7 mins read

Digitalization in finance

What is the CFO's Role in Digital Transformation?

by François Lacas on 07.20.2020

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Digitalisation in Finance has become a major challenge. An eagerly anticipated publication for the finance industry, the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report on the priorities for financial directors confirms in its 2020 edition a trend that has been observed for the past several years: the declining position of process optimization in priority ranking.


On the podium in 2018, the topic slid down one step in 2019 and again in 2020, now trailing in the three-year outlook. This change does not imply that CFOs are standing around doing nothing, but it is an undeniable sign that a new and strategic transformation phase is beginning for these leaders. With rationalisation efforts accomplished, the future now belongs to digital consolidation for accounting and finance to derive maximum benefits on a daily basis.


Data at the heart of CFOs’ preoccupations


Financial directors as well as CEOs now have their sights set on data. The volume is increasing along with value, and CFOs need to reconfigure their organisation to leverage data’s potential.


Digital technologies are changing the finance function profession, now increasingly less focused on posting accounting entries and producing dashboards, and more focused on analysis to create real value. According to PwC, people in the most advanced finance departments are already spending 75% of their time analyzing data.

Beyond the analytics and data visualization solutions required by this new need, technology investment concentrates accordingly on a dual objective: making data more reliable and eliminating as many tasks as possible with low added value. Document digitalization and process automation have emerged as the tools and models of choice to address those points.


The new role of finance departments supporting business


Why is it important to analyze data? According to the PwC survey, the top priority for financial directors, year after year, is still to manage performance. By leveraging the data they gather, and their capacity to extract useful information from that data, CFOs reinforce their position and role for supporting business. As neutral, stable, and rigorous guarantors of information, CFOs centralize and sort data, derive meaning, and position data in its proper context.


In a complex and constantly changing environment, the finance function emerges as a precious and leading partner, a beacon that shines light on business decisions and even provides them with a decisive boost. For example, PwC states that in one out of every four companies surveyed, the financial director has taken on a leadership role in digital transformation.


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CFOs, generating talent


With digital technologies and the resulting evolution of the CFO’s role, finance departments must revisit many facets of their operations, including strategy, cost and budget, innovation, organization, offerings, relations with “internal” clients, and more. Of course, that gives CFOs an additional challenge: what about skills?


Trailing in the PwC priority rankings in 2018 and 2019, talent management has now reached third place among priorities for the financial directors participating in the survey. In addition to mastering new digital tools, financial directors must now also develop and drive their teams’ skills as data analysts, with expertise that is in phase with a more support- and collaboration-oriented position and service approach. With that in mind, choosing intuitive solutions that provide a pleasant and compelling user experience is a factor that is certain to help with change.


François Lacas, deputy COO at Yooz, shares his expertise about technological progress brought about digital transformation and how this impacts digitalization of the finance function and more specifically the accounts payable and invoice processing workflow.


What are the limits of today’s Accounts Payable digital transformation abilities?


The truth is, there are no limits except for false beliefs many companies have. For example, Accounts Payable automation had mainly been reserved for large businesses and administrations causing many SMBs to limit themselves to manual processes and antiquated systems that hurt their accounts payable department and cash management.


However, things change when SMBs choose the right accounts payable automation solution hosted in the cloud. The right cloud-based Accounts Payable automation software will be highly customizable to fit the SMBs needs and solve their pain points by combining the cloud, machine learning, deep learning, and big data, and mixing it up with a focus on user experience and design to simplify the overall solution and make accounts payable digital transformation easy.


But Chief Financial Officers aren't just running into technical roadblocks. They also have to make sure their teams are on board and the ability acquire new skills to adopt digital tools into the procure-to-payment process. On top of that the team needs to agree to work with the Accounts Payable automation software. It won't matter if you have the best technology if your team refuses to leverage them.


Yooz's Accounts Payable automation has prepared for these barriers which is why we developed a true accounts payable digital transformation software that incorporates all the best technologies from the cloud to machine learning, big data, etc. Our Accounts Payable automation system makes it easy for any size business and its staff to learn and leverage no matter their industry or pain points. There are no limits with respect to Yooz’s advanced Accounts Payable automation software.


