The CFO as frontrunner for the digital transformation
Earlier on, I’ve dealt with topics related to digital transformation, robotics, artificial intelligence etc.
A lot of discussions in the business world is constantly centered around these themes. In other words, we’re talking about how technology impact the way that we’re running a business and we’re discussing disruption scenarios for industries and processes. Recently, I’ve noticed that some people are challenging these discussions and questioning the influence of technology and its future impact on the society. Some argue that much of the debate is driven by tech businesses, that basically just want to sell their various pieces of technology.
Throughout my 22 years of work with digitization of business processes with Acubiz, my mantra has always been: “change is the only constant”. In my opinion, it’s a major mistake if you, as a business leader, don’t actively respond to the changes that potentially can affect your surroundings and belittle the potential impact of technology. This especially applies for the changes that seem unlikely to you on a given point in time. Obviously, the velocity and magnitude can always be discussed and are often hard or outright impossible to assess properly.
But where, in an organization, should the responsibility for addressing these matters and for driving digital transformation be placed? From my point of view, the CFO and the finance department are a really good candidate for the position as digital transformation frontrunner. Read on to find out why.
The critical intersection
The CFO sits in the intersection between strategy, technology, operations and financial management. That’s why the CFO is the obvious candidate to assume the responsibility the drive a digital transition. Earlier on, and maybe still for some businesses, the finance function was primarily an administrative function. It was all about bookkeeping, cash-flow and reporting. Today, it’s also about advisory, problem solving and goalsetting across the organization.
The CEO and the Board also expect more strategic value and direct support of the growth agenda from the CFO. The progressive CFO must have a structured approach to the work with analysis of business data across the organization, in order to create insights for decision making. To support this, a specific digital strategy and digital tools is need. Some CFO’s are already on top of this and have already had their own backyard, the finance department, digitized. This is just another argument that supports that the CFO is the ideal candidate to the role as digital frontrunner.
3 basic priorities for the CFO of the future
If you, as a CFO, is ready to take on the responsibility to pioneer the digital transformation in your organization, then you probably already think all things digital. If not, then I have a few qualified inputs to a prioritization:
1. Start by digitizing the finance department
I’ve touched upon this in other blog posts, but the finance function is an ideal place to digitize, automate and start testing AI. As a CFO, you can bring your learnings and experience on when the rest of the business is up for digitization.
2. Seize the data
As a CFO you understand the value of easily accessible data and you need to take point when we talk real-time analysis and insight into critical business data.
3. Define the finance function of the future
You need to be on top of your future organizational setup. And even if you’re one of those that doesn’t believe that autonomous cars will dominate the streets soon, you MUST respond to an increased degree of automation, when it comes to the finance department.
Based on these 3 priorities, you’ll be well equipped to be the one that drives transformation in your organization. The CFO’s that already started the journey knows that a break with legacy systems and manual processes is inevitable. The future builds on more automation and a change to a modern and cloud-based approach. I’m sure that they also share my view, that “change is the only constant”.
Good luck with the digital transformation!
Lars de Nully
CEO & Founder