DTIC CFO Shabeer Khan welcomes the digital world

As an accounting professional, Shabeer quickly realised the value that technology brings to businesses.

Technology has been evolving at a rapid pace and the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC) CFO Shabeer Khan believes that we all need to embrace today’s “always-on” digital world.

“There is a great level of comfort in the way we are now able to access any information at any given time,” he says. “This has become even more relevant during the pandemic, as many businesses were forced to change their operating model and make use of technology to continue their business operations.”

But Shabeer, who won the Young CFO of the Year Award, Public Sector CFO of the Year Award and Compliance & Governance Award at the 2020 CFO Awards, enjoys the challenges of learning new ways of doing things. “As an accounting professional, I quickly realised the value of technology and set about automating as many of our manual processes as possible.”

At the DTIC, technology has played a massive role in improving workflow systems. “In order to ensure the payment of all invoices within the required 30 days stipulated by the National Treasury, an ICT-based CFO Help Desk was implemented,” Shabeer says.

He explains that the Help Desk is an interface between the CFO and all its stakeholders. It is a central point where all payment transactions and enquiries are received, recorded and then assigned to the relevant staff for processing. Each document is then tracked in respect of response handling. The tracking is based on turnaround times that have been pre-determined for the different types of transactions. Where turnaround times are exceeded, transactions are investigated and addressed by senior management using exception reports that are generated by the system.

“This process ensures that the majority of payments are finalised within just 14 days,” Shabeer says. “It also assists the cash flow of SMMEs and at the same time promotes growth within the economy, none of which was possible just a few years ago.”

He explains that he loves how technology improves efficiency and quality of work by bringing new methods and practices to sometimes outdated and antiquated systems, saying that, in turn, this provides the opportunity to focus on other work, and it transforms business.

Technology is also allowing people to maintain a better work-life balance and creating a culture that actually values personal time. “A few years ago, I created a family and social WhatsApp group to enable me to stay in touch with just a quick message that would instantly reach everyone. I enjoyed the effectiveness of the interaction on the groups so much that I created a WhatsApp group for my staff,” Shabeer says.

He explains that this has gone a long way in building a strong team by keeping everyone informed and aware of the progress of any projects they are busing working on, especially when they are working remotely.

“I enjoy that technology brings a greater flexibility into the workplace than we have previously known. This translates into better outcomes, increased staff morale, as well as supporting one’s mental health and overall wellbeing,” he adds. “I enjoy the flexibility that allows us to work from home, or to be at our children’s sporting matches, while still being able to respond to work emails or communicate with our clients and teams.”