Watch out marketers, CFOs want to own data analytics

finance v marketingMarketers could soon be facing a fresh challenger for the crown of data and analytics king, with a new Deloitte study revealing that finance chiefs are in pole position to grab a slice of the action in driving analytics for both strategic and operational decision-making.

The Analytics Advantage, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s first annual survey on the state of analytics readiness at leading corporations, reveals wide variations in analytics oversight, with the most frequent leader of analytics – named by 23% of respondents – being the business unit or division head, who also typically has significant budgetary responsibility.

While 20% said there was no single overseer, the CFO is not far behind, on 18%. Finance itself is cited as the area most often found to invest in analytics, at 79%.

Given that many CFOs and their finance teams traditionally have led and used data-driven analytics for strategic aspects of managing the business, a case can be made for ceding ownership of analytics to the finance chief, the study claims.

Moreover, it only makes sense that by taking the lead to apply analytics to operational decisions as well, CFOs can strengthen ties throughout the business and expand influence outside core finance functions.

Conducted using a mix of online questionnaires and deep dive interviews with senior executives in the UK, North America, and China, the study covers companies in financial services, technology, communications, entertainment, health care, and consumer products/retail.

The report argues that, to truly own analytics, CFOs will have to bridge the gap between strategic and operational decision-making.

This is the difference between “managing the business” – the upper-level strategic decisions, such as planning, budgeting, and forecasting, that are the CFO’s bread and butter duties – and “running the business,” the day-to-day operational decision-making that typically resides outside the finance chief’s purview (for instance, in the business units, or sales and marketing).

Armed with analytics, however, CFOs can exercise more-centralised control of operational business decision-making. Moreover, advanced analytics can allow companies to hedge against volatility and to respond faster, and with greater insight, to changes in the marketplace.

The report concluded: “While some CFOs may hesitate to lead analytics in operational areas because it’s not necessarily about ‘big picture’ issues, the insights into the customer that analytics can provide go right to the bottom line. A lot of profit can fall between the operational cracks, and analytics can be a game changer in the way it leads to improved operational discipline.”

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