cfo

As digitalisation gathers traction, the role of the chief financial officer (CFO) is changing, indeed the role itself is being digitalised.

This is the word from Arthur Goldstuck, MD of World Wide Worx, who this week presented the result of the Sage South Africa CFO 3.0 research.

Regardless of the negative impact of the coronavirus on South Africa’s economy, most senior financial decision-makers in the survey have a positive growth outlook. Nearly half of businesses (44%) during the Coronavirus health pandemic (COVID-19) reported an increased demand for their services; 78% of businesses reported growth in revenue in recent months; and one-third of businesses reported little change in revenue over the past year. Those that reported a decline in revenue reported that they were still able to maintain profitability.

A massive 87% of CFOs agree that they play a key role in their organisation’s digital strategy; while 86% believe that finance technology can unlock new opportunities and aid in risk management. In fact, 15% of CFOs are fully responsible for digital transformation within their organisations.

“What we see for the future is the opportunity for CDOs to be more influential in unlocking their organisations’ digital potential,” Goldstuck says.

Uncertainty is a major issue today, with Covid-19 being the catalyst behind the single biggest shift in the role of financial decision-making in the last decade.

Today, companies have to manage remote teams and this is a new role that 27% of CFOs believe they have taken on. While, 21% of respondents say that Covid-19 is driving business strategy and objective; 44% say it has increased demand for their services; and 78% reported revenue growth in the last few months.

Pieter Bensch who is an executive vice-president at Sage Africa & Middle East, says: “Our research highlights how the role of the CFO has evolved from managing compliance and accounting activities to providing strategic leadership and driving digital transformation. As finance enters the CFO 3.0 era, CFOs need tools that enable them to deliver on their core competencies, and to be confident in driving the digital agenda throughout their organisation.”

Technology is key to driving productivity, CFOs say: 64% of them today spend more time analysing data than gathering and processing it. This compares to 50% of financial managers in the UK.

In fact, 82% of CFOs say new financial management technologies have uncovered efficiencies and helped them to optimise their operations; and 66% of senior financial decision-makers use data analytics to drive productivity in their departments.

“So it is not analytics for its own sage, but for a purpose,” Goldstuck says.

CFOs are setting a cultural example of calling out emerging technology as crucial for their success, and putting stake in the ground on the humans-versus-bots debate.

Eighty nine percent of CFOs expect automation to perform more of the day to day accounting tasks in the future. To this end, 73% say their organisations are ready for more automation; and 75% say they are not worried about automation having an impact on job security.

“The realise that automation will make them better at doing their jobs,” Goldstuck says. “And 49% of CFOs believe that artificial intelligence will make their role better in future.

“Using new technology, the CFO can be so much more effective than in the past – and so much more valuable to the organisation,” he adds. “It really makes them a key differentiator.”

The research identifies three core technologies driving productivity in the finance function:

  • Data analytics: Two-thirds of senior financial decision-makers use data analytics to drive productivity in finance. However, the rest say costs and data integration are affecting their move to next-generation finance technology.
  • Cloud-based accounting platforms: Over four in five large businesses use cloud-based solutions for financial management, and over 80% say cloud technologies help to create more agile and cost-effective in-house finance functions.
  • Compliance automation: Two-thirds of large businesses rate their company’s investment in automating financial management as “good” or “excellent”, with over 80% using financial management technologies to uncover efficiencies, optimise operations, and automate and expedite compliance reporting.

“Most organisations are introducing cloud, but not necessarily seeing the transformation opportunities,” says Goldstuck. “CFOs can help to drive this. They will be unlocking opportunity that is becoming obvious from the deployment of these technologies

“The bottom line is the bottom line,” he adds. “CFOs realise these technologies will enhance their value to the organisation, and enhance the value of the organisation itself.”

On 21 August, Sage will release its award-winning Sage Intacct to the South African market, providing CFOs with a new platform addressing the challenges finance professionals face in digital transformation. 14 Business partners will be ready to help Sage customers in South Africa unlock the power and value of this financial management platform.

Marc Linden, executive vice-president and GM for medium segment native cloud solutions at Sage, explains that the system offers multi-dimensional accounting and automation for efficient financial operations.

It gives CFOs sophistical visibility for real-time decision-making.

Intacct is designed for CFOs and professional financial teams, offering easy integration to other solutions, with a fresh and modern user interface.

South Africa is the fifth market where Sage is launching Intacct.

The solution offers South African companies full compliance, banking, payment and statutory financial reporting.

“We are really launching a local product,” Linden says: “We are bringing the best of both to market: deep local expertise coupled with the global Sage product.”

The new solution offers artificial intelligence to eliminate the close, with continuous accounting underpinned by trust enabled by continuous audit.

Linden adds that AI extends insight into knowing the unknowns to identify patterns and new capabilities that augment the CFO’s work. 

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