Why finance is proving the path to digital transformation, exploring finance leaders attitudes to digitising the finance function.
Today’s finance leader has a much more strategic role that touches many parts of the organisation. But with new and evolving responsibilities comes new requirements, particularly around demonstrating the value the finance department brings to the business.
One way where value can be demonstrated is with the adoption of a shared services approach. Deloitte’s 2017 global shared services survey found that shared services centres deliver greater value year on year.
In 2017, it found 73 per cent of respondents reported shared services productivity increases of five per cent or higher. It also found finance is the most popular function for shared services centres, with 88 per cent of respondents having a finance function in their centre.
A recent roundtable hosted by Thomson Reuters and Deloitte explored how technology is transforming the finance function. A resulting white paper based on the views of the participating CFOs: It’s not robots that go to jail: why finance is proving the path to digital transformation, explores finance leaders attitudes to digitising the finance function.
Delivering greater value
The white paper confirmed there is a clear understanding among finance leaders of the importance of technology. One panelist noted that if finance leaders choose to ignore developments in technology, they risk being left behind and creating a gap that’s too big to bridge.
Another CFO stated that the finance department could no longer be viewed as a cost centre; rather it needs to be able to show and explain the value it brings to the organisation. And this is where shared services could play a part.
However the panelists noted one issue with finance shared services is that, while there is a focus on efficiency, there are concerns about assessing the quality of the process and the accuracy of the outcome.
Finance leaders need assurance there is appropriate governance in the process and this requires a focus on producing accurate accounts, rather than just outsourcing current workflows. Whether it is people or robots doing the work, finance leaders and their teams need the credibility of consistent and quality output.
One CFO addressed the need to balance volume and quality and noted that the shared services centre has very much been a transactional centre where much of the challenge is in achieving consistent, trusted quality – that’s the essential value add.
One panelist found a problem is that some people put the same old processes into a shared services centre and this leads to inefficiencies being centralised. The solution is to get rid of broken systems and then automate and standardise.
The Thomson Reuters 2016 survey of 50-plus multinationals showed a 50/50 split between those that are using a shared services centre now or planning to in the near future.
The journey towards a shared services centre will differ for every organisation but it’s important to remember that it is not just a technology journey. Any digital transformation in this direction should be made with the organisation’s overall operational strategy at the heart.
To learn more about digital transformation and the future of finance, download our whitepaper: It’s not Robots that go to Jail
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