Digital transformation is perhaps affecting finance organizations more than any other. Once performing a back-office function, finance professionals from entry level to the CFO are having their tasks and responsibilities upended by automation and digital efficiency. The office of the CFO is now filled with people who understand their business inside and out, and can provide guidance, analysis, and advice across their organization. At SAPinsider’s Financials 2018 and GRC 2018 conference, we sat down with SAP North America CFO Todd McElhatton to discuss these and other digital transformation issues that are relevant to the finance community. This is an edited version of our discussion; check out the full video here.
Q: What is the main message you have for the finance community about digital transformation?
A: Digital transformation is no longer optional. If you want to remain competitive and give your employees, customers, and shareholders the return that they expect, it’s imperative that you have the technology and information that you need to get results.
We see this manifest itself daily in how we in finance go about our jobs; we’re becoming less transactional. We’re utilizing technology to do a lot of the mundane, daily, everyday tasks, and we really want our finance people to be out front — we want them working with our business leaders, helping them develop their strategy, and executing on it.
Q: As a CFO, what are some of the changes you’ve seen at that level?
A: When I first started, it was very transactional, very back-office. Now we’re expecting CFOs to be front and center. I spend a lot of time personally with SAP customers, explaining what we’ve done in terms of our transformation and how we’ve used technology. We have basically doubled or tripled our business over the last eight years, and finance has been front and center of that. Finance is helping senior executives and the board develop and implement the strategies, and helping them pivot when they need to.
Q: Are there specific technologies that you’re seeing people adopt that are providing the most value?
A: You can’t underestimate what the value is when you go into a meeting and everybody has the same set of data. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone into a meeting and everybody has a different point of view and a different set of facts, and you spend 75% of the meeting trying to agree on the facts. You never really get to talk about the problem. When you can use technology to get everyone on the same page, and you’re actually working on what’s live, that gives you a competitive advantage.
Q: How does technology affect companies in terms of employees entering the workforce?
A: When millennials come into the workforce, they come in with a very elegant technology experience. They’ve all grown up with Facebook, with Amazon, with an iPhone — they’re not going to be very happy if they come in and work with a green screen and batch processing. It’s really important to keep them engaged with the latest tools.