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Why CFOs Must Become Digitally Savvy

Nilly Essaides

Digital transformation is all around us. New technologies are revolutionizing how companies do business and engage with customers. They are also changing the way finance delivers services to its internal customers. Out are paper invoices; in are e-invoicing portals. Out are legacy on-premise applications; in are cloud-based applications. Out is manual reconciliation; in is robotic process automation (RPA). Big Data and advanced analytics are giving finance the power to support better business decisions about investment opportunities, cost savings, and new sources of revenue.

Cases in point

  • At one telecom company, finance uses Big Data discovery and predictive analytics technology to help solve business problems. Finance set out to find out what kind of products customers in a particular area were looking for. Using Big Data and advanced analytics, the finance team came up with answers that help the business decide what to keep in inventory, increasing sales and reducing cost.
  • A medical device company decided to overhaul its order-entry process by using RPA. The company needed a comprehensive automation platform that was flexible and accurate, provided a strict control environment, and could be easily and quickly deployed. It took 6 months to deploy 14 robots and completely change the processes and significantly redeploy headcount. This approach also improved accuracy, which, among other benefits, helps get cash in the door faster.
  • At another company, an innovative cloud planning tool created a newly collaborative environment with self-service capabilities so that business units contribute directly to the forecasting and budgeting process. The new technology sped up the process while also improving data integrity.
  • Finally, at one global company, artificial intelligence (AI) is helping finance improve its forecasting accuracy by pulling in third-party data based on social media conversations from all over the world. The third-party provider relies on AI to gauge the intensity of the conversation to predict social and political events that may lead to market disruptions.

Many finance organizations still lag in achieving the full potential of digital technologies. Our 2017 key issues study shows that finance executives almost universally expect digital transformation to have a significant impact on their performance and service-delivery model. But they rank their current execution capabilities as low. They’re also not taking big steps to correct this mismatch.

How to become a digitally savvy CFO

That’s why CFOs need to become digitally savvy. Their primary goal is to close the gap between the development and execution of a digital strategy for the finance function. The digitally savvy CFO is the evangelist and steward of the effort to bring new technologies and a digital vision to the finance team. This way, the enterprise can benefit from the premise of more technologically enabled processes, advanced analytics, and self-service solutions.

Here are steps the CFO can take to move the finance function to the digital era:

  1. Build a customer-centric digital process: CFOs must focus finance on serving internal customers more efficiently and effectively. This may involve streamlining repetitive processes by moving them to a global business services organization. Or it might involve using tools like RPA to automate parts of the process that are rule-based and can be handed off to algorithm-driven technologies, freeing up staff time to focus on more value-added tasks.
  1. Build a digital architecture: Finance should create a connected and agile technology platform that integrates multiple applications to connect vendors/suppliers, end customers, and internal customers. This platform should be able to leverage a variety of internal, external, structured, and unstructured data.
  1. Develop digital competency through centers of excellence (CoEs). CFOs should establish digital CoEs where technologies like RPA can be tested to discover applications with strong business cases for deployment in the finance function. The CoEs act as “virtual sandboxes” in which new technologies can be tried out on a small scale.
  1. Create digital value through data governance: CFOs should spearhead data governance efforts to make sure enterprise data is accurate and ready to be used. Master data management (MDM), which defines the way data is stored and managed, is an increasingly important area of focus. Without it, analytics applications cannot run effectively.
  1. Develop data “smarts:” Data is of no value unless it’s used to drive action. Going digital means merging data with sophisticated analytics that provide insight into what is going to happen and what to do about it. Finance must deliver the right information at the right time to the right people so the business can take action.
  1. Develop a digital workforce: Finally, digitally savvy CFOs must come up with a talent development strategy designed to support their emerging approach. A full 80% of participants in our key issues study believe that digitization will change the skills and leadership approach required to manage their function. But the study also found that very few finance organizations plan major updates to talent management programs and practices this year. Finance will have to take bolder steps if it is to retrain and reshape its workforce to become more strategic in nature, collaborate with the business, and provide higher-level analytics support.

CFOs must stay vigilant regarding new digital technologies, continuously educating themselves and encouraging their staff to do the same. They must keep abreast of what other companies are doing, learning about potential use cases that may hold promise for their own activities and educating other company leaders on these topics. Most important, they must make it clear that they are fully committed to digital transformation by assigning these projects the highest priority and rewarding staff for implementing new technologies and mastering new skills.

For more digital transformation strategies, see Your Digital Transformation Journey Begins Here.

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Nilly Essaides

About Nilly Essaides

Nilly Essaides is senior research director, Finance & EPM Advisory Practice at The Hackett Group. Nilly is a thought leader and frequent speaker and meeting facilitator at industry events, the author of multiple in-depth guides on financial planning & analysis topics, as well as monthly articles and numerous blogs. She was formerly director and practice lead of Financial Planning & Analysis at the Association for Financial Professionals, and managing director at the NeuGroup, where she co-led the company’s successful peer group business. Nilly also co-authored a book about knowledge management and how to transfer best practices with the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC).

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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