Canadian Treasurer

June 12, 2012

Executives want improved ability to analyze and retrieve information in real time: study

TORONTO, ONTARIO--Executives want up-to-date information about what is happening in their company in order to make better and faster decisions. According to Real Time Business: Making the Most of Big Data, a study conducted by the Canadian Financial Research Foundation (CFERF), the demand for accurate operational data in real time is driven in part by the widespread use of mobile devices in the workplace, a trend known as the consumerization of IT. Workers who own mobile devices, such as tablets, expect to have access to the same state-of-the art devices at work to get secure access to up to date information from all aspects of their business.

Sponsored by SAP Canada, a subsidiary of business software provider SAP AG, the study shows that organizations are still making decisions from outdated aggregated data. And while many companies acknowledge business processes are increasingly complex, some of them are still relying almost exclusively on simple tools such as spreadsheets.

"The pace of business is rapidly accelerating, and executives need to be prepared to make quick decisions that will affect their business. For organizations to remain competitive, they must master the ability to process massive amounts of data in order to be more responsive to the demands of their business," said Michael Conway, Chief Executive and National President of Financial Executives International Canada (FEI Canada), an all-industry professional membership association for senior financial executives.

CFERF, the research arm of FEI Canada, conducted the survey of financial executives across Canada and gathered insights from research forums held in Vancouver, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal. The study's findings highlight the perspectives of senior financial executives, from public and private companies, who have shared their knowledge of managing and analyzing data.

According to 95% of respondents, increasing profit is their top priority, and this area is where they would like to improve their ability to analyze and retrieve information in real time, followed by:

Cost analysis and management

Risk assessment;

Risk management; and

Budgeting and planning.

Aggregating huge amounts of data across a company to prepare it for quick analysis is not always easy. For starters, the study found that different areas of a company may have inconsistent standards, processes or routines for measuring, quantifying and inputting their data. A company which grew through a merger or acquisition, for instance, may be running multiple legacy systems and databases which may not be compatible.

"Companies are collecting digital data at phenomenal rates and, as the datasets increase, so can the time required to search and analyze the information stored", says David Porter, National Director, Value Engineering, SAP Canada Inc. "Now, more than ever, there is a greater need for CFOs to analyze and determine their organization's IT issues so they are able to adjust their data processing systems."

From an operational perspective, real time business may allow for the simplification of business processes, in turn boosting employee productivity. It may also foster operational efficiencies, for instance, by allowing companies to more effectively manage their inventory levels and thus achieve cost reductions and revenue gains.




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