Being involved in finance for over 25 years I have always heard the saying “One plus One equals three”. For me, this means how to maximise the return on each dollar we spend.

The Office of the CFO, since the early 2000’s, has been challenged to transform and do our bit to stretch each dollar further. For many companies this has resulted in the optimisation of the finance workforce and outsourcing commodity functions of the finance department. The foundations of ‘why transform?’ has not really changed. These are:

  • Reduce the cost of finance
  • Improve compliance
  • Become more agile
  • Provide better experiences for customers and employees

What has changed is the:

  • Cost of compliance continues to increase
  • Finance is focused on moving from a back-office function to being a strategic business partner that helps to drive the business forward

For finance, the dilemma is how to make ‘One plus One = Three’ as headcount investment remains flat, however the expectations of finance continue to increase.

To enable this, organisations are looking to emerging technologies to drive automation. A study back in July 2019 by the HacketGroup predicted “By 2025, 15.1% cost improvements are expected from organisational and process redesign” and “Through automation, the labour-induced process costing Finance will be further reduced by 19.2%”

The Evolution of Finance Transformation
The Evolution of Finance Transformation

The acceleration of technologies and innovations in the market has increased considerably over the last four years since the report was written. As such, the potential opportunities to drive savings and efficiencies within organisations are plentiful.

So, how do we go about achieving ‘One plus One = Three?” We need to free up our most important asset the people to focus on the activities that drive the most value for the organization. To do this the answer actually looks more like People plus Technology plus AI equals Three Plus Plus.

For a long time, the objectives of finance transformation often felt just out of reach. For the first time however not only is it within reach, but we are also being challenged to think how we can apply these new technologies and innovations to help drive the business forward. The barrier now is the speed with which an organisation can adopt.

At SAP we are focused on how we can help businesses ‘Run Better’. With SAP S/4HANA Cloud we have the latest technology platform and AI capabilities to help our customers achieve their finance transformations. In fact, over the last 10 years, SAP has been focused on:

  • New modern user experiences
  • Redesigning business processes (eg. Continuous Close)
  • Providing real-time analytics
  • Embedded automation into business processes (e.g. Goods Receipt/Invoice Receipt (GR/IR), Accruals Management)
  • Introduce Predictive capabilities.

In addition to the extensive capabilities SAP S/4HANA Cloud offers customers, we are also investing in a Generative AI assistant to partner with our modern ERP. Recently, we launched a natural-language, generative AI copilot called Joule. Joule enables employees to ask a question in plain language and receive intelligent answers drawn from the wealth of data across a business for quick assistance.

Technological improvements are not standing still, nor are compliance requirements and SAP is constantly looking for new areas to innovate and support our customers. We believe that the next evolution of the finance department is the partnering of People plus Technology Plus Artificial Intelligence to deliver a result that is greater than the sum of its parts.