“Where the hell have you been!” burst one of our GENCFO Summit speakers when asked what they would say to a CFO that has not prioritised digital transformation yet.
It’s apparent to me, as someone who talks to a lot of finance leaders about digital transformation and the future of CFO capability, that we are far from being on the same page. Some of us are hiding in the library, and some are on different planets altogether.
So, today, we'll be discussing a topic that's as controversial as pineapple on pizza: digital transformation and the use of technology to improve business.
Fundamentally, there seem to be two camps of thought: the believers and the sceptics. Let's explore these points of view.
First up, we have the believers, the folks who think that technology is the answer to all of our business problems.
They believe that by embracing digital transformation, CFO organisations and companies can streamline their operations, reduce costs and reach new heights of success.
They see technology as a game-changer that can give them a competitive edge over their rivals.
I like these people - although the occasional reality check chat is essential!
Now, you might be thinking that these believers are a bunch of tech-obsessed geeks who think that everything can be solved with a few lines of code. You'd be wrong.
These people are savvy business leaders who understand that technology is not a silver bullet, but a tool that can help them achieve their goals. They get that agility has been transformed with new technology, they see analytics as an opportunity and automation as a necessity to get on with strategic business partnering (AKA, what the business needs).
So, who are the sceptics?
Sceptics think that all this talk of digital transformation is just a distraction; they think change has always happened, this is just another example.
They believe technology change isn’t for accounting and finance organisations to lead.
They see technology as a double-edged sword that can do just as much harm as good.
They worry that businesses are sacrificing human interaction and the personal touch by relying too heavily on technology. They believe that the human touch alone is what sets successful businesses apart from the rest, and diluting this is a risk they cannot accept.
I like these people too, if I’m honest, as hype does not drive transformation - knowledge and fair challenge does. They have a very important role to play in finding what we should be aiming for.
Now, I know what you're thinking - these sceptics are a bunch of Luddites who still use MS Access, fax machines and typewriters. That's not necessarily the case.
These people are smart and experienced business leaders who have seen the negative side effects of technology firsthand. They have seen huge budgets blown on consulting promises only to get lukewarm results.
They worry that by relying too heavily on technology, they are creating problems they are untrained to solve, ultimately losing sight of what really matters: their people, both employees and customers.
As is often the case, the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and it’s a middle that some in CFO organisations are yet to find.
Yes, digital transformation can be a powerful tool for accounting and finance and their businesses, but it's not a magic wand that can solve all of their problems.
At the same time, we can't ignore the advancements made in CFO tech, agility, analytics and automation, even if the future balance between technology and the importance of personal interaction is unknown.
Ultimately, it's up to each CFO or Finance Director and their business to decide how much they want to embrace technology and how much they want to stick with the tried and tested traditional methods of the past.
There's no one-size-fits-all solution here. What works for one company might not work for another.
So which team are you on? Team Believer or Team Sceptic? Or maybe somewhere in the middle?
Believers and sceptics both have valid points of view. It's up to each business to decide what's right for them.
So, whether you're a tech lover or a traditionalist, remember that the key to success is finding the right balance between technology and human interaction and a community of peers to help build awareness and understanding.
And as for pineapple on pizza? That's a debate for the next community meetup!
Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!