Jim MacLennan, Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer at IDEX Corporation, shared his thoughts on the role of finance in a digital business during his keynote presentation at the 2018 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in Chicago on November 28. In his presentation, “How Finance Can Participate in Your Digital Business – and Make an Impact!” MacLennan described how finance professionals can thrive in a digital business.
Finance professionals are valuable contributors to an organization’s success, particularly when it comes to the implementation of digital tools and technologies. They may help an organization optimize the value of its digital investments as well.
Building a digital business is a priority for many global organizations, yet fostering digital transformation across an organization is rarely simple. However, an organization that understands how to engage with consumers and employees is better equipped than others to reap the benefits of digital tools and technologies.
“A digital business will only succeed if it understands how to connect with people,” MacLennan pointed out.
Today’s organizations must understand the challenges of building a digital business, too.
A digital business won’t thrive overnight. Instead, an organization must take a gradual approach to integrate digital tools and technologies across all departments. This organization then needs to educate its employees about how to use digital tools and technologies, as well as the benefits of leveraging these tools and technologies.
“When we talk about digital business and digital transformation, we have a unique set of challenges,” MacLennan indicated.
Finance professionals can play vital roles in helping their respective organizations become digital businesses. For example, finance professionals often collect and analyze massive amounts of data to help their respective organizations make informed decisions. Finance professionals also can integrate digital tools and technologies into their everyday operations, and by doing so, help lay the foundation for an ordinary company to become a digital business.
“The best demonstrated practice of taking information and aligning it to what is happening in the business typically sits in the finance organization,” MacLennan stated.
Ultimately, launching a digital business requires hard work and patience from finance professionals and other employees across an organization. MacLennan emphasized five areas that finance professionals can prioritize to help a company drive digital transformation:
Finance professionals should gather data and learn from it. That way, they can provide meaningful insights to help an organization get the most out of its digital investments, along with ensure an organization can integrate digital tools and technologies into its everyday operations.
“Use the information and the data that you have to ask and answer questions and speak in facts,” MacLennan said. “Because other departments in your company might not be as good as [finance] in doing that.”
How an organization leverages digital tools and technologies to engage with its target audience is paramount. If an organization can use these tools and technologies to drive real-time communication, it could differentiate itself from the competition. Plus, this organization can provide customers with consistent support across a variety of digital channels.
“The internet fundamentally changed the way that you connect with your customers,” MacLennan noted. “Instead of just pushing information out, [customers] can now ask questions and get answers in real-time.”
Finance professionals can help their respective organizations deploy systems to drive meaningful customer engagement. Once an organization has the right digital system in place, it can connect with its target audience and consistently provide consumers with the services and support they deserve.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has transformed the way that organizations view information. Now, organizations can leverage information to add value to their products. And if finance professionals can provide different departments with a wealth of valuable information, an organization could discover innovative ways to develop products that match or exceed consumers’ expectations.
“Information is a new and differentiating feature that now brings more value to our customers and brings problems for our competitors as we take share,” MacLennan stated.
Finance professionals can access unstructured and structured data from a wide range of sources. By building finance teams that are well-equipped to analyze data, an organization can find the best ways to share meaningful insights with different departments.
“Understand the breadth of skills required and build teams that are scalable and sustainable to deliver [information] to your companies,” MacLennan said.
Digital tools and technologies help eliminate organizational silos. Meanwhile, finance teams can use digital tools and technologies to partner with different departments. These tools and technologies then can help an organization drive unparalleled collaboration across all levels of an organization.
“By leading by example as well as helping people see and visualize the impact of [collaboration], finance can help make [collaboration] a key part of a digital business,” MacLennan indicated.