I feel guilty because I have had my fair share of facilitation for post-it style workshops, asking people to mention a few words about what finance needs in the future. A common outcome is “real time data” (as in real time closing and real time reporting).
In the world of on-demand everything it is only logical that we want real-time, on-demand data at work as well. There are many situations where it makes sense, like if you are a surgeon and your patient flatlines, you don’t want to know with a 2-minute delay.
Real time data in finance
In the field of finance real time data could be inte
resting as well. Who wouldn’t want to close the books in 30 min instead of 5 days? Why wouldn’t you want to have up to date information at your fingertips? I think the questions that arises are:
- What are we going to do with this real-time data?
- How will we protect ourselves from ourselves?
The late Christopher Hitchens said, “our prefrontal lobe is too small and our adrenal glands too big”. I am not sure if that is completely correct in a biological sense, but it’s clear that many humans seem to be prone to emotional, knee-jerk reactions. Not a great trait to have if you get Revenue numbers by the minute. The risk of finance becoming a group of traders who panic at every hiccup seems reasonably high. We love dopamine and if there are things we can look at, we will look at it (we have all seen the people walking through traffic while watching videos on their phones, right?)
In a world of abundant data, the amount of information we could look at increases exponentially and, don’t get me wrong, the opportunity is awesome. There must be good things we can do with this. Our main challenge will be to figure out what we should look at and what to ignore.
Utilization drop example
I once got a question at work about the team utilisation rate (consulting metric number 1). Apparently, it was low. I wasn’t aware we had a low utilisation rate, both November isolated and Year to date looked good, so I asked for what period this was supposed to be the case. The answer was; December month-to-date. I remember looking at my phone to double check the date. This was Monday the 5th of December. The data included 2 days’ worth of time postings and there was a month end in the middle of last week that would have messed with people posting only 2-3 days that week. This is such a short time span to look at that a Friday team-event would have thrown the whole thing off.
What if we get some real time data on this, will I be asked the same question every time we have a bad half hour?
In all seriousness
I confess. The article is not completely serious in nature. I am sure there are many great uses of faster and more real time (or completely real time) data. I just hope we have enough discipline to deal with it in a reasonable way and not to look at it all the time.