CFOtech Australia logo
Technology news for Australian CFOs and financial decision-makers
Story image

The evolving role of the finance department

By Contributor
Thu 3 Sep 2020
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by Board International general manager for APAC Mark Sands.

They might be in charge of keeping the corporate numbers in line, but CFOs are all too often remain on the sidelines when it comes to digital transformation projects. This happens even though it’s their department that holds much of the data feeding such initiatives.

This situation needs to change. If CFOs are to become more involved in strategic business planning, they need to be involved in transformation projects from the outset. 

By bringing their unique perspective and insights to the table, they can help to ensure projects achieve their objectives and realise their full potential for the organisation.

A shifting business environment

This shift in the role of the CFO is happening at an interesting point in time. Across the world of business, the paces of innovation and change are increasing, and existing operating models are struggling to keep up. Entire industries are being disrupted, and the voice of the customer is significantly amplified by social media channels and a rethinking on the purpose of companies.

Data has been shaping up as the key to decision making in these turbulent times. “There is an abundance of evidence that the performance gap between companies that embrace data and digitally transform, and those that don’t, is widening”, says Mecklemore director Christoph Mecker.

“Converting the vast pool of structured, unstructured, financial, non-financial data into a succinct set of predictive and actionable insights close to real-time is the game-changer,” Mecker says.

How to respond?

Faced with such challenges, organisations need to alter the way they operate so they can become more agile, innovate at a higher pace and respond rapidly to market changes as they occur.

One widely embraced strategy is the creation of empowered cross-functional teams focussed on delivering customer value or driving efficiencies and new capabilities. Used within new businesses and start-ups, this approach is proven to improve employee engagement and customer satisfaction. Where possible, such teams should always include someone from finance.

A second response is to make better use of data, according to Mecker. The time for experimenting with analytics is over, and these tools must now be put to work on real business challenges to unleash the value that lurks within internal and external data repositories.

It’s time to embrace cloud data platforms. It’s vital to feed finance teams with as much data as possible so that they can extract maximum value from analytics tools.

A cloud data platform enables this by bringing together data from across an organisation as well as from third parties such as partners, suppliers, and customers.

The role of finance

Amidst all this change, the role of the finance department is critical. Mecker says there is a growing expectation within many organisations that the CFO and the finance team become a value-adding business partner. 

Finance will need to shift their focus from reporting on the past to predicting the future across financial and non-financial data sets to meet expectations

“Aided by a modern data platform, the finance team will also be well-positioned to deliver fresh insights into the current state of the business,” says Mecker. 

“This can be communicated to across the organisation through live dashboards that display up-to-date key performance metrics on everything from productivity ratios to sales revenues, from net promoter scores to expense profiles.”

The finance department needs to become more focused on delivering insights and influencing strategy. To achieve this with a stable resource pool, finance needs to automate transactional processes, enable self-service reporting and embrace data visualisation and analytics tools. 

This constitutes a significant shift of skillsets within the finance department but is needed to support decision-making processes and uncover new growth opportunities.

Undertaking the journey

To reach the position of being a strategic business partner, the finance department will have to embark on a journey. It needs to shift from being a reactive group that provides little more than historical records into a proactive one that delivers insights and recommendations.

There are two ways in which this journey can be undertaken. A traditional approach would be to carefully document the current functioning of the department, define precisely how it should operate, and then develop a roadmap showing how it will get there.

While this is a proven approach, it also means that a significant amount of time would be spent on factors that are already known, such as staff structures, workflows and outputs. The process would also be lengthy and far from agile.

A better approach starts with the end result in mind. Focus is then placed on formulating a vision for how that will be achieved and on identifying any roadblocks that could impede progress. This approach establishes a positive direction quickly and results in a significantly shorter journey.

Now is the time

The need for the CFO and finance department to evolve has never been greater. With the COVID-19 pandemic disrupting the business landscape, having a department that can offer informed, proactive guidance and advice is critical.

Today is the day that finance needs to become a true business partner.

