Marisa Aunhavichai, a partner in consulting services and the CFO services leader, Deloitte Thailand
Marisa Aunhavichai, a partner in consulting services and the CFO services leader, Deloitte Thailand

Finance department will be very different in a digital world

Economy February 19, 2019 01:00


FROM APPLICATIONS in mobile phones, to home automation, to cashless society and beyond, digital is now the new norm in our everyday lives. It is changing what we do and how we get things done in countless ways.

We now see robots working alongside people to build cars and deliver packages. Blockchain is used for tracking supplies of diamonds and monitoring construction equipment. In addition, smart machines are taking up residence in hospitals, shipping containers, drug stores and much more.

Similarly, digital technologies are disrupting the way the finance sector goes about its business, offering the promise of better, faster and probably less-expensive transactions.

We can reimagine a future in which we’ve combined different technologies. How would the work of finance get done and who would do it? How could finance contribute more to the success of a company? From Deloitte’s perspective, here are the eight trends we could imagine:

1. Finance factory: Transactions will be touchless, as automation and blockchain reach deeper into finance operations. The human resources required to perform work in this area will dramatically decrease.

2. The role of finance: When operations are largely automated, the finance department’s human resources will double down on business insights, analysis and advisories. That said, the skills expected of a finance professional will change dramatically. Leaders might consider identifying their finance business partner and cloning them.

3. Finance cycles: The finance transaction processing will go real-time. No need to wait for a period end and then generate a business performance report. The limitations of computing power will disappear in the digital world. Figures and reports required for business decisions will be available on demand, with traditional cycles becoming less relevant. Leading companies will shift to a new mantra – there is no period close. Monthly or quarterly forecasts would no longer exist, as processes are all happening in real time.

4. Self-service: It will become the norm, the preference of finance customers in a digital world. Finance customers will no longer need handholding, but instead prefer to get their questions answered by a digital voice or mobile application. Finance staff’s activities will be replaced by visually rich information that is intuitively accessible and easy to use. With the growing expectations for responsiveness and quality, finance professionals need to now observe what makes a self-service tool they use in their own lives effective – and transfer that model to finance services.

5. Operating model: New service-delivery models will emerge as robots join a more diverse finance workforce. Finance professionals will be an integrated mix of employees, freelancers, gig workers and crowds. The company will assess the benefits of automation against onshore and offshore operations. Automation provides a new lever to manage costs, which gives the finance organisation an opportunity to re-evaluate the way they are organised and operate. 

6. Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP): The ERP package will come in the form of a building in of digital technologies such blockchain and cognitive tools. Cloud-based ERP will be a new norm that shortens the ERP lifecycle and also ensures that the application is constantly updated. Finance needs to team up with IT professionals to create a roadmap toward cloud computing.

7 Data: The proliferation of Application Program Interface will drive data standardisation. But the quality of data is the key to making it possible. Many companies still struggle to align and standardise data, which results in them failing to capture the full value of digital transformation. Therefore, there is a need to now identify and prioritise area in which data quality needs to be improved. Start from the area that can make the greatest impact and you will have more energy to do the rest

8 Workforce and workplace: Finance professional will do new things in new ways. Finance talent modes are evolving quickly, with a premium placed on data scientists, business analysts and storytellers. This represents a dramatic shift for the skills required to become a talented finance professional in the future. To prepare, choose new hires with different skill sets, including strong customer-orientation, flexibility and good collaboration skills, as well as the technical capabilities required to perform specific jobs.

Future finance professionals will be more technology savvy. The key performance indicators for evaluating performance of finance professionals need to shift too. The workplace will evolve to embrace more self-service and tools that keep people well connected will be critical. However, the future will still require physical proximity for teams, especially at the project start-up and planning stages.

None of us knows for certain what the future will hold, so the best way to predict the future is to create it.

MARISA AUNHAVICHAI, is a partner in consulting services and the CFO services leader, Deloitte Thailand.