Meeting customers needs and behaviour with data analytics

May 30, 2019

Data analytics has become the key determinant in predicting customer needs and behaviour.

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Data analytics is transforming the banking and financial services industry. The rapid rise of big data, faster computers and innovative technology in analytics has resulted in a range of new opportunities for banks and finance teams to understand past results and efficiently measure current trends and patterns for the future. Today’s banks use data analytics to control a range of challenges including fraud detection and credit risk management but more focus is needed on converting data into actual insightful decisions. As customers become less attached through new technology and innovative tools, banks and financial services will need new ways of generating information on customer behaviour. Implementing new analytical techniques, banks can understand and measure customer’s requirements for banking products and services at a particular time with relative accuracy.

In recent years, data analytics has transformed the functions of financial businesses. Predictive analysis,  smart customer management and AI driven solutions have enabled companies to manage potential risks more effectively and improve overall customer experience, improving overall profits. In particular, developing regions have found real value in analytics in generating a more inclusive system for an imbalanced financial market. Deep learning and Natural Language Processing tools are allowing for more detailed interactions and languages. Digitalisation and data analytics is expected to support the rapid transformation of conventional techniques of working in finance.

Big Data and analytical tools can allow financial institutions to improve their credit underwriting processes by accessing new data sources, such as e-commerce transaction data, social data and other sources, allowing a clearer idea of risks for customers with lower credit scores. This allows banks to select credit valued customers from a potential list of people that may never have acquired credit because of insufficient details for banks to measure their risk because of lack of sufficient information for banks to assess their risk.

We also see an opportunity for expansion in breadth of analytics usage from traditional focus areas of risk and marketing into hitherto untapped avenues of – HR (to improve the effectiveness of employee recruitment and retention), Compliance (moving to 100% transaction monitoring instead of traditional sample-based testing approach to detect anomalies), Operations and Finance functions.

According to research at EY, there are three core areas where financial services businesses are seeking investment to develop new capabilities in data, infrastructure and people:

Data: Data lies at the core of analytics-driven innovation. Companies are investing in not just integrated existing data source within one place but also attempting to understand new data sources for creation. There is a strong emphasis on finding new data feeds, such as social media channels to further strengthen the entire insight generation system.

Infrastructure: In order to manage ever-changing data sources, including the range and volume means businesses need to improve their infrastructure. Financial businesses are now more willing to work with open source tools and cloud-based platforms.

People: people skills are essential for utilising the data and creating the infrastructure to give a business that competitive edge. Companies are investing heavily in finding and hiring the right talent for their business. Most companies are using a combination of in-house talent blended with external systems to manage the continued changes in the market.

Understanding customer behaviour on an individual basis and when to make contact is a challenge that can be solved via AI platforms. This requires a visionary team and people collaborating across an entire business. Another particular challenge is real-time involvement. Nearly all financial institutions still rely on batch processing for customer interactions. Transforming this process to real-time will improve the overall outcome as well as enhance the customer experience. Other industry professionals highlight that financial businesses need to shift their focus away from products and to establish a customer-focused strategy.

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A closer look at Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Apps

May 30, 2019

In a recent report, Melissa Boxer, the VP of Oracle explains how Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications can remove the repetitive and tedious ERP and supply chain jobs from people’s work.

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Over the last few years, Oracle has increased its investment into implementing AI and Machine Learning capabilities within a range of their applications, in particular, the Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Applications. Boxer explains that its Adaptive Intelligent Apps are focused on creating next-generation smart innovative applications based on big data generated within the Oracle Cloud. Boxer highlights that AI and ML can be integrated into Oracle Cloud-based applications in various methods. She explains how the automation of tedious and repetitive jobs such as invoice matching or approving expenses are tasks that can be handled by AI/ML tools within the cloud today.

Boxer explains that ML can manage specific users cases within conventional business activities, such as procurement and accounts payable. Oracle then expand on this potential by using Oracle’s ML algorithms to enhance the entire process.

