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In Their Own Words: 3 Ways Leading Executives Are Shaping The Future Of Finance

Jean Loh

Forward-looking CFOs and other finance leaders are taking important steps to shape the future of finance, rather than react to it. A recent survey of 1,500 finance leaders by CFO Research shows them focusing on three critical areas that will be increasingly front and center.

1. Ensuring that finance is the “business partner of choice”

Three finance leaders quoted in the CFO Research report were especially vocal about the need for finance to step up as a business partner.

Brian Waller, director of Revenue Operations at IT security and analytics firm Rapid7: “Just five years ago, if you were in finance, there were roles where you didn’t really need to know much about what your company did. But the environment has shifted. It’s critical to have a business partner mentality, all the way down to the lowest levels of finance. Basically, everybody on the finance team is now expected to be knowledgeable about the company and the products. You need to have some contextual information about the company and to be able to demonstrate you understand the organizational goals.”

Ulrich Borgstädt, head of Finance and Controlling in Southeast Asia for multinational chemical and consumer goods firm Henkel: “One of the key drivers of a successful top-rate finance and controlling organization is to be something we call ‘the business partner of choice.’ Not just the business partner that is available, but the partner that the business will actually want to work with.”

Paula Conde, corporate finance manager for software company Globant: “We are asked to play a more proactive role as business partners of the company, and to be able to influence others in order to obtain the best results for our company. Finance professionals are required to get out in the field and to understand the business, and I think that technology will allow that—allow us to have a different role, a more strategic role, and to be more like a strategist than a bean counter.”

2. Collaborating across all aspects of the business

With a clear understanding of the ever-increasing complexity of the business environment, successful finance leaders are looking to expand their collaborations. Here are two examples of their points of view:

Charles Thibault, VP of Analytics at telecommunications provider IDT, insisted that business activities must be “highly choreographed.” He explained, “Right now, the types of projects that deliver value to the business, leverage all aspects of the business. So, in today’s world, marketing, technology, operations, and finance all work collaboratively on key strategic projects. The challenges are so difficult, there’s no choice. Unless you have everybody at the table, it doesn’t work.”

Martin Murray, CFO of Cathay Pacific Airways, emphasized that “breaking down the barriers [between different functions and business units] that have been created over time is just as important as the new technology that’s coming in.”

3. Facing uncertainties with better predictive capabilities

Digitization is changing the business world, and forward-thinking CFOs know that finance must take full advantage of it:

Jennifer Thom, regional finance manager at the accounting and consulting firm BDO USA, noted that “managers expect accurate, real-time information at their fingertips. The month-end close looks at history, but [managers] need a look towards the future, or even at the current state—what’s happening right now.”

Marcello Botelho Rodrigues, global controller director for worldwide mining company Vale, pointed out that: “Every day we have access to more data. The [technology capabilities] will allow us to be more predictive, to react faster to the scenario, and better face the uncertainties.”

Alejandro Scannapieco, CFO of Argentina-based software company Globant, predicts, “Technology will turn information into a commodity, so an expectation on the finance function is that we’ll spend most of the time providing added value to the business—being more a strategic partner than a data-gathering function.”

Read more about how finance leaders are espousing the digital economy: Thriving in the Digital Economy: The Innovative Finance Function.

To learn more about this topic, please read my last blog on the Digitalist.

SAP S/4HANA Finance helps you know your business from the inside out—or the outside in. Run Live today.

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

 

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Jean Loh

About Jean Loh

Jean Loh is the Director, Global Audience Marketing, LOB Finance, at SAP. She is an experienced marketing and communication professional, currently responsible for developing thought leadership content that is unbiased and audience-led while addressing market challenges to illuminate and solve the unmet needs of CFOs and the wider global finance audience.

Survey: Mobile Payments Can Boost Growth And Profitability

Tom Groenfeldt

Companies that accept mobile payments are growing faster and more profitably than companies that don’t, according to a recent study done for NTT Data.

