Tomika Russell, President, Symbeo
January 27, 2023
Digital Enablement for Business: It Makes ₵ents
With a resurgence for growth, the role of the CFO in finance organizations continues to evolve from a transactional role to a strategic business partner for the C-suite while also functioning as a guidepost for the larger organization. In Deloitte’s 2021 fourth-quarter CFO Signals survey, an overwhelming majority of CFOs cited talent concerns, financial performance, and business growth as their top three priorities.
Executives are often asked, “What keeps you up at night?” Historically, common responses included maintaining a watchful eye on competitors, increasing market pressure, greater visibility for consolidated financials, surfacing organizational blind spots, or navigating regulatory topics including tax or audit compliance. However, since the start of the pandemic, C-suite responses have expanded to include accelerating digital transformation, exceeding customer expectations, mitigating supply chain risks for order fulfillment, thwarting cybersecurity attacks, and attracting and retaining a talented workforce.
In recent years, corporate boards have recognized opportunities to improve their efficacy and market attractiveness, resulting in a shifted focus for candidate recruitment. Candidate search requirements extend beyond the needs of a governing body into a collective entity that inspires organizational growth; creates an inclusive workplace with diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) structural changes; and actively leads the digital transformation journey.
A shortage of knowledge, capital investments, and overall scope of work to be performed can deter companies from taking the initial steps on their path toward a cohesive digital strategy, which is essential for long-term growth in B2B, B2C, nonprofit, and governmental markets. Pragmatically, the digital transformation journey is attainable with cloud solutions and strategic partnerships that curb cash outlay and that can be delivered within a fraction of the usual implementation time and a stronger ROI in comparison to internal IT project planning and execution.
In the race toward an autonomous future, the power of working smarter and not harder is often underestimated without a complete understanding of the inherent value that can be unlocked via process automation. Many financial organizations embark on the lowest level of automation maturity with the use of robotic process automation (RPA) via bots for repeatable tasks such as data entry, responding to customer inquiries, or importing spreadsheets during the financial closing process. However, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) models deliver dynamic capabilities using automation coupled with analytics and data science that exponentially surpass the virtuosity of a programmable bot. Whereas bots mimic human actions for repeatable tasks, AI and ML simulate human intelligence by constantly learning from large-volume data sets, reviewing past performance to predict future outcomes. Rather than eliminate jobs, use of AI and machine learning models or tools enable a reimagined experience for customers and employees while simultaneously mitigating fraud risk, safeguarding cybersecurity breaches, and lowering the overall cost of service.
Talent Attraction & Retention
As the labor shortage gap continues to widen, there remains a diminishing talent pool with vacated roles and increased operational risk with the existence of undocumented tribal knowledge in systems and processes. Due to a scarcity of talent, hiring managers face a new challenge of attracting functional resources, who also demonstrate an aptitude for emerging technology. Previously, advanced Excel skills were sufficient for ingestion of enormous data sets. However, finance resources can exercise on-demand self-service to drive value throughout the organization.
In order to maximize this potential, non-value-added activities must be eliminated throughout the value chain, allowing employees to focus on operating and growing the business. End results will not only yield dividends – employees can apply their talents to purpose-driven work that boost their employee experience and maximizes their contributions.
Effective P&L management and accountability requires the use of digital tools that provide real-time performance access to business stakeholders. Stakeholders can objectively identify patterns and risks with clear indicators and tolerance thresholds before they materialize into uncontrollable risks that may jeopardize operational and financial performance. Data-driven decision models result in an increased level of transparency and visibility to flexibly navigate overall financial performance, including liquidity and cash flow.
With end-to-end visibility, leaders can implement swift measures to maximize profitability on a daily basis instead of reactively responding to prior-month lagging indicators. Organizational resiliency provides the structure to support dynamic adjustments for unplanned disruptions, short-term impediments, or market feedback.
In saturated markets, the three most common strategies for corporate growth include an increase in market share, market development or mergers and acquisitions (M&A). Alternatively, forming joint ventures with competitors or strategic alliances with business partners can also promote growth by allowing the organization to narrow its focus on core product and service offerings. Listening to the voice of the customer (VoC), identifying market differentiators, and clearly articulating the value proposition with distilled messaging will help customers understand the benefits using a simplified approach.
Investing in a digital foundation is one of the most important building blocks for the transformation journey toward an autonomous future. Although none of us can predict the future, we can anticipate a growing demand for hyperautomation products and services that reduce the need for human intervention. Companies must leverage the use of technology to gain better insights, maintain tighter controls, and create a better experience, and then use the available capacity to grow the business.