Traditionally, CFOs ensured that the accounting basics, such as reporting numbers and managing financial accounts, were handled without a hitch.
However, the role of the CFO is evolving and organisations need to think strategically about how automation and streamlined processes will impact this.
CFOs are becoming more involved with strategic decisions in businesses and are engaging with a whole variety of tasks influenced by new technology. A successful modern CFO must be able to adopt new technologies to achieve the goals of the organisation.
1. Predictive analytics and data will continue to drive business decisions. Predictive tools can help finance teams gain greater insights for better decision-making. They can leverage data to influence future behaviour, rather than just examining past performance to drive business decisions and achieve better results. However, implementing predictive analytics largely depends on the ability to evolve new skill sets that are not commonly part of traditional finance functions. CFOs must carefully design their predictive analytics to reap the benefits, such as improved decision making and the ability to ask and answer better questions about business performance. By democratising data, finance leaders will also be able to have greater insight into real-time spending as well as better forecasting capabili¬ties to maximise the return on spend.
2. Robotics will take over more back-of-office operations. Many back-office functions such as accounts payable (AP) continue to be handled manually, however the tide is shifting toward greater automation. Business intelligence tools can take on many routine accounting tasks, and free up the finance team to be strategic business partners. Within AP for example, robotics can help streamline workflow management such as expense approval and reimbursements, to remove the burden of manual labour and let teams focus on ways to save money or increase efficiencies. Progressive finance teams should automate their entire AP process to shift their focus from transactional to strategic and change the work they do to enhance business efficiency.
3. Cyber security will remain a hot topic. CFOs must also employ the latest processes and technology to protect customers’ sensitive data. The new notifiable data breach scheme affects most businesses in Australia and aims to refocus attention on privacy and cyber security. CFOs need to ensure their cyber security strategy complies with the scheme to avoid hefty penalties. A strategy can help your finance chief deal with cyber security issues both internal and external, to plug any blind spots. Finance chiefs are also risk managers for organisations and need to protect large amounts of financial, customer, and regulatory data that is collected, stored, and analysed. They must understand the implications of a data-driven organisation in respect to cyber risks. Having a strong plans and clear ownership can help reduce risks and damage to an organisations reputation.
4. The next-generation of cloud computing will spark the explosion of connected. Furthermore, most organisations have at least one application in the cloud. Cloud-based systems let finance teams select the best application solutions, offer real-time data accessibility, and support business capabilities. To ease the transition, many organisations are moving from private clouds to public clouds, or taking a hybrid approach to support new technologies and the explosion of connected things. A cloud computing platform provides more flexibility to adopt new technologies to meet changing business needs, encourages collaboration and data sharing among departments and partners, and greater computing capacity for data storage and analysis.
5. Budgeting processes and technologies will continue to evolve. The key to better budgeting and forecasting is better data. But more data doesn’t mean better data. One important responsibility of the modern CFO is to ensure the integrity of the data flowing in from depart¬ments and external sources. Budgeting and forecasting tools need to be predictive and not just a record of what happened. CFOs should use modern finance platforms to continuously look at the organisation’s financial position and optimise the business strategy for challenges ahead.
The CFO’s role is evolving beyond traditional accounting, which means CFOs need to be well-versed in the latest FinTech trends. Successful CFOs should look at next-gen tools and strategies that will improve business processes and shape tomorrow’s organisation.
Matt Goss, managing director ANZ, SAP Concur
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