Ash Noah, Vice President of CGMA External Relations at the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (AIPCA), shared his thoughts on finance transformation during his presentation at the 2019 CFO Leadership Forum: The Evolving Role of the Finance Executive in San Francisco on February 6. In his presentation, “POWERING FINANCE TRANSFORMATION – Leveraging Technology AND People,” Noah explained why a successful finance transformation strategy requires the right combination of people and technology.
Today’s finance professionals are embracing technology like never before. Finance professionals want best-in-class technologies to drive digital transformation, but maximizing the value of these technologies can be difficult.
If a finance team understands its function within an organization, it can map out its technology investments accordingly. Furthermore, this finance team is better equipped than others to maximize the return on its technology investments.
Finance plays two roles within organizations: governance and guidance. Yet finance teams sometimes struggle to help organizations manage their budgets and fail to provide actionable guidance.
“There is a governance gap between what a business expects of us and what we deliver,” Noah stated. “And even as of now, there is a significant guidance gap between what the business requires of finance and what we are able to provide.”
Technologies are available to help finance teams automate various aspects of their day-to-day operations. These technologies often are simple to deploy and help eliminate manual processes. Plus, they frequently allow finance teams to collect data from internal and external sources and generate meaningful business insights.
For finance teams, technology alone is insufficient, and merely deploying state-of-the-art technologies offers no guarantees. Instead, finance teams must identify technologies that they can integrate into their everyday operations. Finance teams then must dedicate time and resources to learn how to use these technologies and optimize their value. That way, finance teams can become valuable contributors within their respective organizations.
“We are still not leveraging the technologies that are available and not enabling finance to automate a lot of the manual processes that will enable us to move up the value chain,” Noah noted.
In addition to deploying new technologies, having the right people in place to manage these technologies is vital for finance teams.
Finance professionals who understand how to properly use assorted technologies can speed up and improve everyday processes and promote innovation. They also can use these technologies to discover new ways to help an organization support its employees and customers.
“We are predominately focused on the machine advantage,” Noah pointed out. “Machines will give us a significant advantage, but we should not forget the human advantage.”
Additionally, finance teams can leverage technologies to drive automation. Once finance professionals automate manual processes, they can allocate additional time toward high-value tasks. But to capitalize on the full value of automation, finance teams need to teach employees how to get the most out of the technologies at their disposal.
“Everyone is focused on technology … technology and automation are creating capacity, and technology and automation need to be addressed,” Noah pointed out. “But technology and automation won’t take us all the way … unless we address the people competency.”
With the optimal technologies in place, finance teams can embrace digital transformation, too. These teams will understand how to operate in a digital global marketplace and help other departments within an organization adopt digital technologies. As a result, finance teams can help different departments within an organization reap the benefits of digital transformation.
“We will leverage technology and the advantage it gives us if we prepare our people to operate … in this digital world,” Noah said. “We will enable our teams to adopt new technologies, really leverage data and create a digital finance capability.”
Technology is constantly evolving, and finance teams must adapt. In doing so, finance teams can keep pace with a rapidly changing digital global marketplace, as well as serve as key partners within myriad departments across their respective organizations.
“Finance needs to continue to move up the value chain,” Noah indicated. “We need to become the business partner we’ve always claimed to be and engage with the business in acting upon the insights we provide.”
How a finance team approaches technology used for data collection, analysis and reporting can have far-flung effects on an organization as well.
A finance team can leverage technologies to retrieve vast amounts of data, but it also must be able to evaluate this information. If a finance team can mine data sets, it can help an organization identify its strengths and weaknesses. Then, a finance team can empower an organization with the insights it needs to improve its products, services and support.
“When you look at data that can really be used to create value … it allows us to understand the customer and what is the value proposition of our services and what we provide,” Noah stated.