CFOs: The Strategic Thinkers

Pradeep Agarwal, Senior Director ERP Cloud1. Do you think present days CFOs can competently handle the challenges of the increasingly complex business and economic environment? How do you foresee the role of CFOs in managing such complexities?
Wading through dynamic times, modern CFOs are increasingly facing challenges in predicting the future. Modern CFOs need to have a way to predict external market conditions and to have complete visibility into internal processes as CFOs continuously are expanding their horizons and face complexities head-on,like complying with the latest laws and regulations corresponding to hr functions or keep a tab on various data driven functionalities within an organisation, understanding technology has become a must for them. Since CFOs are also responsible for the smooth functioning Of each performing asset and it becomes imperative for CFOs to drive the acceptance of technologies within the business. CFOs need to understand how digital technologies enable more customer centric business models while increasing employee productivity. In order to do that CFOs need to ensure they have access to all the relevant data to power these services as well as improve their general decision making, which can be a competitive differentiator.

Today, CEOs rely on the CFOs to provide strategic counsel backed by data. This gives CFOs an opportunity to drive innovation on behalf of the complete organisation. According to a recent study by Oracle, CFOs cannot drive enterprise growth and strategy without a digital finance operating model. This model is built upon 3 pillars Operational Excellence, Digital Intelligence and Business Influence. Globally only less than one third would qualify themselves as a digital finance leader. The shift towards more CFOs being categorised as digital finance leaders is required.

"CFOs can orchestrate holistic, efficient and effective operation from the supply chain right through to the customer experience"

2. What are the issues that CFOs face in their role as a chief collaborator?
Adaptability is one of the main challenges that CFOs are facing. Many CEOs and other leaders are still skeptical about the results of cloud based applications and adaptive intelligence. Once everyone in the organisation embraces digital technologies it will be a relatively smooth and seamless journey towards digital transformation.

There are other challenges like talent gaps, mapping business goals and changing employee demands. All these challenges can be tackled with a collaborative data driven approach. Every CFO would need a robust cloud based ERP that will simplify the processes, speed up analytic processes, and enable better decisions to be made. CFOs who witness the benefits of a collaborative, data driven mindset including improved visibility, more accurate predictions through scenario modelling and a more
holistic way to see the business will naturally be interested in evolving their key business processes.

3. What are the various sources of data that CFOs must access to be able to predict market trends and gain a significant competitive edge?
Modern CFOs can source the data from external as well as internal sources including third party data and data from IoT devices. These data driven collaborative tools provide modern CFOs with a competitive edge by giving them insights that can help them to identify new markets, capture new opportunities and mitigate impending risk.

The role of the CFO is changing from performing data analytics and compiling reports to using technology to uncover actionable insights from data

CFOs can orchestrate holistic, efficient and effective operation from the supply chain right through to the customer experience. With Oracle’s data driven tools CFOs will benefit with greater financial transparency ensuring greater financial control and help them take informed decisions. Oracle understands that digital disruption and economic uncertainty present real challenges for CFOs and their businesses. The nextgen CFOs millennials who have a sound understanding of digital technology will embrace data led tools and processes that will help them predict future trends, enable collaboration and innovation and ultimately, help their businesses outpace competitors.

4. Predicting market trends and financial forecasting in these uncertain times is almost impossible. How can data ensure that forecasting is not way off the mark?
The cloud ERP provides CFOs with a single source of truth for important data and enables secure collaboration. Over the next few years CFOs will lead the way in introducing greater levels of collaboration which will result in more flexible workforce models where freelancers can work productively with contractors and full time employees in virtual teams. The CFOs will also use the cloud based tools to ensure that everyone in the business has access to data they need when they need it. This will enable better decision making based on deep realtime analytics.

Cloud based IoT applications give CFOs direct access to external data, helping them make decisions faster. For example, CFOs can see a typhoon will impact their Asia Pacific operations based on IoT feed; enabling them to act on this information immediately. Without realtime data, it could have taken several days for supply chain management to note the approaching weather event and inform the CFO. The cloud will also change how the information is analysed. CFOs will have to use adaptive intelligence to make sense out of the ocean of data. The role of the CFO is changing from performing data analytics and compiling reports to using technology to uncover actionable insights from data. Overall, the role of the CFO has, become much more strategic as they’re choosing the appropriate steps based on what the data reveals.

5. What are the expectations of millennials when they join an organisation and how do you see these altering the role of the CFOs?
The next generation of CFOs will come from the millennials of today. The millennials are braver in their approach and focused on more innovative ways of accelerating business success. They will be more willing to embrace the tide of digital disruption sweeping the profession. Basically, millennials are more trusting of technology than today’s CFOs. In a future where the sheer volume of data flowing into an organisation will render it impossible for humans to analyse, technology will play a crucial role. Having grown up in the digital age, millennials will be readier to accept the use of machine intelligence to create business insights and proactively deploy changes.

6. The finance function in future will need a huge injection of creativity as even high skilled analytical jobs are replaced by smart algorithms, learning machines and artificial intelligence. So, is the finance function itself under threat or can CFOs leverage these technologies to their advantage? What is the rate of technology adoption in India?
The finance function in its old form is definitely under threat as CFOs strive to leverage new technologies. As scalability and agility are necessary to support the company’s exponential growth, future proofing its financial and accounting ERP by selecting a cloud solution has become mission critical. Cloud adoption has gained speed and has been developing at a pace of 25-30 percent with benefits like adaptability readiness of advancement for sectors like IT, ITES and E-commerce.