Sage adapting to change with customer-led innovation

Sage's Pieter Bensch: CFOs can help their organisations grow and thrive during a time of Adapt or Die.

“Adapt or Die means taking a customer-centric approach to everything you do,” says Pieter Bensch, executive vice-president Africa & Middle Easter at Sage, principal sponsor of CFO Day. “Constant, customer-led innovation is a core part of our business model and my personal approach.”

CFO Day, which takes place on 23 July at Marble restaurant, is the most important event on the calendar for South African CFOs. Supported by Sage, CFOs will look at the various angles of the theme Adapt or Die, with a range of world-class speakers, including Telkom CEO Sipho Maseko, EOH CEO Stephen van Coller, South African comedian Pieter-Dirk Uys and Health & Stress expert Richard Sutton

According to Pieter, it’s all about keeping pace with the speed of change and the way new technologies and digital competitors are constantly reshaping customer expectations. : 

“CFOs today are not only responsible for compliance, financial planning, management and record-keeping. The modern CFO also has a key role to play in the analysis of data and strategic decision-making. The financial leader is the person who sees all vital business data and has the skills to analyse and interpret it. As such, CFOs can help the organisation grow and thrive during a time when technology and consumer expectations are changing at a rapid speed.”

He added that, in order to add value, CFOs must move from transactional relationships to strategic partnerships with stakeholders in the business. They should build teams that include skills outside the traditional accountant’s skill set – get creative thinkers, strong communicators, tech innovators and project managers on board. And they must work closely with the CIO to understand where technology investment should go and what should be prioritised. 

However, on a larger scale, businesses that want to grow and remain agile should make smart investments in their processes and technology. “Automate your business and create a foundation that will allow you to grow. Build innovation into your business, giving people space to take calculated risks, fail fast and learn from their experience so that you can keep up with the pace set by the disruptors and new market entrants,” Pieter said. 

“Constant experimentation is usually associated with start-ups and small companies, but it’s a philosophy all businesses need to embrace. The cloud is a great enabler, allowing CFOs access to real-time data anywhere and anytime, so they can make good decisions at the speed of change. Today’s flexible and cost-effective software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions enable CFOs and their organisations to be responsive and adaptive in a changing world.” 

For Pieter, Amazon is a powerful example of a company that keeps reinventing itself to remain relevant and grow its business. He explained that it used its initial investment in creating an online bookstore to grow into the world’s biggest e-commerce business, then leveraged the platform to become a media giant and the world’s leader in cloud computing. The core of the company is all about consistently offering the best customer experience in the most efficient way but the execution and strategy are always evolving. 

Looking at his own company, Pieter said that Sage’s vision is to become a great SaaS company for customers, business partners and colleagues alike. “ In order to achieve this vision, our strategic execution is based around the three lenses of Customer Success, Colleague Success and Innovation, and we are making targeted investments into each of these areas to accelerate success,” he said. 

“Sage is developing a culture which embraces experimentation and a two-way dialogue between customers and our company. Our internal culture fosters collaboration, open honest dialogue, and colleagues feel connected to our vision. I must also make mention of our network of independent software vendors, resellers and implementation partners, which play a key role in our success.”