Creating a Data-Driven Culture that WORKS for Finance Teams

A data-driven culture that promotes automation can have transformative benefits for Finance departments, but it can be difficult for Finance leaders to know where to start when trying to create said data-driven culture. We’ve spoken to a number of experts and drawn from their extensive expertise to put together a guide that can help you create a data-driven culture that works for your business.

If you work in Finance, you probably already know that building (and maintaining) a data-driven culture is vital if you want your team to be armed with the correct knowledge when making business-critical decisions. But, can you confidently say that the processes you have in place are efficient, free from inaccuracies and that there’s no risk of process knowledge being lost in the event of a team member leaving? For many of the clients we’ve come across over the years, the answer is no. Fortunately, data processes can be improved through automation - usually with some very impressive results. 

We’ve tapped into our team’s broad expertise to outline the steps you need to take to create a data-driven strategy that allows you to make better business decisions, whilst also saving time and money.

  1. Put a number on the potential value of automation:

By calculating the time and effort manual processes are currently taking and putting that into a monetary figure, you can, pretty quickly, make a strong business case for automation.

  1. Create a data strategy with a top-down approach:

It can be tempting when starting out with a data automation strategy to want to automate the reports that are the most time consuming and/or cumbersome, and often that makes a lot of sense. However, before you decide what needs to be automated it’s a good idea to speak to your CEO or CFO to find out what metrics are most valuable to them. By doing this you can create real value by getting business critical information into the hands of those who need it, when they need it.

  1. Identify the resources needed:

If you’re lucky you’ll have a team of Data Engineers, Scientists and Analysts ready to create and implement the perfect data strategy. However, the far more likely scenario is that you won’t have all, or even any, of these job titles on your payroll. In this case, the best course of action is to get help from a Data Strategy Consultancy. A Data Strategy Consultancy can create a plan specific to your business needs, as well as providing a team of experts to implement this plan, and empowering your own team to ensure its continued success once the partnership ends. 

  1. Choose the right tools:

Many finance teams come up with a solution based on the tools at their disposal but this isn’t always the smartest solution. When choosing tools, it’s important to think about your desired outcome and what you’ll need to do to transform your messy raw data into an easily digestible format. A good Data Strategy Consultancy can recommend the right tools, creating a robust, automated process that can work with any data source - avoiding the need to change ERP systems. 

  1. Enablement:

Practical, hands-on training delivered to the right people at the right time is key to ensuring you can build a data-driven culture that actually works. To do this, you’ll need to select a group of people who are engaged and excited about the potential of BI tools (a proof of concept showing potential time savings and an escape route from “Excel Hell” usually piques people’s interest pretty fast). 

When it comes to choosing the right time, there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, you need to allow trainees the time to practise using the tools outside of official training. This can be done by scheduling training for one of your quieter periods and blocking off practise time in trainees’ diaries so they know it’s a priority. Secondly, once training is complete, you need to give your team the opportunity to use their new skills so they’re not forgotten, so it’s a good idea to schedule a project for around the time training is due to be completed.

  1. Democratise and secure data access:

Creating easy access to financial data doesn’t mean having to sacrifice security. Quite the opposite, modern data visualisation tools provide role-based security so you can ensure sensitive data is only accessible to those who need it - avoiding the need to share passwords for encrypted Excel files among team members. This can be done at scale too - we’ve worked on enterprise level projects where 100+ dashboards were created, each one only accessible to the relevant department manager and the company’s CEO.

  1. Documentation:

A key pillar of a data-driven culture is documentation. Often, when using a selection of different tools, process knowledge is organically developed and ends up living in people’s heads - creating a massive organisational risk. Avoid this by documenting reporting processes at the outset.

Tip - Struggling to get buy-in? Start small:

Some of our client’s biggest projects have gotten approval based on impressive results delivered by a much smaller project. The advice from The Information Lab’s Head of Service Delivery, Jackie Lacovara is “if you’re struggling to get buy-in you should isolate one report, build and implement an automated reporting system, then present the value delivered to the decision-makers in your organisation.”

If you want to learn more about how you can create a data-driven culture that works for your organisation, get in touch with us for some expert advice.