Alternative Sources of Talent Could Help CFOs Kick-Start an Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence
Talent is a vital part of any advanced analytics center of excellence (ACOE) and often CFOs limit the scope of their ACOE projects by relying too heavily on finance staff, according to Gartner, Inc. CFOs should look at other, sometimes cheaper, talent sources, such as analytic staff from other functions, university hires, or third-party service providers who are more than capable of executing certain elements of the analytics development cycle.
“Many CFOs are finding that their finance budget is not expanding to meet their advanced analytics ambitions,” said Marco Steecker, director, research in the Gartner Finance practice. “They can then end up settling for pursuing greater efficiencies with existing analytics capabilities instead of driving truly transformational improvements through new analytics capabilities.”
Gartner experts caution that this efficiency-centric approach may free up capacity, but it can also cause CFOs to overlook the variety of other cost-effective support available in other parts of their organization and outside of it.
“Targeting efficiency gains is a comfortable fallback for CFOs because it allows for the kind of definitive, prescriptive project scope which tends to appeal most to those with finance backgrounds,” said Steecker. “Yet to get the most from advanced analytics CFOs need to get comfortable with less formal, more exploratory projects that can yield unexpected benefits and learnings.”
Finance staff generally have a comparative advantage with regard to development of finance analytics, due to their financial literacy and familiarity with data sources, but other talent sources such as university students and third-party service providers have other strengths. Each source of alternative analytic talent has different inherent comparative advantages at performing certain elements of the analytic process (see Figure 1).
Figure 1. Comparative Skill Advantages for Internal (Non-Finance) Talent, University Students and Third-Party Service Providers
source: Gartner (September 2021)
“Internal talent is clearly best-suited for understanding problems specific to the business and data source discovery, as well as more long-term activities such as testing and validating models and metrics,” said Steecker. “But university students can offer cost effective access to academic training and university resources and a more open conception of what can be achieved with analytics, while third-party service providers can support more complex tasks such as application integration.”
Taking a more exploratory approach to analytics can also help keep initial costs low if CFOs begin projects with interpreter/analyst roles and only add more specialized roles, such as data scientists, once an ACOE has matured and its activities merit such expertise. Mapping the talent strategy to the maturity of an ACOE is a critical part of a scalable and sustainable long-term analytics plan.
“CFOs should narrow the scope at first and use analytics projects to take on business problems that they are confident the ACOE can address rather than pursuing a menu of possible analyses,” said Steecker. “Prioritize projects by net business value and strategic alignment to demonstrate the business case for more speculative projects.”
Gartner clients can read more in: Leveraging Alternative Sources of Talent for a Cost-Effective Advanced Analytics COE and Foundations for a Minimum Viable Advanced Analytics Center of Excellence.
Non clients can learn more here: Digital Future of Finance.
CFOs and finance leaders can participate in Gartner research and get complementary access by joining the Gartner Research Circle.
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