Business planning

How to take advantage of the three unstoppable forces driving change in finance

As a CFO or senior finance professional, you might recognise that your world is changing – driven by a perfect storm, where technological and social forces are changing the rules of business in this digital era.

So how do you survive and thrive in this new world? A first step you can take is to understand the forces that are driving your finance work today. These are:

  1. The digitalisation of the finance industry
  2. More demand for strategic decision-making
  3. A younger workforce with new priorities

Let’s explore these three areas in greater detail, with practical advice to help you take advantage of these trends.

1. The digitalisation of the finance industry

According to our recent research with Australian senior finance decision makers, 93% of finance professionals surveyed state that the role of the CFO has changed in the last five years, and 56% attribute this change to the digitalisation of the industry. 

One of the biggest challenges faced by CFOs and senior finance professionals is to improve business processes in the finance department in order to keep pace with these changes. It’s possible to do this by taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digitalisation, to meet customer expectations and to keep relevant in an era where everything is moving rapidly.

As a CFO or senior finance professional, you’re always looking for ways to improve your department’s efficiency; data-driven insights and automation are fantastic ways to achieve this.

Automation is a reliable way of improving the quality of financial data, which can increase the productivity of your financial/accounting staff. The benefits of automation include:

  • The minimisation of manual intervention in financial operations and other accounting related tasks, such as ledger entry and reconciliations
  • Auto-population, using data from ERP and other systems
  • Reducing the potential for human error
  • Faster turnaround times
  • The improvement in use of staff time, thanks to a reduction in manual processes

With automation, it is now possible to aggregate a vast amount of data to unlock insights.  With data-driven insights, CFOs and senior finance professionals are better equipped to be a strategic advisor for their business, focusing on generating value for their organisations.

It’s also a good idea to identify which metrics you could track in real time, as this improves the data quality and gives greater visibility into the business. Inputs uploaded in real time, rather than in batch processes, reduces the turnaround time in completing reporting, and avoids potential gaps in the financial data.

Building a culture of automation can increase your productivity thanks to fewer manual processes, fewer errors and faster processing times. Automation encourages quicker enterprise-wide decision making, whilst improving regulatory compliance and ensuring accurate financial statements

2. More demand for strategic decision-making

Growing businesses often invest first in professionalising its processes and gaining efficiency in the areas of financial management by building out the technology that ensures the success of its finance function. This has inadvertently thrust the Finance function into the limelight, with CFOs now in the hotseat of leading digital transformation for their organisation.

According to our research, 67% of finance decision-makers believe that their role is transforming from number cruncher to business strategist. As a finance leader, you now have a new mandate – to move beyond the traditional role where you’re measuring past performance to leading your business as a gatekeeper of data and analytics.

Handling and analysing huge amounts of data requires the right technology, and our research says that 72% of finance professionals already use cloud-based financial technology to drive operational efficiency. If you haven’t already, now’s a good time to unify the business around a single platform, ensuring the accuracy of data and avoiding silos.

The insights this provides will help create a vision for the future of the business, which you can then start to forecast for. The CEO may expect you to guide the business through an uncertain future, to provide strategic direction on digital spending, managing risk, imposing governance and responding to regulatory change.

This is your opportunity to take the lead in digital transformation, redefining the finance function to play a bigger role in data governance, data flow, cyber security and other business priorities.

3. A younger workforce with new priorities

There is now a divide between senior accountants and new breed accountants who use technology to automate basic number crunching and admin tasks. 54% of new breed accountants will have implemented cloud-based technology three to four years ago, while the same percentage of more senior finance professionals will have only acquired cloud-based systems in the past two years.

Finance is becoming increasingly technical and strategic. To strengthen your position as a strategic business leader, take a look at a few ways to make sure your organisation manages and analyses data well, optimising information flow to ensure KPIs are being hit. You could do this by harnessing the value of a young tech-savvy workforce, that will naturally accept what you’re trying to do.

Your team may well start to take on responsibilities around IT and regulations, and learn to be masters of actionable business intelligence. Harness this wave of millennial creativity and embrace innovation across the business, but it’s sensible to have seasoned finance professionals on the team whose experience will be invaluable, especially in a function which carries so much influence.

The future of finance is still in its infancy

Embracing digitalisation gives you the power to harness data at your fingertips, and to empower your team to do the same. To make the most of it, it’s important to champion the adoption of new technologies like data analytics. This will cut down administrative time, and completely change how people see the finance team’s role in the business.  Harness digitalisation to this end, and you could be seen as a visionary by your colleagues.

To implement this change effectively, creating a diverse team with a mix of backgrounds and experience is essential. Alongside newer technological and analytical skillsets, financial fundamentals, and corporate stewardship are still relevant, and experienced people are well-equipped to take a long-term view when it comes to the business.

Download our free whitepaper: CFO 3.0 – Digital Transformation beyond Financial Management

Citing the latest finance industry data and research, our whitepaper details the key trends and challenges faced by CFOs as they grapple with this new digital reality – driving digital transformation beyond the finance function.

CFO 3.0 – Digital Transformation beyond Financial Management

Download our whitepaper to learn:

  • The key trends driving the digitalisation of the finance industry
  • How and why the role of the CFO is changing
  • Why the CFO is key to driving digital transformation
  • How Millennials are influencing adoption of new technology
  • What keeps CFOs up at night – the 5 roadblocks to digital transformation
Download Whitepaper