The CFO driving digital change

CFOs are uniquely positioned to lead a broader organisational shift into digitisation because they have insight into all business units and how they interact with one another.

09 October 2019 | Business

The greatest challenge is not the technology itself, it is developing people at every level of the hierarchy.

Riana Esterhuyse - The fourth industrial revolution (4IR) is rapidly redefining the business environment.

In this environment, it is no longer enough for chief financial officers (CFOs) to be the financial overseer, ensuring finance reports are accurate and complete. In addition, they need to take on a more strategic role by joining the data flowing through the organisation to help fellow leaders see not only where the organisation stands at any given moment, but also where it can and should be in the next week, month and year.

Why the CFO?

How CFOs can lead this change starts with standardising and automating repetitive tasks. Basic automation tools can lead to increased efficiency and lower costs in handling routine, predictable processes like reporting and reconciliations. I can also help to improve performance (accuracy and speed) of a given function.

The finance department can then start applying more advanced tools such as artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics to interpret data, more accurately predict what will happen according to a variety of factors and plan for scenarios. Based on the industry and level of digital maturity in the organisation, every CFO will have a different approach.

The greatest challenge is not the technology itself, it is developing people at every level of the hierarchy who can harness innovative thinking, form the right strategies and apply the systems and tools that best fit the needs of the business. With the right skills in scarce supply and the financial impact of hiring the workforce you need, organisations must look at upskilling their existing employees.

In PwC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey it stated that the World Economic Forum estimates that it will cost US$24 000 per head to reskill displaced US workers. But when set against the alternatives — severance payments for workers who are let go and the cost of finding new workers with in-demand skills, amongst other things — reskilling is the more attractive option.

Technology to replace human workforce?

A stigma that normally goes with automation is that the human role will become redundant, leading to loss of jobs. Organisations need to explain the opportunities that come with this; to do more interesting, value-creating work, rather than something that will replace human staff.

In a PwC case study titled “Boston Scientific boosts efficiency and job satisfaction with robotic process automation”, the corporate tax team at medical device maker Boston Scientific is a good example of this.

The team had been burdened by manual tasks that were so time-consuming that employees often had to work overtime during busy periods. In addition to paying overtime expenses, the company was finding it difficult to retain top tax talent.

Seeing an opportunity to free their team from repetitive work by automating a variety of tasks, tax leaders tested the possibilities with a few processes at first, then built on those successes by automating others. The automation software they implemented reduced the time required to complete manual tasks by 85% and created a better work-life balance for employees in the corporate tax and finance functions.

The best technology will not deliver results if a CFO doesn’t have a workforce with the right capabilities. Some finance organisations may need a culture shift among their employees.

In the past, finance rewarded staff on adhering to routine processes and avoiding risk. Finance has traditionally been concerned with certainty and accuracy of historical data. The changes you want to encourage, ideally by adjusting your own perspective, should help your team cultivate a more exploratory, proactive mind-set.

Where to start?

For some CFOs, the big question regarding automation and AI is how to begin.

Implementing technology today is different than it was in the past. It happens faster and real-world pilots and experimentation is preferred rather than planning and deliberation.

CFOs need to embark on some initiatives:

- Identify cases where you can involve automation through straightforward tools like robotic process automation (RPA),

- move into more ambitious AI-powered initiatives and

- build on that experience over time.

For automating the finance function to be a successful initiative, the CFO will have to do more than approve a budget and hold the leaders accountable; you will have to take part in the learning efforts yourself, engage in teaching others, and use this transformation as a genuine opportunity to improve your own skills.

In the end there is more benefit than merely a more efficient and effective finance function that can operate with lower costs and with greater speed and accuracy. It will lead to more challenging work for employees and result in upskilling both the staff and the CFO.

Riana Esterhuyse is a tax associate director at PwC Namibia. Contact her at [email protected]

Similar News


Namcor ready to run fuel storage facility

14 hours ago | Business

The Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) expects to take delivery of the strategic fuel storage facility next month, a company official has told Namibian Sun....

NMP allays phosphate fears

2 days ago - 12 November 2019 | Business

Namibia Marine Phosphate (NMP) claims their phosphate mining project will not have a significant impact on the environment and the fishing industry, while underlining the...

Joleen Mans – a businesswoman with a heart of...

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Business

Elizabeth Joseph With a business administration qualification and various insurance industry qualifications, Joleen Mans is on her way to making a great name for herself....

Dynamo with a human touch

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Business

Justicia Shipena Emma Theofelus was recently appointed as a legal officer in the directorate of legal services and international cooperation at the ministry of...

Painting the bigger picture

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Business

Evany van WykThe possibility of making a positive impact or change in someone’s life is usually the reason that helps Sam Januarie get up in...

Linking lives through service

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Business

Elizabeth Joseph The company’s service has grown tremendously since its inception. They operate out of two different towns with ground ambulances, which are...

You are someone’s type

6 days ago - 08 November 2019 | Business

Mariselle StofbergThe Namibia Blood Transfusion Service (NAMbts) has joined hands with various other blood services around the world in launching the BE THE 1 campaign....

Easy borrowing for youth SMEs

1 week ago - 07 November 2019 | Business

The Development Bank of Namibia (DBN) will fund small and medium enterprises (SMEs) run by young people to the tune of N$108.5 million to help...

Capture the consumer

1 week ago - 06 November 2019 | Business

Jo-Maré Duddy – In 2013, 70% of consumers planned their shopping. Now, 90% of buyers search the information available to them to plan and decide...

Navigating Namibia’s regulatory seas

1 week ago - 06 November 2019 | Business

B7: In a nutshell, what does a normal day at the office entail? MdP: Coffee is always the first order of business! The rest of...

Latest News

A fish rots from the...

14 hours ago | Columns

“A lie can travel half way around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes,” Mark Twain once said.In the end, truth will...

Namcor ready to run fuel...

14 hours ago | Business

The Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor) expects to take delivery of the strategic fuel storage facility next month, a company official has told Namibian Sun....

How the 'sharks' were netted

14 hours ago | Fishing

An international scandal has erupted with an exposé of more than 30 000 documents released by WikiLeaks which show that an Icelandic fishing company, SAMHERJI,...

NSFAF explains payment woes

14 hours ago | Education

The Namibia Student Financial Assistance Fund (NSFAF) has blamed the delayed payment of non-tuition fees to students on the unavailability of funds and its internal...

Hospital ­denies Itula ­allegation

14 hours ago | Health

The regional directorate of health for Ohangwena has denied an allegation by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula that a patient at Eenhana district hospital had...

Devil's claw under threat

14 hours ago | Environment

The increase in illegal grazing in the Nyae Nyae Conservancy and Community Forest, as well as illegal fences in the N#a Jaqna Conservancy and Community...

More dark days ahead

14 hours ago | Sports

The Fifa normalisation committee says it still has to consult its lawyers before making a decision on the way forward for the Namibia Premier League...

Mining tourney hailed as a...

14 hours ago | Sports

A three-day tournament that featured different mining employees from across the country, which took place at Otjiwarongo from Friday to Sunday, has been described as...

They have to go, says...

1 day - 13 November 2019 | Crime

Staff ReporterHighly placed sources indicated this morning that President Hage Geingob is planning to jettison justice minister Sacky Shanghala and fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau from...

Load More