Digitisation and the Disruption of the Finance Function
Ninety-three percent of financial decision-makers, interviewed in a recent Sage survey, feel their role has significantly changed over the last five years. Significantly, over two-thirds of this group attribute this to the digitisation of the accounting and audit industry. The new landscape is characterised by a changeable, fast-paced, digitally-driven business. The result practitioners are confronted with is an unfamiliar and new set of problems that traditional approaches simply cannot address. The effects of digitization extend well beyond conventional concerns, centered on continuous improvements to how work is done, to a customer-centric approach focusing on delivering outcomes in the way clients expect. This requires a paradigm shift across all levels of audit firms, cultivating new insights and implementing improvements in operational efficiency.
Regardless of an organisation’s size, customer expectations of product and service delivery are undoubtedly the biggest disruptor. Highly interactive, responsive, engaging (and most often real-time) experiences that retailers and service providers deliver through new and emerging technology satisfies our increasing need, as consumers, for instant gratification and personalisation. These new consumerist expectations have seen massive shifts in our expectations of the workplace too. However, they remain mostly unmet due to procedural unresponsiveness and legacy systems that cannot deliver the same levels of user experience and speed of outcomes.
Technological advancements have unquestionably improved the ability to optimise internal business processes, but the real muscle its ability to be integrated and coordinated across businesses’ entire ecosystem. Whether it’s enabling the delivery of bespoke products or personalised services, engaging customers 24/7 globally, automatic risk or fraud detection, or proactively identifying opportunities for growth; technology is the transformative mechanism revolutionizing businesses today and for the foreseeable future.
It follows then, that the major challenge for businesses is selecting the right technical foundation. Importantly, and considering the integrated nature of customer interactions and financial transactions, it means bringing finance teams into the spotlight. Inadvertently, CFOs nowadays have been assigned a new mandate: to progress in their traditional roles to lead companies into the new digital frontier. It is a frontier of innovation and seemingly endless possibilities, made visible through the vast amounts of data readily made available by a connected and digitalised world.
CFOs have traditionally been tasked with analysing the past. The digital CFO of tomorrow is expected to RE-imagine the future direction of the organisation, being a visionary, using and analysing data to predict and uncover opportunities and close information gaps. As gatekeepers of data and analytics, CFOs of tomorrow will, and indeed must, drive digital transformation throughout their business.
An unofficial checklist below identifies the top challenges for finance functions in CFO’s quest to grow and maintain a competitive advantage. Significant amongst these is managing expectations around technology adoption demanded by millennials within their workplace and closing resourcing gaps in an increasingly insights and data-driven industry.
Moreover, the impact of digital transformation on small and mid-sized organisations is compounded by accelerated developments in cloud computing, big data management and artificial intelligence (AI). In this milieu, conceptualising and internalising the changing role of the CFO from “historian” to “visionary”; the digital CFO plays a central transformative role in leading businesses’ growth through digitalisation.