In any discussion about the future of finance, technology necessarily enters the conversation, and two key questions arise: How will it change this core business function? What will it mean for CFOs?
This timely topic was the focus of a recent episode of Financial Excellence with Game Changers Radio, presented by SAP and hosted by Bonnie D. Graham at SAP. The broadcast featured thought leaders from Deloitte Consulting LLP, SAP, and Simplifi. Listen to the episode.
According to Sam Parikh, managing director of the SAP practice at Deloitte Consulting, CFOs may not understand completely what the impact of new technologies will be, but change is inevitable, and they need to be leading the charge.
As he explained, “Leaders in finance organizations are no longer just operators or the stewards of the company’s assets. I think they now have a role to play as the catalyst, as strategists who are going to drive the company forward.”
Jon Essig, senior solution director for enterprise performance management at Simplifi, agreed, saying, “finance leaders are expected to do everything they had to do before. But now they’re expected to be able to manage and be thought leaders from a technology perspective as it relates to finance and accounting.”
And Karuna Mukherjea, senior director of product marketing, enterprise performance management at SAP, also concurred. Quoting the popular mantra of computer scientist Alan Kay, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it,” she explained that she sees finance leaders as being “…the inventors, the dreamers of new finance models that are going to keep organizations competitive.”
Exactly what changes are technologies like mobile computing, artificial intelligence, and robotics driving? For Sam, it’s a reevaluation of how business is conducted. “All these changes that are happening are driving the business to think about different ways of operating and different business models.”
Karuna sees it a slightly different way: “I think technology is going to transform work cultures. Work spaces and traditional organizational structures are being broken down. And I think that is where these technologies are going to play a huge role.”
And all participants agreed that the young professionals now entering the workforce will have an impact on how finance is conducted. “The demographics are changing,” explained Jon. “The people stepping into finance roles grew up with the new technologies; they expect them and want them. I think it will be really interesting to see how things shape up in the next five years’ time with the new generation of leadership out there.”
An area where the panelists were also in unison was the opportunity finance organizations have to make use of the massive amounts of information within their companies, moving from simply looking after systems of record to delivering real-time engines of insight.
There is a caveat, however: Avoid the temptation to collect information for information’s sake, but instead figure out how information can be harnessed for business value. Karuna was quite blunt about it. “Why do you want real-time information? What is it going to do for finance?” she asked. “I think it’s very important that we identify the benefits of technology and not just implement technology for the sake of it.”
Sam added, “the challenge for finance leaders is how to filter the information they have, and to determine how they can analyze it to drive the company’s strategy forward.”
What were the panel’s key predictions for the future?
For Sam, artificial intelligence and robotics will have the biggest impact. “I think using robotics for the simple tasks will dramatically change the composition of the workforce and how work gets done.”
Jon agreed. “I think artificial intelligence, automation, and augmented reality are going to be the big changes 20 years from now – how we interact and the tasks that are automated for us,” he predicted.
But Karuna had a slightly different view. “The big changes are going to be new business processes and models,” she said. “And technology will just naturally fit into them; it will not be an add-on.”
This excerpt from Financial Excellence with Game Changers, presented by SAP on the World Talk Radio Business Channel May 17, 2016, was adapted for the Digitalist Magazine. It is available on demand.
Learn more about the future of finance and the technologies involved with these replays from this year’s SAPPHIRE NOW conference:
Hear Jonathan Feinstein, vice president, New York Life Insurance Company, describe how the company has transformed its finance systems and enabled live business processes.
Listen to York Rasmusson, senior director, finance and HR systems, Carter’s, discuss how Carter’s has transformed finance to support brand growth, geographic expansion, efficiency, and associated satisfaction.
Learn how you can reimagine business models, improve user experience, and operate in real time with SAP S/4HANA software.