Data Driven Finance: A Guide to Data-first Decision Making in Retail and ecommerce

Transform Business Decisions Based on Real-time Data

Finance leaders in retail and ecommerce are spinning more plates than ever before. Managing a business seems to grow in complexity by the day, and then there’s the ‘data deluge’ to contend with. Traditional decision-making used historical data to inform strategy and assess performance. Now, finance leaders have an abundance of real-time data to interpret. As a result, the face of the finance team is changing; no longer are finance leaders reconcilers and chasers, the new CFO is tech savvy and has become:

  1. A real-time and predictive analyst
  2. A strategist
  3. A futurist
  4. A collaborator and data-collector across all business units.

With immediate access to data from multiple departments, regardless of geographic location or  in-store versus ecommerce sales, finance is firmly at the centre of business operations. Retail finance leaders are discovering that, hidden within the data deluge, a world of opportunity is waiting to be unearthed. A close relationship with real-time data means a business can quickly adapt and seize opportunities.

What’s Keeping Retail CFOs Awake at Night?

Retail and ecommerce CFOs are now accountable for a lot more than just numbers. According to Sage, 55% are now responsible for data privacy, digitalisation and investing in technology. A recent survey by Sage confirmed, “today, the primary driver of digital transformation in mid-size businesses is the finance professional, with six in ten financial decision makers driving change.”

Data driven digital transformation is knocking at the door of finance leaders, adding to an already busy workload:

  1. IT security
  2. Harvesting data
  3. Delivering insights
  4. Upskilling the finance team

Ecommerce start-ups tend to adopt a data-first approach from the outset. Larger, established retail companies selling online and in-store are naturally slower to change. Understanding where to go and how to get there are the real challenges facing finance and business leaders. Amidst a sea of apparent opportunity and rapid retail change, how can established companies facilitate data-first decision-making?

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The Tech-savvy CFO who Understands Digitalisation

Digitalisation might sound like a mountain to climb but in recent years, digital transformation in finance has become significantly easier to implement and faster to deliver a return. Today’s fully integrated retail ERP solutions positively impact accuracy, data governance, strategic and financial planning, and efficiency. For instance, cloud technology can decrease the risk of data breaches. With enhanced levels of verification, cloud-based ERP secures company data using a more comprehensive method and is available in real-time with full visibility and control.

To unburden finance professionals of onerous, repetitive tasks such as order-to-cash and transactional accounting, digitisation of finance automates such processes. This is by no means the beginning of the end of finance teams. Instead, finance takes the lead in business management and strategic guidance:

  • Reporting
  • Planning
  • Budgeting
  • Forecasting
  • Tax and Treasury
  • Inland Revenue

However, 77% agreed finance will be unable to provide insights if they do not invest in financial management technology (source: Sage). As the world of finance becomes more complex, digitisation ensures teams remain agile. With the support of automation, finance processes are radically simplified. People have more time to focus on analysis and innovation; the digitisation of finance unleashes the capacity for people to add value.

The Evolution of Retail Finance

Private: Data Driven Finance: A Guide to Data-first Decision Making in Retail and ecommerce

The retail finance team are now critical in providing up-to-date performance information, financial analysis, and forecasting, to support the business in rapid response decision making. Previously, finance leaders would use historical data to steer a business in the right direction; now real-time data and predictive analytics has changed the dynamics of decision-making.

There is certainly no more ‘gut feeling’ or ‘intuition’ steering the ship. Decisions are made in real-time.  Spreadsheets are being exchanged for customised, role-based dashboards, delivering up-to-the-minute insights on all aspects of a retail and ecommerce business.

Today’s finance team must be highly versatile, blending accountancy, analytics, and strategy in one dynamic team. To harness the benefits of top-level performance visibility, retail finance teams need the right tool for the job.

Adopting a Data-First Approach

When decision makers are spending just as much time collecting and preparing data as they are analysing it, a lack of automation and unconnected legacy systems severely limit overall productivity. The role of finance in digital transformation may seem onerous but finance teams are best placed to lead a business in the right direction.

The right financial management software will deliver data-driven decision making in one fell swoop.  86% confirm automation has already improved business productivity, illustrating the need for streamlined processes (source: Sage).

Implemented and configured correctly, and tailored to the retail and ecommerce business, financial management ERP software solutions drive efficiency and accuracy from the start.  Connecting applications and microservices, today’s ERP specialists join all the dots and bridge all the gaps with perfect-fit integration. Cloud-based retail ERP ensures financial management software is always up to date and accurate, based on the most recent software release.

Digital Transformation in Retail begins with Finance

Private: Data Driven Finance: A Guide to Data-first Decision Making in Retail and ecommerce

Steering the direction of a retail business, avoiding the cost of external disruption, and identifying opportunities, must be driven by data. Deriving insights from the vast quantity of data a business creates, is where cloud-based ERP comes in. ERP systems go beyond traditional financial reporting software and collate data from every process, in every department, at every location.

As a business management tool, perfect-fit ERP solutions evolve capabilities and reveal where business priorities lie.  In retail and ecommerce, a digital core is now vital to enable data-first decision making.