Terry Singla, former Vice President, Pricing & Promotions, Sears Holdings, discussed data and its impact on finance in his keynote presentation to Argyle's CFO membership at the 2016 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum: Fall Event in Chicago on Nov. 17. In his presentation, "Evolution on Finance in a Data-Driven Environment," Singla explored the push for data among finance departments and how data can help these departments accomplish their immediate and long-term goals.
According to Singla, finance plays an important role in organizations of all sizes and across all industries. As such, finance departments that have the ability to collect and evaluate a broad assortment of data can share this information with multiple departments in their respective organizations and drive collaboration and growth.
"Typically, companies work in silos, and finance has the ability to see across channels and across departments and see how everything comes together from a holistic perspective," Singla noted.
In many instances, organizations may use business intelligence or business analytics to assess data. Business intelligence and business analytics tools offer a number of benefits for finance departments and other organizational teams.
With business intelligence, an organization can retrieve data from a wide array of online sources. Business intelligence tools are readily available and are helping many finance professionals produce in-depth reports based on business trends as well.
"Business intelligence is about how do you have all of the data in one place," Singla said. "How does all of that data correlate with one another so you can start to … create data visualization with it."
Although business intelligence tools deliver value, they provide only a portion of the solution for finance professionals who want to maximize the value of all of the data that is available to them.
"Business analytics is the future. It's about what will occur, what's next and why did it occur."
Today's finance professionals require state-of-the-art technologies that ensure an organization can identify business trends and make accurate market predictions. Also, finance professionals need data that is easy to understand and can be shared with numerous departments within an organization with ease.
"Data is really powerful if you know what to do with it. If not, it's just numbers, and numbers can be very overwhelming," Singla pointed out.
Now, business analytics are available to help finance professionals in a number of ways.
Business analytics provide finance professionals with data visualization and automation capabilities, ensuring these professionals can collect and assess data like never before.
Data visualization capabilities ensure finance professionals can use charts, graphs and other illustrations to evaluate business trends. These capabilities often take the guesswork out of data and allow finance professionals to understand why customers may choose one business over another and how customers feel about a brand, its products and its services.
"Business analytics is the future. It's about what will occur, what's next and why did it occur," Singla stated. "How can I start predicting what is going to occur, and how can I change my business models to get ahead of the curve?"
Furthermore, data visualization capabilities allow finance professionals to produce heat maps that provide real-time business insights. In fact, heat maps ensure finance professionals can make more informed decisions based on all of the data that is available at any time.
"You can have the best [data] analysts in the world and the best analytics in the world, but if you can't help others understand [data] in a way that's probably a little less numbers-intensive, you're not going to get the buy-in you need to create the change."
Automation also represents a key feature of business analytics and may help finance professionals save both time and money relative to data mining.
In the past, finance professionals may have needed data scientists to commit substantial time and resources to evaluate large customer data sets. These data scientists may have helped finance professionals obtain meaningful business insights, but employing data scientists may have proven to be both time- and resource-intensive.
Comparatively, business analytics tools are available that make it simple for finance professionals to streamline the process of collecting data and transforming it into actionable insights. These tools automate data analysis, and as such, can deliver exceptional value for finance professionals both now and in the future.
How finance professionals approach business intelligence and business analytics may impact an organization's ability to expand globally and maximize its time and resources.
If finance professionals embrace business intelligence and business analytics tools, these professionals may be able to discover unprecedented insights to drive their organizations forward. In addition, finance professionals will be able to use data to justify their business investments and ensure they can play a pivotal role in helping an organization accomplish its short- and long-term aspirations.
"You can have the best [data] analysts in the world and the best analytics in the world, but if you can't help others understand [data] in a way that's probably a little less numbers-intensive, you're not going to get the buy-in you need to create the change," Singla stated.
Terry Singla is the former VP of Pricing and Promotions for Sears Holdings Corporation as he was promoted into the role 12 months after joining the company. In this role, Singla leveraged big data analytics, technology, data science, A/B testing and machine learning to improve margin for Sears and Kmart across stores and online. Prior to Sears, Singla was part of the Performance Improvement Team for Sun Capital Partners, a PE firm specializing in acquiring underperforming companies. Singla began his career as a turnaround and restructuring consultant working for Arthur Andersen and AlixPartners. Singla received his Bachelors of Science in Finance from the University of Illinois @ Urbana-Champaign.