Kate Ferreira asked five CFOs about the most useful applications or types of technologies in their lives, both professionally and personally, and discovered it's not all about the newest, latest, and greatest tech on the planet, but rather how these tools and innovations are integrating into their days, unlocking insight, and - figuratively and literally - keeping the lights on.
Sean Berrington is the CFO for Group IT at Standard Bank, a role he’s held for around three years, and one which he describes as “challenging” in a positive way. “It stretches me a lot.”
As the team is tech-focused, Sean says they “live and breathe the [digital] revolution all day, every day”. Over and above that, he says, the team and broader group do what they do differently, using tech to make sure that their processes are seamless.
“As in any corporate, we have a legacy of big complex processes, but driven by Arno [Daehnke, Group chief financial director and 2019 CFO Awards nominee] we are on the journey of relooking at how we push the business and our finance processes. On an ongoing basis, we are looking for those opportunities to make our lives and jobs easier through technology.”
Although there are many he could name, Sean specifically stresses two specific tech interventions that have changed the professional game for him. “Firstly we have invested a lot of time and effort in an automated service costing tool. It's an in-house developed tool, called our TCO [total cost of ownership] tool. With this, for example, you can see the cost of a service, like a server or email account. This has been a big victory for us. It is a fully automated tool, not quite at the predictive analytics level yet. But it is increasingly being used for decision-making that would otherwise have been done in Excel.”
Linked to this, he says, Standard Bank also have a number of self-service reporting tools. “We are investing a lot of time in integrating all of the capabilities we have into these self-service reporting tools, to make sure that we make data available to our extended customer (internal) or stakeholder network. This is a lot easier than having to run around and pull together spreadsheets and presentations and do the analysis. As Standard Bank we use the SAP platform. They have a visualisation tool within that called Lumira, that we are using for this specifically.”
This is because of the power of visualisation. “When we present the numbers, they can be cold. We had to think a lot about how we package these numbers and tell a story in a manner that helps people understand more.”
On the personal side, Sean is focusing on using tech to reduce or remove the admin or "waste of time" activities.. “I’m trying to make my personal life is as frictionless as possible. It's not a specific tech that I rely on, but I use tech to make my life as easy as possible.”
“My TV, music, and radio at home are all connected to Apple Music. All of my shopping is done online. I was at a friend’s birthday recently, and when we ran out of beverages, we used the Bottles app to have more delivered in 20 to 30 minutes. My burglar alarm and CCTV are also connected. I'll even admit that I have put my fountains at home on Wi-Fi switches, because this is easier than having to reset these manually every time there is a power outage (or maybe I’m just lazy),” he jokes.
Is there anything in his personal life that technology hasn’t yet improved, we asked. “The day we're able to preorder and pay for a cup of coffee via our phones, and collect it five minutes later, then we would have hit pay-dirt.”
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