And that’s as it should be, given that 82.9 per cent of Australian executives agree that their organisation must innovate at an increasingly rapid pace just to keep a competitive edge (according to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2017).

Accenture Strategy’s Digital Adoption in Finance Survey found that CFOs are bringing digital to their organisations, creating transformational change.

Two-thirds of CFOs report better decision-making following digital implementation and 61 per cent say finance teams are dedicating more time to high-value work.

What this says is that CFOs are no longer contend to allow their more technical counterparts to drive digital adoption. They are looking to become the new digital apostles.

The CFO of the future is not a technical architect, but a leader in linking digital technologies to ROI, spearheading digital finance.

By positioning themselves as catalysts for digitally-driven strategic cost management, CFOs can extend their role.

There are various emerging technologies in the finance field that the CFOs can be taking ownership of to ensure that they are implemented with the right strategy in mind.

CFOs should be leading the charge on financial technologies such as:

  • Blockchain: Organisations now have the benefit of secure, near-instantaneous transaction processing;
  • Artificial intelligence (AI): Companies can now reduce fraud through the use of natural language processing to monitor electronic communications. From a finance perspective, combining AI with predictive modelling will help CFOs and the finance team determine cash flow and credit needed, so they can optimise working capital;
  • Big data: Cloud-based platforms will be used for reporting, planning, forecasting and analytics. Next generation digital capabilities and a cloud-based layer cut through complexity, augmenting ERP systems to free finance from inefficiency. With rich, multi-dimensional data in one place, teams apply advanced analytic tool sets to deliver sophisticated reporting and business insights;
  • Augmented reality: Finance team members have the advantage of real-world situation models via augmented reality, allowing them to develop more credible plans and forecasts; and
  • Robotics: Financial firms use mini-bots to monitor accounts receivable data to isolate potential credit and customer risk, covering far more than human monitoring alone could do.

Nearly one-third of the CFOs surveyed by Accenture Strategy reported that digital finance investments are having an impact beyond their immediate purview, transforming the business at large.

And a whopping 82 per cent are seeing measurable business ROI from digital finance investments.

The above tools are not just a ‘nice to have’, they are having direct influence on business growth.

In addition to the advent of emerging technologies, senior finance executives are seeing the needle move in crucial targeted areas.

From improved forecast accuracy to better managing risk, digital will continue to change the way finance operates going forward.

CFOs looking to become digital apostles should:

  • Look beyond basic digital tools. Digital is more than social, mobile, analytics and cloud. If your organisation is not addressing blockchain, artificial intelligence, security intelligence and robotic process automation, at a minimum, you are already behind;
  • Remove their cost and productivity lens. Align digital finance strategy with business strategy and think total investment strategy; and
  • Make decisions differently. Put the right talent in place and allow them to utilise digital as a bedrock of the business to deliver maximum results.

Digital transformation is not just about implementing new technologies, it’s about putting in place the right talent and operating system that allows an organisation’s personnel to truly become advanced.

The CFO should now be playing a key role in ensuring that technology is integrated seamlessly into their strategies, and looking forward, they are already starting to be the digital champions of their organisation.

This advent of digital is bringing about an unprecedented change in organisations. Finance leaders are now becoming a key voice of digital change and will push digital transformation organisation-wide.

Luca Martini is the managing director for Accenture Strategy in Australian and New Zealand

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