The calendar accounts organization remains an arising abstraction in abounding organizations, and CFOs are still at one abolish from the centermost of digital-transformation efforts, alike admitting they own and administer abundant of the accordant business advice that feeds such initiatives.
There is a bright authorization for them to booty the lead: today’s CEOs and boards say they appetite CFOs and the accounts action to accommodate real-time, data-enabled accommodation support. And, in McKinsey’s best contempo analysis of accounts executives, CFOs themselves say they appetite to absorb added time on calendar initiatives and the appliance of calendar technologies to accounts tasks.
But our analysis additionally shows that CFOs still absorb beneath time on calendar trends than they do on acceptable accounts activities. Why? There are few authentic business cases of digitization in accounts and few best practices to draw from, so CFOs are generally agreeable to let colleagues in IT, marketing, or added functions columnist the issue.
Many CFOs acquaint us they are borderline breadth to start; the accelerated accession of avant-garde technologies additional a accepted curtailment of top technology aptitude won’t accomplish it any easier. CFOs allegation activate to experiment, however, or accident falling abaft added anatomic groups in the alignment and added companies in the industry whose calendar transformations are already beneath way. They adeptness lose a aureate befalling to advice drive the business agenda.
A acceptable alpha would be for CFOs to assignment with the CEO, the board, and others on the senior-leadership aggregation to proactively and systematically assay tasks and processes aural the accounts action that would best account from digitization. They can again locate and advance in the technologies and capabilities appropriate to advance these areas.
Digitization is now a astute ambition for the accounts action because of a ambit of abstruse advances. These accommodate the boundless availability of business data; teams’ adeptness to action ample sets of abstracts application now-accessible algorithms and analytic methods; and improvements in connectivity accoutrement and platforms, such as sensors and billow computing.
CFOs and their teams are the gatekeepers for the analytic abstracts appropriate to accomplish forecasts and abutment arch leaders’ cardinal affairs and decisions — amid them, abstracts apropos to sales, adjustment fulfillment, accumulation chains, chump demand, and business achievement as able-bodied as real-time industry and bazaar statistics.
There are four areas of technology that, appropriate now, we accept appearance the best affiance for use in finance:
CFOs may adjudge to best and accompany investments in one or all of these areas. Abundant will depend on the company’s starting point — its accepted strategies, needs, and capabilities and its absolute technologies and accomplishment sets.
It is important to calendar that calendar transformation will not appear all at once, and companies should not use their bequest action ability planning and added courage systems as excuses not to alpha the change. By alive in baby pilot projects and auspiciously digitizing the best analytic tasks aural finance, the CFO can authorize affidavit credibility and affluence the closing rollout of calendar technologies aloft the absolute action and aloft added genitalia of the company.
Research from the McKinsey Global Institute concludes that 40% of accounts activities (for instance, banknote disbursement, acquirement management, and accepted accounting and operations) can be absolutely automated, and addition 17% can be mostly automated. Those abstracts authenticate the amount to which CFOs and added business leaders can abridge amount centralized affairs through automation, authorize connected advertisement mechanisms, and assignment added efficiently.
A analytic apparatus that leading-edge accounts groups are already exploring is robotic action automation (RPA), a class of automation software that performs bombastic tasks on a timed base and ensures that they are completed quickly, efficiently, and after error.
Task-automation accoutrement such as RPA accept avant-garde to the point they are no best activated alone in detached business activities but aloft assorted areas of the business. The companies auspiciously implementing RPA at calibration accept done so by altering their operating models and redesigning their processes.
Finance staffers are accepting training on RPA technology, so they no best allegation to bandy assignment breeze requests to an already busy IT organization. That advance has fabricated it easier for some companies to move aloft RPA pilot tests and apprehend absolute outcomes.
After allegory automation opportunities as a aftereffect to a two-year lean-transformation process, a ample European account deployed RPA technology in several pilot areas, including “master abstracts management.” Its action for creating arrangement profiles for new vendors (or afterlight advice on absolute vendors), for instance, complex a alternation of chiral tasks that could generally booty advisers several hours a day to complete.
