Written by Martijn Slot

A good finance policy is built on current, unambiguous and accurate data. Yet collecting and recording data are not the challenge. It is especially important to extract value from data, so that finance can preferably deliver real-time, up-to-date insights to the entire organization. This is a prerequisite for being able to respond quickly to change. Two leading Dutch technology-driven organizations explain how they see the role of finance.

“What is often lacking is the operationalization of data. How do you translate data into insights that you can link actions to?” That’s what Ewout Brouwers, Finance Lead at Picnic, said during Workday Discover. He shared with his audience how Picnic is managing the online supermarket’s tumultuous growth, keeping a firm grip on the financial processes and thus laying a solid foundation under the organization’s necessary flexibility and clout.

Picnic is a Dutch online supermarket that also operates in Germany and France. Still, Brouwers calls his company primarily a tech company that delivers groceries. At first glance, you would say that the Covid pandemic has given Picnic’s online grocery business a boost. Brouwers: “That market has grown enormously, but we have not opened the door wide to new customers. We always want to keep our promise of good customer service. If we open the door now, we will immediately have two hundred thousand new customers. But we won’t be able to serve them optimally. So we have a waiting list.”

Stick to flexibility

“We are a flexible company and want to keep it that way. That has to do with our attitude, but also with our technology.” Picnic has moved all of its financial processes and data into Workday’s Enterprise Management Cloud. “That means we always have up-to-date data and insights directly at our disposal including underlying documents. So we can quickly make strategic and operational decisions. This also makes invoice matching possible, for example: do the suppliers’ invoices tally with the products delivered? They almost always do, but because we run such high volumes, a one percent improvement already yields a high return. This is good for cost reduction, but it also ensures that we are on top of everything, that we have a detailed grip on the entire process.”

Developer rather than business controller

Johan Benning, CFO at stockbroker and market maker IMC Trading, also puts data and the data models at the center. He also sees that this has an effect on the required capabilities. “If you want to apply algorithms in your financial administration, you have to have a very good data model. That also means that you have to look closely at what functions and skills you need in finance. The traditional business controller is increasingly making way for developers and data scientists.” According to Benning, the prerequisite for extracting ‘actionable’ insights from data is that there is one source for all data: operational data, financial data and HR data. The connection between data from front-end systems (the operations) and data from back-office systems (such as finance and HR) makes it possible to quickly make informed decisions that match the needs of the business and the changing landscape in the world.”

Originally published on the website of Executive Finance…