Yesterday’s CFO is the Captain of a Tanker


SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A) and its integrated Planning and Collaboration tools will have a pivotal role in the digital transformation journey for the Office of the CFO. With the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series New York starting this weekend, in this blog, Mike Weeks, an expert in Enterprise Performance Management at itelligence, got to thinking that CFOs should look to the likes of offshore racing skippers.

You would be forgiven for thinking I might be writing a blog for the RYA or perhaps even (no I didn’t know that existed either until I put fingers to keyboard this evening), but in fact I do want to talk to you about the new paradigm for enterprise performance management, the enabling technology for that shift and the power of “always on” and what that can bring to the office of the CFO.

In my next blog “No Plan Survives Contact with the Enemy” we recognise that business leaders have long looked to the great Generals of history for inspiration, but in this blog I am going to suggest a lot can be learnt from the world of sailing and class leading skippers such as those that compete in the Clipper Round the World Series or The Volvo Ocean Race.

If we look at the traditional tools and technologies for enterprise performance management, irrespective of the best intentions of the project goals to improve the finance process metrics of increased accuracy, less time spent on the mechanics of data collection etc, we still inevitably end up with a traditional period end, quarter end or year end process – still very much a batch process and a mostly “off” kind of process delivering static content of a predefined boardroom pack. Even if we consider the rolling forecast, the frequency of updates to data is still typically, at best, monthly and the outputs still static.

Now imagine if you were in a sailing competition, competing with the best of your peers. The pressure is on (sounds like being CFO right), the crew are eager to support you and carry out their tasks (they’re the best crew you could find right so they know their jobs). But beyond that they will constantly be looking to you for guidance and instruction, whilst the yacht sponsors (your stakeholders) are looking for constant guidance and reassurance that their investment is going to be solid and the payback rewarding.

From the outset, in this imaginary race, you as skipper need to articulate the course you have plotted and your overall race strategy in the context of your opposing teams and how you think they will perform, your predictions will need to consider whether to over perform in certain legs of the race and understand not to try and kill yourself in legs that you would be foolish to compete in – safety is paramount in sailing.

Then the cannon goes off! The race is on and you commence sailing in earnest in the direction of your strategy, the crew performing all their duties well. Is this the time Sir Ben will sit back, of course not, what these guys know is that there are a whole load of variables such as tides, wind speeds and direction, competitors taking the wind from your sails as they look to manoeuvre around you, the speed with which you are able to tack back and forth as you vie for the best sailing position without a breach of the rules and penalties being applied – this is no different to the world of the CFO today with regulatory controls and governance.

Now can you imagine being the yacht skipper approaching Cape Horn and only getting the feedback to the variables involved in racing a yacht against the best of the best on an hourly, ½ daily or daily update with the relevant insights being buried amongst less important data? In todays racing world the telematics are always on, the radars constantly scanning, the GPS always tracking the current position, with all the relevant updates constantly being broadcast to the skipper and over high bandwidth communications back to shore (even from Cape Horn, one of the most remote parts of the Volvo Ocean Race they still manage to achieve over 1Mbps upload speeds from the yachts). It is these data inputs to the skipper that enables them to predict challenges and plot potential new solutions whilst calculating the impact on the race time – with safety being paramount crew exhaustion also has to be factored in so revised plans need efficient execution.

This is paradigm is now the reality for the office of the CFO when it comes to enterprise performance management and operational analytics through SAP Cloud for Analytics (C4A). The demand for agile is there from the stakeholders, they no longer want the tanker captain taking two days to change course, they want the racing skipper with access to all the relevant data and the power to predict the outcomes from a whole series of data inputs from both within and external of the enterprise and now with SAP C4A there is no reasonable excuse as to why the CFO wasn’t prepared or able to adapt his strategy or collaborate effectively and efficiently with his crew.

SAP Cloud for Analytics is a new generation of software as a service (SaaS) that redefines Enterprise Performance Management by providing a full suite of integrated capabilities including business intelligence, planning, and predictive all wrapped with a collaboration tool for all users in one product. Whilst SAP’s Digital Boardroom component of the solution becomes the Race HQ cockpit, all the stats for the entire flotilla available across a touch sensitive

Now, it will be easier and safer than ever for customers to sample, share, combine and blend data to quickly build models, find insights, and take action.

To discover more, the itelligence Conference 2016, ‘Making Digital Real’, is being held at 155 Bishopsgate on 17th May 2016. For further information and to register for the event please go to

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