Chief Financial Officers are important stakeholders for technology firm Oracle, so it is no surprise that Pieter Bensch, Vice President at Oracle South Africa, has a keen interest in these professionals. Bensch has been involved in various CFO South Africa events and was one of the jury members for the inaugural CFO Awards. When adjudicating the candidates Bensch specifically looked for executives who “run a world class business” and “show innovative spirit”, he says.
South African CFOs are very comparable to international CFOs, says Bensch. "Some are world-class and very innovative. I think we have a very strong financial infrastructure in our country thanks to a crop of excellent CFOs. Their role is evolving. Financial executives have added to their traditional expertise in record-keeping and compliance to become chief strategic partners and, in many cases, trusted technology advisors to the CEO."
According to Bensch a successful CFO is crucial for any company and he is glad that the CFO Awards bestow some recognition on the best performers. "Together with CEOs it's usually the CFOs who make the decisions about important things like shared services centres. The experience and mind-set of modern CFO's makes them ideally suited to serve as technology advisors to the business and help drive the adoption of new technologies. Finance executives have developed the skillset and company oversight required to identify important operational trends and outliers, and therefore make informed fact-based strategic decisions, rather than relying heavily on intuition."
Logically, Bensch was looking for CFOs who were open to implementing the latest IT solutions and making "effective use of technology" when adjudicating the candidates for the CFO Awards. "I appreciate CFOs that are working on innovation in all departments. A CFO should be running a world-class business to be able to win an award. I was looking for a CFO that showed he was involved in the whole business and advising the CEO, not someone who just runs the finance department."
Bensch says Oracle is seeing "significant growth" in shared services implementation in South Africa. "CFOs are very keen to hear about shared services solutions, especially since our opening message hinges on cutting costs. Everybody is experiencing the economic downturn and finance departments are looking at the bottom line. That is why we see a wide interest in our turnkey solutions."
Over the last few years 'going into the cloud' has been hailed as the next great development by technology firms like Oracle. According to Bensch outsourced data centres will be a "game changer". He says that CFOs are still reluctant to adopt the latest technology, but that this is slowly changing. "A gap remains between the CFO's ambitions and reality when it comes to emerging technologies. Financial departments need to develop a deeper and broader range of skills to help solidify their increasingly vital role in the business"
Forward-thinking CFO's need to spearhead the use of sophisticated analytics technologies, modern applications, and the latest social, mobile, cloud and collaboration tools to help bring their businesses' visions to lift. The cloud in particular has become an attractive resource for financial executives looking to put leading technologies at the hearr of their operations.
"Often companies decide to take non-operational departments like HR into the cloud as a test. Once people understand an outsourced data centre is more secure than storing your own data, their minds begin to change."
The CFO Awards Jury
Pieter was one of the 13 jury members for the CFO Awards 2014. Together with the other members of the jury they have choosen the winners of the 7 prestigious CFO awards on May 15 at the Summer Place. For the winners and more information visit cfoawards.co.za
If you also would like to share your ideas with the CFO community, you want to be part of the leading CFO South Africa Community or you want to know more about hosting a CFO South Africa event, you are most welcome to get in touch with CFO SA. Please contact Jurriën Morsch at [email protected]
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