April saw the first SAP CFO Executive forum session in Melbourne, hosted by SAP in conjunction with The Australian Financial Review. With an overwhelming response from the CFO and finance leadership community, it truly brought to life the power of peer-to-peer engagement, especially in these evolving times.
I was lucky enough to sit on a panel alongside five peers from across the industry: Race Strauss, Group CFO, Jetstar; Jo Hands, CFO, Sensis; Andrew Griffiths, CFO, Deloitte Australia; Siobhan Hammer, CFO, ALH Group; and Anna Lee, CFO, The Iconic. It was an excellent discussion, which for me personally provided unique insight into the perceptions and views of the CFO in light of how technology is shifting our mandate.
I’d like to share my top four takeaways from the session:
1. Technology and digital transformation is important across the board, and for the CFO’s agenda.
All of my peers referenced how technology and digital disruption are very important to the board of their companies. At SAP, we have grown by listening to our customers and embracing the evolution to the cloud through both acquisitions of best-of-breed market leaders and designing our own new products. Had we not embraced this change, we could have become a Kodak. The Iconic, for example, makes it easy and affordable for customers to buy the latest fashions and other products online and have them delivered to a very strict and consistent service level. Jetstar has changed the way Australians and other customers fly overseas by making it more affordable and easier to book travel via online and mobile platforms.
2. Traditional finance expectations are no more.
As finance professionals, we cannot rest on our laurels with outdated static reporting. Finance is now at the forefront of guiding the business, and our executives and business partners expect much more. They assume we have the technical ability to add real value by providing real-time predictive analysis to make fact-based decisions quickly.
We have historically played a steward role centered on compliance and transactions, but now is the time to collaborate and transform our business with growth strategies into new markets. At SAP, we call this being a transformation agent, and we have developed a methodology for training our employees. All of my peers were talking about the change and training we must provide to enable our employees to keep up with company expectations.
3. People who embrace technology are key to enabling change.
CFOs, and the C-suite in general, are increasingly becoming responsible for the IT function within their organizations. Those who are able to embrace technology and spend more time understanding and collaborating with the business will be true transformation agents who are sought after for key roles. The types of roles that exist today will not be around in the future, and finance teams need to grasp this speed of change and demonstrate the value they can give using their finance skills and training around interpretation.
4. Insight is key – real-time data is finance’s best friend.
In order to stay relevant to business, CFOs must embrace real-time data. This will enable teams to spend time among the business, assisting with fast interpretation and fact-based decisions rather than sitting in front of a screen compiling numbers. Technology is enabling speed, a single source of truth, predictive analysis, and self-service, and the finance teams who embrace this will be a true partner to the business.
CFOs are responsible for leading transformation within the finance function, and it is clear that wider teams are coming on board. It is critical to serve as an enabler rather than a negative disruptor. It will be interesting to see over the coming years where this puts us in the minds of the business as a strategic contributor. I am already seeing—and I am confident that we will continue to see—that finance will be integral to decision-making, working even closer with wider teams in the business.
I am really looking forward to the next CFO executive engagement. If you are interested in joining the CFO executive community, sign up today. I look forward to connecting with you in the next engagement!
Register interest: CFO executive community.
Take a look at some key takeaways from my panelist peers.
To learn more about how finance executives can empower themselves with the right tools and play a vital role in business innovation and value chain, please visit sap.com/finance for additional research and valuable insights – and join us at SAPPHIRE NOW.
SAPPHIRE NOW (#SAPPHIRENOW) and the ASUG Annual Conference (#ASUG2016) will run concurrently from May 17 to May 19 in Orlando. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak will speak on May 17, two days before Coldplay plays Concert Night.