The fastest-growing companies are also the most likely to accept mobile payments, according to the global survey of 2,300 companies and consumers conducted by Ingenico ePayments, Oxford Economics, and Charney Research. It found that among business respondents with annual revenue growth of 11% or more, 43% have an app that supports purchases and payments, compared with 32% of slower-growth businesses.

Peter Olynick, retail banking senior practice lead for NTT Data, said the survey showed what he was expecting to see. “For a while, there has been this sense that mobile payments are just around the corner.” But companies have been hesitant, often over security concerns, he said. He found the correlation of growth and acceptance of mobile payments interesting.

“It seems that a lot of executives were more conservative about the rate of change than we have started to see among consumers. We see more places that can accept some of these newer payment types and more people pulling out their phone than last year.”

He probably doesn’t go a day without using Android Pay, Olynick said. The point-of-sale delays of the EMV chip cards contribute to the interest in mobile payments, he added. “Some of our own research, plus anecdotal information, shows frustration level over the amount of time EMV takes.”

Looking into the future, the survey found consumers expect their use of cash to drop faster than business executives are planning. “A lot of people think they will be using a lot less cash in the near future and executives are more conservative. Consumers thought they would use 32% less cash and execs were thinking it would be five percent–that’s a pretty big difference.”

Drawing on his own experience again, Olynick said he used to go to an ATM once a week; now he often won’t go for a month, and then it’s mostly to get cash for tips; otherwise he pays by card or phone.

He expects a continued move to general-purpose cards, with a handful of private-label cards like Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts, and more use of general purpose cards like Visa or Mastercard for everything else. “We don’t want to make payments to 55 different places; general-purpose cards have a real value.”

A key lesson from the survey is that retailers profit when they remove friction from the buying process, he said. “Anytime you can remove the friction of the payment, we are seeing those companies are getting a nice uplift. If you walk into a retailer and pick up one or two things and there is a line at checkout, you put it down and walk out because you don’t have the 15 minutes it will take for that queue to open up. When we can get to the point where the payment itself is frictionless, we will get those sales that have been lost. We are very high on the idea that removing that friction, such as Uber, or just making it easier and a little bit faster to get through the line,  all those things are going to make it positive to the retailers who do it best.”

In the survey, cryptocurrencies showed up in a way: 8% of businesses that accept mobile payments also accept cryptocurrencies.

Even that may overstate the case. Chris Skinner, in his recent book Value Web, interviews Jeffrey Robinson, author of BitCon: The Naked Truth About Bitcoin. Robinson says that companies that accept payments in bitcoin really only allow customers to pay in bitcoin, and then they immediately route the payments through Coinbase or BitPay. “Allowing a customer to pay with bitcoin is not an endorsement of bitcoin, it’s a marketing ploy,” he told Skinner.

The survey also found that companies that sell internationally grow faster. “Among companies with annual profit growth of 11% or better, 56% sell to international markets, compared with 44% of their slower-growing counterparts.” Payment guarantee companies like Forter, Signifyd, and Radial make it easier and safer for companies to accept cross-border electronic payments.

Developing countries are eager users of mobile payments – 58% of consumers in developing countries make mobile payments at least once a week, compared with only 39% in developed countries, the survey found, with Kenya and China leading in active use of mobile.

For more on pleasing your customers, see Customer Experience: OmniChannel. OmniNow. OmniWow.

This article originally appeared on Forbes.com. It is republished by permission.

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Sink Or Swim In ‘17: Embracing The Mobile Mind Shift Keeps You Afloat, Part 2

Erin Giordano

Part 2 of a series. Read Part 1.

What’s the biggest opportunity for finance leaders in 2017? During a recent webinar, Forrester Research VP and principal analyst Paul Hamerman said, “There is an opportunity to use technology to lessen the burden of managing expenses, risk, and compliance activities so that finance [leaders] can be more involved in the strategic side of the business, that is, helping the business grow, innovate, and serve its customers.”

So what’s holding finance leaders back? The burden of managing risk and compliance issues and expense activities are the biggest culprits.

