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How To Ensure That Profitability And Sustainability Are At The Heart Of Your Firm

Derek Klobucher

The choice between profitability and sustainability is no longer a stark one, as promising companies start showing real gains — such as Tesla Inc. overtaking GM and Ford as the most valuable U.S. automaker by market capitalization. The Palo Alto-based electric automaker and energy storage company reached this milestone due in part to strong Q1 performance as its Detroit counterparts stumbled.

“While GM and Ford may have strong profits and healthy balance sheets, Tesla offers something Wall Street loves much more: the potential for dramatic growth,” The New York Times stated last week. “Tesla is going to change the world, and is primed to cash in on the two transformative trends in the industry: the shift to electric vehicles as part of a broader societal move to cleaner energy, and the advent of automated driving.”

Yes, Tesla has been green from the get-go. But it’s also possible for organizations that haven’t been eco-warriors from the start to blend profitability with sustainability — the noble endeavor to business while preserving natural resources and environmental harmony. And that’s a good way to please all kinds of stakeholders.

Choose your stakeholders wisely

A critical move for older companies — big and small — will be to deal with climate change-related issues in their boardrooms as opposed to sustainability departments, according to the MIT Sloan Management Review. Boards of directors would need to better understand how climate risks impact the bottom line, include climate risks among their organizations’ material risks, and determine their most significant audience.

“Boards that regard short-term shareholders as the only significant audience … would be unlikely to consider climate change as a material risk for reporting purposes,” MIT SMR stated last month. “Alternatively, boards that regard long-term shareholders and future generations of employees as a significant audience would likely consider climate change a material risk.”

Rather than reinvent the wheel, MIT SMR recommends that organizations ease into their sustainability transitions by:

  • Learning from existing work done by NGOs, accountants, academics, and others
  • Placing greater emphasis on the materiality determination process
  • Exploring circumstances and scenarios that could affect their business — and developing plans for them

Show me the numbers

Board members discussing sustainability with like-minded shareholders is one thing. It’s quite another for CFOs to quantify environmental values, such as habitat preservation or factory safety.

“Just utter the word ‘sustainability,’ and a finance chief’s eyes are likely to glaze over,” CFO.com stated last month. “The gains and losses of the next quarter are likely to be more compelling than the question of whether a company’s plants will have access to cheap energy over the next 20 years.”

But long-term investors, such as those mentioned by MIT SMR, are starting to change that. Finance executives will increasingly need granular data about how climate change will influence their organizations’ future balance sheets — because long-term investors such as endowments and pension funds are demanding that information, according to CFO.com.

The mother of invention

Moving to profitable sustainability isn’t always a luxury that organizations choose. Sometimes the environment forces it — resulting in innovation.

“In markets where the pressures of resource depletion are felt most keenly, corporate sustainability efforts have become a wellspring of innovation,” Harvard Business Review stated in 2013. The most successful companies studied followed one or more of three main approaches:

  • Long view: Relatively expensive upfront investment in sustainable operation methods that eventually — and dramatically — lowered costs and increased yields
  • Bootstrap: Small changes in processes that led to significant cost savings, which funded advanced technologies that increased production efficiency
  • Spreading out: Dispersing sustainability efforts to customer and supplier operations, which helped organizations develop new business models that competitors often couldn’t imitate

“Trade-offs between economic development and environmentalism aren’t necessary,” HBR stated. “Rather, the pursuit of sustainability can be a powerful path to reinvention for all businesses facing limits on their resources and their customers’ buying power.”

Moving toward sustainability

That “powerful path to reinvention” can also be consumer-driven, as GM and Ford have learned. And it’s not too late for legacy companies to get moving.

“The Detroit automakers are hardly sitting still in their efforts to improve current results and future prospects,” The New York Times stated. “Both [GM and Ford] have bought technology companies to bolster their in-house engineering expertise.”

As Tesla prepares to launch its its new, mass-market all-electric car this summer, the company is synonymous with green high-tech and success. Though almost unthinkable now, GM and Ford could be implementing changes that would one day make them synonymous with sustainability and profitability too.

