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To be effective in leading digital transformation in 2021, today’s CFO must adapt their business processes and mindset, says Francois Lacas, Deputy Chief Operating Officer at Yooz.

Digital transformation has become an inescapable reality. But as American investor Warren Buffet once said: “Only when the tide goes out do you discover who’s been swimming naked.”

Last year forced digital transformation upon almost every single business unit and function. Specifically, finance departments, which have lagged on digital tools and initiatives for quite some time. 

The next challenge for CFOs is driving digital transformation forward within the finance sector. But where do they start in 2021?

Where do CFOs start with transformation?

Businesses are now concerned by digitalisation. They face the need to digitalise their accounting to adapt manual processes. But why?

Digital transformation helps speed up electronic processing and increase the volume of digital data. According to PwC, people in the most efficient finance departments are already spending 75% of their time analysing data.

It also helps accomplish other goals, such as improving relations with clients, leveraging electronic solutions to increase performance and productivity, and rethinking human resource management to increase people’s digital skills.

First, change comes from within. To view digital transformation as a success, employees have to embrace change. Ensuring that everyone in the company is on board is key to moving forward, together.

There’s no doubt that digital transformation is a hugely complex task for businesses and finance departments. But having a clear vision for the end-stage and implementing gradually after strategic planning will help every member of your team feel included and embrace change.

The benefits for finance departments

Deciding to automate and digitalise the Purchase-to-Pay process enables companies to leverage a single solution for managing and automating their handling of commitments and expenses while enjoying significant benefits such as:

  • Savings of around 30%-70% on administrative costs
  • Faster processing time (reducing the document processing cycle time by a factor of about five to 20 times that previous)
  • Process industrialisation and security
  • Better internal management control
  • Compliance with financial and legal regulations such as MTD and GDPR

The ability to combine simplicity, accessibility, performance and functional completeness enables companies to fully benefit from automation tools, in conjunction with two significant effects:

  • Boosting employee commitment and motivation (sacrificing less time on strictly administrative tasks)
  • Raising support functions from their role as a cost centre to that of a profit centre

The CFO: the driving force behind digital change?

The CFO is indeed driving transformation, for two main reasons: First, the CFO and management of the finance function is central to the company’s processes, and are called upon to optimise those processes.

The second reason is that the CFO’s role is changing. They have become upper management’s number one assistant. This means the CFO can influence corporate strategy, notably concerning digitalisation and are therefore both a central and leading force. 

The CFO’s role has shifted from a strict finance function to that of someone who manages internal and external ecosystems. The CFO has evolved from leading a support function to a value-generating position. It’s been a transition from technical expertise to global and strategic knowledge.

A change for the better

The global pandemic has forced businesses and finance departments in particular to rethink their digital strategies. For too long, we have been told that digital transformation was a top priority for businesses, yet only recently have we seen it become necessary as remote working and new forms of teamwork were forced to accelerate. We are now witnessing the positive change in driving digital transformation forward.