But the end-to-end action accomplish were mainly rule-based, and all the abstracts were in calendar form, which fabricated the “vendor conception task” a key applicant for RPA. Ultimately, the account added all-embracing abundance aural the accounts action in its accumulated account accumulation by about 20%, accustomed time- and cost-savings associated with the deployment of RPA in this pilot breadth as able-bodied as several others.
The use of RPA at one European coffer has created added advantages. The coffer has accumulated RPA with natural-language-generation software to actualize account spending reports. A back-office arrangement collects and analyzes the abstracts and automatically builds the “spending story” — for instance, advertisement key achievement indicators and abacus red flags in those instances with statistically allusive changes in countries or artefact groups.
Rather than accepting to booty the time to accomplish such letters by hand, banking controllers can use the automatic advice to appoint in higher-level tasks, such as because how to abode red flags.
If accounts functions’ abstracts with automation are abundantly about optimizing processes, their abstracts with abstracts accommodation are about convalescent broader authoritative performance. Indeed, to accomplish acceptable resource-allocation decisions, teams allegation real-time banking information. They generally abridgement admission to such abstracts because food of abstracts are in altered genitalia of a company, abstracts formats are not comparable, or abstracts are not attainable at all.
Some accounts groups are bond automation capabilities with data-visualization technologies, however, to actualize clear, timely, actionable business reports. These letters bound advance abstracts to end users and present abstracts in automatic formats that animate focused business discussions.
The accounts alignment at a ample consumer-goods company, for instance, has deployed a self-service approach. Rather than delay for reports, sales agents can use beheld dashboards (accessible from a laptop or adaptable device) to get the abstracts they allegation back they allegation it — by region, business unit, function, or added ambit as required.
Sales managers and added admiral cull the abstracts from a axial athenaeum that is always refreshed, so they can bound get an authentic apprehend on how appeal is changing. This self-serve admission has decreased the allegation for the accounts accumulation to accomplish letters by added than 50% and has cut the amount of advertisement by 40%.
Similarly, the controlling lath at a European technology aggregation no best uses PowerPoint. Business leaders instead use ample blow screens to admission real-time abstracts about affairs and operations. The advice is presented in easy-to-read graphs that highlight deviations from plan. The graphs are dynamic, redrawing themselves as users bandy variables in and out.
The CFO and added business leaders will allegation to coact with the CEO, arch advice officer, and IT alignment to accommodate data-visualization accoutrement with a company’s accustomed systems. They will allegation to draw on ability from abstracts scientists and abstracts analysts who adeptness assignment in IT or anon with the accounts function. Such experts can advice the CFO amend end-to-end accounts processes (such as data-to-report, purchase-to-pay, and order-to-cash processes) and clean them application a visual, user-focused approach.
The CFO will additionally allegation to apprentice how to administer processes and advice aural a “data democracy” — breadth business advice is attainable anytime, anywhere, for everybody. It is assured in such an ambiance that the business units will appeal added and added data, not less. The CFO will allegation to assignment with the CEO and added business leaders to authorize rules about abstracts acceptance that reflect the specific advice requirements of accommodation makers aloft the organization. They will additionally allegation to ensure that they are application the highest-quality data. Otherwise there will be analytic anarchy.
Companies in all industries are now experimenting with avant-garde analytics —mining troves of business abstracts (on people, profits, processes, and so on) to acquisition accordant insights that can advance business leaders’ appropriate accommodation making. Similarly, the CFO and the accounts action can use avant-garde analytics to administer accepted banking affairs and amount processes added calmly and appearance (and accelerate) appropriate discussions.
Once CFOs accept the role avant-garde analytics can comedy in convalescent banking processes, they can assignment with the CEO, the board, and added arch leaders to assay broader means of applying avant-garde analytics to bare new sources of business value. Indeed, every CFO should explicitly ascertain the administration role he or she wants to play in advice afire business questions into use cases for avant-garde analytics — whether to optimize pricing, assay chump churn, anticipate fraud, administer talent, or assay a host of added applications.
A barter architect uses avant-garde analytics to adviser accepted sales of forklifts because it angle this metric as an aboriginal indicator of its own sales. Accounts teams at added companies are application avant-garde analytics to assay alike costs and invoices or to affix the agreement of accretion and acquittal schedules for a acceptable or account with absolute invoices so they can atom aboriginal or absent payments or opportunities to administer discounts.
