Finance: Uniquely positioned to spearhead Digital Upgrading Initiatives
At an Oracle finance roundtable, Head of Applications at Oracle Malaysia Bernard Solomon points out that transitioning to the cloud is a must for the future of a company. In the Oracle-sponsored report, it was noted by the Economic Intelligence Unit (EIU), that digitalisation is fundamentally changing business and placing pressure on finance departments to adapt to a whole new set of circumstances in terms of speed, agility, adaptability and integration.
The EIU’s senior editor Michael Gold opined that the key is to leverage data to consistently deliver insights to the rest of the business. “Finance is uniquely positioned to do this.”
So, what is the path forward for finance to be in a more value-adding role?
Gold drew attention to the Chief Financial Officer’s (CFO’s) seat at the table, usually at the right hand of the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), and the next in line in a succession plan.
They also oversee the rest of the business and could be the best to take lead when an organisation embarks upon a digital upgrading exercise.
Challenges arise because individual business units (BU) tend to upgrade based on their own timeline and budget, often creating digital spaghetti that defies synergy and cohesion for an organisation-wide strategy.
Gold opined that this is where the control factor has to come in but cautioned that while trying to create a strategy that is cohesive, business unit agility has to be factored in as well.
According to Gold, automation is the path forward to meeting a lot of challenges that the finance function is going to face. It can also help to reduce the risks of manual errors, and identify more risk especially when real-time data is collected.
The 19 senior finance execs which EIU interviewed around the region, also have their eye on other technologies like analytics, machine learning, blockchain and optical character recognition (OCR).
“Create an automation roadmap. It’s not necessarily to mitigate risk but also to prevent data falling through the cracks, and you free up your team’s mental space,” Gold said.
Sure enough, Solomon echoed this trend of technology playing a bigger role in organisations.
Especially as it pertains to the next generation of skills that modern finance requires, it has to be considered that besides the concept changes in business, tools will change as well to keep up with the times.
“Automation will drastically reduce transaction process needs, and this enables increased focus on strategy and performance management,” he said adding that some workforce in reporting and compliance roles will shrink.
Of significance as well is cloud technology.
Solomon said, “If you stay on on-premise apps, you are going to stagnate. We see improvements regardless of industry, from finance and operations perspective, and the rate of change is going to accelerate.
“On-premises, you will only be able to do upgrades of functionality with a frequency of every two years. In the cloud world, updates of new functions come every 3 months – you keep the rate of innovation ahead of the curve,” he concluded.