Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How to Innovate Today for the Future of Finance

Steve Cox

Whenever I look at the metrics for this publication, one thing stands out: finance readers are hungry for information about emerging technologies. Articles about blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and the Internet of Things, are inevitably the most popular content we publish. Everyone wants to know how to put these new innovations to use to drive better business results.

No longer the province of the IT department or analyst community, these technologies are part of the business discussion, upending business strategy and models and driving innovation across the finance line of business. It’s no longer enough to be efficient and timely; finance leaders are eager to add value with greater transparency, more meaningful insight, automated control and improved governance. 

The only alternative is a steady slide into irrelevance.

Let me give you an example: a colleague of mine recently “cut the cord,” giving up cable TV in favor of streaming media. Upon returning her cable equipment, she was surprised to see, at the company’s technical support desk, a big box of rubber bands for staff to wrap up all the cables that were being returned.

Think about it. So many people were cancelling their service that the company created a process to manage it. Worse, they were so inured to their slow descent into irrelevance that they were completely open about it.

Based on her experience, I developed what I call the “rubber band test” — a way to determine how irrelevant your business is. Basically, you should ask yourself, “Are we so used to bad things happening that we’ve developed a process around enabling the bad thing to be handled well?”

A similar situation in finance is when the team uses a spreadsheet named for a specific member of staff (e.g. “Bob’s spreadsheet”). That person created the spreadsheet and everyone else unthinkingly uses it — and keeps using it. In one case, one of our customers discovered that the person whose name was on the spreadsheet had left the company four years earlier. The finance department hadn’t updated its process in that long.

In these scenarios, process leaders have failed to either respond appropriately to the change that they see, or to recognize that something has changed. Either way, the cost of continuing business as usual is the erosion of business processes and productivity. You go backward as your competitors move forward, accelerating your slide into obsolescence.

The time to innovate is now. As you look at new technologies, processes and business models, consider these three critical actions that every finance department should undertake to get ready for the business world of tomorrow.

1. Centralize Your Data

In recent years, there has been an explosion of cloud vendors all eager to replace a part of your on-premises ERP suite. However, the vast majority are boutique firms that manage only a single business function, such as financial reporting (or even a single business process, like the financial close). Implementing software from a multitude of providers results in a “cloud hairball,” with all the integration costs and complexity that comes with it. It requires multiple vendors, SLAs, and release cycles to manage; it offers no clarity over who owns the data; and it maintains the functional silos that hinder quick decision-making.

Instead, choose a provider that not only centralizes finance data, but that connects business processes across every line of business, including human resources, customer experience, procurement, and risk management. Doing so gives you a single source of truth across every part of your organization, enabling finance teams to take a central role as change agents —  partnering with other lines of business to guide better, smarter, faster decision-making across the company, as well as provide strategic guidance to the entire organization.

2. Think Cloud

Cloud is the enabler and delivery system for the emerging technologies that finance is eager to adopt. With cloud applications, updates are automatic and frequent — every 90 days — keeping you continuously up to date with the latest innovations, security, compliance, and risk controls. Think of an upgrade to the cloud as the last upgrade you’ll ever do, as it builds a future-ready system that can be enhanced as new technologies emerge and evolve.

As Oracle CEO Mark Hurd noted in a recent interview, the cloud “costs less, it’s actually more secure, and you get a ton more innovation at the same time.”

3. Add Intelligence

To ensure that you create a future-ready process, choose solutions that offer predictive analytics and intelligent automation. These capabilities will augment the skills of your finance team with the decision-making power of data-driven insights. Oracle ERP Cloud (including Oracle EPM Cloud) is the only cloud ERP solution built on machine learning to incorporate these capabilities.

The pace of change in business continues to accelerate. By innovating now, you ensure your ability to predict tomorrow and shape the future for your organization.

Want to prepare for the finance function of tomorrow? Fast forward to “Future You.”

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