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS announces new products amid cloud portfolio success
Analytics and AI company SAS is deepening its broad industry portfolio with offerings that support life sciences, energy, and martech.
Story image
Customer experience
Research unveils precarious customer loyalty for retailers
New research has found customers are reassessing established brand loyalties as their priorities and behaviours shift.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Trading up: It's time to swap core systems for flexible digital applications
This year will see more oranisations planning and commencing high tech renovations that will shake up the way they operate.
Story image
Revenue operations is taking centre stage
As the business world continues to evolve, new demands need to be met to keep up with the ever-changing landscape. 
Story image
Public Cloud
Cloud adoption still a work in progress, NetApp finds
NetApp has announced the results of the annual Cloud Infrastructure Report based on a survey of public cloud business and IT decision makers.
Story image
Atturra partners with Focus HQ to support Aus organisations
Atturra has executed a partnership agreement with Focus HQ, to resell and support the company's Australian developed SaaS-based portfolio management platform.
Story image
Digital Transformation
Unlocking the next digital frontier for educational institutions
Understanding where to invest in technology can be challenging for education institutions, especially after the COVID-19 disruptions.
Story image
SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure to deliver 204% return - study
The Forrester Total Economic Impact study finds SAS Viya on Microsoft Azure brings a 204% return on investment over three years.
Story image
Wasabi Technologies
Wasabi opens new cloud storage in Australia with Equinix
Wasabi Technologies has opened a new hot cloud storage region in Sydney, Australia, using Equinix services. This is the company's 12th global storage region.
Story image
Sift shares crucial advice for preventing serious ATO breaches
Are you or your business struggling with Account Takeover Fraud (ATO)? One of the latest ebooks from Sift can provide readers with the tools and expertise to help launch them into the new era of account security.
Story image
Hands-on review: STM laptop bags
The advent of hybrid working has meant we need laptop bags. We got our hands on two of the most popular laptop bags from STM.
Story image
A third of companies paying ransom don’t recover data - report
Veeam's report finds 76% of businesses who are victims of cyberattacks paid the ransom to recover data, but a third were still unable to get their information back.
Story image
9/10 Aussies to stop spending if personal data compromised
"Based on the patterns we are seeing among Australian consumers, it is evident that trust in a brand is exceptionally important."
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
CFOs using digital workers and AI to prevent unnecessary loss
New technology is now allowing CFOs to use digital workers to automate their accounting processes, making it easier for them to avoid unnecessary losses.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS launches human-focused responsible innovation initiative
SAS has launched a responsible innovation initiative, furthering its commitment to equity and putting people first.
Story image
Kodari Securities (KOSEC)
NFT trends and opportunities: expert reveals all
The NFT market is growing at an exponential rate, with unprecedented liquidity. Here we explore how businesses can profit.
Story image
Talend introduces new data health solutions for businesses
Talend has announced its latest version of Talend Data Fabric, with the release of Talend Trust Score enabling data teams to establish a foundation for data health.
Story image
HINDSITE wins Aerospace Xelerated Pitch Challenge with solution to support Boeing
Brisbane-based startup HINDSITE was the winner of the first ever Pitch Challenge organised by Aerospace Xelerated in partnership with Queensland XR Hub. 
Story image
Decision Inc. Australia enters partnership with Alteryx
Independent data and analytics consultancy Decision Inc. Australia has partnered with automated analytics company Alteryx, expanding its offering to clients.
Story image
Google reveals new safety and security measures for users
Google's new measures include automatic two step verification, virtual cards and making it easier to remove contact information on Google Search results.
Story image
Tech innovation crucial to growth, but barriers remain
Businesses in the A/NZ region believe tech innovation is crucial to drive future growth, but 76% say they’re being held back by complex data architecture.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Updates from Google Workspace set to ease hybrid working troubles
Google Workspace has announced a variety of new features which will utilise Google AI capabilities to help make hybrid working situations more efficient and effective.
Story image
