Empowering the CFO in business

Unit4 head office in Utrecht (Image credit Unit4) (c) 2016 Unit4

Unit4 has announced the latest release of Unit 4 Financials solution. The details of the release were scant and Enterprise Times has requested more information behind the announcement to understand more details about it.

Real time, real business support with Financials solution

Jeremy Roche, CPO at Unit4 (Image credit FinancialForce)
Jeremy Roche, CPO at Unit4

The crux of the press release reveals that the Unit4 Financials solution allows organisations to store an “unlimited” amount of “separately analysable data against any transaction”.

The release goes on to state that this allows customers to produce reports that will deliver real time intelligence, required compliance reporting and management reports to map against any KPI.

This reporting is achieved by delivering that reporting capability through the Unit4 Performance management suite.

Jeremy Roche, Chief Product Officer at Unit4 stated: “The ability to capture unlimited business dimensions from any operational system within a business, real time, will be a game changer for many organisations. It essentially adds unlimited analyses across the entire organisation in a controlled and integrated manner, so finance teams are better equipped than ever to serve the business and drive profits. Feeding this level of data into a company’s performance management system changes the game again, as companies look to drive performance and adapt services 24/7 to ensure their success in today’s digital economy.”

Too good to be true?

There are a number of questions that need answering about this. The idea of capturing and reporting on anything is a utopian prospect that many CFO’s salivate over. However, actually producing reports that are meaningful and to the benefit of the business is far harder. Having all the data in a single location doesn’t actually make it easy to produce reports. In fact it can make it harder.

The release does not state where the data is stored other than an within an in-memory solution. Is this data duplicated? Can it be drawn from an external source? Also, how do companies both clean the data and work out what they need to report on.

Strategically the CFO is finding that automation is slowly freeing up more time for their teams. This helps them to assist the CEO with strategic decision making. While this announcement appears to deliver Unit4 customers a tool that will help them do that, the detail is missing. Are there any vertical industries already configured with standard reports so that companies do not need to invest in developing reports? Which industry sectors are these? An obvious one would be the professional services market where Unit4 recently made an acquisition, Assistance Software. However the press release does not mention any.

So what does this mean?

Alexandros Stratis, Enterprise Applications Analyst, European Software, IDC commented: “The CFO plays a critical role in driving organisational business transformation, to ensure their organisation exploits the digital revolution opportunity. As they sit at the intersection of finance, strategy and operations, today’s finance teams need better insights and intelligence in every part of the business. They are the architects of company growth, no longer focused primarily on cost control. Financial Management systems play an integral role, but by extending them out to capture and analyse data from all operational systems, they can boost the value driven by the Office of the CFO beyond what’s been previously possible.”

There is a lot of detail missing from the announcement. Unit4 claims the Financials solution is a perpetually closed, single, balanced ledger. This enables customers to produce period reporting rapidly with up to the second reporting with no need to close. It allows financial teams to produce financial statements and reports that are accurate with the latest information received. Using the Unit4 solution, leadership can make evidence-based strategic decisions. That evidence, as it is near real time, should help them adapt quickly to changing circumstances. That can only be a good thing in the fast changing world of business.

Whether Unit4 Financial solutions users need to invest in the performance management module as well isn’t clear yet. When Unit4 responds to our questions we will update the article and provide some deeper analysis.

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