Second in a series. Read Part 1.
How will finance help organizations adapt and change? How can CFOs help their teams prepare for the future?
These were questions posted to top financial leaders from four regions across the globe who participated in a recent survey of over 1,500 finance professionals conducted by CFO Publishing and sponsored by SAP. This blog summarizes the responses, along with the perspectives of four regional SAP finance executives who commented on the findings in a series of podcasts, The Innovative Finance Function.
Question 4: A majority of surveyed CFOs believe future corporate success will depend on the ability of organizations to adapt and change. How can the finance department use this to their advantage?
|North America||AsiaPac/Japan||Europe||Latin America|
Importance of Adapting
All four SAP experts agreed that digital transformation will play a key role in finance’s ability to be a driver for productive change.
For Thack Brown, general manager and global head of SAP’s Finance line of business North America: “This is the largest opportunity finance has had in the last four decades to expand its role.” Finance needs to rethink its paradigms, to rid itself of the “handcuffs” that are inadequate for a digital world – and to transform processes, such as monthly and annual reporting, to move at the speed of digital business.
Fernando Lewis, VP of sales for SAP S/4HANA in Latin America, had this to say: Finance is poised to lead the changes, and “not just in finance.” The finance department can provide information in real time that meets the needs of a continually more complex environment.
From the European viewpoint, Henner Schliebs, SAP global finance audience marketing executive, commented that finance needs to adopt a “holistic view to transform the whole organization alongside the digital transformation process.” Business network integration is key, with the opportunity to imbed business partners “all along the value chain” in a real-time way.
And Richard McLean, SAP regional CFO for Asia Pacific Japan: “Finance can make greater contributions by formulating a strategy that encompasses transparency, alignment, process simplification, technology adoption and talent.”
Question 5: The majority of surveyed CFOs believe corporate success will depend on immediate access to a single source of truth. Why are digitalization and automation important for finance to succeed?
|North America||AsiaPac/Japan||Europe||Latin America|
Single Source of Truth
All four participants agreed that in order to stay relevant and to support the business, the finance department must embrace digitalization wholeheartedly. To summarize their comments:
- Digitalization and automation are requisites for finance to succeed. A core platform is needed that allows for instantaneous information.
- A single source of truth will dramatically change the finance function and how it supports the business. The transition to real time will affect virtually all aspects of how finance functions.
- It’s a matter of “adopt or die.” Digitalization and a single source of truth are boardroom mandates and, for finance, an opportunity to “replace manual tasks with analytical bandwidth.”
- A single source of truth allows finance to “simplify, transform, and stay relevant.” It provides timely and accurate insights, fosters collaboration, and helps organizations create and implement transformational strategies.
Question 6: How do you prepare the finance team for the future?
While specifics varied, all four participants agreed that the skill sets of financial teams must change. Brown remarked, “Teams need to have technical ability and the spirit and attitude to support the business. CFOs should be looking at how the team can be more dynamic and innovate faster.” In Lewis’s view, finance needs to focus on the customer. “Prepare the team for the speed of information. Remember the customers and make sure the finance team understands who they are. More and more companies have a 360-degree view of customers, and the finance team should, too.”
Schliebs emphasized people skills: “Assess first. Do you have the right people? Learn from millennials and their mind sets. They are the future leaders.” Look at systems as well as people to make sure both are meeting corporate needs. Finally, McLean added: “CFOs should automate, simplify, and recreate the team. The required transformation should be owned and driven by those being transformed. The team should feel safe to think innovatively.”
The podcasts have provided an important meshing of broad-based opinions of CFOs around the world with the individual perspectives of regional experts. The resounding takeaways from both sides of the equation: the outlook is promising for CFOs, the need to adapt is crucial, embracing automation is a requirement, and CFOs must create and foster teams that are up to the challenges ahead.
To listen to the podcasts:
North America with Thack Brown, click here.
Latin America podcast with Fernando Lewis, click here.
Europe podcast with Henner Schliebs, click here.
APJ podcast with Richard McLean, click here.
To learn more about how finance executives can thrive in the digital economy with the right tools and play a vital role in business innovation and value chain, review the regional reports of this survey which offer additional insights and valuable information.