A chemicals aggregation uses avant-garde analytics to advance its appeal forecasting. Traditionally, its forecasting models relied on basic, centralized chump abstracts and acclimated celebrated trends to adumbrate approaching demand. Furthermore, the forecasts were at an accumulated akin — that is, for absolute classes of chemicals rather than alone ones. The aggregation cross-referenced centralized chump abstracts with alien abstracts sets, such as banal prices, revenues, weather, barter rates, and business-cycle indices, to accomplish forecasts for specific regions and SKUs. In this way, the aggregation could appraise whether absolute forecasts were authentic or not and acknowledge accordingly.
A US consumer-goods aggregation is exploring the use of avant-garde analytics in bigger admiration sales-volume changes associated with appraisement moves for assertive SKUs. The aggregation is architecture a forecasting apparatus that will accumulate and assay abstracts on the SKUs in pilot testing; the abstracts accommodate macroeconomic factors, geographic factors, demographics, and added variables. Armed with this information, business leaders achievement to be able to adapt appraisement decisions on the fly, as needed.
CFOs and their teams can kick-start the digitization action by demography account of amount use cases and free breadth they angle with anniversary of the calendar technologies cited here. They should ask themselves questions apropos the abeyant amount acquired from digitization of a accounts action as able-bodied as the akin of achievability of accomplishing so — a action that we alarm assuming a amount scan. They should appoint business-unit leaders in discussions about the affliction credibility in assorted banking processes, such as apathetic advertisement and abridged data. They should abide a analytical analysis of technology capabilities with associates of the IT action to ascertain arrangement requirements and investments.
But to absolutely accomplish in architecture a calendar accounts function, CFOs will allegation to abode analytic authoritative and talent-related issues. It is important, for instance, to advance a bright eyes of the adapted ambition accompaniment for a calendar accounts action and how that links to the company’s all-embracing business and calendar strategy. The CFO and added arch leaders will allegation to advance the calendar calendar aboveboard — for instance, by administration success belief at boondocks halls and aggregation affairs and advocating for cross-functional accord amid technology and business-operations teams.
The CFO should appoint with added arch leaders to clarify adequacy models, decidedly those associated with the accounts function, to recruit and absorb the advisers bare to backpack out a calendar agenda. Requirements adeptness accommodate a alertness to apprentice about new technologies or process-design ability — abilities that go aloft and aloft acceptable accounts tasks. CFOs and arch leaders adeptness allegation to decidedly accommodate incentives and advantage schemes to action attrition to change and accolade those who abutment the conception of a calendar accounts function. Such incentives can additionally advice the aggregation allure top calendar talent.
Perhaps best important, CFOs will allegation to coact with added business leaders to ensure that any digitization and transformation efforts attach to the company’s cybersecurity standards. They adeptness alike allure associates of the cybersecurity aggregation to sit with associates of the IT and accounts functions to allotment objectives and altercate alternate concerns. The CFOs who advance the allegation against digitization will not alone advice the accounts action assignment added calmly — potentially bolstering their candidacies for administration positions central or alfresco their organizations — but additionally become stronger ally of CEOs and business units.
For all the allowances of digitizing the accounts action we accept outlined, there are abounding issues a bot or an algorithm still cannot address, such as back you accept calm bare abstracts or back you are assessing strategies over a best time border and added animal judgement is necessary. But the possibilities far outweigh the obstacles at this point, and the authorization is clear: CFOs allegation advance and allotment with added arch leaders a eyes for a calendar accounts function. They accept a bright befalling to appearance the change of their companies and accretion admired insights and adventures forth the way. But those insights and adventures will not appear at all if CFOs don’t booty the aboriginal steps.
Kapil Chandra is a arch accomplice in McKinsey’s London office, Frank Plaschke is a accomplice in the Munich office, and Ishaan Seth is a arch accomplice in the New York office.The authors ambition to acknowledge Oliver Bosch, Paul Daume, Anne Grosse-Ophoff, and Florian Heineke for their contributions to this article.
This article was originally published by McKinsey & Company, www.mckinsey.com. Copyright (c) 2018 All rights reserved. Reprinted by permission.
Art: Getty Images
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