Millennial Mindset Matters To CFOs’ Digital Vision For Small And Midsize Businesses

Neil Krefsky

Part 3 of the “Leading Through Digital Transformation” series

The rules have forever changed for finance leaders in small and midsize businesses. Gone are the ho-hum days where they were simply considered the caretakers of the company’s financial statements and sheriff of ensuring compliance with regulatory and other accounting standards. They are now trusted advisors with the influence and insight to help the firm grow, expand, and build market leadership.

In fact, CFOs of most small and midsize businesses are usually much more involved and closer to the customer and other operational roles of the company than their large enterprise counterparts. To remain agile enough to keep up, the finance organization must shed its historically conservative nature and adopt innovative technology early. According to the CFO Research study “Embracing the Promise of a Digital Economy,” finance professionals are relying on effective use of technology to adapt to change, provide instantaneous access, translate data into action, and capitalize on Big Data.

Fortunately, as our increasingly digital world continues to disrupt the business world, the millennial mindset has provided a blueprint for finance professionals of all generations to not only evolve, but to thrive in this landscape.

Success in digital transformation depends on these factors

Source: “Embracing the Promise of a Digital Economy,” a CFO Research report sponsored by SAP, 2016.

Drive digital transformation with the heart and mind of a digital native

When it comes to digital transformation, it’s not enough to take advantage of digital innovations to deliver the highest value to the brand. Finance must understand the latest IT advances with a millennial and Gen Z mindset to reap the full benefits of modern technology.

But don’t mistake this effort as catering to a younger generation. Everyone has the capacity to embrace a digital lifestyle, even those who are part of a generation that grew up without technology. Increasingly, baby boomers and Gen Xers are adopting work habits that are similar to their millennial and Gen Z counterparts. And in terms of finance leadership, only the expertise of a seasoned finance professional with a holistic view of the firm’s financial stewardship – from record to report, control and comply, and close to disclose, for example – can guide the path to realizing the full value of digital technology.

Luckily, most finance leaders in small and midsize businesses are already expected to take on a more dynamic role. Not only is this additional responsibility providing unprecedented access to operations and exposure to employee preferences, but it’s also bringing an opportunity to contribute continuous value to the entire company through:

  • Self-growth: Finance leaders are no longer just rated on their knowledge on the latest accounting standards and reporting requirements such as IFRS, FASB, SOX, and other guidelines; it’s their mastery of technology that counts. By actively participating and leading evaluation teams for software adoption in all areas of the company, they can learn more about the latest trends, how technology and processes are being used to improve business value, and whether finance can impact work styles within its function and throughout the enterprise.
  • A new perspective on talent: To pioneer digital work styles, the finance organization shouldn’t look only for employees with traditional financial skills. They should also consider people who can incorporate technology into finance activities in an innovative manner that adds value to the function and the overall business.

Usher the small and midsize business into a digital era

The present and future success of small and midsize businesses is inextricably connected to new ways of working – driving collaborative, flexible, and in-the-moment experiences.

According to the CFO Research study, 73% of finance professionals expect that their companies will be pressured to bring enterprise information systems in line with personal technologies in order to meet the future challenge of attracting and retaining top finance talent. Employees of all generations are expecting the technologies they use at work to be as easy and engaging as the consumer technologies they use at home.

Certainly mobile devices, predictive analytics, cloud, and social collaboration technologies will continue to play a role in bringing speed, flexibility, and ease of use. However, finance leaders must also answer the needs of a growing workforce that expects instant, 24x7x365 access to information with greater self-sufficiency and a forward-looking view.

To learn how your business can realize the promise of the digital economy, check out CFO Research’s recent report “Embracing the Promise of a Digital Economy.” Be sure to check every Wednesday for new installments to our blog series “Leading Through Digital Transformation,” to explore the various leadership roles in today’s growing small and midsize companies.

Neil Krefsky

About Neil Krefsky

Neil Krefsky is Head of SAP Finance and Risk Product Marketing at SAP. He is responsible for the development and execution of the product marketing strategy for SAP's solutions for the finance area including: SAP S/4HANA for Finance as well as applications for financial planning and analysis, accounting and financial close, treasury and financial risk management, collaborative finance operations, and enteprise risk and compliance.