The gap between financial data reporting and business intelligence has still to be closed at many firms as they struggle to move away from after-the-fact reporting and adopt proactive and investigative reporting strategies. The gap is often exacerbated by the use of multiple systems, but it can be narrowed by improving data management, automating reporting and implementing enterprise-wide business intelligence tools.
Research conducted by SunGard Consulting Services in April 2014 among 202 senior executives at 93 financial services firms and 74 energy companies, suggests that while the importance of business intelligence is increasing, many organisations cannot deliver it successfully without improving data management, reporting techniques and business capabilities.
Headline statistics from the research survey show 51% of respondents using periodic reporting techniques and 29% making after-the-fact reports. Some 45% report using manual data extraction and data cleansing tools, and present data in spreadsheet or PDF format, and only 13% use techniques such as predictive analytics and alerts. Looking at the adoption of business intelligence, 53% of respondents take either a tactical approach or manage projects at department level, while 22% say that although projects appear to be managed at department level, they do have links to enterprise goals.
Michael Wolk, a partner in SunGard Consulting Services’ information management practice, says: “Firms should look to enhanced information management tools and methodologies to help strengthen the quality of data and analytics, as well as preempt what-if scenarios that may affect parts of the business. Incorporating a deeper level of business intelligence into business strategy and investing in the right technology can help firms move from what-happened reporting to proactive analysis, and help maximise performance.”
If this is a desired end result, many firms are just beginning on the journey, although Wolk reports positive trends along the way including good alignment between business and IT that supports joint interest in assessing how to improve data management, successful departmental business intelligence projects that act as a catalyst for broader enterprise projects, and momentum to improve data governance through activity such as the appointment of chief information officers and data owners.
Wolk says: “Developments in data governance are largely driven by regulatory requirements, but they are improving data quality and supporting better business use of data.” From a practical point of view, he concludes: “Data in multiple systems needs to be centralised in a data warehouse and it needs to be clean and consistent. Many firms have enterprise licences for analytics software such as BusinessObjects, but the analytics will only be as good as the data that is gathered and analysed.”