For Oracle, ML requires accurate and relevant data to generate the best results. It’s quite clear that relying on poor data for ML models will mean poor quality results. Data fed to the Oracle Adaptive Intelligent Apps utilises a blend of first and third party data pools. Oracle uses tuning processes, using training data and ML algorithms ensuring customers receive the benefits of instant value when the application is activated. The data records are consistently added to the Oracle ML learning systems, enabling models to be constantly refined based on customer data. The concept behind these models is to reduce the reliance on having a pool of data scientists, which for many businesses is simply not economically viable.

Boxer points out that there is no assumption that the AI developed for standard projects will work for all. The system needs to gain an understanding of the customer business, which involves learning from customer actions and their response to recommendations. Through each recommendation, the system learns from the customer response. The information generated supports ML algorithms and ensuring they are continuously improved.

For Oracle, AI is integrated into applications that existing customers use, meaning they don’t have to become familiar with another platform. Chabot engagement is a growing system that is developed to provide an enhanced mobile experience and enable people to perform a task by responding to several simple questions. In terms of expense reporting, this applied process can save thousands of hours for both the employee and managers, who presumably have better things to be doing than collating expense reports.

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Business Intelligence – a vital tool for today’s CFO

May 22, 2019

BI is a vital tool for finance executives supporting businesses with managing large data pools and measuring overall business performance. Todays’ chief financial officer needs to be more than just a finance executive. To really offer a strategic solution for businesses, today’s finance managers need to really embrace the benefits of applying data science to their business.


Business Intelligence provides companies with the organisational, analytical and technical capabilities to measure insightful data. In regards to finance, BI takes financial and operational information and transforms this data into integrated dashboards, KPIs and most importantly, business insights. Many industry experts believe BI could be a vital tool for CFO’s, creating a financial tool to generate automated data analytics and predictive insights for businesses.

How BI can support the challenges that face CFOs

Finance Operation and Reporting

The collection and consolidation of finance and operation data and transformation into eligible reports is time-consuming and can be difficult. The process can be tedious and require a significant resource, leaving little time and space to act on the findings and data generated.

Many CFOs are fixed in an Excel-focused system, involving manual reporting and the storage of large volumes of data and little time and resources to analyse any findings. BI can provide CFOs with the capabilities to measure data from a range of sources, making the entire process more effective and useful for a business. BI can create automated reporting streams and provide added value to supplementary Excel tools, adding more qualities to cover any potential limitations. In terms of a CFO, BI offers automated financial statement preparation and distribution, enable operational reporting, generate working capital analysis, calculate revenue recognition for complex revenue streams and provide predictive analysis benchmarking.

Executing Transactions

For private-equity backed CFOs, BI can support the navigation of transactions or reveal reasons to halt any transactive processes. BI tools can offer more detailed, granular information on costs using multiple transaction data sets. This level of detail can provide vital information or a business on target returns on investment and enable sales and operation teams to act accordingly. BI systems provide this added detail and quickly, enabling finance professionals to respond effectively. Aside from transaction targets and assessment, BI is a valuable tool for merger integration and divestiture management. BI provides a business with critical information and the necessary analysis and monitoring capabilities to deliver further growth and efficiency.

Performance Improvement

BI provides a range of optimisation scenarios and can really create a value-add enhancement for a business. BI can be an essential tool when a company is underperforming. BI can support CFOs within scenarios where excessive, confusing data pools that measuring the reasons for underperformance very challenging. BI tools are designed in a way to be responsive and capable of measuring in real-time, generating invaluable information to determine the underlying reasons for financial changes. BI can extend to other vital performance factors such as payroll trends, invoicing, inventories, customer contracts, procurement and spending patterns.

With so many clear benefits it would be assumed that more CFO’s are embracing BI. There are several recurring issues that are hindering the uptake of BI with CFOs.

Investment: The initial outlay of BI tools is expensive but the costs related to BI implementation may not be as high as perceived by CFOs and there are returns available from BI investment.

Knowledge: For many CFOs, BI is regarded as another complicated tool that challenges many finance professionals. In reality, BI supports large volumes of data, simplifying the entire process.

