AP Automation and Big Data: Changing the CFO Role

by Adam Frazier 0

If you’re in the tech industry, you’ve probably heard the term “big data.” Big data describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates companies on a day-to-day basis. Over the next decade, big data will become a disruptive force, revolutionizing the way we do business.

Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic moves. In a recent Forbes article, How Big Data Is Changing The CFO Role, Syncsort CFO and COO Krish Venkataraman discussed how big data is creating a new breed of CFOs.

“Big data has the potential to be a real game-changer. But it’s just rows and columns on a spreadsheet without the right tools,” said Venkataraman. “We have gone from a world in which firms have too little data to a world in which firms have so much data they have difficulty making sense of these data and drawing insights from them.”

In a piece from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, The CFO’s Changing Role: Growing Challenges Demand New Skills, Wharton finance professor David Wessels suggests that CFOs aren’t just responsible for financial reporting anymore. “More operating data is available than ever before. It can have enormous strategic importance, but it needs someone to make sense out of it. CFOs are getting pressured to take on that role.”

Wessels notes that CFOs are also under external pressure. “We have seen activist shareholders become involved at some of the most well-known companies in the world about how they plan to use the resources of the firm. The CFO becomes the critical go-between the investors and management.”

The roles of corporate controllers and CFOs are evolving from traditional finance responsibilities to more ubiquitous functions that can help to diagnose the overall financial health and profitability of an organization. This diagnosis relies heavily on having the right tools in place to capture accurate data that different members of the organization can have visibility into to use for analysis.

One such tool is AP automation software. As a CFO, you’re responsible for managing the financial risks of your organization. You need real-time access to payables for budgeting purposes, as well as the ability to monitor overall business spending so you can report to the executive team. In today’s paper-based AP process, it’s difficult to focus on the financial future of your business when you’re buried under a mountain of checks that need your signature. Inefficient, outdated processes are preventing you from being in complete control of the bottom line. By studying the financial operations dashboards, you can see and compare real-time metrics –such as days payable outstanding (DPO) and days sales outstanding (DSO) – for an unabridged view of your company’s financial health. This allows you to be a stronger resource for the CEO and the board of directors in charting your business strategy.

If your company is still receiving paper invoices or paying bills, you’re not capitalizing on today’s best practices. In our Tech Savvy Buyer’s Guide to AP Automation For Finance Professionals eBook, you’ll learn about how automating your AP and payment processes means eliminating paper invoices and checks from your organization while reducing your processing costs by more than half along the way.