There’s never been a more exciting time to be in finance. Accenture research suggests the finance function is on the verge of a radical transformation, with virtually every job in finance ready to be redefined in the next five years.
Right now, we see five key areas of transformation where finance could be playing a far more active role in the future. None of them has anything to do with the traditional concept of finance but focus on finance playing a more material role in the way companies evolve in the digital age.
The relentless shift to customer-centricity
- We’ve seen many organisations embark on journeys to customer-centricity, with precious few actually getting it right. Being customer-focused is not about a marketing campaign or beautifully designed products: it’s about making sure your operating model is built around the customer and ensuring that every person in the organisation understands their place in the customer value chain. Here, finance has a key role to play on two levels:
- Helping change the culture of the company and resetting traditional measures that are typically 100% focused on the bottom line to incorporate customer satisfaction metrics, and
Working to transform the internal finance customer experience and better engaging the business
The move from legacy to cloud
The so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is not something to be left only to IT. According to Accenture’s research, eight out of ten finance and business leaders say finance is key to any business achieving its digital ambitions. As companies migrate their IT platforms to the Cloud, they are unlocking new capabilities through technologies like data analytics, process automation and artificial intelligence. Finance has a fundamental role to play in driving the journey to the Cloud and using the new capabilities to make faster, more impactful decisions across the business.
Transforming the operating model
For companies embarking on a digital transformation, it’s important not to simply automate existing processes, or build flashy new websites and mobile apps. It’s an opportunity to re-imagine and transform the business across its entire operating model. What does this have to do with finance? Everything – starting with playing a key role in shaping the strategy underpinning the transformation. A major challenge for many companies is how to fund their digital journey, and here a savvy finance function can help by identifying the ‘low-hanging fruit’ that can be targeted with low investment, and then using the returns to fund subsequent phases of development.
For the forward-looking finance function moving from an operational approach to a more strategic role, there’s no longer just ‘finance data’ – there’s simply business data. Today, data is the new raw material of business, and companies are treating it as a prized asset. We often talk about the so-called four Vs of data: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity. As finance moves beyond traditional financial data to deliver a broader set of analytics and information to the business, it’s time to consider adding the fifth V-value.
The whole premise behind the 4IR is how we connect the physical and digital worlds. Digital twinning maps physical assets to digital platforms and is becoming increasingly important in a world where we have sensors on everything. Using the data from sensors on physical assets, we can assess their efficiency and status in real time, predicting breakdowns before they happen, and optimising processes. For the finance function, this is a game-changer. We can now use digital twinning to track and finance assets and transform the way products get created and taken to market.
The shift in finance is going to be fundamental. We’re moving from service providers to enterprise enablers; from accountants to data and behavioural scientists; from bean counters to innovators. What a time to be alive.
AUTHOR | Stephen deBlanche, chief revenue officer at TransUnion Africa
This article is based on a presentation made at LeaderEX 2019