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Finance and Data

Analysis TipsShort post today – it’s running late now.

I read earlier today about CFOs and big data: namely that CFOs oversee a lot of data and are in the prime spot to take advantage of this new buzzy business method. The article also said that just data alone is useless – one needs to add context or analysis to the data to come up with some useful insight. I don’t think anyone would quibble with that since it’s kind of  a “duh” statement.

But I would say I suspect finance folks are not very good about adding context to the information they send out. They just send out a report rather than analyzing it to see if there are any interesting trends or any brewing trouble spots.

So I’m going to list out all of the additional things we could be doing to improve our work. This is a stream of consciousness and listed in any order to provide ideas and food for thought.

1) Attend operational meetings or townhalls to learn more what your peers in other departments are doing. You can’t be too busy to get out of your cubicle.

2) Read up on your industry to see where the cutting edge is, who’s who, what your competitors are doing, etc.

3) Read up on other industries to find out what are the disruptions that can come your way, who may become your competitors, etc.

4) If you have access to several databases, try to figure out how to combine those databases into one Excel file for slicing and dicing. This is a lot of fun.

5) Learn how to use other features of Excel such as pivot tables. I used to think everybody knew how to use pivot tables but now I think maybe not. If you already know pivot tables, try power pivot (I don’t have access to this but I’ve heard about this), DAX, data tables.

6) Learn statistics – they seem to play a role in data analytics and predictive analytics.

7) Try to make up some simulations to see where they lead you.

8) Study and play around with the data you have: make charts, pivot tables, or whatever to see where they lead you. Playing around with the numbers will give you a feel for what is going on under the hood.

If you get your head out of the weeds and do more than just send out reports or pull together forecasts/budget, you may be able to provide better value. At least, you should have more fun as the suggestions are interesting problems or techniques to explore.

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