Services for Organizations

Using our research, best practices and expertise, we help you understand how to optimize your business processes using applications, information and technology. We provide advisory, education, and assessment services to rapidly identify and prioritize areas for improvement and perform vendor selection

Consulting & Strategy Sessions

Ventana On Demand

    Services for Investment Firms

    We provide guidance using our market research and expertise to significantly improve your marketing, sales and product efforts. We offer a portfolio of advisory, research, thought leadership and digital education services to help optimize market strategy, planning and execution.

    Consulting & Strategy Sessions

    Ventana On Demand

      Services for Technology Vendors

      We provide guidance using our market research and expertise to significantly improve your marketing, sales and product efforts. We offer a portfolio of advisory, research, thought leadership and digital education services to help optimize market strategy, planning and execution.

      Analyst Relations

      Demand Generation

      Product Marketing

      Market Coverage

      Request a Briefing

        Ventana Research Analyst Perspectives

        << Back to Blog Index

        Building a More Predictive Finance Department

        A predictive finance department is one that can command technology to be more forward-looking and action-oriented while still fulfilling its core role of handling the financial elements of its organization including accounting, treasury and corporate finance. Beyond just automating rote tasks, technology also facilitates a shift toward becoming a predictive finance organization. Greater amounts of information, now available in near real time, and the increasing use of artificial intelligence (AI), enable more immediate analyses and assessments of possible courses of action, providing executives and managers the ability to better anticipate change and the agility to adapt quickly to unexpected circumstances.

        There are four key technologies that finance organizations need to become predictive: Planning and budgeting, predictive analytics, AI and data management.

        MicrosoftTeams-image (2)-4Planning, forecasting and budgeting are core competencies of the predictive finance organization. An application that supports high-participation, collaborative, action-oriented planning built on frequent, short planning sprints (what we call integrated business planning) makes these processes more accurate and effective. Our Office of Finance Benchmark Research confirms that organizations that use dedicated planning software technology have planning processes that work better: 66% of those that use an application have a budgeting and planning process that works well or very well, compared to 36% of those that use spreadsheets.

        A planning approach built on integrated planning technology enables organizations to create more accurate plans because refinements are made at shorter intervals. Short planning cycles enable companies to achieve greater agility in responding to market or competitive changes. Planning across the entire organization in a coordinated fashion as an ongoing, collaborative dialogue that brings together finance, line-of-business managers and executives (rather than individual, functional silos) delivers better results. And because it’s high-participation planning and not silo-based, companies can plan with greater accountability and coordination in their operations. This ongoing dialogue tracks current conditions as well as changes in objectives and priorities that are driven by markets and the business climate. This sort of process promotes a forward-looking mindset in planning and reviewing, one that’s focused on performance improvement.

        Dedicated software is an essential part of integrated business planning because it's not feasible for any midsize or larger organization to use desktop spreadsheets for this purpose. They have inherent technological limitations that make it impossible to execute short planning cycles because consolidating desktop spreadsheets is so time-consuming.

        MicrosoftTeams-image (1)-3Predictive analytics is a necessary discipline for finance departments. Although technology has been available for decades, our research finds that just 24% of finance organizations use it extensively in their daily operations. Predictive analytics is a technique that companies can utilize to achieve better results. It can create more accurate and nuanced projections of future outcomes and is especially useful in quickly finding divergences from expectations to create more timely alerts. For instance, rather than having to wait until the end of the month to review results and initiate a course of action, a corporation could use predictive analytics early in the month to spot and address a probable revenue shortfall in a specific product line or to change production rates or shipments to avoid a likely regional stock-out caused by unexpected demand. Predictive analytics are increasingly embedded in planning applications. However, the capabilities alone are not enough; one barrier to the successful adoption of predictive analytics is the timely availability of accurate and relevant data. More on data availability below.

