What do music and finance have in common? Disruptive technologies are transforming them both. Just a few years ago, you listened to music on a specific device in a particular format. Today you can access whatever you want, anywhere, on any device.
The technologies that have transformed the music industry have the power to deliver an equally revolutionary transformation to the finance function – a topic explored at recent Webinars sponsored by the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA) in the U.S. and by EY in Europe. At each session, attended by hundreds of finance professionals, SAP and EY painted their vision of the future.
For Thack Brown, general manager and global head, Line of Business Finance at SAP, the technologies are enabling finance teams to reimagine their roles in three key areas:
- Allowing finance to focus more on business strategy and architecting new business models
- Enabling finance to provide the business with greater insights into performance
- Driving greater automation, which is delivering greater efficiency and compliance
In his view, the one critical technology underpinning this transformation is in-memory computing, which is finally enabling finance functions to achieve the one capability they have craved for many years: a single source of the truth.
With a single source of the truth, finance departments can transact and analyze from the same source of data in real time. This capability, in itself, is causing a dramatic change in the speed at which finance functions can carry out all manner of activities, from month-end close to budget reconciliations, reporting, and delivering predictive and operational analytics.
Ingmar Christiaens, Agile Business – Finance leader at EY, also sees in-memory computing as a major factor in transforming finance. He believes that it will not only lead to process and IT simplification, but also process innovation and real-time reporting and analysis. In turn, he anticipates that these capabilities will result in significant changes to the organization and the role of finance.
From an organizational perspective, the availability of a single version of the truth will enable highly centralized finance functions, even if ERP systems are not central. Finance roles will become more specialized and business focused, requiring less transactional and IT knowledge. Tony Klimas, Global Finance leader at EY, mentioned that this will have significant impact on the skills required of finance professionals and the talent that CFOs will want to attract in the future.
Besides the different skills that will be required, Ingmar also sees the role of the finance function itself changing, too. Having real-time access to actual and historical data will push finance into becoming a business partner that focuses on decision support, strategically looking into the future to help determine business strategy and identify and evaluate new business models.
In addition, he expects the cost of finance to diminish significantly, as automation and robotics substantially decrease the effort needed for reporting and transaction processing.
The attendees were left with very clear takeaways from the seminar. Disruptive technologies are a reality, and every company will need to learn how to deal with them. Finance is well positioned to help organizations weave those technologies into their business strategies and create agile enterprises that outshine their competitors.
Learn more about digital finance and what it will mean for the CFO. Watch the replays:
U.S. Webinar hosted by IMA
European Webinar hosted by EY
See Thack Brown discuss reimagining finance for the digital age at SAPPHIRE NOW 2016.
Watch EY describe how CFOs are moving to predictive analytics with SAP Digital Boardroom at SAPPHIRE NOW 2016.