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Updated: November 7, 2011 15:46 IST

Role of business discovery for CFOs

D. Murali
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Business discovery enables true mobility, avers Rakesh Chopra, Managing Director, Icon Business Solutions Pte Ltd, Singapore (http://bit.ly/F4TRakeshC). Until now, mobile business software has been hamstrung by tiny displays, minimal access to real-time data, and handicapped interfaces, traces Rakesh, during a recent interaction with Business Line, over a coffee meeting in Singapore. “This was the unsatisfactory result of retrofitting applications for mobile use and shoehorning their functionality into devices for which they were never intended.”

Business discovery tools, on the other hand, are native to the mobile era and tailored to their hardware limitations, he explains. “They’re portable and embeddable, offering users access to their relevant data, analysis, and visualisation anywhere and any time they need it, whether it’s on an iPad, iPhone, Android, or Blackberry. Placing the tools for innovation in the hands of users extends of the power of IT to every corner of the enterprise. That’s what business intelligence was meant to be!” We continue our conversation over the email.

Excerpts from the interview.

What is business discovery? Why is it relevant to a CFO?

Business discovery is a new concept in business intelligence that puts users in control of exploring and exploiting their own data. Business discovery allows IT to focus on core processes rather than attending to every data or information need of the users. In essence, business discovery transforms everyone into a highly informed business analyst.

Business discovery systems embody the principle of zero-wait. There is zero-wait to ask and answer questions, à la Google Instant; zero-wait to navigate through data at different levels of detail and aggregation; and zero-wait to change search parameters, add new data sources, and follow the train of analysis in any direction. Zero-wait is what differentiates business discovery from traditional BI.

From a CFO’s perspective, zero-wait is essential as it enables CFOs to derive insights from their data in an intuitive, straightforward way, thereby empowering them to make better-informed decisions fast.

How does business discovery help in reducing costs?

Business discovery drives down the cost and complexity of aggregating data from disparate data sources. For example, a question as simple and as random as whether there’s a correlation between the size of a product shipment and the number of units placed on backorder may require data from three separate databases. And IT knows all too well that combining those three would take six months and cost a bomb.

But what if it costs much less and requires only a day’s worth of work? Users would have an answer the next day. Now, IT has enough money left in the budget and can commission another dozen or more projects.

In essence, the time spent in creating reports from traditional BI tools is definitely greater than slicing and dicing information through a business discovery platform such as QlikView. This translates to substantial savings in operating costs.

What are the challenges that CFOs may face in implementing business discovery?

CFOs serve as strategic advisors to the rest of their organisation. CFOs are tasked with providing strategic business advice and guidance to the CEO, improving the organisation’s controls to comply with regulations, and ensuring the cost efficiency of the finance and accounting function. To accomplish this, today’s CFO needs access to data that reside in different platforms across the organisation. Much more challenging will be the analysis of this data from top to bottom, at a very granular level, at the speed of thought.

With business discovery’s ‘zero-wait’ principle, all this becomes immediately possible at a very low cost. The benefit to the organisation is better visibility into all facets of the business.

To enterprises that aim to launch business discovery exercise, your suggestions on a roadmap.

Before embarking on a business discovery project, organisations must remember to articulate their business requirements and goals. It is important to cement an understanding of the business pains to be addressed, budget, resource requirements and define project milestones and timelines.

Finally, it is important to choose a trend-setting and dynamic business discovery platform and an experienced consulting and implementation partner.

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