Finance and Accounting

Architecting the future of finance for CFOs

When Phoenician merchants recorded trade transactions on earthen tablets 5,000 years ago, the finance function was born. As technology evolved over centuries, earthen tablets were replaced by new-age digital tools, reshaping every aspect of how a finance team functions. With the pace of digital disruption quickened by the crisis of pandemic, what does the future hold for finance leaders and CFOs from here on?

The role of a CFO is clearly on the brink of a technology revolution. From cloud computing and Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to data analytics and cognitive technologies, a slew of new-age digital disruptors is transforming how CFOs and finance teams get the work done. With digital intervention gaining pace, finance applications and microservices are proliferating, which in turn is drastically reducing the complexities and cost of implementing technology by notches.

“We must consider Global Business Service (GBS) in finance as a transformation factory, or you can say a partner. We don't only work on our own scope, we leverage the cross capabilities between different functions, such as finance, IT, supply chain service, etc. Using data analytics, we are able to partner with other functions seamlessly, when they are going through a digital transformation journey, and help them as partners to bring greater value to the business,” Florence Mui, Senior Vice President, Head of Global Business Services, Philips says.

Surely, connecting finance with other siloed business functions with the help of technology can significantly improve an organization’s agility quotient in decision making, launching of new products and services, or in proactive action in case of a crisis.

One plus one equals three

For the pivotal role finance plays in an organization, leveraging automation and RPA have become necessities for finance leaders in the digital age to derive actionable insights in real-time with zero latency. But developing these capabilities in-house can be a long and arduous journey for finance leaders. Collaboration is a must to scale up technology set up quickly with the rapidly changing times.

“We do not believe everything needs to be done in-house. We leverage external vendors as strategic partners and grow together. We also leverage some of the partners to brainstorm on our digital revolutions. When we work with external partners to create solutions, we can also help other functions internally to transform digitally and create better customer products based on quality and compliance,” Mui says.

With hyper-automation as a key area of interest and having implemented large key projects across geographies, Philips is leading by example. The high-level innovation roadmap charted out by the company uniquely positions its finance leaders to deliver innovation in the GBS space. The company has now embarked on the largest ever RPA programs in the market in partnership with Infosys, deploying over 550 RPA bots across 6 regions globally, in record 18 months. 

“Starting our RPA journey with Infosys has been a great success. We already hit 1 million hours in savings. Leveraging our partnerships, we are also simultaneously building our internal capabilities, enabling co-creation and thus growth in technology. We aim to transform ourselves into an outcome-driven organization, wherein all our implementations are linked centrally to customer and business benefits. I think this knowledge is important to make the innovation roadmap more impactful,” Mui says.

CFO is the new CEO

Along with effective technology integration in finance, connectivity with the internal ecosystem is also extremely important. What we did for an American telecom company is a case in point here. We were able to move the whole ecosystem to be a connected network of networks, by consolidating about 7 ERP systems and over 500 users. The centralized data visualization thus enabled, allowed us to process about $80 billion in payments and over 400,000 transactions, establishing a strong link between digitally transformed finance functions and key business metrics.

The CFO thus becomes the nerve centre of an enterprise, connecting employees, customers, stakeholders, all on one platform. The anytime, anywhere visibility of data that comes with a connected organization, will also empower CFOs with real-time responses. This fusion of mind power and digital brain has the potential to transform organizations into a Live Enterprise that is sentient, agile, intuitive, and evolving. The Live Enterprise suite of tools and platforms is enabling 360° visualization of futuristic insights and prescriptive solutions, making CFO organizations more agile in collaborating, responding, and making decisions.

“As a finance leader, this ability to visualize the impact is most important. When we talk about visibility, it is about scenario building and sensitivity analysis. If I have that visibility, and if I can also put different options leveraging on data analytics, I think there could be something interesting in terms of bringing more value to the senior executives of the organization,” Mui says.

Indeed, pervasive visibility of data insights is crucial in informing future strategies of CFOs. In a world where change is a daily occurrence and disruption is the norm, CFOs have quickly realized that analytics can no longer be approached as a discrete function. To create a connected, insights-driven organization, analytics must turn into a core capability across the enterprise. Leveraging real-time insights with 360° visibility across functions, finance teams are enabling organizations to amplify business value and drive lasting change. The future presents another new frontier for finance to learn, evolve, and grow its branches like a living organism. The future is Live Enterprise.     

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