It’s almost 3 weeks into the new year - how are your 2017 business goals shaping out? A new year means a new opportunity to refocus your business objectives. Teams gather to review the previous year, set goals for the new one and create strategies on how to attain them. Tracking is an important part of all of this and you need the right information to make critical decisions to reach your goal. But, how can you navigate this path without shedding light on the road to your goal? Lack of insight is a challenge and a top priority for CFOs in 2017. According to a recent survey by Kaufman Hall consulting (featured here on CFO.com), “over 90% of CFOs say they need to do more with financial and operations data at hand to help top management to make critical decisions.” As indicated by Kaufman Hall’s survey, 2017 is a transformative time for CFOs who are moving from a traditional accounting and finance focus into trusted business advisers. The modern CFO is increasingly concerned with making a true impact on operations versus just cutting costs. This is where the need for real-time insight comes in; CFOs are looking to improve processes to transform organizations as a whole. Without the right insight, they simply can’t identify problem areas to help top management navigate the business going forward. This is especially true when it comes to cash-flow. How can you improve customer relationships, speed up invoice-to-cash and reduce bad debts, without knowing what’s truly happening in your business. Necessary data is siloed among different functions (sales, finance, marketing, customer support) and housed in different systems (spreadsheets, email threads, filing cabinets). It’s simply impossible to draw insight from all these sources without centralizing the data. The reality that many companies face is that critical insight into operations isn’t available and CFOs are recognizing this. In Kaufman Hall’s CFO survey, respondents say they are looking for ways to access data from across the company. The overwhelming majority of that data is management-level (75%) and operational (67%) information. Only less than one in ten respondents say they are “very satisfied” with the performance management reporting at their companies. So how can CFO’s improve organizational processes to help make important business decisions in 2017? The answer is to centralize data to gain insight. Below are four ways to help you start thinking about how to do so: #1. Audit your data gaps: Where does the data you need live today? Are pieces of it spread across your organization? Some areas to audit data gaps include your CRM and ERP. Don’t forget about traditional offline tools too that can be living on specific team folders including spreadsheets and pdfs. Living in separate systems, this information is siloed masking important insight about your organization as a whole. After you have identified the data you need for reporting, it’s time to find the right platform to bring it together. #2. Find the right platform: With the emergence of cloud-based technology, API integrations, and software solutions, the ability to link data and platforms together is no longer a utopia - it’s reality. For example, CFOs need visibility and reporting into their invoice-to-cash cycle. Accounts receivable automation platforms can provide this end-to-end insight. Similar to a CRM, these platforms can house all information about your customers and accounts including invoices, supporting documents, payment information and customer communications. With this data flowing into one platform, CFOs gain access to real-time information on outstanding balances, top and bottom performing customers, and accounts that need immediate attention. #3. Extend your existing technology investments: You can improve the efficiency of your business by extending your current technology investment. You pay thousands or even millions for an ERP system - why not leverage the most out of it? With cloud-based platforms, not only do you gain insight into a particular area of your business (e.g accounts receivable) but you can feed information back into your organization-wide system (like your ERP) to provide a holistic view. With this real-time information, CFOs can be proactive to turn this insight into action to support important top-management decisions. (Example: See how VersaPay integrates to leading ERPs) #4. Get your organization on the same page: Insight is only as useful as the data you put into it. One of the most important lessons when centralizing your data is to make sure your team buys into using the platform selected. Without using the platform to its full advantage, data can be lost in the gaps identified in step 1, which means reporting will inaccurate. To prevent this, it’s important you invest in training and set clear process guidelines, so your team does not fall back to their traditional ways. Find a company that has a strong adoption and training program. Is your 2017 goal aligned with 90% of CFOs looking to do more with operational and financial data? Learn more about how to centralize your data and gain insight on our website here.