Concern: More technically-minded CFOs are still quite cautious about implementing BI due to expected challenges in terms of the timescale of implementation. In order for BI implementation to be successful, it requires a senior professional who completely supports data-driven decision making.

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Leading ERP providers SAP and Oracle implement AI to their platforms

May 22, 2019

Many CIOs and IT professionals are completely aware that they need to invest in artificial intelligence and other similar technologies to ensure they continue to be competitive for the future. Research shows, however, that the transition takes exceptionally longer than expected.

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A recent study released at the Gartner Data and Analytics Conference stated that 30% of audience participants were planning to develop AI capabilities themselves. A further 50% of the audience said that planned to use applications with AI capabilities built-in.

At this month’s SAPPHIRE Now event in Florida, SAP confirmed a number of innovations to the SAP s/4HANA ERP platform to make it simpler to integrate artificial intelligence and robotics to transform applications.

SAP explained that the new release which is due to be available this month will incorporate 100 AI and robotic automated process capabilities, supporting the business’s aim to automating half of its manual tasks within its ERP platform by 2021. The new system will include features that will enable SAP shops to stimulate new business and commercial processes, so they can measure factors such as the subscription impacts and usage pricing. SAP states that the changes would enable intelligent product design and quicker go-to-market time as improved personalised products and services. Some of the new AI capabilities SAP has highlighted includes intelligent accruals management, financial journal entry and innovative robotic process automation.

Another ERP major, Oracle confirmed a range of new AI releases within its product range, announced at the Modern Customer Experience event in Las Vegas earlier this year. Oracle states that the AI improvements would include expense reporting assistant, project management digital assistant and enhanced financials controls.

Implementing new AI capabilities to the SAP and Oracle platforms are a vital part of long term plans for these major vendors. Amit Zavery, the executive vice president of Oracle Cloud Platform states that every company is now looking into data science and machine learning as a vital method to create a competitive advantage. Zavery points out that lack of tooling and machine learning capabilities can, however, cause many of these projects to be unsuccessful.

According to research by Gartner, many companies start data science and machine learning projects using free or low-cost software and cloud services but generally tend to move onto commercial systems. Gartner predicts that AI technology will be integrated into nearly every new software products by 2020.


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How Digital Assistants can transform the finance market

May 14, 2019

The personal greeting on websites is becoming a more common tool and often is the first interaction a user has with a business and therefore can be a vital influence in understanding how customers are treated at this particular business. Quite often, it will be a chatbot or a digital assistant providing this service, rather than an actual human.

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Digital assistants are text-based platforms that are created to work within a single purpose application. Services are continuing to improve algorithms based on user behaviour and language conversion to enhance digital assistant development and improve the overall user experience. Many industry leaders believe that digital assistants will have a great influence on the way financial professionals operator. Digital assistants can enable finance teams to simplify and automate certain repetitive tasks, enabling finance professionals to spend more time on value-focused activities.

Technology businesses are integrating voice assistant into software support with processes such as recommending suppliers, completing expense reports and providing support on which invoices to pay first. Oracle is implementing innovative digital assistants into a product to assist in capturing and monitoring expenses, claims and generate useful algorithms that recommend the most suitable suppliers to engage with.

Automation to enhance business efficiency

Oracle believes that digital assistants will begin to support improvements to year end, budget management and financial forecasting. Businesses will start to use intelligent assistants to remove duties previously performed by employees, enabling teams to use their skills to develop insights and create more informed business decisions. A fine example of digital assistants in action is at Exelon who implement digital assistant to create a rapid customer service experience. Exelon was looking for quick digital assistant implementation to cover a number of platforms that include web, social media and voice assistants like Alexa. Exelon utilised the rapid digital assistant tools from Oracle Mobile Cloud and created faster response times, reduced costs due to lower call centre expenses and over 10 million users covered via the service.