Follow Derek on Twitter: @DKlobucher

This article originally appeared on SAP Community Network, and is republished by permission.

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

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Derek Klobucher

About Derek Klobucher

Derek Klobucher is a Financial Services Writer and Editor for Sybase, an SAP Company. He has covered the exchanges in Chicago, European regulation in Dublin and banking legislation in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and Northwestern University in Evanston.

The CFO Role In 2020

Estelle Lagorce

African American businessman looking out office window --- Image by © Mark Edward Atkinson/Blend Images/CorbisThe role of the CFO is undergoing a serious transformation, and CFOs can expect their role to continue to evolve, according to a recent CFO.com article by Deloitte COO and CFO Frank Friedman.

In the futurist article, Friedman says one of the biggest factors that will contribute to the CFO’s significant change over the next five years is technology.

Digital technology is obviously expected to drive change in high-tech companies, but Friedman says it’s industries outside of the tech sectors that are of particular interest, as they struggle to understand how to grasp and harness the digital capabilities available to them.

Working with high tech in low-tech industries

Five years from now, a finance team may be defined by how well it uses technology and innovative business tools, regardless of what industry it’s in. The article outlines some examples of ways that digital technology will increasingly be used by CFOs in “non-tech” sectors:

  • Predictive analytics: CFOs in manufacturing companies can forecast results and produce revenue predictions based on customer-experience profiles and current demand, instead of comparing to previous years as most companies still do today.
  • Social media and crowdsourcing: You may not think CFOs spend a lot of time on social media or crowdsourcing sites, but these methods can actually expedite finance processes, such as month-end responsibilities of the finance organization.
  • Big Data: CFOs already have a lot of data at their fingertips, but in 2020 they will have even more. CFOs in both tech and non-tech sectors who understand how to use that data to make valuable, informed decisions, can strategically guide their company and industry in a more digitally oriented world.

To do this, Friedman says CFOs can lead the way by addressing some critical areas:

  1. Know the issues: Gather the key questions that leaders expect Big Data analytics to answer.
  1. Make data easily accessible: Collect data that is manageable and easy to access.
  1. Broaden skills: The finance team needs people with the skills to understand and strategically interpret the data available to them.

The tech-savvy CFO

The role of today’s CFO has already expanded to include strategic corporate growth advice as well as managing the bottom line. In 2020, Friedman says expectations placed on the CFO are presumed to be even greater, and CFOs will likely need a much more diverse, multidisciplinary skill set to meet those demands.

The article details several traits and skills that CFOs will need in order to keep up with the pace of digital change in their role.

  1. Digital knowledge: CFOs must be tech-savvy in order to capitalize on technical innovations that will benefit their company and their industry as a whole.
  1. Data-driven execution: CFOs will need the ability to execute company strategy and operations decisions based on data-driven insights.
  1. Regulatory compliance: Regulations continue to be more stringent globally, so CFOs will need to be proficient at working closely with regulators and compliance systems.
  1. Risk management: With the growing global economy comes increased cyber and geopolitical risks worldwide. The CFOs of 2020, especially those in large multinational organizations, will need to have the expertise to monitor and manage risk in areas that may be unforeseen today.

The future CFO’s well-rounded resume

By 2020, the CFO role will require much more than just an accounting background. According to Deloitte’s Frank Friedman, “CFOs may need to bring a much more multidisciplinary skill set to the job as well as broader career experiences, from working overseas to holding positions in sales and marketing, and even running a business unit.”

So if you’re a current or aspiring CFO, you have five years to round out your resume with the necessary skills to be ready for the digitally driven role of the CFO in 2020.

The above information is based on the CFO.com article What Will the CFO Role Look Like In 2020?” by Deloitte COO & CFO, Frank Friedman – Copyright © 2015 CFO.com.

Want to learn more about best practices for transforming your finance organization? View the SAP/Deloitte Webinar, “Reshaping the Finance Function”.