        Artificial intelligence using machine learning (AI/ML) involves the application of data-science-derived algorithms that include the capability to “learn” and therefore change to achieve better results as more data is collected and more outcomes are observed. Additionally, AI applies ML algorithms, often in a way that mimics how a human might respond to, or manage, a process. Combined, the two make it possible to have computer systems that adapt to the needs of an organization without requiring a custom deployment process that results in a rigid implementation. Consequently, AI will have a profound impact on white-collar professions, especially in heavily rules-based functions such as accounting, as I’ve noted. Machine learning can also drive relevant prescriptive analytics. These present executives and managers with a range of possible responses to a specific business condition along with potential outcomes and an assessment of their probability.

        MicrosoftTeams-image-4Because of their transformational potential, software vendors are giving AI/ML a significant amount of attention and I expect that their use will be pervasive in departments within five years. Ventana Research asserts that by 2025, almost all vendors of software designed for finance organizations will have incorporated some AI capabilities to reduce workloads and improve performance. It’s important, though, to recognize that while some applications are already in use, others are a decade or more away from replacing or significantly augmenting human tasks. It’s also important to understand that any practical application of these technologies requires the timely availability of large quantities of accurate and relevant data. Yet, as a measure of data accessibility, our Internet of Things and Operational Intelligence research finds that fewer than one-half of organizations (49%) rate their ability to track events and trends in their systems as either excellent or good. Which brings me to the fourth essential technology.

        Data management is the final essential technology necessary for a predictive finance organization. The usefulness of predictive analytics and ML depend on being able to access and use large amounts of data. Increasingly, business software vendors have been incorporating what I call “data pantries” in their applications to streamline data access and management. These dedicated data stores make it easier for FP&A organizations to access a wider range of operational data, not just accounting numbers, to provide more insightful analyses for both finance and operations, as well as external data related to markets and competitors that can be useful for forecasting, planning and performance assessments.

        MicrosoftTeams-image (3)-3Today, finance organizations struggle with handling just their basic data requirements. Data management has been a challenge in business computing for decades. Our Analytics and Data Benchmark Research reveals that more than two-thirds of participants spend the most amount of their time preparing data for analysis and reviewing data for quality issues. Increasingly, technologies like the data pantry are available to streamline the process of gathering, validating and preparing data, all of which supports a predictive finance department.

        Over the past decade, technology has steadily advanced to enable the transformation of the finance department. However, technology by itself isn’t enough to foster an expanded mission. This sort of transformation can only happen when the CFO and CEO decide to alter the focus of the finance and accounting department. As resources are freed up and manual accounting workloads are reduced, the CFO, the CEO and the board of directors must reconsider the role of the department. At one extreme, they can emphasize departmental efficiency by reducing headcount and retaining a limited role as a transactions processor and reactive bean counter. Alternatively, the productivity gains and new capabilities that technology affords can be used to repurpose the freed-up resources to take on a more strategic role, one that provides more analytical and advisory services, facilitates planning and promotes agility. I believe that organizations that choose the latter course will have a competitive advantage over those that choose to be technology laggards. I recommend that organizations focus on developing their ability to best utilize the capabilities of the four types of software.


        Robert Kugel


        Robert Kugel
        Executive Director, Business Research

        Robert Kugel leads business software research for Ventana Research, now part of ISG. His team covers technology and applications spanning front- and back-office enterprise functions, and he personally runs the Office of Finance area of expertise. Rob is a CFA charter holder and a published author and thought leader on integrated business planning (IBP).


        Our Analyst Perspective Policy

        • Ventana Research’s Analyst Perspectives are fact-based analysis and guidance on business, industry and technology vendor trends. Each Analyst Perspective presents the view of the analyst who is an established subject matter expert on new developments, business and technology trends, findings from our research, or best practice insights.

          Each is prepared and reviewed in accordance with Ventana Research’s strict standards for accuracy and objectivity and reviewed to ensure it delivers reliable and actionable insights. It is reviewed and edited by research management and is approved by the Chief Research Officer; no individual or organization outside of Ventana Research reviews any Analyst Perspective before it is published. If you have any issue with an Analyst Perspective, please email them to

        View Policy

        Subscribe to Email Updates

        Posts by Month

        see all

        Posts by Topic

        see all

        Analyst Perspectives Archive

        See All