Digitalizing Finance: How CFOs Can Take Part In The Digital Transformation Agenda

Neil Krefsky

Whenever digital transformation is listed as an executive-level priority, the most-common reason is to improve three major things: the customer experience, operations, and delivery of products and services customers demand. It’s all about agility and speed – and business digitalization promises to deliver it all.

While this strategy keeps most business areas busy, the finance function is frequently left out. According to the CFO research study “Thriving in the Digital Economy: Four Reasons Why Finance Is Excited About the Future,” 60% of finance executives and professionals indicate that they are ill-equipped to produce meaningful business analysis and reporting that can keep up with the pace of change the rest of the company is experiencing.

Why should executives rethink how finance is engaged in digital transformation strategies? Their success relies on instantaneous access to a single version of the truth in all aspects of the business. For finance teams, that calls for a skill that handle massive, unstructured data sets to deliver unified, comprehensive, up-to-date information.

But first, CFOs need to make sure their organization is perceived as a priority in the quest for digital transformation. Here’s how.

1. Innovate new ways and services that bring added value to the enterprise

For decades, CFOs have offered sage wisdom to the executive team. Whether they are advising on business performance, financials, operating costs, or a breakdown of where revenue opportunity resides, the entire finance department has played a role in offering insight and guidance.

Although this responsibility is exceeding the expectations of 78% of finance professionals’ expectations for meaningful work, CFO Research found that they do not believe their value has been fully exploited. In fact, over half (57%) predict their roles will demand new responsibilities within the next five years.

2. Get ready to impact more than your business’ financial and accounting operations

The organization’s influence on business growth is undeniable. Not only is finance responsible for financial reporting and general accounting, but it’s also managing activities related to treasury, cash, taxes, risk, mergers and acquisitions, and, more recently, procurement. However, this is not where its reach ends.

CFO Research reports that many companies have extended finance’s role in seemingly unrelated areas such as IT, HR, legal, and supply chain management. Even more surprising is its increasing involvement in sales, marketing, and corporate strategy.

Through digital transformation, CFOs can set up the team with advanced analytics tools and skills sets that will prove valuable to every line of business. By tracking, analyzing, and reporting financial metrics, finance professionals can deliver the kind of in-depth, real-time insight and advice every functional manager needs to make critical decisions.

3. Make a case for combating complexity with advanced analytical knowledge

Every part of the company is making decisions at such as rapid pace that it is difficult for everyone else to keep up – bringing unprecedented complexity. In the CFO Research study, 80% believe that business success requires finance’s ability to adapt to this environment by translating large volumes of data into swift, decisive action.

As digital transformation sets the stage for high-value activities such as strategy development, execution, and realignment in response to changing market dynamics, CFOs and their team will develop close working relationships with operating or business units. By exerting its influence across the entire enterprise, the finance organization will no longer be viewed as an area that just tracks numbers. It will become a strategic partner that derive key insights from data in a manner that no one else can.

For more insight into the future of finance and the solutions needed to thrive, read the CFO Research report “Thriving in the Digital Economy: Four Reasons Why Finance Is Excited About the Future.”


Neil Krefsky

About Neil Krefsky

Neil Krefsky is Head of SAP Finance and Risk Product Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for the development and execution of the product marketing strategy for SAP's solutions for the finance area including: SAP S/4HANA for Finance as well as applications for financial planning and analysis, accounting and financial close, treasury and financial risk management, collaborative finance operations, and enteprise risk and compliance.