Aussie data & analytic execs not confident in data strategy
Less than half of Australian data and analytics leaders are confident in their data strategy as siloes and lack of culture prevent innovation.
Story image
Remote Working
How organisations can meet employees' changing expectations
The global employment market has shifted dramatically in favour of employees, sparking the so-called great resignation, in which people are leaving unsatisfying roles in search of greener pastures.
Story image
Adyen expands partnership with Afterpay as BNPL payments increase
Adyen has expanded its partnership with AfterPay allowing more of Adyen’s merchants in more countries worldwide to use the BNPL provider.
Story image
Hard numbers: Why ambiguity in cybersecurity no longer adds up
As cybersecurity costs and risks continue to escalate, CEOs continue to struggle with what their investment in cyber protection buys. Getting rid of ambiguity becomes necessary.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
SAS unveils AI experience to improve kids' batting abilities
SAS has created The Batting Lab, an interactive experience using AI, computer vision and IoT analytics to help kids improve their baseball and softball swings.
Story image
Could your Excel practices be harming your business?
While Excel has been the de-facto standard for budgeting, planning, and forecasting, is it alone, enough to support organisations in the global marketplace that’s facing rapid changes due to digital transformation?
Story image
Digital Transformation
Why enterprise records management should be part of any digital transformation strategy
Modern organisations create and rely upon an enormous volume of content, and digital records make up a significant proportion of that content.
Story image
Employee Retention
Company values increasingly important in post-pandemic world
New research released today reveals that company values are the new currency when it comes to employee retention in a post-covid economy.
Story image
Remote Working
IT teams deploy powerful technologies to enable remote work
"We found that IT teams mastered the challenges of remote work last year in large part by employing powerful yet easy-to-use technologies."
Story image
Telstra, Google and Accenture launch 5G AR experience for AFL
Telstra, Google and Accenture are developing a new 5G powered augmented reality (AR) experience at Melbourne's Marvel Stadium for the footy season.
Story image
Jabra investigates what makes an ideal hybrid work model
“The way we work has changed forever and the current state of knowledge work requires access to digital platforms and technologies to be successful."
Story image
HubSpot launches 'The Great Upskill' week to inspire learning
Brands across APAC including Google ANZ, MessageMedia, Meltwater, Seismic and Aircall, will give their employees a full workday to dedicate to upskilling.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
ForgeRock releases Autonomous Access solution powered by AI
ForgeRock has officially introduced ForgeRock Autonomous Access, a new solution that uses AI to prevent identity-based cyber attacks and fraud.
Story image
Data and analytics could be key to higher selling prices in APAC
Sisense's latest report has found that almost half of data professionals in APAC think customised data and analytics can create better selling prices for their products.
Story image
Airwallex launches new bank feed integration with NetSuite
Airwallex has launched a new bank feed integration with NetSuite, developed in partnership with NetSuite solution partner, Onlineone.
Story image
Microsoft unveils adaptive accessories for disability access
Microsoft is introducing an expansive Inclusive Tech Lab to give people with disabilities greater access to technology through new software features and adaptive accessories.
Story image
New SAS service overcomes subscription fatigue for media companies
SAS has launched SAS 360 Match which helps media companies move towards a AVOD model to generate revenue as subscribers cancel.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Clear Dynamics closes $35M funding round, invests in global growth
The funding is a major milestone and speaks to Clear Dynamics’ vision for AI-enabled ‘composable’ enterprise software, the company states.
Find out how a behavioural analytics-driven approach can transform security operations with the new Exabeam commissioned Forrester study.
Link image
Story image
Employee Experience
Zendesk launches customer service and employee experience offering
"Zendesk is helping businesses embrace this new generation of conversational customer relationship management and turn customer service into growth.”
Story image
Google and CSIRO use AI to help protect the Great Barrier Reef
Google has partnered with CSIRO in Australia to implement AI solutions that help protect the Great Barrier Reef.
Story image
Three key security challenges facing the Australian insurance industry 
Insurance companies must ensure they proactively address security challenges and protect the privacy of customer data.