How important is data in technology growth for your business?


Data is the key. Based on experience and research, business’ data opens a whole range of opportunities for them including the chance to automate their purchase-to-pay (P2P) process. In fact, a CFO Research survey stated, "nearly half (47%) of CFOs we surveyed said it was important to use data and analytics collected across a company in strategic ways. It was the second-most-frequently cited way in which CFOs said they could ignite revenue growth — ahead even of business model innovation". 


How so?


Sharing data becomes a way to build confidence for the inside and outside organizations. Your business' data is an occasion to improve control and monitoring through reporting and compliance. But to fully benefit from data, there are two things you need to consider: the tools that make it intuitive, and culture that makes it possible to instill this new vision within your organization.


Furthermore, Mark Brousseau, consultant, Institute of Finance Management (IOFM) spokesperson, and AP automation thought leader, predicts that more and more companies who have not already automated their Accounts Payable process will realize the opportunities for true leadership and do so soon. “It will be unrecognizable!” he says, “digital, data driven, and strategic. Stakeholders will unlock the value of AP automation and leverage it in more ways than ever”.


Why should businesses choose digitalisation tools for their AP process?


Accounts Payable automation, artificial intelligence, predictive analysis, blockchain, data visualisation, machine learning... all these words are now part of the financial manager’s everyday vocabulary, shaking up processes and bringing businesses into a new era.


All those technological advances enable a very pragmatic approach to accounts payable digital transformation. It seems to me that they are a way for most finance departments to get started. Together they save time and lead to lower costs while employees are enriched by being able to perform tasks with higher added value. Combining these tools for your payables system lead to greater security for all processes, data, and compliance. Furthermore, merging the smart technologies develop calculated, vital opportunities by enabling your company to experience a fast-operational implementation, rather than attempt to implement over-ambitious 5-year plans you've designed that are never truly completed.


Yooz leverages all those technological advances to create a complete end-to-end invoice and payment processing system and arming you with the first stage in bravely leading your company AND your entire industry in the digital transformation revolution. Our smart Accounts Payable system's ability to combine simplicity, accessibility, performance, and functional completeness are what enables organizations to fully benefit from automation and digital tools to receive high level results such as:


  • Boosting employee commitment and motivation (sacrificing less time on strictly administrative tasks).
  • Raising support functions from their role as a cost center to that of a profit center.
  • Savings of 30% to 70% on administrative costs.
  • Faster processing time (reducing the document processing cycle time by a factor of 5 to 20).
  • Process industrialization and security.
  • Better management control.
  • Compliance with regulations, and more.


Now, imagine how innovative and forward-thinking you as a finance and accounting leader and every member of your accounts payable team will appear to be when you leverage the data housed in your Accounts Payable department with Yooz’s high-tech Accounts Payable Automation solution that will save money, make existing staff on the Accounts Payable team more efficient, free yourself from mundane tasks and create time to formulate and execute strategic initiatives, and all resulting in more money going straight to the bottom line.



Are finance departments the driver for digital transformation and innovation?


More organizations' finance departments are making the effort to incorporate digitalisation in their invoice processing and payment workflow. As a result, those finance departments are indeed driving digital transformation, for two main reasons: First, its operation is central to the organization's processes. Decision-makers are now called upon to optimize those processes which will typically fall on the Chief Financial Officer. The second reason is the CFO’s responsibilities are changing.


The position is seen as being upper management’s number one assistant. That means the Chief Financial Officer can influence corporate strategy, notably with respect to digitalization. They are therefore both a central and leading force of the accounts payable digital transformation process.


CFO 4.0 goes from a strict finance function to that of someone who manages internal and external ecosystems. The CFO evolves from a support function to value-generating function, undergoing a transition from technical expertise to global and strategic expertise.


What does digital transformation really mean for finance departments ?

How can you fully leverage this opportunity?


Finance leaders, did you know that businesses who have definitively integrated digitalisation as a tool of strategic transformation are 26% more profitable on average with a 9% higher turnover?


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