The London FP&A Club is a relatively new, but well-respected forum for finance professionals involved in planning and analysis. As such it generates some valuable food for thought concerning best practice in this area, particularly where large and complex organisations are concerned. In a recent blog post, FP&A Club founder Larysa Melnychuk made some interesting points about data visualisation for FP&A teams and, in fact, quoted our Deputy MD Andrew Mosely, who had spoken at a previous event held by the Club.
Ms. Melnychuk’s article proposed a strong general structure for FP&A analytics, categorising these technologies as either ‘Narrative’ or ‘Exploratory’. Narrative, of course, being visualisations and analysis that can help a team make a story clear to other parts of the organisation, and Exploratory being analysis that FP&A teams can use to delve into information and draw out insights that may not have been otherwise obvious.
However, at Metapraxis, the last couple of years have seen most of our software implementations involve a third type of analysis, which we might call ‘Decisive’. That is, analyses that are designed to offer a decisive answer to the question, “how can we solve x challenge in our business”.
What those challenges are varies greatly between our clients, and we have had to become increasingly innovative in order to help our clients not just understand their data, but use it to drive action in their business. For example, when working with finance leaders and sales teams, our technology doesn’t just define where there might be a gap in the pipeline. Instead, it is configured to examine opportunities across a range of attributes and dimensions, and identify the opportunities the sales team must focus on, in order to decrease the risk that a forecast will not be met.
Another common example is in cases of declining profitability. Here, our analytics platform can be used to identify the individual drivers of profitability, and categorise them according to whether management can be expected to control them or not. For those that can be controlled, the platform can further identify the driving factors behind each one, forming the basis for an effective plan of action.
Analytics technology is developing at an exciting pace, and innovations in the sector are pushing the boundaries of what financial professionals can achieve. But, amidst all this, it’s important to remember that analysis cannot be divorced from business goals, and that insight is useless unless it drives decisive action.