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CFOs know the score in the post-digital revolution: It’s more about crafting than counting. With many processes automated, it’s important to bring a degree of creativity in solving business problems. The integration between finance and operations has evolved, from a landscape of lagging batch processes to one of real-time information.

During a recent Game-Changers radiocast, panelists Alex Bannell, managing consultant at Capgemini UK; Eric Bramley, senior manager with Deloitte Consulting; Rich Sernyak, partner in the global SAP Practice at PwC; and Martin Mrugal, global executive at SAP discuss the overall health of a business – a health largely dependent on a digitally mature and developed finance function that can help propel a company forward.

Shift from science to art

Bramley explains the core of the finance department’s transformation: “The finance function was a little bit more cut and dry, but now what we’re seeing with the capabilities of technology is that we can bring far more data together in a more powerful way than we ever have before.”

Bannell addresses the implications of this shift and what’s behind the buzzwords. “Increase speed, a faster close, they might be interesting. Words like agility or flexibility sound great, but what’s under the cover? What we’re trying to shape [are] credible use cases – a business-focused justification to adopt new technology.”

Mrugal points to one such concrete example that demonstrates how digitally mature organizations are reaping a significant increase in profitability. If a customer visits a retail store and you know who that customer is, you can also identify his or her bank history, purchase history, and shopping habits. Provide your store associates with this data in real time, and now you have high potential to cross-sell and upsell that customer. Offer the customer a first-class, personalized experience based on his or her preferences, and you will build loyalty that is worth much more than a singular purchase. In this scenario, we see how the science (real-time information sharing) enables the art (first-rate customer service that boosts the bottom line).

Shake up the C-suite

As finance has evolved, so have its leaders. Bannell points out that CFOs now view themselves as more than just scorekeepers. They see themselves as the catalysts for the function of the organization as a whole. And they need to embrace that role, because a large concern for C-suites across the world is sustainability. Can their business model stand the test of time?

When radical changes happen, they happen quickly, and everyone from the CEO to the COO to the CMO relies on the CFO for help. Take Uber, for example. Before it made the scene just a few years ago, taxi fleets held a formidable part of the transportation market. Now, those fleets must share market space with Uber’s real-time mobile app that connects anyone with a driver in minutes. Operational aspects and customer loyalty also influence the bottom line, so what can give a CFO the kind of digital flexibility and ingenuity necessary to respond to an Uber-esque intrusion?

  • Better data delivered more frequently
  • Real-time updates that sharpen strategy and drive growth
  • Greater transparency that gives everyone in an organization quicker access to information and more decision-making support

Sernyak boils the CFO’s ability to respond effectively down to one ultimate answer: a single version of the truth. “I’ve got these different systems and people make their own interpretation from different data structures. So the opportunity with technology today is to centralize that information in one table structure and really call that the one book of truth. And some of the technologies that are out there today enable that in a really quick time frame.”

To learn more about the emerging importance of real-time, centralized finance, its integration with operations, and how this integration influences the new direction of the more innovative CFO, listen to the full radiocast.

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