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Modern CFOs face a seemingly unsurmountable challenge. They are tasked with making increasingly important decisions for the entire enterprise in the midst of disruption and uncertainty. Even worse, they’re often forced to base their decisions on inaccurate, stale data. Despite all this, CFOs also have more opportunities than ever. Digitalization offers the entire finance function the opportunity to take advantage of accurate, real-time analytics and, increasingly, machine learning insights and predictions.

Before the CFO and finance can begin making better decisions based on the right data, you need to ask yourself the following questions.

Can you act in the moment?

The rest of the business depends on finance to make decisions that keep your company moving. That means you need to act in the moment based on up-to-date business insights from across the enterprise. But with the technology currently at your disposal, can you?

Admittedly, this question is really about your company’s data management practices. That’s because your ability to make decisions based on relevant insights depends on whether you – and your technology solutions – can access fresh, accurate data. For instance, your company may have the best analytics tools on the market, but if those tools can’t tap into the right data, you aren’t getting the insights you need. And today, the right data means all of your enterprise data.

Unfortunately, most companies struggle with siloed swaths of data that keep analytics tools from accessing the data they need. This sticks employees with the grunt work of data preparation and data management. According to a recent IDC analyst connection paper commissioned by SAP, data-native workers – including those in finance – spend only 28% of their time on data analysis. It’s likely that, at this very moment, your employees are wasting their time on tedious tasks that your technology should already be doing for you.

A data layer can help by unifying all of your business data and making it accessible to the applications and tools that need it. Simply put, a data warehouse is a type of data management system that serves as a central repository for data from virtually any source. But the creation of a data layer and the implementation of the right data management system depend on your collaboration with IT.

Are you continuously collaborating with IT and all other business functions?

Separate parts of the business may feel less like collaborative parts of a whole and more like different planets inhabited by species that don’t speak the same language. In other words, they may rely on to different offline data sets in their daily work. Even worse, those different parts of the business may seem as though they have completely opposing goals. But the truth is, both finance and IT exist to keep your business successful. And the key to success today depends largely on your digital strategy.

So, finance and IT need to collaborate to create a plan for a unified technology foundation that supports your access to data insights for analytics and effective decision-making. Ideally, finance will work with IT to identify the systems of record – be it your ERP, HR, or CRM software – from which you want to pull valuable data. Only then can IT build that scalable data layer optimized for analysis.

You should extend your plans beyond your own department, too. After all, the data you need to make your decisions comes from more than finance. Involve sales, procurement, HR, and other teams early on, and get an understanding not only of the data they can give you, but also what data you can give them. But this is virtually impossible if every department tries to collaborate across offline data sets, such as spreadsheets shared over e-mail.

Working in a cloud software environment can encourage communication and teamwork and speed up the planning process across departments. Today, cloud-based workspaces can provide individual users and groups or users with virtual workspaces for data modeling, data integration, and story dashboard using. Analytics tools are baked right in, and you don’t need to wait on IT to provide access and help create data models.

You can gain further independence from your reliance on IT with systems and tools that empower you to choose your own data connections and adjust compute and storage resources quickly, among other customizations that put power and efficiency in your hands. You can even create a framework that works for you, so your teams can work on their respective projects in secure and governed spaces.

Can you predict future outcomes?

Decision-making in finance increasingly depends on predictions of the future generated by AI and machine learning algorithms. Finance teams are fast recognizing the importance of these technologies, but even for that they need the right data coming from a multitude of different sources to create the most accurate picture of potential outcomes.

More and more technologies will begin to depend on whether your business has a unified digital foundation. It’s likely that any innovative new technologies you think will revolutionize finance won’t live up to your expectations without the right data and support from IT. It’s clear that this will be the year that drives home the need to unite your data sources and get access to not just self-service analytics, but also to self-service data that provide greater insights.

Interested in learning more about finance’s role in shaping an effective digital strategy? Download the new IDC Analyst Connection, sponsored by SAP, How the Office of Finance Drives Digital Resiliency.