Finance Teams: Take the Pain Out of Ad-Hoc Business Requests

Scaling AI Lauren Anderson

Once just recognized for filing invoices, handling POs, and balancing the books, the days of simple number crunching are long gone for finance teams. The finance function has evolved and is increasingly seen as a key advisor when it comes to making strategic business decisions.

Ideally, the majority of their team's time would be spent answering important questions for the business, such as — Where should I focus product growth next year? Where should I deprioritize spending? How can I immediately cut costs? Being a valuable strategic partner means being able to answer ad-hoc requests from business leaders quickly. However, tension arises because often finance teams don’t have the resources or time to answer these questions at the volume and speed required. 

According to McKinsey, a review of the past 10 years of best practices among finance teams has found that leading finance teams have found a way to prioritize these types of ad-hoc requests. Finance leaders spent 19% more time on value-added (versus transaction-processing) activities than a typical finance department did. 

So what’s preventing most teams from being able to focus on these types of ad-hoc business requests?

→ Get the Full Ebook: Advancing Analytics in Finance Teams

Getting Down to Data

Regular reporting will often answer many of these types of questions, but typically, deeper analysis is required. This means connecting to and synthesizing data from difficult-to-access, hard-to-understand business data sources. 

Most of the time, the core challenge associated with these types of questions is efficiency. It takes too much time for limited resources to find answers because of the lack of efficient data sharing and collaboration processes. Here are some key areas where finance teams typically lose efficiency: 

Tracking Down Business Data Is Time Consuming

Since your team doesn’t have ownership over business data sources, they spend wasted hours simply searching and waiting for data. This might mean asking IT or data engineering teams to build a customized pipeline or grant permission to access a certain business database. It could mean waiting days for business leaders to send you spreadsheets. Regardless of what this looks like, when different teams own data sources, finding the data you need to answer ad-hoc requests can be a nightmare.

Dataiku features dozens of native data connectors to data sources regardless of location, from cloud databases to Oracle and SAP. Easily enrich with business data sources like Salesforce and more with pre-built plugins.

Connect to data across the organization, from flat files to SQL databases to Cloud Storage and more.

Your Team Has to Solve Data Mysteries Before They Can Even Start Analyzing

Even once you get the data, you have to clarify what specific definitions and schemas mean with business SMEs, which may leave you questioning if you truly understand what it means. Or when you finally find the data you need, you don’t necessarily know what methodology was used to generate the figures—or if it’s the same one used by other teams. Is it even the correct version? 

From connecting to data, to gaining a shared understanding of data definitions, Dataiku was designed to create better collaboration across teams and data sources. With a comprehensive visual flow that outlines every transformation that’s occurred to data, wikis to outline project goals, and activity trackers that show who’s done what, and when, everyone can have a shared understanding of data - from analysts to business SMEs, to data scientists. 

Wikis can be used to easily get stakeholders on the same page, and explain key information about projects to teammates. 

Your Team Can't Reuse Work Done in the Past

Many times these requests are not unique - they’ve been asked at different points in the past. This means that much of the work from last time could hypothetically be reused, so your team doesn’t have to start from scratch. But often, even if you spend the time to find the person that originally answered the question, they may have left the company or simply forgotten how they completed their analysis - because they only saved the end product and don’t have visibility into what was done before.

All of this ultimately means that your team spends more time gathering data than performing analysis, they have less time to complete regular reporting activities, and you risk damaging relationships with senior stakeholders because you can’t get answers out the door fast enough. 

With Dataiku, easily join datasets, deduplicate records, and perform all the transformations you’d do in spreadsheets with time-saving visual recipes. Plus, reuse past work through a searchable catalog of projects, datasets, dashboards, and more. 

An example of a visual join recipe.

Easily find past datasets, projects, and more in the catalog.

Become a Better Business Partner

Dataiku can help your teams gain more efficiencies so that you can answer more value-added business requests. Plus, it’s easy to make those insights widely available with self-service applications and interactive dashboards. Whether created in Dataiku, or sent to BI tools like Tableau, Clicksense, and more, easily create and share insights instantly with stakeholders. 

Quickly share insights to stakeholders with easy-to-build dashboards. 

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