How To Become A Digital-Economy CFO: Part 1

Thack Brown

Part 1 of a series. Read part 2, part 3 and part 4

In my position at SAP, I am privileged to meet many CFOs and talk to them about the impact that digital transformation is having on their businesses. Almost without exception, finance professionals are seeking to respond to the advent of the digital economy – as well as with the most volatile economic and regulatory environment in decades.

What I’ve concluded is that often companies and finance departments are not sure how to react to what might seem like an upheaval of the status quo. They are looking for the right path to take. I also find that the benefits of new technologies such as in-memory computing, hyper-connectivity, and cloud applications are frequently unknown or underutilized.

New opportunities for the finance department

Despite this understandable inertia, there is mounting evidence that these new technologies can open up a plethora of opportunities for CFOs, bringing added value to their companies in ways not previously possible.

For example, having access to real-time information provides executives with the ability to drill down to answer questions and analyze different courses of action on the spot. This is a major breakthrough, and an especially important one when time is of the essence. It’s just one way that technology can facilitate both the speed and the quality of financial decision making, improving the agility of the finance department and its overall contributions to the business.

Because digitalization can fundamentally alter business models, processes, and work practices, I am committed to helping CFOs understand how technology can help them reimagine their businesses. In this upcoming series of blogs, we will look at technology solutions that focus on simplifying and innovating four key areas of the CFO’s responsibilities.

Here’s a preview:

 Reimagine strategy and growth

How can the finance team support rapid implementation of new business models, such as speeding up the mergers and acquisitions process? This blog will look at the technology needed to facilitate the agile development of new growth strategies and the rapid rebalancing of portfolios in light of build, buy, or sell decisions.

 Reimagine business performance

Here I’ll focus on how technology can help CFOs gain real-time insight and flexibility to do analysis on any dimension, without the need for extractions to data warehouses. I’ll also look at ways to break the barrier of the month-end close and approaches for obtaining real-time visibility into customer profitability and product costs along the entire value chain.

Reimagine efficiency

In this blog, I’ll summarize the importance of finance moving towards a true “lights out” process. And I’ll discuss the use of comprehensive automation to improve, simplify, and completely rethink back-office operations, leverage business networks, and speed up decision making at all levels.

Reimagine stewardship

In this blog, I’ll pinpoint how technology can implement risk strategies beyond mere prevention, as well as identify fraud patterns in advance. I’ll also look at how embedded controls and real-time monitoring can provide continuous oversight and built-in compliance.

I hope you’ll keep reading in the weeks ahead and, of course, I welcome your thoughts and comments.

To continue the discussion on the pivotal role finance will play in digital transformation, read Digital Finance: Transforming Finance for the Digital Economy and join us at SAPPHIRE NOW.


Thack Brown

About Thack Brown

Thack Brown is General Manager and Global Head for SAP’s Line of Business Finance. In this capacity, he is responsible for the full suite of SAP solutions for the Office of the CFO. SAP has the market’s most robust portfolio of solutions for finance professionals, covering all the major financial process, including: Financial Planning and Analysis, Managerial and Statutory Accounting, Treasury, Risk and Compliance and core finance operations such as Shared Services, Real Estate, Travel and Expense Reimbursement, Accounts Payable and Accounts Receivable, etc.