In a new Forrester study of 500 global finance decision makers, respondents revealed that 76% of their time is spent on less strategic activities, such as managing risk and driving compliance, as well as expenses.

 

Source: Harnessing the power of modern T&E tools for strategic financial management

How can finance leaders change this? While this finding may not be surprising to many, as this has been roadblock for many years, finance leaders can now change this by carefully assessing their current travel and expense processes and inefficiencies by modernizing them with technology. For example, T&E modules in conventional on-premise ERP software limit mobile functionality and are not integrated with travel booking systems or data.

By modernizing T&E business processes and using technology that offers an open platform, CFOs and their teams will have more bandwidth to spend time on more strategic activities. Also, modernizing this process will enable employees to become better equipped to spend reasonably and track expenses properly. As the Forrester study states, “While the CFO is ultimately responsible for managing employee-generated spend, improving these processes can help empower individual users to better manage budgets and expenses. This ends up benefiting both the individual users and the business.”

Learn more
Listen to Hamerman speak on this topic: Harnessing the power of modern T&E tools for strategic financial management

Download this Forrester Consulting thought leadership paper: Financial Leaders Must Embrace T&E Solutions Strategically to Drive Growth and Innovation

Follow SAP Finance online: @SAPFinance (Twitter)  | LinkedIn | FacebookYouTube

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Erin Giordano

About Erin Giordano

Erin Giordano is senior marketing manager, Enterprise for Concur, and has held various strategic positions that have helped global companies succeed in their thought leadership and business expansion efforts. Her areas of expertise range in topics from duty of care to global mobility spanning multiple industries.

How Emotionally Aware Computing Can Bring Happiness to Your Organization

Christopher Koch


Do you feel me?

Just as once-novel voice recognition technology is now a ubiquitous part of human–machine relationships, so too could mood recognition technology (aka “affective computing”) soon pervade digital interactions.

Through the application of machine learning, Big Data inputs, image recognition, sensors, and in some cases robotics, artificially intelligent systems hunt for affective clues: widened eyes, quickened speech, and crossed arms, as well as heart rate or skin changes.




Emotions are big business

The global affective computing market is estimated to grow from just over US$9.3 billion a year in 2015 to more than $42.5 billion by 2020.

Source: “Affective Computing Market 2015 – Technology, Software, Hardware, Vertical, & Regional Forecasts to 2020 for the $42 Billion Industry” (Research and Markets, 2015)

Customer experience is the sweet spot

Forrester found that emotion was the number-one factor in determining customer loyalty in 17 out of the 18 industries it surveyed – far more important than the ease or effectiveness of customers’ interactions with a company.


Source: “You Can’t Afford to Overlook Your Customers’ Emotional Experience” (Forrester, 2015)


Humana gets an emotional clue

Source: “Artificial Intelligence Helps Humana Avoid Call Center Meltdowns” (The Wall Street Journal, October 27, 2016)

Insurer Humana uses artificial intelligence software that can detect conversational cues to guide call-center workers through difficult customer calls. The system recognizes that a steady rise in the pitch of a customer’s voice or instances of agent and customer talking over one another are causes for concern.

The system has led to hard results: Humana says it has seen an 28% improvement in customer satisfaction, a 63% improvement in agent engagement, and a 6% improvement in first-contact resolution.


Spread happiness across the organization

Source: “Happiness and Productivity” (University of Warwick, February 10, 2014)

Employers could monitor employee moods to make organizational adjustments that increase productivity, effectiveness, and satisfaction. Happy employees are around 12% more productive.




Walking on emotional eggshells

Whether customers and employees will be comfortable having their emotions logged and broadcast by companies is an open question. Customers may find some uses of affective computing creepy or, worse, predatory. Be sure to get their permission.


Other limiting factors

The availability of the data required to infer a person’s emotional state is still limited. Further, it can be difficult to capture all the physical cues that may be relevant to an interaction, such as facial expression, tone of voice, or posture.



