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Author's profile photo Fred Isbell

The Future of Finance in an Era of Digital Transformation

By Fred Isbell, senior director and head of Thought Leadership – Digital Business Services Marketing, SAP

Sometimes, the old saying “everything that’s old is new again” is very accurate. Early in my marketing career, I had the opportunity to run programs at DEC for finance executives including CFOs, vice presidents of finance and their leadership teams. Unknown to me at the time, we were engaging in audience marketing with campaigns for a specific audience segment and personas based upon their unique pain points. The transition from traditional, mainframe, and hierarchical technology to distributed, client/server and networked systems was a classic technology disruption at the time. The finance function was undergoing massive transformation along with the IT function responsible for building systems and solutions for this new normal. In fact, we even coined a term that’s as fresh now as it was then: “the new finance.” It was a great time professionally for me. More important, it introduced me to SAP –and there is no end in sight to this great run!

Fast-forward to present day, the modern finance function lead by the CFO is again being disrupted by a burgeoning nexus of forces. But this time, it’s all about digital innovation, the proliferation of Big Data, volatile risk environment and regulations, and increasingly demanding stakeholders.

Proactive leadership is a must-have nowadays. And with it, businesses need to guide the organization’s strategy through a partnership with the CEO and C-suite executives. They must work together and drive innovation to achieve sustainable, profitable growth.

Recently, a study from Ernst & Young (EY), “The DNA of the CFO,” examined this new mandate and the four forces affecting the finance function:

  • Digital – Finance must understand digital, smart technologies and Big Data, as well as Big Data and analytics, to deliver on critical strategic priorities.
  • Data – Big Data and analytics are a fundamental part of transforming the finance function from reporting to guiding strategy through forward-looking business intelligence.
  • Risk and uncertainty – Risk management has never been more important across reputational, regulatory, cyber risk, and more.
  • Stakeholder scrutiny and regulation – This impact everything aspect of the finance function – from managing the conflicting demands of stakeholders to complex relationships across boards, the C-suite, and the CFO’s own CEO.

People business and technology and the combination of technology innovations, process automation, and new skills allow the CFO to reimagine the future of the finance function. In fact, nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents in the EY study indicated that the automation and standardization of key processes – as well as greater agility and higher quality – are top priorities. More than half (58%) of those surveyed also cite modern technology, along with process improvements, as a major focus for the latest embodiment of the new finance organization and the future of the function.

To explore this topic more, we are focusing on the finance function and the future of finance leadership in our latest Digital Business Services thought leadership Webcast, “Finance Strategies for Live Business Leadership,” on December 1, 2016. The 60-minute session will examine:

  • The meaning of digital transformation when evolving the finance function
  • Current technology trends and their impact on the finance function
  • Technology that provides strategic guidance to the business in this new model of CFO leadership

I will be hosting an insightful panel of subject-matter experts will be featured including:

  • Jim Mossey, Vice President and Global Head of Finance Line of Business, Digital Business Services, SAP
  • Kenneth Ellis, Chief Technology Officer, Reuters News Agency
  • Tony Klimas, Principal and Global Leader, Finance Performance Improvement Advisory Services, Ernst & Young LLP

Please join Jim, Kenneth, Tony, and me for “Finance Strategies for Live Business Leadership.” I look forward to reporting back soon with some great insights and learnings from our experts.

Fred is the senior director and head of Thought Leadership for Digital Business Services Marketing at SAP.

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