Digital Acceleration and the CFO: Creating a Roadmap for the Future

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WorkdayA single system for finance, HR, and planning.

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

The last year has seen an unprecedented amount of disruption in all areas of business, forcing organizations to accelerate their digital transformation, or risk not making it out the other side. As a ‘new normal’ looks to be on the horizon, how can CFOs create a roadmap for the future?

Article 6 Minutes
Digital Acceleration and the CFO: Creating a Roadmap for the Future

The road to digital transformation isn’t always a smooth one. The challenges are often widespread, with almost 90% of enterprises experiencing issues. These can be anything from system complexity, lack of intelligence and poor user engagement to updates taking too long to implement or expectations not being met.  

Despite the hurdles, automation and machine learning are vital to your digital finance journey. For the CFO, there’s pressure to accelerate innovation, cut costs and bolster employee engagement while improving customer experience (CX).

A clear yet flexible roadmap is key if you want to overcome common barriers for change, and in a post-COVID world, having a blueprint for the future will be more important than ever.

 

Digital acceleration requires an agile mindset

Right now, we’ve reached the fork in the road where only the fittest will survive. Organizations are being tested to see if they sink or swim – if they take the right road to transformation or get left behind.

Emboldened by the pandemic-bred remote workforce, our thirst for intelligent data and rising competitor capabilities, an agile tech stack is everyone’s top priority. But these days, companies need more than just agile technology to push them forward. It’s important to have an agile mindset too.

This is why a continuous planning approach is required. The future is hard to predict, and with AI and automation advancing faster than humans can keep up with, it pays to be reactive. For many CFOs, waving goodbye to rigid plans and static budgets can be an uncomfortable shift, but a necessary one.

Businesses that fail are the ones who are afraid to upset the status quo, and this holds them back from making better, more timely decisions in order to drive forward change.  

What agility should look like:

  • Modelling a wider range of scenarios with effective scenario planning tools
  • Having a live roadmap document that can adapt and grow with the business and the changing market
  • Frequent roadmap reviews to align projects with business goals (even as these goals evolve over time)
  • Real-time analysis (both internal and external analysis, such as competitors)

Set realistic goals and objectives

The initial step of building a comprehensive roadmap should be understanding core business goals. What is it that you want to achieve? And by when?

When it comes to automation, understanding capabilities (and limits) is the answer. One of the main reasons for failure is not having a realistic view of outcomes. For instance, too many brands focus on cutting human resource without realizing the true value that automation can bring.

Technology works to support people, not against them. So focusing on the human benefits and ensuring they are considered for the change management strategy is crucial. The real efficiencies are found in staff productivity, resource allocation, engagement and retention – not just labor costs.

Most organizations talk about being more agile and improving efficiency. But one of the most overlooked benefits of digital transformation is trust. The trust between you and your customer. And the trust between you and your employees.

Then there’s understanding what automation can actually do. According to McKinsey & Company, today’s tech offerings can fully automate 42% of activities within the finance function, and partially automate another 19%. The opportunities are clearly there, but knowing what functions to automate is key.

So what can the right finance solutions help you achieve?

  • Build an intelligent data foundation for faster, smarter decision-making  
  • Global finance processes that can deliver cross-country automation, bringing your entire organization together in one platform
  • Seamless procurement, with simple source-to-contract and procure-to-pay processes
  • End data silos, making disparate teams work together effortlessly and with appropriate access to the data they need

Digital transformation and stakeholder collaboration

Your roadmap also needs to be a collaborative effort, one that involves your stakeholders at every stage of the process.

For instance, the partnership between CFOs and CIOs has been regularly overlooked in the past. But since the pandemic, companies have relied more heavily on technology, meaning finance leaders and CIOs have had to find more ways to collaborate.

This relationship is invaluable to any business, and improving methods of communication is essential if you want better business agility in a post-COVID world. The CIO can reveal powerful information on your organization’s technological prowess, speed and customer service.

They are the missing link when it comes to knowing how to outperform rivals, and should be your first port of call when choosing which technology investments will be most valuable in the future.  They’re also your secret weapon for assessing risk.

What’s your change management strategy?

On the topic of collaboration, it’s important to remember upstream and downstream stakeholders, and this includes your employees as well as your customers. The truth is, digital transformation is less about technology, but more about people, and what the technology can do for them.

For customers, it’s a more enjoyable experience. For your team, it’s less manual work and more time to focus on innovation, better workplace engagement and improved job satisfaction. All of this leads to higher productivity or output, as well as reduced recruitment costs because your employees don’t jump ship to another company.

Your employees matter in this roadmap, because without them driving the change, your technology will be useless. Your first task is to recognize automation anxiety and the fear of job cuts, which can lead to conscious or unconscious resistance. 

An effective change management plan is critical, and this needs to be considered for every phase of your transformation journey. The earlier you can involve your team, and the more you keep them informed about changes, the easier it will be to get your digital and human functions to work together.

Focus on continuous planning

An agile mindset is the only way to ensure agility throughout your organization while in the midst of transformation. This analytical and adaptive approach must be applied to your planning processes.

Traditional, static planning no longer supports the needs of a modern business, so if you’re looking to navigate change in 2021 and beyond, a continuous and dynamic planning approach is needed. This allows businesses to update their strategy on a monthly, weekly or even daily basis in response to forecasts.

The use of real-time data allows finance teams to remain reactive, and this is why adaptive planning tools are essential for the most effective decision-making.

Even before COVID-19, 75% of CFOs recognized that outdated planning methods were holding them back. So this is not a concern driven by the recent pandemic, but a deep-seated issue that companies have been too stubborn to change.

Regular review of your roadmap should also include feedback from your teams. Direct end-user employee data is paramount for making digital transformation both successful and scalable. The more you understand employee workplace experiences, the more likely your projects are to deliver value.

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Workday is a leading provider of enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources. Founded in 2005, Workday delivers financial management, human capital management, planning, and analytics applications designed for the world's largest companies, educational institutions, and government agencies. Organizations ranging from medium-sized businesses to Fortune 50 enterprises have selected Workday.

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