Sunday 17, December 2017 by Jessica Combes

Finance leaders must embrace predictive analytics


Finance leaders should embrace predictive analytics instead of still remaining the gatekeepers and guardians of financial processes and data, according to a senior official of Oracle Corporation.

In a presentation at the seventh Chief Audit Executive Conference organised by the UAE Internal Auditors Association (UAE-IAA) in Dubai on 12 and 13 December, Aarti Mohan, Director of ERP and EPM Cloud Applications Strategy for ECEMEA at Oracle, said the global company’s Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) has embraced the new digital technologies.

This, she added, has been providing new opportunities for the finance to move away from governing costs and controls to providing guidance on product and market expansion plans, linking predictive models to financial outcomes and the financial implications of pricing and promotion plans.

The US-headquartered Oracle is the global provider of enterprise cloud computing, thereby empowering businesses of all sizes on their journey of digital transformation. With over 430,000 customers in 175 countries, the multinational posted $38 billion total GAAP revenues in the Financial Year 2017.

Talking about the Oracle 18c, world’s first 100 per cent self-driving  Autonomous Database, she said it was a total automation based on Machine Learning and eliminates human labour to manage the database which automatically provisions, upgrades, patches, tunes itself while running.

It offers automated real-time security patching with no downtime window required and it minimised costly planned plus unplanned downtime to less than 30 minutes a year. Oracle Database 18c is autonomous, adaptive, self-managing systems that are more secure than ever - and even-more reliable, lower-cost next generation of the company’s flagship database.

She said finance leaders must embrace predictive analytics to improve capital allocation and operations, collaborate with operations to interpret new data sources and increase frequency and broaden scope of management reporting.

“First, you need to partner with operations to help them create a value framework for these data sources to not only improve capital allocation but improve operational efficiencies. Just because it’s cheaper to store doesn’t mean it’s valuable,” Mohan remarked.

Citing artificial intelligence, machine learning, blockchain, autonomous software, internet of things (IoT) and human interface, the official said the emerging technologies are creating new opportunities and auditors need to arm themselves with new IT skills.

Quoting studies, she said by 2025, 100 per cent of application development and testing will be conducted in the cloud, up from 45 per cent 2016 and 52 per cent in 2017. Similarly, by the mid next decade, all enterprise data will be stored in the cloud, up from 65 per cent in 2016 and 88 per cent predicted for the year 2020.

Also, 80 per cent of production apps will be in the cloud by 2025, up from the present 14 per cent. By that year, two SaaS Suite providers will have 80 per cent market share and the number of corporate-owned data centres will have decreased by 80 per cent.

She said 80 per cent of IT budgets will be spent on cloud services and only 20 per cent will be spent on system maintenance by 2025 when enterprise clouds will be the most secure place for IT processing.

In another presentation, a data analytics expert asserted that challenges like slow transaction speed, verification process and data limits have been limiting Blockchain-wide applications despite the fact that blockchain offers tremendous savings in transaction costs and time.

Amit Ray, Managing Director at Protiviti, a global consulting company in finance, data, analytics and internal audit, said high initial capital costs could be a deterrent for the adoption of Blockchain, an architectural paradigm that enables to transact peer to peer, using consensus mechanism in a trust-less environment and stores the information in an electronic ledger available with all participants.

“Since modern currencies have always been created and regulated by national governments, Blockchain and Bitcoin face a hurdle in widespread adoption by pre-existing financial institutions if its government regulation status remains unsettled. The network’s miners are attempting 450 thousand trillion solutions per second in efforts to validate transactions, using substantial amounts of computer power. Blockchain applications offer solutions that require significant changes to, or complete replacement of, existing systems. In order to make the switch, companies must strategize the transition,” said Ray.

He said the global internal audit community has been stressing on the need to adopt data analytical tools. Beyond increasing efficiency and effectiveness, data analytics will help build credibility thus elevating the profile of Internal Audit within the organisation.

Research by Markets and Markets suggests that by 2021, the big data market in the Middle East will increase annually by 18.5 per cent to $66.8 billion.

“Internal Auditors need to shift gears–from manual to automated, from reactive to preventive, from tactical to strategic, from assurance-driven to business improvement focused. Analytics is clearly an important component of this journey,” added Ray.

There are plans for Dubai to become world’s first blockchain-powered city. The newest technology is nothing but ‘an incorruptible digital ledger’ and can be programmed to record not just financial transactions but virtually everything of value.

Bitcoins are of digital assets, but since the blockchain is a decentralised asset registry, it can also be used to register ownership and transfer of any digital asset besides bitcoins.

The emirate intends to migrate entirely into Blockchain powered digital transactions by the year 2020 and is expected to save at least AED5.5 billion annually in document processing activity alone. By the time Dubai hosts the Expo 2020, the emirate is expected to see all the government entities using blockchain technology.

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