The global coronavirus outbreak that has irreversibly changed the business world may also prove transformational for the role of the chief financial officer (CFO) as well.
The guardian of finance operations and the steward of enterprise resources, the CFO has a deep cross-functional view of the enterprise.
This has already propelled many in the role to the forefront of digital transformation, with the sudden shift to work-from-home practices in early 2020 revealing the value of past digitalisation efforts and reinforcing the finance function’s importance to business continuity and long-term survival.
But the challenges for businesses will only continue to escalate this year and beyond.
All in all, the ability to quickly analyse and respond to sudden changes in the market and company resources has become even more vital to the finance function.
To rise to the challenge, CFOs can empower the finance team with solutions that deliver rapid time-to-value for the following capabilities:
1. Working capital and cash flow optimisation
With uncertain times ahead, CFOs today must monitor the impact of price volatility, foreign exchange fluctuations, and interest rate changes, and be able to rapidly revise financial asset positions and protect against increased credit risks.
Seamlessly integrating potentially conflicting financial data from multiple sources across geographies, time zones, and currencies onto a single platform saves time and effort and allows you to streamline processes and apply automated analytics.
The aim is to ensure real-time visibility of cash flow and help you make the right decisions at the right time to maintain liquidity and compliance.
2. Financial close continuity
An accurate and compliant close must be sustained despite stretched resources.
Standardising and streamlining the financial closing process lets you automate some tasks, including reconciliation, and supports continuous accounting practices in the cloud.
This builds accuracy, control, and consistency into every process while eliminating human error and reducing costs. It also enables globally dispersed finance teams to collaborate and meet deadlines.
3. Access governance for the virtual workplace
Ensuring appropriate user access to your systems has always been difficult; in 2020, it became doubly so, with cybersecurity threats rising and remote workers using an array of devices and technologies across challenging hybrid environments.
CFOs have had to rapidly reinforce security standards and sustain compliance while safeguarding against potential fraud and maintaining convenient access for a workforce that will most likely remain remote for the foreseeable future.
Comprehensive identity and access management tools, allied with single sign-on, simplify access governance and mitigate risk.
4. Agile international trade compliance
With COVID-19 disrupting supply chains worldwide, businesses are challenged to find ways to reduce inventory volatility and explore new sourcing opportunities.
A centralised platform can give you real-time visibility across supply chains and allow you to automate trade processes. This helps you control costs and clear customs faster while ensuring that every order complies with changing regulatory requirements and sanctioned party lists.
5. Intelligent processes and innovation
The ability to run intelligent processes centrally on a single platform is a game-changer in any industry.
In a digital enterprise, all business processes and activities can be linked: from finance to operations, supply chain and logistics, customer relationship management, human resources and enterprise resource planning.
This delivers simplicity, ensures the integrity of data, and allows for organisation-wide process automation and the application of artificial intelligence (AI).
Leading businesses are already leveraging AI not just to reconcile financial data and allow faster financial closing, but to drive new business models based on subscriptions and revenue sharing, to personalise products and services, and to optimise pricing to reduce time to market.
CFO as a catalyst of change
If we can be sure of anything in 2021 it is that there will be no return to business as usual. As organisations prepare to reset and renew for a post-pandemic future, the CFO is emerging as a catalyst of change.
Those who can harness the power of digital technologies will be able to manage the immediate challenges and prepare for a future that is still uncertain.