In the finance industry, digital assistants can offer similar functions to automate and cover repetitive processes that are generally time-consuming for employees, time that could be used to focus on high-level jobs that influence the financial performance of a business. Digital assistants will potentially provide informed answers to specific questions such as ‘annual spend on travel and expenses’. Information like this can allow a financial manager to determine how much budget is available for employee spend.

Industry leaders believe that digital assistants will soon be able to automate complete financial processes, eliminating the need for human involvement. Financial employees will be given more freedom from repetitive jobs and the ability to spend more time on the critical and necessary work. This means more benefits in terms of a business and its financial strategy as well as keeping employees more engaged and challenged at work. Innovative digital assistants are likely to be a vital part of empowering employees and enhancing business performance.

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Insightsoftware Acquires Jet Global Data Technologies

May 14, 2019

Insightsoftware, the leading financial reporting and enterprise performance manager supplier has confirmed the acquisition of Jet Global Data Technologies, a worldwide provider in reporting, analytics and budgeting tools for Microsoft Dynamics.

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The latest acquisition adds to Insightsoftware’s key objective to generate a diverse portfolio of leading reporting platforms, enabling businesses of all sizes efficient access and the means to distribute insightful financial data. Furthermore, the latest acquisition will strengthen the advanced excel-base reporting capabilities used specifically for users of the top ERP reporting platform, Microsoft Dynamics. The new plans will further strengthen the commitment of Insightsoftware to its international partner network.

Operating in 14 countries, Jet Global provides a simplistic alternative to conventional reporting systems, which generally involve manual work, are time-consuming and can be over complicated. Jet Global offers a solution and rapid access to data, a flexible reporting system from any Microsoft Dynamics source, including Microsoft Dynamics AX, NAV and GP. Jet Global has over 14,000 customers spanning over 90 countries and includes major global brands such as Amnesty International.

Mike Lipps, CEO of Insightsoftware explains that businesses are currently sitting on a ‘virtual treasure of data’, but points out that the opportunity to utilise and act on this data pool in real time is generally lost in the complications and rigidity of ERP solutions. Lipps believes their business is providing a leading reporting portfolio and transforming this process. With the acquisition of Jet Global, Insightsoftware can offer even more flexibility, additional reporting, analytics and budgeting capabilities to empower customers to make quicker and more informed decisions that really influence their business.

Joe Little, CEO of Jet Global highlights that over the last 16 years, Jet Global has developed into a market leader in reporting, analytics and budgeting processes for users of Microsoft Dynamics. Little points out that their services have been in great demand by enterprises requiring solutions that enable rapid access to vital data and allow for quick and informed decisions and more agility within a company. Little believes the integration with Insightsoftware will create further opportunities for customers and partners worldwide, generating a higher level of market responsiveness and solutions covering reporting, analytics and budgeting.

Global private equity and investors into insightsoftware have highlighted the progress insightsoftware has made on delivering TA’s initial vision of developing the leading reporting software for financial reporting and EPM. Hythem El-Nazer, the MD of TA Associates explains that they continue to see more opportunities for increased organic development by offering leading products and solutions that meet the requirements of their 20,000 customers worldwide.

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Cloud EPM generates value creation

May 8, 2019

EPM solutions enable businesses to respond quickly to changes in revenue, managing sales or marketing pipelines and having a clearer understanding of consolidated graphics of accounts. The responsibility of financial employees has changed, to become more strategic and value-focused. Finance teams are leading the transformation of business innovation as a part of the wider digital initiatives.

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Today’s CFOs look beyond reporting to provide decisions that support strategies with business execution. CFO’s enable more strategic solutions, utilising EPM solutions to plan, measure, optimise and close financial results in a comprehensive framework.

In an earlier report by CEB into finance in terms of company performance, the findings suggested that analytic capabilities are vital to a finance team’s ability to influence business partners and play a critical role in driving business outcomes.

Benefits of EPM Solutions

There are a number of benefits resulting from implementing EPM solutions, including enhanced quality of data, improved management efficiency and informed decision making. EPM solutions empower finance professionals with the systems required to enhance existing systems and really transform the potential performance of a business. This includes improving the agility and speed of planning cycles, improving decision making processes and reducing the time spent on manual activities.

