The Deloitte paper, The Future CFOs: Thriving in chaos and driving change, highlights the growing importance of finance for driving business decisions and preparing the organization for future growth.
Deloitte sees the need for CFOs to traverse these disruptions from multiple angles, and anchor these to an overarching vision. Just as important, much will ride on the CFO’s ability to steer the company to deliver value utilising the opportunities presented by these disruptions.
In the current business environment, CFOs are akin to general managers. They must support the business and manage a team towards the company’s digital goals. Rishi Mehra, financial controller at Aon Asia-Pacific, believes the CFO must change to align to the changes that are transforming the business.
“CFOs must also embrace technology as they go along, otherwise, there will be other people out there ready to embrace [technology] faster,” he added.
Mehra subscribes to the belief that embracing technology is a competitive advantage for the CFO. “Armed with technology, the CFO of the digital economy is no longer an accounting professional but rather a business strategist. As automation and technology rapidly advance to replace human interaction, analytics will become an integral input to the CFO to understand future trends and help build growth plans for the organisation,” he explained.
The convergence of multiple factors including evolving regulation, unrelenting cyber threats, an expanding competitive environment with cross-border players, and changing, sometimes cryptic, customer needs, is forcing organisations to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives or risk being driven to irrelevance by the market. Technology will play an important role in enabling this transformation.
But no transformation initiative is ever cut and dry. Deloitte says standards must be identified and integrated into the very fabric of a business’ digital DNA. CFOs must become role models for the changing requirements, helping set the tone for the rest of the organisation, as it strives to adapt to new changing regulatory, economic and technological dynamics without compromising the organisation’s culture and ethical practices.
For AON the transformation journey included a unified approach to how finance operates worldwide. Mehra said it was important to do things consistently and in a seamless fashion.
A firm believer in the role of technology in ensuring a unified finance operation across the organisation worldwide, he added that technology creates a level of efficiency to the Finance department releasing resources that are very much required by the organization to do a better job for the business.
As with all things that mandate a change in status quo, Mehra cautioned organisations to be prepared for resistance. Digital transformation will see more people against it than supportive of it. He asserts that to get people buy-in will require Finance to come up with use cases to demonstrate the value of the innovation being sought.