How CFOs can supercharge progress with tech-driven strategies | HCLTech

How CFOs can supercharge progress with tech-driven strategies

With over 80% of CFOs acknowledging technology as the most important driver of change in their organizations, the focus on digitalization is set to intensify in the F&A industry in the coming years.
November 1, 2023
November 1, 2023
How CFOs can supercharge progress with tech-driven strategies

As captains of the ship when it comes to handling complex financial processes and regulations, CFOs often grapple with multiple responsibilities. And sometimes, it can feel like a juggling act.

To build a clear picture of their organization’s financial health, a CFO needs to analyze vast volumes of financial data, gain deep insight into market trends and be aware of potential risks. They must also simultaneously identify cost-saving opportunities, enhance budgeting and forecasting accuracy, optimize resource allocation and enhance their enterprise’s overall financial posture. All this plus communicating the picture to stakeholders and shareholders in real-time and with high clarity. It's a lot.

Here, technology can be a boon to finance leaders. It can help CFOs streamline operations, make better decisions and drive profitability. In fact, technology has the potential to elevate a CFO’s role from a traditional financial steward to a strategic visionary — one who can guide their organization toward business excellence and longevity. But, it has to be the right technology implemented correctly.

Embracing tech for financial progress

With over 80% of CFOs acknowledging technology as the most important driver of change in their organizations, the focus on digitalization is set to intensify in the Finance and Accounting (F&A) industry in the coming years. Research indicates a planned increase of nearly 78% in technology investments by CFOs over the next two years.

In fact, more than 70% of CFOs are already prioritizing investments in digital technologies — in particular, technologies like hyperintelligent automation that can help eliminate manual tasks, reduce errors and enhance efficiency. Leaders are also turning to cloud-based F&A systems to unlock unprecedented scalability, agility and real-time collaboration capabilities. At the same time, data analytics and visualization tools help them make better decisions by generating actionable insights. Finally, future-focused CFOs are actively exploring the applications of technologies like AI, blockchain and predictive analytics to drive innovation and create new value within their organizations and their roles.

This has opened several promising use cases that redefine traditional financial processes: from secure and transparent cross-border transactions to smart contracts that automate complex agreements, the potential for efficiency gains and cost reductions is tremendous. On a social development front, fintech innovations have helped usher in a new era of financial inclusion and empowerment for previously underserved populations.

As technology continues to transform finance, CFOs may find their roles changing to include some of the following adaptations.

  1. Streamline revenue cycle management

    Manual and disjointed processes can lead to inefficiencies, delays and errors in order processing, invoicing and payment collection. Automated systems for order management, digital invoicing and online payment platforms can address all these issues, and in addition, accelerate the cash conversion cycle, improve accuracy and reduce disputes. Additionally, self-service portals can empower customers to access account information, make payments and resolve inquiries independently, thereby enhancing the customer experience.

  2. Enhance procurement and expense management

    Efficient procurement and expense management are critical for controlling costs and maintaining optimal supplier relationships. But traditional procurement processes often involve manual paperwork, long approval cycles and limited visibility into spending patterns.

    Technology adoption offers solutions to enhance procure-to-pay processes. For instance, e-procurement systems can automate purchase requisitions, approvals and vendor management, streamlining the procurement lifecycle. Implementing e-invoicing and spend analytics tools can provide real-time visibility into expenses, identify cost-saving opportunities and enable strategic supplier management.

  3. Strengthen financial close and reporting

    Relying on manual and spreadsheet-based approaches for consolidating financial data, reconciling accounts and preparing financial statements can be time-consuming and error-prone. Digital tools can strengthen the record-to-report process by automating key activities. For example, cloud-based accounting systems can facilitate real-time collaboration, centralize data storage and enhance data security. Automated journal entries and reconciliation tools can streamline financial close activities, reducing errors and ensuring compliance. And finally, real-time reporting dashboards can provide instant visibility into financial performance and enable faster decision-making.

  4. Empower strategic decision-making

    Financial planning and analysis (FP&A) are vital for driving strategic decision-making. However, in this process, CFOs often need help to aggregate data, analyze trends and conduct scenario modeling. Leveraging the right technology solutions can empower FP&A teams to generate accurate forecasts, uncover insights and support data-driven decision-making. Advanced analytics tools harness big data, enabling CFOs to identify patterns, trends and emerging risks. AI and ML algorithms can automate data analysis, enabling faster and more accurate financial forecasts. And integrated planning platforms provide a centralized view of financial data, facilitating scenario analysis and enabling agile budgeting and forecasting processes.

Considerations for successful technology adoption

A bold, strategic approach to technology adoption can unlock efficiency, accuracy and business value at a previously unimaginable scale, but simply adopting new technology is not enough. To achieve the right results, finance leaders need a well-conceived approach built on the following best practices.

  1. Effective change management

    Change management is vital in driving user adoption and ensuring a smooth transition to digital environments. CFOs should clearly communicate the reasons for adopting new technology, address concerns and provide adequate training to employees to foster acceptance and proficiency.

  2. Stakeholder engagement and cross-functional collaboration

    Stakeholder engagement, including involving key finance team members and cross-functional collaboration in the decision-making process, is crucial for technology integration. Their insights and support can help identify pain points and ensure that the new technology addresses the organization’s unique needs.

  3. Data security and privacy

    Financial data includes some of the most sensitive and confidential information about a company. CFOs must implement robust safeguards and comply with regulatory requirements to ensure data security and privacy are maintained throughout the technology implementation process.

  4. Collaboration with internal IT teams and external advisors

    It’s always ideal to get experts to weigh in. Leveraging the expertise of both internal IT teams and external consultants can help ensure that CFOs make the most of their technology solutions in terms of configurations and optimization.

  5. ROI assessment

    CFOs need to carefully evaluate the return on investment (ROI) of a technology before adopting it. A thorough cost-benefit analysis can help justify the investment and prevent it from becoming a cost center.

  6. Managing disruptions and change

    Implementing new technology can be disruptive. CFOs need to have a well-defined plan for managing change, ensuring business continuity and perhaps most importantly, ensuring employees can adapt to the new systems and processes effectively.

  7. Scalability considerations

    The ability to scale the technology adoption as the business grows ensures that its benefits are optimized to the investment made. CFOs should therefore prioritize technology solutions that offer scalability.

  8. Seamless data exchange and adoption across functions

    CFOs must recognize that every technology implementation within the finance ecosystem will have repercussions on both upstream and downstream processes. The new technology must offer well-designed interfaces to ensure smooth data exchange and widespread adoption across different functions.

The way forward

No career today is insulated from technological change. And while the focus is often on technologists, CFOs too are under immense pressure to modernize, deliver business value and tighten cybersecurity. The digital revolution in finance and accounting is here to stay, and leaders who cling to traditional, outdated methods will fall behind. Understandably, smart technology adoption choices can mean the difference between growth and failure in an increasingly digital and interconnected world.

However, as technology evolves, CFOs must navigate the ethical challenges that arise. They must ensure responsible data usage, maintain transparency in financial practices and uphold ethical, humane standards while leveraging digital tools. Finance leaders can build their knowledge in these areas through active participation in discussions and initiatives related to data privacy, responsible AI implementation and ethical guidelines for financial technology. This can help them build trust with stakeholders, strengthen their organization's reputation and contribute to the long-term sustainability of digital transformation programs.

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