How Technology Can Help CFOs Find Inspiration And Fuel Engagement

Gina McNamara

Part of the “Purpose-Driven CFO” series

Our relationship with technology is always evolving, and you don’t have to work for a software company to feel it firsthand. We’re moving from the passive consumption of technology (such as watching TV) to active participation (as with medical devices). As we increasingly connect to technology, we’re finding new ways to connect with each other and with ourselves and new opportunities to achieve our personal and professional goals.

In our technology-obsessed world, there’s always an update or a newer version available. While business performance and the comforts of our modern lives demand that technology continues to improve, it’s perhaps even more important for us to find inspiration and allow ourselves to improve alongside it.

For example, CFOs have traditionally been responsible for fiduciary stewardship, but now technology offers us an unusual opportunity to act as strategic leaders, helping individuals, groups, and companies to run better. I believe that one of the most powerful things we can do with technology is to keep people engaged.

For me, that means opportunities to contribute in meaningful ways by offering support to my customers and to local initiatives. Today, we can be a part of a larger, global team that can create initiatives and accomplish goals in a shorter time span than ever before.

Establishing healthy connections

As a CFO, I’ve seen how this new, interactive relationship with technology enables us to do more – and how developments created for business, such as advanced analytics, can be applied in our daily lives in unexpected, meaningful ways. For example, a local program that is part of SAP One Billion Lives (which I’m particularly passionate about) is the “Digital Age” initiative, which is in its pilot phase.

Its goal is to help ensure that our older citizens are getting the right care by connecting healthcare providers with training about SAP software functionality and how they can use it. The technology enables connecting to and gathering information from wearable devices monitoring vital signs like blood pressure and heart rate or registering when a person has fallen and requires assistance. This 24/7 monitoring, in turn, helps them stay well and live at home longer.

While there are always fantastic opportunities to do good with technology, being involved with the Digital Age initiative has been personally fulfilling for me. My father-in-law was fortunate to be able to live at home until the age of 95, thanks to the support of family and caregivers, but not everyone has a strong enough support system. I’m proud to be a part of a project that is using technology to create and extend a support system to more people.

Engaging audiences

As a CFO, I’ve also experienced how we can use technology to turn thinking into doing, and how it can enable businesses to become better versions of themselves and connect more fully with their customers. Perhaps few customers I’ve worked with understand this more fully than Cirque du Soleil.

I experienced the passion and commitment of Cirque du Soleil’s CEO, Daniel Lamarre, when we shared the stage at the World Business Forum in Sydney. With a mission of positively impacting people, communities, and the planet, Cirque du Soleil has worked toward realizing its vision with technology. Using everything from sensors in costumes to creating virtual reality, Cirque du Soleil has established unparalleled fan engagement.

Remember what circuses used to be – and how they didn’t evolve? Selling over 12 million tickets a year, Cirque du Soleil has broken away from the conventional circus by using no animals – only human performers and technology.

Cirque du Soleil has found new ways to interact with the audience. Daniel told me, “Instead of telling spectators to turn off their devices, Cirque du Soleil performances are starting to use in-memory computing to create an immersive experience that encourages audience participation. We want audiences to be able to focus on and participate in the show at the same time.” TORUK: The First Flight, based on the film Avatar, is the first Cirque du Soleil show to do this. Cirque du Soleil’s app has been downloaded over 215,000 times, demonstrating that people are ready to be engaged and willing to participate if they get the opportunity.

While we can all occasionally be too focused on the strictest interpretations of what technology can deliver to business, I think there are lessons to be learned for just about any leadership team that wants to look beyond the obvious applications of technology in order to inspire engagement and create a broader sense of purpose in both employees and customers.

Why have AI, machine learning, predictive insights, and digital assistants become the must-have new tools of forward-thinking CFOs to drive business performance? Watch the Nov. 6 webcast.

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Gina McNamara

About Gina McNamara

Gina McNamara is the CFO for SAP Australia and New Zealand, leading a team of approximately 40 staff across core finance, legal and contracts, facilities, purchasing, and information technology. She has been with SAP since May 2007. Before taking on the CFO position, Gina worked in Commercial Finance Business Support for SAP Australia and New Zealand, where she supported sales and consulting teams with revenue recognition and deal support. Gina is a strong advocate for demonstrating how SAP runs SAP and technology to improve operations for the office of the CFO, particularly around moving from an on-premise environment to the cloud.