Get a head start


Discover the data

Companies should determine what inferences about mental states they want the system to make and how accurately those inferences can be made using the inputs available.


Work with IT

Involve IT and engineering groups to figure out the challenges of integrating with existing systems for collecting, assimilating, and analyzing large volumes of emotional data.


Consider the complexity

Some emotions may be more difficult to discern or respond to. Context is also key. An emotionally aware machine would need to respond differently to frustration in a user in an educational setting than to frustration in a user in a vehicle.

 


 

download arrowTo learn more about how affective computing can help your organization, read the feature story Empathy: The Killer App for Artificial Intelligence.


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Christopher Koch

About Christopher Koch

Christopher Koch is the Editorial Director of the SAP Center for Business Insight. He is an experienced publishing professional, researcher, editor, and writer in business, technology, and B2B marketing. Share your thoughts with Chris on Twitter @Ckochster.

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In An Agile Environment, Revenue Models Are Flexible Too

Todd Wasserman

In 2012, Dollar Shave Club burst on the scene with a cheeky viral video that won praise for its creativity and marketing acumen. Less heralded at the time was the startup’s pricing model, which swapped traditional retail for subscriptions.

For as low as $1 a month (for five two-bladed cartridges), consumers got a package in the mail that saved them a trip to the pharmacy or grocery store. Dollar Shave Club received the ultimate vindication for the idea in 2016 when Unilever purchased the company for $1 billion.

As that example shows, new technology creates the possibility for new pricing models that can disrupt existing industries. The same phenomenon has occurred in software, in which the cloud and Web-based interfaces have ushered in Software as a Service (SaaS), which charges users on a monthly basis, like a utility, instead of the typical purchase-and-later-upgrade model.

Pricing, in other words, is a variable that can be used to disrupt industries. Other options include usage-based pricing and freemium.

Products as services, services as products

There are basically two ways that businesses can use pricing to disrupt the status quo: Turn products into services and turn services into products. Dollar Shave Club and SaaS are two examples of turning products into services.

Others include Amazon’s Dash, a bare-bones Internet of Things device that lets consumers reorder items ranging from Campbell’s Soup to Play-Doh. Another example is Rent the Runway, which rents high-end fashion items for a weekend rather than selling the items. Trunk Club offers a twist on this by sending items picked out by a stylist to users every month. Users pay for what they want and send back the rest.

The other option is productizing a service. Restaurant franchising is based on this model. While the restaurant offers food service to consumers, for entrepreneurs the franchise offers guidance and brand equity that can be condensed into a product format. For instance, a global HR firm called Littler has productized its offerings with Littler CaseSmart-Charges, which is designed for in-house attorneys and features software, project management tools, and access to flextime attorneys.

As that example shows, technology offers opportunities to try new revenue models. Another example is APIs, which have become a large source of revenue for companies. The monetization of APIs is often viewed as a side business that encompasses a wholly different pricing model that’s often engineered to create huge user bases with volume discounts.

Not a new idea

Though technology has opened up new vistas for businesses seeking alternate pricing models, Rajkumar Venkatesan, a marketing professor at University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, points out that this isn’t necessarily a new idea. For instance, King Gillette made his fortune in the early part of the 20th Century by realizing that a cheap shaving device would pave the way for a recurring revenue stream via replacement razor blades.

“The new variation was the Keurig,” said Venkatesan, referring to the coffee machine that relies on replaceable cartridges. “It has started becoming more prevalent in the last 10 years, but the fundamental model has been there.” For businesses, this can be an attractive model not only for the recurring revenue but also for the ability to cross-sell new goods to existing customers, Venkatesan said.

Another benefit to a subscription model is that it can also supply first-party data that companies can use to better understand and market to their customers. Some believe that Dollar Shave Club’s close relationship with its young male user base was one reason for Unilever’s purchase, for instance. In such a cut-throat market, such relationships can fetch a high price.

To learn more about how you can monetize disruption, watch this video overview of the new SAP Hybris Revenue Cloud.

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