For an in-depth look at digital technology’s role in business transformation, download the SAP eBook, The Digital Economy: Reinventing the Business World.

To learn more about the business and technology factors driving digital disruption, download the SAP eBook, Digital Disruption: How Digital Technology is Transforming Our World.

To read more CFO insights from a tech industry perspective, read the Wall Street Journal article with SAP CFO Luka Mucic: Driving Insight with In-memory Technology.

Discover 7 Questions CFOs Should Ask Themselves About Cyber Security.

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Estelle Lagorce

About Estelle Lagorce

Estelle Lagorce is the Director, Global Partner Marketing, at SAP. She leads the global planning, successful implementation and business impact of integrated marketing programs with top global Strategic Partner across priority regions and countries (demand generation, thought leadership).

Get Your Payables House In Order

Chris Rauen

First of 8 blogs in the series

Too many organizations ignore the business potential from streamlining accounts payable operations. In a digital economy, however, this may represent one of the best opportunities to improve financial performance and boost the bottom line.

In its recent report, ePayables 2015: Higher Ground, the research and advisory firm Ardent Partners made a strong case for accounts payable transformation. “In 2015, more AP groups are accelerating their plans to transform their operations and scale to new heights,” states the report.

The digital makeover

From a payables perspective, how you go about fixing outdated procure-to-pay (P2P) practices is much like the decision to improve an aging home. Do you tear your house down and build a new one, or leverage as much of the existing structure as you can and begin a major home improvement project?

There is, of course, a third option. Take no action and make calls to plumbers, electricians, roofers, and other specialists as needed before the house falls apart altogether. While few organizations would consider a “triage” strategy the best option to address deficiencies in P2P operations, many still do. (Just don’t share that with your CFO.)

This blog post is the first in a series that will examine options for upgrading procure-to-pay processes from outclassed to best-in-class. Continuing to focus time and effort on managing transactions just doesn’t make sense. With today’s business networks, organizations have new ways to collaborate with suppliers and other partners to buy, sell, and manage cash.

Automation handles low-value activities, eliminating data entry, exception management, and payment status phone calls. That leaves more time for benchmarking operations, monitoring supplier performance, expanding early payment discounts, and improving management of working capital – the kinds of things that can dramatically improve business performance.

Where do you start?

To begin, you have to recognize that getting your payables house in order is much more than a process efficiency initiative. While cost savings from e-invoicing can be 60% to 80% lower than paper invoicing, there’s much more to the business case.

Improving contract compliance and expanding early payment discounts are other components of a business case for P2P transformation. According to various procure-to-pay research studies and Ariba customer results, the cost savings from getting your payables house in order are conservatively estimated to be $10 million per billion collars of spend. We’ll break down these ROI components in greater detail in future posts on this topic.

The value of alignment

Another important first step, validated by the Ardent Partners report, is getting procurement and finance-accounts payables in alignment. As this is a holistic process, you’ll need to make sure that both organizations are in sync, and you have support from upper management to make it happen.

Now, back to the question: Do you approach a payables makeover to support P2P transformation as a tear-down or a fixer-upper? If your procurement-accounts payable teams are out of alignment, your P2P processes are predominantly paper, and decentralized buying leaves little control over spend, you’re looking at a tear-down to lay the foundation for best practices payables. We’ll share a blueprint with you in the next post in this series.

Chris Rauen is a solution marketer for Ariba, an SAP company. He regularly contributes to topics including e-invoicing and dynamic discounting as well as the value of collaborating in a digital economy. 

Learn more about how to take your payables to the next level of performance in Ardent Partners’ research report “ ePayables 2015: Higher Ground.”

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Chris Rauen

About Chris Rauen

Chris Rauen is a solution marketer for SAP Ariba. He regularly contributes to topics including e-invoicing and dynamic discounting as well as the value of collaborating in a digital economy.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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Unleash The Digital Transformation

Kadamb Goswami

The world has changed. We’ve seen massive disruption on multiple fronts – business model disruption, cybercrime, new devices, and an app-centric world. Powerful networks are crucial to success in a mobile-first, cloud-first world that’s putting an ever-increasing increasing amount of data at our fingertips. With the Internet of Things (IoT) we can connect instrumented devices worldwide and use new data to transform business models and products.

