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High Quality Management Information

Digging Through the Data for High Quality Management Information
Andy Halford – CFO, Vodafone

For me, one of the most important contributions that a CFO or the finance team can make is the presentation of high-quality management information; and by that I mean, information that is focused upon the really key issues; information that is prompt, fast,
and on time. One of my biggest challenges has been how to synthesize potentially huge amounts of data down to what are really the key ones.

So at one time, when the business was very much a two-product business, it was pretty straight-forward to know what the key information was. Suddenly, when we started to have multiple new data products and we were starting to address issues that we had not
had to address before, like needing to know the number of downloads in music tracks by artist, by album, by country; all of a sudden the sort of information that we had been gathering on a per-country basis we now needed to understand on an international basis. Being able to get our systems and our processes to capture that information on a timely basis, to decide which bits of information were really important, and to make sure that there was consistency in the way that the data was gathered has been one of the biggest challenges that we have had.

Our business is dependent upon a huge number of different billing systems and because the history of our business is one of very considerable autonomy, we have grown the business largely by M&A. We have a wide variety of billing systems, they have themselves got real-time billing largely at the heart of them, and so the amount of data we have sitting in there is considerable.

The approach that we took was actually to start at the other end, and say, where do we  think the business could be in two or three years’ time? What do we think are going to be the big ticket items in terms of the revenue streams in the business? Which are the key products in that? Now let us set out a template that is clearly going to pull that information very consistently together. Let’s talk to the businesses to make sure that the way they can measure it will be done consistently across the piece, and let us put in a minimum information requirement. If they want to have more information for their own needs, that is fine; but let us put a tier of minimum information requirements and ask  each of them to tailor their systems to be able to accommodate that.

That is broadly the way that we went about it. It’s enabled the business to much more quickly understand when new product is taking off, when it is not taking off; if we have got product that is taking off in one country but not in another country, why it should be that it should work in one place but not in another place. Basically, the compare and contrast we’ve experienced by operating in over thirty markets has given us real insight that has enabled us to move more quickly and to transport lessons across from market to market and indeed, sometimes where product hasn’t taken off, to be more quick to kill the product and to move on to other things.