A business that has a range of disconnected systems with separate data systems does not have the real-time visual information and opportunities available for industry leaders. Integrated EPM solutions can improve operations and eradicate manual tasks within a business. Business managers and responder quicker to measure revenue, manage Marketing or Sales pipeline and a clear representation of accounts.

Time spent analysing excel spreadsheets, measuring discrepancies and checking formulas is time that could be spent on other value-adding activities. EPM solutions enable finance professionals to save time spent on manual activities related to management reporting, budgeting and forecasting.

In a related study delivered by BPM Partners, the results showed that over 20% of respondents use spreadsheets as the main solution for financial reporting. In the same study, 12% stated they used spreadsheets as the main solution for financial consolidation. Over the years, many businesses have upgraded spreadsheets and deployed financial and reporting applications on-premise. These solutions have proven to be time consuming and expensive.

This has increased the interest and demand for new cloud-based financial consolidation and reporting services. Many cloud-based solutions offer similar capabilities as on-premise solutions, with added advantages of considerable cost savings, quicker service deployment, reduced reliance on IT and improved security in the cloud.

With access to more accurate, consistent data and analytics systems, businesses can make quicker and intelligent decisions with EPM. Integrated planning systems enable users to perform detailed scenario analysis to understand the impacts certain decisions would have on business performance. Implementing a leading EPM solution can support the transition of conventional finance from measuring assets and financial data to supporting an enterprise and determining the factors that influence performance levels across the entire business.

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Apple and SAP strengthen partnership with a focus on AR and Machine Learning

May 8, 2019

Apple and leading software business SAP are accelerating their partnership after plans to increase focus on the use of iPhone, iPad and Mac within an enterprise. The recent report by Reuters explains that both companies are partnering to support businesses in the development of applications using machine learning technology at Apple.

The report suggests the partnership will focus on enhancing augmented reality activity within businesses. For example, SAP and Apple will focus on augmented reality for things like machinery repairs. Furthermore, the new applications developed within the partnership will be compatible with iPhones, iPads and the Mac. Tim Cook recently attended the annual SAP Sapphire user conference to highlight the planned partnership expansions with SAP. Cook explained that security and privacy are key elements of this new partnership. Cook emphasises that enterprise mobile devices are vital pieces of technology that must be protected. Cook went on to explain at the event of the continued freedom that technology can create for workers wanting to do their jobs whilst on the move, something that both companies are working on.

Apple and SAP first partnered back in 2016 with the objective of expanding the use of iPhones and Macs within the enterprise industry. The latest announcement highlights a stronger partnership with more focus on machine learning, augmented reality and privacy.

Earlier this month SAP introduced a range of new services that will influence how consumers and enterprises interact with one another. After recently completing its acquisition of Qualtrics, SAP has launched a number of new offerings that integrated experience data (X-data) with operational data (O-data) to measure and enhance the experience for customers, employees and improve the product and brand. Industry experts believe this product launch highlights a new level in enterprise software. The new system launch will enable companies to listen to the beliefs and intentions of customers, employees, suppliers, partners and other interested parties.  SAP CEO Bill McDermott highlights that experience management is a top priority for leading businesses worldwide. McDermott emphasises that SAP is really focused on supporting customers as a key factor in encouraging growth, innovation and confidence.

For customer experience, SAP has launched three Experience Management solutions that can transform HR platforms into enterprise systems. The new solutions collect experience data from employees within the employee lifecycle and empower leaders and managers within HR to gain a true understanding and use these insights that will deliver a leading workforce.

At the Sapphire Now event, SAP and Apple announced that the CORE ML on-device machine learning technology will be available as part of the SAP Cloud Platform SDK for iOS. Within the partnership with Apple, SAP has redeveloped some of its most popular mobile apps for SAP SuccessFactors and SAP Concur solutions to operate on iOS. The applications are completely integrated with iPhone and iPad, enhancing levels of security and performance. SAP also confirmed it will expand its application offerings to the Mac, with the launch of new apps that offer the power and simplicity similar to SAP iOS apps. The new Mac applications will introduce the detail and richness of the SAP iOS experience to the desktop.