Disruption

Disruption comes in many forms. It’s not big or scary, it’s just another way of describing change and evolution. In the ’80s it manifested as call centers. Then, as the digital landscape began to take shape, it was the Internet, cloud computing … now it’s artificial intelligence (AI).

Digital transformation

Digital transformation means different things to different companies, but in the end I believe it will be a simple salvation that will carry us forward. If you Bing (note I worked for Microsoft for 15 years before experiencing digital transformation from the lens of the outside world), digital transformation, it says it’s “the profound and accelerating transformation of business activities, processes, competencies, and models to fully leverage the changes and opportunities of digital technologies and their impact across society in a strategic and prioritized way.” (I’ll simplify that; keep reading.)

A lot of today’s digital transformation ideas are ripped straight from the scripts of sci-fi entertainment, whether you’re talking about the robotic assistants of 2001: A Space Odyssey or artificial intelligence in the Star Trek series. We’re forecasting our future with our imagination. So, let’s move on to why digital transformation is needed in our current world.

Business challenges

The basic challenges facing businesses today are the same as they’ve always been: engaging customers, empowering employees, optimizing operations, and reinventing the value offered to customers. However, what has changed is the unique convergence of three things:

  1. Increasing volumes of data, particularly driven by the digitization of “things” and heightened individual mobility and collaboration
  1. Advancements in data analytics and intelligence to draw actionable insight from the data
  1. Ubiquity of cloud computing, which puts this disruptive power in the hands of organizations of all sizes, increasing the pace of innovation and competition

Digital transformation in plain English

Hernan Marino, senior vice president, marketing, & global chief operating officer at SAP, explains digital transformation by giving specific industry examples to make it simpler.

Automobile manufacturing used to be the work of assembly lines, people working side-by-side literally piecing together, painting, and churning out vehicles. It transitioned to automation, reducing costs and marginalizing human error. That was a business transformation. Now, we are seeing companies like Tesla and BMW incorporate technology into their vehicles that essentially make them computers on wheels. Cameras. Sensors. GPS. Self-driving vehicles. Syncing your smartphone with your car.

The point here is that companies need to make the upfront investments in infrastructure to take advantage of digital transformation, and that upfront investment will pay dividends in the long run as technological innovations abound. It is our job to collaboratively work with our customers to understand what infrastructure changes need to be made to achieve and take advantage of digital transformation.

Harman gives electric companies as another example. Remember a few years ago, when you used to go outside your house and see the little power meter spinning as it recorded the kilowatts you use? Every month, the meter reader would show up in your yard, record your usage, and report back to the electric company.

Most electric companies then made a business transformation and installed smart meters – eliminating the cost of the meter reader and integrating most homes into a smart grid that gave customers access to their real-time information. Now, as renewable energy evolves and integrates more fully into our lives, these same electric companies that switched over to smart meters are going to make additional investments to be able to analyze the data and make more informed decisions that will benefit both the company and its customers.

That is digital transformation. Obviously, banks, healthcare, entertainment, trucking, and e-commerce all have different needs than auto manufacturers and electric companies. It is up to us – marketers and account managers promoting digital transformation – to identify those needs and help our clients make the digital transformation as seamlessly as possible.

Digital transformation is more than just a fancy buzzword, it is our present and our future. It is re-envisioning existing business models and embracing a different way of bringing together people, data, and processes to create more for their customers through systems of intelligence.

Learn more about what it means to be a digital business.

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Goswami Kadamb

About Goswami Kadamb

Kadamb is a Senior Program Manager at SAP where he is responsible for developing and executing strategic sales program with Concur SaaS portfolio. Prior to that he led several initiatives with Microsoft's Cloud & Enterprise business to enable Solution Sales & IaaS offerings.