CFOs’ across Asia Pacific have room to improve with intelligent technologies

Despite recognising its significant importance, APAC CFOs are lagging in terms of global collaboration and technology initiatives.

Recent research from SAP and Oxford Economics demonstrated CFOs’ strategic initiatives are taking a more active role in the direction of their businesses, rather than operating within a siloed financial function. The report showed that 88% respondents said CFO’s are increasingly involved in the strategic decisions of their organisations. The CFO for Indian business-processing outsourcing organisation Wipro, Jatin Dalal explained, “The CFO is almost a co-pilot to the CEO, vis-à-vis the direction the company takes and the execution of the strategy”.

The report also found that creating a more collaborative approach to cross-business functions can be achieved with the assistance of real-time data analytics, which simplifies and streamlines back-end financial functions to create intelligent enterprises that operate seamlessly.

According to the report, 73% of Asia-Pacific CFOs think ‘intelligent’ technology will be important or critically important for their finance function’s successful performance within two years, providing CFOs with better data practices and more actionable analytics. With real-time access to analytics integrate with intelligent technology such as machine learning, financial functions can be automated to minimise risk and resources needed.

Navodit Narain, CFO of Sydney-based Endeavour Energy notes how having a digital platform offers a single source of data to help facilitate collaboration and minimise room for error. “Our decision-making—how we should be making and refurbishing assets, when we should be approving certain projects—depends a lot on the quality of our asset data,” he says, “and that asset data needs to talk to the finance work stream.” Mr Narain believes risk management is much more than mere controls. “It’s having the right data to be able to manage and report risk,” he explains.

Intelligent technologies and data analytics offer businesses transparency across their supply chain, which can then automate various back-end functions to improve overall performance. The report showed a clear correlation between a company’s primary functions and strong financial performance – 73% of respondents from companies with annual profit margin growth of 5.1% to 10% rate themselves as very effective at core accounting and closing, compared with only 40% at companies with 0%–5% profit margin growth.

Machine learning, and even artificial intelligence can not only streamline various business functions to optimise operational outputs but develops with the business to transform companies into intelligent enterprises. By introducing intelligent technologies, financial executives can focus on more strategic work, help dictate the direction of the business, and ensure GRC is held to the highest standard. With more repetitive tasks automated to improve efficiency and reduce human error, CFOs are equipped with the data and resources to make better informed business decisions in real time.

To help APAC finance executives reach the standards of global finance leaders, regional CFOs must focus on breaking silos to encourage collaboration. New technologies such as data-sharing platforms and cloud-based apps can help improve collaboration while minimising risk and improving efficiency through automation. With intelligent technology, CFOs can be more abreast of industry trends and regulatory changes, transforming their core function into a value-creation service across the business.