Technology & Strategy: Oracle's Sarah George pre-empts CFO breakfast

The strategic evolution is a a development path built on choices about what is best for the business in the long term rather than on immediate changes that may be detrimental further down the line. In this Expert Insight, Sarah George, ERP & EPM Business Development and Product Strategy, Oracle South Africa, explores the speed of business transformation and the role that agile technologies play.

Sarah is one of the much-anticipated special guests at our Digital Transformation CFO breakfast on 15 September 2016 (7h00) at The Inanda Club. She will be joined by top CFOs Christine Ramon (AngloGold Ashanti) and Wayne Koonin (Omnia), as well as Standard Bank CIO Brendon Wilson. REGISTER NOW.

By Sarah George

Scientists understand evolution as more than just 'survival of the fittest'. Aberrations or oddities that develop without rhyme or reason can prove useful to an organism and ultimately become the norm. Of course, this evolution takes place over millions of years. A business has to evolve at speed. It has to test new ways of working and gauge the viability of new services quickly so it can continue adapting in the right direction. This is where more agile technologies play a significant part, in turn giving rise to strategic evolution, a development path built on choices about what is best for the business in the long term rather than on immediate changes that may be detrimental further down the line.

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The CFO has a pivotal role to play in bringing strategy to progress. Their oversight of the company's financial situation, their role as custodian of the business's technology assets, and their understanding of the wider market environment in which the company operates puts them in the ideal position to drive 'smart' risk-taking in the pursuit of overall improvement.

Do you want to hear how Oracle can drive agility and efficiency in your business? Do you want to be informed about the latest and greatest in finance? Then don't miss the Finance Indaba Africa 2016.

The new operating model is digitally disrupting the traditional finance way of working. CFOs have become agents of change, moving towards innovative solutions like cloud to reduce inefficiencies and costs, automating and standardising using next-generation solutions across various lines of business, and utilising multi-dimensional analytical reporting tools to deliver business insights.

Within Africa we are seeing exponential growth in adopting innovation to deliver analytical insights to ensure strategic growth, drive new market penetration and outshine the competition.

Failure is an acceptable - and necessary - part of modern business development. As long as experimentation is managed within an ethic of failing fast, there should be little holding companies back from testing and developing new ideas. In his TED talk, famed entrepreneur Astro Teller talks about how Google X's primary goal in product development is to seek out failure. Placing such a heavy emphasis on failure isn't feasible for most companies but the ethos of stress-testing all new ideas is one to which every business can and should subscribe.

The pursuit of strategic evolution also requires that businesses understand and respond to their wider environment, just as living creatures do. The advantage for companies is that they can gain the predictive analytics capabilities to better anticipate what the future will bring. Again, it falls to the CFO to keep abreast of regulatory, geopolitical and economic factors and consult the business on how best to navigate change.

The CFO needs to be a corporate magpie, scanning the landscape both inside and outside the business for opportunities and risks, interpreting these, and ensuring that the most beneficial prospects for strategic evolution are pursued.

All risks are not equal, however, and some conditions are more conducive to risk-taking than others. The obvious examples are economic uncertainty, contraction or recession in markets. However, even in times of economic uncertainty there are opportunities to test new ideas in the pursuit of strategic evolution. For instance, the business can identify high and poorly performing services or market segments and take appropriate action to work better.

Strategic evolution is a continuous process but not necessarily a steady one. With a more complete view of the people and processes across the organisation, and of the market around them, the savvy CFO will know when to press down on the accelerator and when to cruise along more gradually.