The Intelligent Use of Data
I guess we’re way past the whole ERP thing, right? It seems so 1990’s of us to even say it. Now we’re focused on things like cloud, big data, and other tools to actually do work instead of worrying about how transactions get recorded in an accounting system. Of course, we accountants still have to worry about how those transactions actually get recorded.
Here are some trends that I see affecting all of us in the very near future:
- Social Software for Business
- “Big” data
I wish I knew whether the following statement would get empathy from other industries, but in the gaming industry this might be bold: I believe that this will be the last “generation” where we use green-screen or similar applications in our work. For several years now, we have seen companies bridge the gap between legacy or enterprise systems to the user experience; think Intranet sites, employee portals, and the dreaded (or loved) SharePoint site.
Now we are seeing large-scale applications building user interfaces into their applications that are facilitated by advances like Web 2.0 and the “apps” revolution. One of the key foundational elements needed to help facilitate such usability is workflow, and we have seen usability reach those tools whether in business process management tools, content management tools, or even in business social software. It used to be that to modify or add a workflow in a process it meant a call to call an expensive consultant. Now these tools allow users to do their own work using visual models.
Social software is allowing users in many different functions to create their own workspaces. Again the base technology is so much better than what we’ve been used to. It took a company like Salesforce.com only a year or two to create an HR case management tool based on its foundational platforms and then link it with their social application, Chatter. Infor has created a tool called ION that provides a visual stream of information (like a Facebook timeline) coming from all sorts of business applications and not just Infor’s applications. To me, the big business social media tools are Jive or the aforementioned Chatter, or Yammer just to name a few. They are big because my company has struggled for some time with a poor company Intranet, and only recently developed a reasonable employee portal. However, too much of our company communication is still through emails (and cascading chains of emails) in static format. We shouldn’t have to send a slew of emails to mass distribution lists to schedule a company softball game. We shouldn’t have to send an email with a memo from our CEO he should be able to post a video, do a survey, or take questions online. Furthermore, employees should be able to have a home page with the information they need; like pre-shift announcements, tasks to be completed for HR, purchasing, important applications which they can quickly execute, and the key analytics information each person needs.
When I think of data, I still think of our own company data, of which there is enough for me to worry about how to get all of it to where I want it and do something with it. That seems “big” enough to me.
I don’t know about your company, but it’s still too difficult to get finance data from our systems to our users. Both Finance and IT need to do better to get our end-users information. If you are an IT person reading this, then however easy you think it is for your users, it’s not. Sometimes the typical users don’t know any better. They believe that getting the daily win sheet in a PDF file is great as long as they get it by 9 am because they are used to scanning the whole report to find the one name they are looking for.
So how should “Big Data” work?
Let’s try this:
- Available in a reasonable timeframe.
- Easy to access in a “modern” format (graphical, big buttons, etc. See “Usability” above).
- Customized presentation for groups by using custom dashboards.
- Able to drill down to detail instead of relying on a static report.
- Smart. This means indicating where action is needed. Exceptions are made obvious and more egregious exceptions are given higher priority and require action through workflow.
Think about the information you receive to do your job. How much of it comes to you meeting even a few of these criteria? My guess is we’ll see some solid improvement in this area in the coming year or two.
Rick Arpin is the Senior Vice President and Corporate Controller at MGM Resorts International. Mr. Arpin’s responsibilities include oversight of the company’s Finance Shared Services Center and all aspects of external reporting, along with assisting in corporate finance maters. He was recently named to Treasury and Risk Magazine’s “40 Under 40” list.