The tech-savvy CFO holds the power

It is vitally important for today’s CFO to be tech-savvy, though they should resist the urge to purchase technology for technology’s sake and instead respond to the needs of the business. This was the advice of Christine Ramon, CFO of AngloGold Ashanti, and Wayne Koonin, CFO of Omnia Holdings and winner of the Finance & Technology Award at this year's CFO Awards, during last week’s Finance Indaba Africa 2017, held at the Sandton Convention Centre.

"The CFO of the future is no longer the CFO of the past," said Wayne. "We've all done training about debits and credits and looking at numbers but if you look at it today, it's not about saying whether the business made money or lost money, it's about providing insights for the business."

The CFO of the future will deliver insights to help sales and marketing, Wayne said:

"They know about what's happening in different sectors of the industry and how technology can change that. It's not just about whether revenue went up or down by 10 percent, it's providing deep insights."

All of this is made possible, Wayne said, because we have overcome so many limitations in the IT space. "There were limitations of databases, servers were too expenses, LANs and WANs - the speed was too slow so you couldn't process data. All these restrictions have now fallen away. We've got artificial intelligence and data tools, so now the challenge is to how to get insights into the business."

However, Christine pointed out that with these capabilities, it becomes essential to choose the right uses of technology at the right time. "We have 60,000 reports generated across our business. The next area of focus is optimising these reports, and focusing on generating the relevant reports timeously, so you can focus the business on ultimately generating value," she said.

Wayne agreed that people's ability to focus on long reports is becoming "challenging". He said: "Boards in general, excos in general, management teams in general - if you can simplify the message, it's very helpful. You have to be sensitive about info-dumping. Do you use this report and what for? We're going through a huge ERP change and people say they need reports but when you challenge them, it turns out they don't really need them. In a pressurised environment, be very selective and quite ruthless in terms of stopping the runaway train."

Christine added that to close the loop, you must look at cost implications and reduce the activity and number of reports that you produce. She also stressed the importance of having one common platform across all areas of the business. She said:

"It's important for a business to have one base system to work off the same information when extracting reports. This enables the business to be more proactive."

Wayne mentioned the benefits of buying pre-packaged software that now meets 80 or 90 percent of the business's requirements. "You can then reverse the business into the system rather than trying to reverse-engineer an old system to meet your requirements," he said.