How To Sell Big Data To Your CFO & Finance Teams

There are should and should nots, do you know them?


There are important people within Big Data. Chief Data Scientists, CEOs and senior management more than most. However, at the core of this and most important of all is the CFO.

The CFO is the person who is going to make any Big Data initiative happen as they are ultimately the person who can dedicate money towards it.

On the flip side of this, they are also in charge of one of the departments that can benefit most from its use. In fact, the use of Big Data within the finance function is often the make-or-break in terms of how it will work throughout the company as a whole.

This, in part, is because the more success there is within the finance team, the more money is likely to be available to spread the ideas behind it even further. It is also one of the clearest demonstrations of where Big Data can bring a quick ROI, something that will put any new implementation in good stead to spread across the rest of the company.

It is therefore incredibly important to get the CFO's buy-in on any Big Data initiative, but there needs to be a strategy in place to make sure that you can get funding and also implement a data initiative within the finance department.

Explain Benefits

The first element is to make sure they are aware of the benefits that Big Data can bring to their team. This is not as simple as saying that it will bring them deeper insight or that it will improve their knowledge of processes, it needs to be described in a precise way.

This should be discussed in terms of how those in the finance team will be able to see more when it comes to working through risk, have more accuracy when putting together forecasts or even that they will be able understand more about the trends that they see every year from particular companies.

Talk In Their Language

We know that departments all work in different ways and talk in different languages.

Think about the way that marketing talk compared to traders, the difference is immense, but both could use Big Data to enhance their performances. It is simply a case of making sure they understand what you are talking about and how Big Data could have a huge effect on what they do, whilst making sure they can relate to it.

Rather than the slightly more abstract description in the point above, this requires a real knowledge of what the department does, how and what Big Data will bring to improve this.

This is difficult, because the chances are that you are not in the finance team 9-5, so will require research and complex discussions with members of it.

Demonstrate Success

It is not always possible to get buy-in from words alone, actions are often required to demonstrate the effects that implementing a new data programme can bring. This can be done through small and painless implementations, such as simple dashboarding.

It is important that these implementations do not significantly disrupt the ways that the team or the CFO currently work, instead it needs to be looked at in terms of adding extra value to what they already do. It is also important that this is not simply done to show them benefits they could have, but to actually give them some kind of working benefit from the start.

Give Them Options

Simply saying ‘here is your system, use it’ is never going to be conducive to an effective working environment, instead it is likely to create animosity towards the new systems.

Therefore, creating a system that is tailored to their wants and needs is going to be very important in terms of overall adoption and excitement surrounding any new project. Sitting down with the CFO and discussing exactly what is needed by them is a sure fire way to get them on-side. It is not only true of a CFO, but also of anybody in any role. If they feel that they are playing a role in the process, then they are going to far more likely to support it.

Do It At The Right Time

This is more important than anything else when starting any project with a finance team.

Whilst most teams have peaks and troughs in terms of workload, finance teams and CFOs in particular have times of the year and month where they are incredibly busy compared to other times. Closing is one of the longest and most stressful processes and one where trying to implement new ideas is next to impossible.

Therefore, the timing of this needs to be during a period where they are not at the end of a quarter and especially not at the end of the financial year. Discussions should take place at the start or middle of the month and implementations should be flexible on timing in order to make any transitions at this time too. By trying to force through changes at a time when those who need to adopt it are under considerable stress already is simply going to cause animosity towards the project. 


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