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Only Futuristic CFOs Can Accelerate Growth and Digital Transformation

kaushik cfo

Digital transformation is no longer the preserve of the CIO. In recent years and especially in times of Covid-19 pandemic and the consequent surge in remote work and virtual business models, CFOs and finance teams have vital roles to play in harnessing the power of data and technology to drive efficiency and growth. In a recent interaction with CXOToday.com, Kaushik Mitra, Senior Director – Cloud ERP – Oracle India explains how the futuristic CFO would need more analytical and future looking capabilities and tools to interpret data and make faster decisions in the fast-paced digital transformation era.

What do you mean by the term ‘futuristic CFO’?

CFOs usually have to struggle through with two major challenges, one is to accelerate growth and digital initiatives while other one is to preserve and restore the company’s financial health. According to Gartner’s recently published report on “Top priorities of Finance Leaders in 2021”, seven out of ten board directors mentioned on being interviewed that that impact of global pandemic has already accelerated digital business initiatives.

While any Futuristic CFO has a bigger role to play in this acceleration and transformational journey of the organization, which involves deliver continuous value and agile strategies, real-time risk assessment and mitigation, better informed and faster decisions, and automation across the various divisions.

Cloud adoption (across SaaS, PaaS and IaaS), Data Analytics and Process Automation are some of the areas where we are seeing huge digital investments

How do CFOs align their processes with digitalization implemented in their systems while not losing its relevance and investment?Also, how should CFOs manage to either be relevant or become obsolete?

In most of the instances, an organization’s traditional tools and technology don’t resolve current business challenges. In fact, the top barrier to improving the effectiveness of the finance function is IT systems that are old and inflexible.

CFOs are under tremendous pressure to provide accurate and trusted information faster and more efficiently to internal as well as external decision makers. Whereas to be relevant or become obsolete –enterprises need to restructure legacy processes as it is not limited to technological change. Since these legacy processes might have been designed many years ago, they might have been best practice at the time. However,today’s applications and processes are changing rapidly, that even technology needs to be aligned with it.

By deploying digitalization in their systems and processes companies can break down data silos, so that processes can flow automatically, across departments and teams and end-to-end.

Q: How do companies define their future? Please share few examples from your experience along with – the challenge, solution and resulted outcome?

Several companies have started transforming their IT systems by replacing traditional solutions with SaaS based cloud solutions so that,

Firstly, they can be on one complete &unified platform and by adopting unified SaaS based solutions, organizations would get a wide range of applications with a single data model amounting to a single source of truth. This helps to future-proof investment and at the same time give higher results. Secondly, while organizations embark on a digital journey for ERP transformation it is essential to simplify their processes and leverage modern best practices across all business functions and processes. And last, but not the least, they can adopt innovation and deliver business users with a more modern user experience at a fast pace.

For instance, Indian Institute of Management Bangalore, one of Asia’s leading graduate schools of management, has recently selected Oracle Fusion Cloud Applications Suite and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) to support their administrative needs. The Oracle Fusion Cloud Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) will provide a complete, innovative and secure financial platform for the institute and help them improve business efficiencies by automating manual processes, reducing significant reporting time and by providing a real-time view into accurate financial data.

Another example is FedEx, the world’s largest express transportation company has standardized more than 220 operations by using more than 40 Oracle Cloud applications. They also use Oracle Digital Assistant as part of its efforts to further automate many of these processes, with more than 25 digital assistants creating touchless hand-offs across those processes.The company has completely virtualized its model for deploying software and training people on new systems, enabling the team to stand up nine new local instances of Oracle Cloud ERP during the COVID-19 crisis with no interruptions to timelines. In the past, the company would send teams to a country deploying a major new system, staying there for weeks to set it up and train employees. The crisis eliminated travel to those countries, inspiring the successful shift to virtual deployments.

Q: What is hyper-personalization and how should CFOs start looking at it with respect to a strategic approach for business?

By definition, Hyper-personalization means leveraging AI and real-time data to deliver more significant and specific content, product, and service information to each user. Cloud adoption has made this even more important in today’s time. Cloud is the catalyst for a host of disruptive technologies, from chatbots and AI to blockchain, IoT etc.

Cloud based technologies enable companies to redefine innovation, modernization, and competition in today’s digital scenario. With the industry-wide adoption of cloud, we see more customers are driving additional value to their businesses. With the cloud investment model, it is even more vital for CFOs to demonstrate that their investments deliver tangible business benefits, both now and in the coming future.

How can companies leverage modern day technologies for financial transformation in a digital and post-pandemic era?

In the future work model, when it comes to financing transformation, it is quite evident that implementing advanced technologies like AI, IoT, ML, and digital assistant (Chatbot) has a direct impact on the business metrics. Say, companies who have implemented new tech have grown their annual revenues faster than the ones who are not making any kind of investment in any of these new age technologies. These technologies are helping in closure of internal process and reports in much lesser time. One of key priorities is that organization can quickly take advantage of modern-day technologies to transform their business today and for future work models.

Finally, can you tell us about some business realities where digital and data-driven tools and solutions are becoming extremely critical?

Many sectors had to face tryst with reality in the recent global pandemic. By that I mean, for the first time in history, they were tested on their limit for their ability to respond and adjust to constantly changing market conditions. Supply-chain disruptions, remotely closing financial books, and managing unexpected risk were just a few.

There are several unplanned events & disruptive situations that trigger change. Some are like – Business models shifts, Mergers, Compliance, Risk & Regulation, lack of Talent are considered most often. But some least mentioned critical business realities are that many large businesses in the last few years have got a patchwork of monolithic, legacy ERP solutions combined with numerous SaaS point-solutions.

This fragmented environment creates data silos, disconnected processes, and user experiences, making it almost difficult to react to real-time market shifts and business requirements.

Meanwhile, it’s also high on cost to maintain, and increasingly difficult to find workers trained in some older technology stacks. And it’s always getting older, day by day.

So, when a market shift happens, greater agility and innovation isn’t achieved by replicating your past, hosting it in a cloud, but by evolving through a modular set of business capabilities that are tailored made as per the business needs, applying innovations where they’re needed most.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com