Finance crucial to enterprise setup

Sanford Burley, Regional Director at Board International Middle East, talks about the need for agility and innovation in the age of digitalisation

By Muhammad Ali Bandial

Published: Tue 26 Oct 2021, 3:40 PM

As a global solution provider, what is the biggest change you have observed among CFOs globally?

If last year CFOs were focused on reducing the cost of operations to ensure their enterprises survived the biggest business challenge in a generation posed by the global pandemic, what’s changed today is that they are now being challenged more than ever, to focus on finding growth through improved performance and leveraging new technology and business models.

Do you see innovation taking a back seat, especially in this post-pandemic era, where customers are fully focused on business continuity and survival?

Enterprises now expect the office of finance to be a major stakeholder in driving recovery and finance leaders to play a crucial role in making this happen. The C-suite demands acceleration of the digital enterprise, growth, and new genuinely transformative business models as a number one strategic priority.

As a global solution provider, what are the new challenges you are addressing for the evolving CFO function?

Last year showed the importance of being agile and setting up the enterprise to be constantly ready to pivot products and services to new opportunities, customers, and sources of demand. In this context, planning and budgeting previously undertaken once a year, is no longer feasible as inflexible budgets hinder enterprises from exploiting new opportunities as they happen.

Despite all this, many enterprises continue to run traditional finance processes using outdated technology, in some cases with vital strategic plans still run using basic spreadsheets. Progressive finance leaders know a change is needed, with more sophisticated insights and planning capabilities required to change and keep on changing, plan for the unexpected, and generate new meaningful insights, beyond traditional budgeting processes, to always plan and be ready for new opportunities when they arrive.

We also know from talking with many CFOs, that they are keen to embrace the opportunity to invest in the latest finance technology that enables their teams to deliver the best value for the business. Inevitably this means exploiting the biggest asset for business in the digital age.

Can you throw some light on Board’s unified platform for analysis, simulation, and financial planning?

Data fuels the acceleration of the digital enterprise. The highest transformative value of data comes by enabling and empowering the finance function to unlock and generate insights which business leaders can use to make game-changing plans and decisions.

That’s how we empower our customers. Board enables them to analyse, simulate, plan, forecast, and create all on one single platform.

This means finance leaders can democratise access to intelligence, analytics and planning to provide a genuine empowering and transformative experience across finance teams. This, in turn, reduces a reliance on the office of finance for repetitive and routine finance tasks, freeing them up to focus on high-value analytics and insights generation demanded of them to help accelerate the digital enterprise.

Digitisation has impacted employees professionally and personally. Do you agree?

This is an important question, which we explore further in our most recent research, where we examine the current state of digital transformation in finance.

There is a huge opportunity for finance leaders to play a leading role in shaping the future of the digital enterprise and making the office of finance the natural home of data. Yet to do so, implies big change in some organisations, including a bold new focus on analysing, planning and reporting on what the future could look like, rather than being satisfied to report on the past, and the accompanying shift in talent, qualifications and culture to become a true digital champion and transform the digital finance function.

Evidence shows that now is the time for finance leaders to take on a more strategic and valuable role for the business, but this also means they must be confident they have the right technical skills and talent across their teams to ensure technology is driving better business decisions. Inevitably, this means creating a culture which encourages the finance team to be creative and curious, and generates new insights from data, to enable those game-changing business plans and decisions highlighted earlier.

Which industry according to you has had the biggest shift in terms of tech adoption in the region?

Here in the Middle East, enterprise success stories span multiple industry sectors, from sovereign-backed banking and finance, through to huge retail malls, freight and logistics, real estate and property, as well as tourism and leisure, oil and gas. In this part of the world, when important projects get the green light, they develop fast and at scale. It’s all or nothing. Business leaders from across the region, understand that decision-making technology can help them plan for prosperity and contribute to Middle East success.

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