Benedikt Dischinger, VP, Finance, DocuWare
The role of a Chief Financial Officer (CFO) has changed dramatically over the past few years. Finance leaders, who once found themselves simply forecasting, budgeting, and reporting, are now responsible for defining a strategy for a company and seeking productivity improvements that increase growth potential.
It has never been more important to understand business technologies and the benefits they can bring across an organisation. Modern technology not only brings innovation to a business but also better manages risk and meets compliance mandates. That is why CFOs need to stay close to technology trends which are transforming finance and the industries within which they work.
To stand at the forefront of digital transformation, CFOs should look to invest in secure, cost-effective, information-centric technology which automates processes to free up time for employees to focus on innovation and making a profit.
The new age of productivity lies in automation
Common, repetitive tasks and routine decision-making can be expedited and improved with office automation software. Documents and information can flow through workflows that require a human touch only when needed. Old technology like Microsoft Excel simply cannot deliver what finance needs.
Let’s look at the example of a simple invoice payment process. When an invoice arrives – be that paper or digital – often an order review and approval is needed by an individual before it even reaches the step of say a manager or finance team. This done manually can take days, sometimes even weeks or months. With automation, however, it is captured, intelligently indexed, electronically routed for approval, and then posted back data to an ERP. Those days and weeks can be cut down to mere hours or minutes.
This one small example of automation freeing up staff time and saving a company money clearly demonstrates that when automation is baked into every process, the benefits grow exponentially.
Make audit prep accurate, simple, and secure
Over the past decade, financial scrutiny and oversight have certainly not eased up by any stretch of the imagination. And that is a good thing. As only from internal and external audits can we ensure accurate reporting and overall healthier corporate behaviour.
Audits are not just on the accounting department’s shoulders. For those businesses that are still dependent on manual tasks or paper-based information, every team is affected by the time-wasting document searches and endless inquiries that come with an audit.
An intelligent digital document management solution empowers finance, controlling, HR, procurement, and other teams to prepare for audits with absolute confidence. Simple queries pull together relevant information and deliver it digitally. With a complete set of files, the threat of fines and delays disappears. We also know that precise monitoring of audit trails has never been more important and through these systems whoever accesses highly confidential financial data this information can be monitored anytime, anywhere, whenever necessary.
Data is a valuable commodity that must be protected
Every month we see another data breach hit the headlines. No industry has been safe from the target of hackers, threatening the privacy of employees and customers alike, the competitive advantage of the business and the credibility of the brand. Information is a hugely valuable commodity in this day and age and that with why it has never been more vulnerable as well.
The CFO and the finance organisation must invest in secure technology to manage their information. Every system, from the ERP through the analytics tools to the capture and document management solution, must adhere to the strictest protocols to support the likes of redundant data storage, tight access rights and data separation, comprehensive disaster recovery, support for compliance mandates and end-to-end encryption. It is more than fair to say that these issues will continue to top the priority list of every finance leader in companies of all sizes for quite some time.
Implement technology to prevent fraud rather than fight it
In companies of all sizes, the escalation of fraud against finance is an unfortunate trend that just won’t go away. CFOs and finance teams must improve fraud monitoring and the prevention against vendor fraud schemes. The risks are simply too high to ignore, with threats delivering real consequences including severe damage to the company’s reputation, direct loss of business, exposure to civil or criminal liability and increased risk of noncompliance with industry and legislative requirements.
Even basic technologies and processes can go a long way in preventing disastrous outcomes for an organisation. For instance, digital approval workflow can reject invoices that are questionable quickly, and AI-based indexing can verify invoice numbers to eliminate duplicate payments. Strong information and document management tools will provide clear visibility of processed invoices to also help decrease fraud.
Make your move to the cloud now
The shift from on-premises IT stacks to on-demand cloud services has been one of the technology stories of the decade, bringing us subsequent technologies like big data analytics, blockchain and machine learning. And, given recent challenging economic conditions, this transformational trend has only accelerated further and continues to do so.
There are so many advantages to make the move to the cloud. Employees are no longer bound by internal networks and distant data centres. Lighter subscriptions to services (which are only required as needed) enables predictable budget planning. Simplified maintenance as cloud service providers assume responsibility for system upgrades and apply security patches. Deeper, up-to-date security beyond anything most businesses could practically do in-house. And that’s only to name a few.
With the cloud, a business can free IT from reactive patching and focus on more strategic projects like system integrations. And, with CFOs being tasked with finding secure, cost-effective, information-centric technology, cloud services without exception must be part of a strategic technology roadmap — especially those that connect and automate workflow.
Standing beside you on your digital transformation journey
So, CFOs and finance leaders take note of these strategies to ensure your company stays agile and competitive. But, always remember that any technology implemented must be evaluated with the challenges and opportunities that accompany them in mind, alongside how it may require a team’s time and attention to meaningfully leverage for strategic gain – that is why it is recommended to partner with technology provider you trust, who can stand beside you and help you along your digitalization journey.