we talked about the seemingly limitless possibilities of technological innovation for the future of Accounting and Finance.

In this blog, you’ll learn how to expand the use of data in finance and accounting departments, and what increased transparency can do for your organization.

Mark Partin: Let’s talk about the power of data in the Office of Finance. I think that today, Finance continues to be in a great position to leverage data, and use it to help organizations grow and make good decisions.

What's your vision to leverage data in your organizations over time?

Manny Korakis: Accountants and finance people have always been great at building taxonomies and systems to capture and report on data, and that evolution is continuing.

In today's environment, data comes from a myriad of sources, whether it's operational data, manufacturing data, sales-driven data, industry data, or data from adjacent industries that may impact the business you work in. We have all kind of become more like data scientists—we’ve got the skillsets to capture, organize, and build definitions around data.

The better we refine those skills and look around the organization to define that taxonomy, identify the relationships, and build the systems to inform better, faster business decisions, the more value we can deliver.

Molly Boyle: For accountants, it's all about when we have the data, not just if the data is available. For Accounting to partner better with Finance and other parts of the business, we need to be able to look at data in real time and ask questions to prevent accounting errors.

If we can see a variance on a daily basis and call out an issue, then we can start to shorten our close process. We can start to focus on more important business activities to drive sustainable, profitable growth.

As accounting organizations, the faster we can get access to data, the better we can drive Continuous Accounting. That's also when we can retain and recruit better people.

Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: It's about providing insights to link financial data back to the strategy of the business. If everybody in the organization understands the strategy, then everyone can have their own staff objectives.

Mark Partin: I'm interested in your role building and running an international organization. Do you see regional differences that you have to contend with, or do finance leaders have the same experience universally?

Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: At Xero, most of my team is global. For each of our regions we have finance teams led by finance directors.

If I compare what I need from a finance director in the US to what I need in Australia or New Zealand, it's very different. The level of compliance regulation in the US is incredible in comparison to any other region in the world.

Mark Partin: Manny, can you talk about how dealing with the volume of data is just getting more complex for all of us in Finance and Accounting?

Manny Korakis: There's a tremendous amount of data that comes through our organization, both operationally and through the financial systems.

Today, we throw bodies at problems to deal with this massive amount of data, which is growing exponentially. We can't keep up with it today. We certainly will not be able to keep up with it tomorrow.

But, we do have some technology that helps us out. BlackLine is one of the tools we use to match transactions.

We need to get smarter about how much technology we use, how much data we pull into it, and what we actually do with the results.

Data doesn't lie. I see a lot of business decisions being made today without supporting data. But, when you take the time and invest in analyzing the data, you can start making better-informed business decisions.

If you walk into a board meeting with an analysis of historical data points and another person has a differing opinion, we know the data is going to win.

**Key Takeaways


Accounting and finance experts are already equipped with the skills to analyze massive volumes of data. When those skill sets become truly invaluable is when the highest quality of data is realized.

Real-time data is the wave of the future, and Finance and Accounting are uniquely poised to help influence business operations and drive the success of their organizations.

Read the final blog of this series to learn why business partnering is the future of Accounting and Finance, and how data and technology are the drivers of this newfound function.