There’s No Such Thing as a Data Consultant

Lately, I’ve been presenting on the topic “7 Keys to Cost Effective Financial Business Intelligence.” I’ll be covering this topic here in a series of blog posts too. But before I start, I want to use this post to discuss the title. What is “financial business intelligence” anyway? How does it differ from “regular” business intelligence? What do we mean at Red Three when we say our focus is data for finance and accounting?

To explain, let me start with a key belief (and something that has taken me years to acknowledge): There’s no such thing as a generic data consultant. Sure, it sounds cool to call yourself a data consultant, especially when “big data” regularly makes the front page of the newspaper. Suddenly, people who have no idea what you do, think they do know.

But understanding data in general isn’t the same as understanding a particular kind of data. Yes, people may know you’re probably not the person to ask about graphic design. Or the latest fashions. But knowing about consolidations and valuations and gross profit is very different from knowing about Facebook posts or marketing data. Because end users won’t (and often can’t) explain what all this means. If you’re going to work in finance, you have to know finance. And the reverse holds true. If you’ve decided to work in finance, you need to acknowledge that you’re not the person to help with marketing.

Now let me get into the term “financial business intelligence.” Two things differentiate financial business intelligence from regular business intelligence: focus and audience.

Focus: Financial business intelligence is entirely focused on understanding how your company makes money. To reach this understanding, we might build complex financial reports or calculate your contribution margin by project, product or customer. But no matter what we do, the focus is always dollars.

At Red Three, we know how to look at data to make sure EVERYONE in your organization has a consistent view of how different activities contribute to the bottom line. We understand the basic processes and mechanics underlying your business as well as the complex accounting rules that sometimes confuse end users and keep different sets of numbers out of place.

Audience: The audience for financial business intelligence is “number guys”—CFOs, directors, controllers and the people they serve. Numbers count for these people. If we can use their existing tools to produce and deliver numbers consistently, then they’re happy. They aren’t wowed by the promise of expensive software. That’s why we focus on the Microsoft Business Intelligence Stack—including Excel, SQL Server and SSRS. After all, if you’re like most mid-size companies, you probably already own SQL server and the reporting tools that go with it. And if those can get the job done (which they do), then there’s little reason to spend more money.

In the next series of posts, I’ll discuss how you can get financial business intelligence cost effectively.


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