News from Adaptive Insights this week points to the changing role of the CFO

Increasingly the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for an organization is charged with delivering far more than simply financial reporting and compliance. The CFO is increasingly the lens through which organizational performance in its totality is measured. Both financial, and non-financial KPIs are grist for the CFO mill. A new vertical offering from Adaptive Insights helps with this but, at least in part indicates ever greater changes coming down the line to CFOs.

Adaptive Insights is a vendor in the corporate performance management (CPM) space. The company’s Adaptive Suite enables companies to plan and model, access real-time analytics, streamline financial reporting and accelerate financial consolidation. Adaptive boasts of more than 3,300 customers in over 50 countries.

The company is today launching a new initiative, designed as a software-specific vertical offering. Adaptive is taking advantage that of its customers, a good proportion (over 400) are software customers. They are also big and fast growing one – listed in the Forbes Cloud 100 and Deloitte Fast 500 ratings. Adaptive has taken the patterns and insights from all that data, combined best practice models, KPIs, and industry benchmarks into its Adaptive Suite integrated planning and analytics product. In announcing the product, Adaptive points to some key barriers that software companies’ CFOs face:

“Software finance teams tell us that navigating change is their biggest challenge,” said Tom Bogan, CEO, Adaptive Insights. “A company’s best strategy in this environment is to adopt an active planning process that enables rapid scenario planning and course-correction. When we combine that with a best-practice model for accurate topline planning, KPI management, and benchmarks, we’re able to empower software companies with a turnkey solution to better manage their business in what is, often, a rapidly changing industry.”

The new solution is valuable since software companies have a critical need to do better at the metrics that count – better predict revenue, increase deal size, improve lifetime value of customers (LTV), reduce churn, and reduce customer acquisition costs (CAC). By combining the planning and analytics platform with industry performance benchmarking from OPEXEngine, Adaptive Insights’ benchmarking partner, software companies can apply mass aggregate data to their planning process and leverage prebuilt models for the various outputs they need – topline forecasting, planning renewals, sales capacity planning, marketing demand generation modeling, prebuilt KPI dashboards and the like

Thinking what this means for the future

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think that CFOs will overnight be disrupted by automated planning tools. But this move closely mirrors trends I’ve been seeing in related (small business compliance accounting) and unrelated (speech recognition, legal discovery, medical image analysis) fields. That of mass data being accumulated, aggregated, analyzed categorized and finally leveraged to deliver benchmarks, indicators, and advice on actions to take.

Imagine, if you will, taking what is actually a small technical step with Adaptive, and simply closing the loop between analysis, insight, and action. Allowing the system to not only feed into the visualizations for a planning decision but to begin automating the planning decisions themselves. It feels (at least to me) like the difference between assisted drive in Subaru vehicles (where the car beeps when the driver gets too close to the outside lane, or too close to the car in front) and fully autonomous vehicles (where the vehicle takes over the entire operation and the passengers simply sit back and relax.

MyPOV

I accept that, for the foreseeable future, the CFO will have a part to play in the organization. But the machines are getting exponentially better and it won’t be long before it’s simply tradition and sentimentality that stops us from simply flicking the switch on the machine-driven future. Watch this space.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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