Finance Indaba explores how CFOs can create value in a changing world

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Today’s finance leaders want to grow beyond being business partners, says Workday’s Leslie Marie.

The year’s premier finance networking event gave financial professionals much food for thought about trends in the industry. A session entitled, “Beyond transactional reporting: How the next generation of finance will actively create value” was no exception.

The entertaining presentation, led by Leslie Marie, Workday’s regional financial lead, covered how the demands on financial professionals continue to grow, and maintaining agility to react to a world in flux is increasingly challenging. However, Finance Indaba attendees learnt that a combination of a solid data foundation and adaptable business processes can help organisations grow – and help finance professionals move beyond being business partners and into creating true value for an organisation.

Digitally savvy CFOs need a system that’s adaptive and agile
Leslie cited an Ocean Tomo survey (affiliated to Mercantile Bank), that found that 90 percent of all value created today comes from intangible assets, like social and intellectual capital. This phenomenon has grown exponentially over the last few decades, and it exploded due to Covid-19. Leslie noted that digitally savvy CFOs want a system they can use to help them maximise shareholder value, profitable revenue growth, and ROI, and reduce cost containment. But they know they need a system that’s adaptive and agile so they can leverage technology – particularly data – in order to create true value, whether tangible or not.

The world – and the idea of “value” – is constantly changing and none of this is a tick-box exercise. Boards expect long-term value creation, which is why a CFO needs to shift from a business partner to a value partner. According to Leslie, finance professionals of the future need insight (so they can predict what will happen), adaptability (so they can help organisations quickly pivot to new opportunities), and they need the right talent (so they can grow the business – and also drive value).

Democratising data
For many, however, data and systems are still fragmented, and architecture and processes are rigid, said Leslie. But forward-thinking CFOs know this needs to change, and fast: according to Gartner, 82 percent of CFOs report that their organisation’s investments in digital are accelerating, and ERP is now the top two of three in business investment priorities, according to Barclay’s.

Technology is key, and multiple sources of data need to be connected into a single, secure, business critical source. “In data-driven decision-making, everyone needs to have access to the same version of the truth, so that insights and trends can be surfaced. Ideally, a system should be able to ‘ingest’ data into a third-party system so that real-time operations and outcomes are visible. Creating value is about democratising data access into a singular and seamless experience,” explained Leslie.

Digital tools to unlock value include the ability to intelligently automate processes like consolidation, or machine learning that’s able to detect anomalies and make recommendations that help with forecasting, he added.

Leslie said that a trusted source of data (that includes everything in an organisation, from finance to HR) should be flexible and secure and enable processes that can scale.

Ultimately, the right technology – with consolidated, verifiable data – can give finance professionals a holistic view of the business. “These tools help finance professionals unlock insights – and ultimately create value for the business,” he concluded.

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