Bill McDermott, the CEO of SAP explains that Apple is on the rise in an enterprise. McDermott states that their customers really like the security and simplicity of iOS and it provides a superior platform to develop innovative business applications. Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple highlights that enterprise customers are experiencing real business benefits when using iOS. Cook highlights they are excited for SAP to extend their experience more soon iPhone and iPad, and bringing services to the Mac for the first time. Cook highlights that the partnership is an important milestone for Apple and are excited to be working with SAP to empower users with the leading business process data available in iPhone, iPad and Mac.

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Teesside University implements analytics to enhance business activities

May 1, 2019

Teesside University has confirmed a partnership with leading data analytics provider MHR Analytics in order to support its financial and fee planning system. Financial workforce planning software, managed by IBM Planning Analytics, will be integrated to reduce time and money spent on spreadsheet-based tuition fee planning and spend more time on strategic development within each department.

Teesside University

Teesside is one of many educational organisations that is turning its attention towards analytics to support transformation in economy and continued industry developments. The new analytics solution will enable the finance team at Teesside University to actually visualise, test and measure a range of scenarios and revenues. The University can segment data based on student retention rates, course profits and the effect of curriculum changes without relying on conventional spreadsheets.

Kendra Pink, the Deputy Director of Finance at Teesside University explains that it is vital that financial forecasting and fee planning processes are effective and accurate. Pink highlights that by eliminating time spent on manual processes will enable teams to be more strategic and remain focused on providing the best educational experience for all students.

Nick Felton, the Senior Vice President of MHR Analytics states that they are pleased to welcome Teesside University to join the increasing number of UK universities partnering with their platform. Felton highlights that competition for funding streams and student numbers is high and becoming more complicated to measure accurately. Felton highlights that the planning analytics platform will enable universities to improve performance and continue to deliver world-class education to students in the UK and worldwide.

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Host Analytics Perform 2019 Event to highlight how finance is transforming business performance

May 1, 2019

Leading provider of connected financial planning and solutions, Host Analytics confirmed details of the Perform 2019 Enterprise Performance Management event.

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The event is to be held on May 20th-22nd in Las Vegas and will involve the collaboration and networking of nearly 1000 finance professionals worldwide.

The event theme of Perform 2019 is focused on how finance is leading the transformation of business and specific sessions will highlight how modern finance teams are utilising new technology to become the strategic hub of their business.

Perform 2019 highlights the collaboration of ideas between finance professionals, industry leaders and Host Analytics partners. Event participants will get to understand how finance can enhance business performance and how other professionals are using Host Analytics solution to improve the strategic value of finance. Specific sessions will focus on new approaches to networking with business partners, workshops on new technologies and advice from professionals implementing and utilizing EPM.

Event speakers at Perform 2019 will include Ron Bade, the CEO of Hosts Analytics, Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water, an organisation providing clean water and sanitation worldwide and many others.

Christelle Flahaux, the CMO at Host Analytics explains that Perform 2019 is an essential event for finance professionals. Flahaux emphasises that the event attracts Host Analytic customers and innovative finance professionals looking to learn strategic techniques and share their knowledge. Flahaux highlights that this year’s agenda will focus on areas that enable finance to transform business performance.


Sessions scheduled for Perform 2019 include:

Doug Henschen, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Constellation Research, Agility Matters: How Cloud-Based Planning Drives Digital Transformation

Dave Kellogg, Independent Director, Blogger, Consultant and former CEO of Host Analytics, The Board View: How Directors See KPIs, EPM, Metrics and Planning

Seth Lippencott, Director of Research at Nucleus Research, The ROI of EPM: A Case Study in Finance and Budgeting Transformation

Simon Reed, Vice President, Corporate Planning at American Express Global Business Travel, Journey Through the Transformation of Finance

Shane Riddle, Director of FP&A of Planar Systems, Integrating Host Analytics in a Rapidly Changing M&A Environment

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