Microsoft seeks conversation with CFOs to "see magic happen"

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"As a technology company, we don’t have enough conversations with the CFO,” confessed Rory Headon-Weeks. During CFO South Africa’s successful Digital Transformation event on Thursday 11 September, the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of Microsoft South Africa gave the CFOs present some fascinating insights in the ways of the future. And he invited finance leaders to visit the Microsoft Technology Centre in Johannesburg and “see magic happen”.

After introducing himself simply as "Rory", the energetic CTO told the crowd in the Tintswalo at Waterfall hotel in Johannesburg how Microsoft is going through a transformation itself, moving from the vision of founder Bill Gates to put a desktop on every desk, to a business model around cloud and mobile first. In June we spoke to Microsoft's Managing Director for South Africa, Mteto Nyati, about the ambition to connect the next billion. You can read that frank and candid interview with Nyati here.

During the presentation titled 'Reimagining Finance in a Digital Enterprise' Headon-Weeks challenged CFOs and FDs to engage more with IT-companies. "The feedback we get, and I think I represent the technology industry here as a whole, is that leaders want to engage us more. So let's talk more, there is value for everyone involved."

Summarizing what is on the mind of leaders in 2014, Headon-Weeks mentioned enhancing the customer experience, transforming to a digital business and becoming more responsive. "I see banks embracing technology," he said with a nod to CFO of the Year Simon Ridley (Standard Bank), who was seated in the audience. Standard Bank uses technology to connect 21.000 employees directly, creating immediate benefits from those engagements.

Where IT-issues previously resided with techies or a CIO, they now get more and more attention from CFOs, Microsoft is noticing. "CFOs want to know how to change business models, how to enable the workforce by using technology, how to promote innovation and how to get faster at discovering issues," said Headon-Weeks. "Being social about business does not mean facebooking or tweeting, but collaboratively working on solutions and being able to ask questions."

Headon-Weeks also elaborated on the cloud, naming the Private Property website as a South African example that has "accomplished 8 times cost saving by going cloud". Mark Schneebergers, Data Platform Solutions Specialist then gave an eye-opening presentation about the possibilities of the latest, cloud-based version of Excel, which is part of Office 365. Headon-Weeks left the CFOs with a tempter: "The thought I want to leave you with is do you really still sign off on expensive, depreciating equipment? Or is it time for the cloud?"

- Presentation Microsoft - Reimagining Finance in a Digital Enterprises
- Interview Mteto Nyati, MD Microsoft SA: Connecting the next billion

- For the photos of the event please have a look here.
- Please register here now for the last CFO Event of 2014 on 13 November in Cape Town. The theme is Risk Compliance & Control.

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