The role of the CFO has undergone significant and dramatic change in the last decade. In the most recent business cycle, growth and economic optimism have been replaced by retrenchment. Regulatory requirements are changing in industries like financial services, health care, and energy. CFOs are tasked with providing strategic business advice and guidance to the CEO, improving the organization'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 lives in different platforms across the organization?and to be able to analyze this data from top to bottom, at a very granular level, at the speed of thought. This is how they can connect dots that may first seem unrelated, and answer "unknown" questions?thereby addressing major strategic issues that can influence the organization's long-term future.

During QlikTech's all-hands summit in Orlando in January, a panel of QlikView customers talked about what QlikView can do for CFOs. One of the main themes that emerged from that discussion is this: QlikView can help CFOs serve as strategic advisors to the rest of their organizations. How? By delivering an associative experience that enables them to connect previously disconnected dots. They can then use this insight to provide strategic guidance to other parts of the business. (For more info on the associative experience see this QlikView Technology White Paper.)

Here are a few examples:

  • Evaluating complex investment opportunities. Imagine a manufacturing plant manager putting in a request to buy more machines because the factory seems to be running at full capacity. By combining plant data with human resources data, the CFO can help the plant manager see that the plant is not currently staffed in an optimal way. Perhaps the plant could be more efficient with the machines it currently has by changing the shifts people work or the order in which they manufacture parts. Or the CFO could lead a discussion about which parts of the country are optimal for expanding growth and building new facilities by combining data from internal and finance and manufacturing systems with data from external sources like regional economic growth trends and real estate and labor statistics in one interactive analytical application.
  • Seeing the big picture and illuminating discrepancies. Think of a human resources application used to analyze the structure of the organization, assess human resources needs, and simulate payroll scenarios. The information needed for this type of analysis typically resides in multiple back-end systems: payroll, finance, eLearning, etc.?and sometimes more than one of each type of system. By bringing the relevant data from all these systems in memory with QlikView, the CFO utilizes the associative experience to illuminate discrepancies. For example: what is an employee? Does that mean someone who is on board as of the end of the month? Or as of their start date? In another example, consider a scenario in which one organization has acquired another and is trying to reconcile the definition of "western Europe." The parent company may include Greece and the Scandinavian countries while the acquired company may not. This matters significantly for revenue reporting and profit and loss accounting. These discrepancies become fully visible when data from both the acquired company and the acquirer are brought together in a single visualization.

By bringing together data from multiple sources into one analytical application, QlikView helps the CFO connect dots that may have seemed unrelated. The CFO can click on any data point anywhere in the data set and QlikView instantaneously filters all the other data around that selection. He can immediately see what's related to that selection?and what's not related. In the above examples, the CFO might select January in the "hired month" field and see that employees are included (highlighted in white) that have actual hire dates in December. Or he selects "western Europe" in the sales region field and sees that for some products Greece and Norway are excluded (highlighted in gray) while for other products these countries are included. For a look at how the associative experience works, check out the videos "Ask a String of Related Questions with QlikView," "Insight in Just Five Clicks," and "The Power of Gray." The associative experience, in combination with speed-of-thought analysis, make QlikView an optimal tool for CFOs.

Thanks to QlikTech technical advisor Elif Tutuk and product manager Arthur Lee for their contributions to this article!