Video: What finance teams need to know about digital disruption

CFOs cannot afford to shy away from the risks that accompany digitalisation

Technology is now changing the role of the finance professional at a faster pace than at any time since the introduction of computerised ledgers. Like the transport industry, which has to adapt to the how Uber and Airbnb operate, finance teams have to understand the technology changes and embrace them. After all, our stakeholders, many of whom use Uber and Airbnb in their personal (and now professional) lives, demand that we do.

Finance departments who are brave enough to embrace what digital technology has to offer will reap the rewards. They will deliver quicker, better outcomes. They will attract and retain the talent that wants to work in a forward thinking team. Importantly, they will deliver process efficiencies so do all of this for less cost.

David Williams discusses the changing role of finance professionals

Take the production of management accounts as an example. In 2015, when I was first appointed CFO at Tungsten Network, the team used a series of interconnected spreadsheets to produce the company accounts – over 50 at one point.

We now have a system that requires zero, and is infinitely better at giving me the information I need to advise the business on our financial strategy. So how did we do it? By building a team of people with the right skillsets, crucially placing our data teams alongside our finance team. One team, with one set of shared goals.

While we are ahead of others in some areas of technology enhancement, we have further to go in others. Tungsten Network is certainly not alone in this journey.

Across sectors, geographies and size of enterprise, laborious systems and processes are being replaced with more agile and responsive ways of working – electronic invoicing being just one example. Businesses that want to continue to thrive cannot afford to be hamstrung by needless manual work.

CFOs are in pole position when it comes to making decisions on how and when to take up new technology. Manual, paper-based processes weigh heavily on the bottom line, so CFOs cannot afford to shy away from the risks that accompany digitalisation. By taking a long term view, targeting specific pain points in current processes and embracing change, you can reap significant rewards.

The most important thing to remember is that going digital is a marathon not a sprint. Yes, some may be dashing off ahead with revolutionary ideas and big budgets, but the purpose of digitisation isn’t to make a splash or grab a headline. At Tungsten Network, in some areas we have focussed on introducing the most effective processes manually, and are now enhancing automation, such as in billing, bank account reconciliations and budgeting.

The digital revolution is ultimately about improving the day-to-day running of a business, by taking manual processes and making them better. It’s about greater speed and accuracy and a reduction in cost. Given this, it’s not about when you embrace digital automation, it’s about how you do it.

Smart decisions, using the deep understanding of the financial systems and drivers that make for a profitable business, will always be the best. Finance professionals are uniquely placed to help organisations navigate the digital landscape with confidence.

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