The digital transformation of finance teams is the key to business agility

Navigating change has long been the job of business and financial leaders

Yet, no one could have predicted the level of disruption and uncertainty the global pandemic caused last year. The challenge is that 2021 appears to be heading in the same direction, with various lockdowns and new restrictions currently being put in place the world over. To weather the storm, and prepare for recovery, CFOs and their teams will have to become more agile — allowing them to anticipate what’s coming, and act faster, and more decisively, on the demands of customers, market shifts and competitive threats. The quickest way to do this is by embracing digital transformation. 

While it’s widely reported in the industry that digital transformation is the way forward, many finance teams, particularly in large organisations, find themselves restricted by multiple systems consisting of rigid data models, disparate architectures, and static siloed data. I have spoken to many CFOs and finance leaders, who have managed to become more agile — overcoming the barriers of their old legacy systems by deploying the cloud. Each of their company’s challenges may be unique, but there are three scenarios, each underpinned by cloud technology, that all these finance leaders were able to leverage to transform their organisations — and I’d like to share these with you. 

The agile digital transformation cloud reality

Just before we delve into the three scenarios, you may be asking, why cloud? The answer is simple. With cloud-enabled solutions, finance teams can access accounts and key financial figures at any time, from anywhere and take immediate decisions based on real time data and insights. Furthermore, working with colleagues and sharing data is an extremely straightforward process in the cloud, offering the ability to cross-reference insights, whether they’re coming from HR, finance, sales or the supply chain.

Creating a corporate finance layer

In the quest for agility through digital transformation, the ideal solution is to move away from a vast array of operational systems and to integrate all data into one single system for transactional operations and analysis . This will ensure one real time source of truth of data and insights for all departments. After all, to recover the organisation must move forward as one. The complexity of a business shouldn’t delay transformation. By investing in a single cloud platform the CFO and his/her finance teams can implement agile planning and forecasting, real-time financial consolidation, and advanced reporting and analytics — in the knowledge that decisions are being made based on one set of data and helping the business navigate rapid change.

Centralising finance and accounting

For many companies having multiple systems for industry-specific processes, such as logistics, merchandising and manufacturing, is still important. However, fragmentation and disparate planning processes around financial management, accounting and reporting can lead to poor decision making. This is down the fact that siloed systems make it extremely hard for the financial office to make crucial budgetary decisions based on activity that is happening across the entire organisation. Using a cloud solution can help ensure all financial processes are standardised across the business. By streamlining operational tasks, finance teams are able to focus on more strategic thinking, advising departments with up to date information and agile decision-making.

Deploying new business units faster 

During the pandemic, many companies saw the opportunity to create completely new business units, or merge others, to respond to changing demands and emerging opportunities. For example, McLaren and Nissan, Dyson, and Airbus all refocused resources to collaborate in the production of ventilators, for example. In a situation such as this, business agility is essential, not only for a quick deployment, but also to save lives. For CFOs, and their teams, this is where digital transformation using a cloud-based financial platform can make or break for the business. Cloud-based systems for example can help finance teams rapidly meet shared targets with an improved time-to-implement — something in stark contrast to the delivery of many traditional legacy solutions currently in place today.

The road to agility for finance teams

Regardless of how complex or outdated an organisation’s IT infrastructure is, the demand for more financial agility and insight is a given. From HR to commercial, everyone will continue to ask for constant forecasts to inform their plans and make crucial decisions, such as finding new suppliers or hiring staff or making redundancies. Cloud-based systems can free up the time finance teams spend today in trying to piece together the information that’s coming from multiple systems or data sets. Allowing the CFO and his/her team to offer better strategic insights for the entire company. 

Our customer ENMAX, a Canadian utility organisation, was able to ramp up its business agility when it integrated financial management, planning, and analytics in the cloud, eliminating the need for server maintenance. By moving away from an outdated back-office finance system, the ENMAX finance team was able to reduce the time spent performing the quarterly close by 33% and saw an increase of 30% in the strategic work they were able to deliver. A clear example of the positive impact digital transformation can have.

A more agile future in the cloud

No matter how your business adapted and survived up to this point, it’s clear that in 2021, gaining business agility in finance through digital transformation must be a top priority. After all, as many of the CFOs and business leaders, I’ve spoken to will attest, it’s companies that embrace cloud solutions and digital transformation that will be the ones who adapt faster and recover more quickly.

About the Author

Frederic Portal is EMEA Financials Manager at Workday. Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance, HR, and planning. Founded in 2005, Workday delivers financial management, human capital management, and analytics applications designed for the world’s largest companies, educational institutions, and government agencies.

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