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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

How You Can Reimagine the Future of Finance

Guest Author

By Juergen Lindner, Senior Vice President, ERP EPM SCM Cloud Business Group, Oracle

For several years here at Oracle, we’ve been on a journey—from a traditional vendor of licensed, on-premise software, to a provider of cloud services. A change in business model for a company our size is a huge undertaking, and we’ve had to re-examine every aspect of our business, from first-touch marketing to subscription renewal. Any service business needs to be customer-centric at every touchpoint, and leaders from many other companies have asked us, “How did you do it? How did you transform an entire business?”

Well, wonder no longer. 

During Oracle OpenWorld 2019, we launched the first Oracle@Oracle Experience. The goal was to bring together Oracle’s leaders across finance, HR, supply chain, sales, marketing and more to share how we’ve transformed our business for the digital age. It was the hottest spot at the show, packed from morning until evening with attendees hungry for information. Amanda Hymel, VP and Corporate Controller, Franciscan Health System, told us, “For me this was the highlight of the entire Oracle conference. The ability to network with the finance leads who have successfully implemented Oracle—especially the entire ERP system—was extremely valuable.” 

In fact, the Oracle@Oracle Experience proved so successful that we’re taking it on the road. For me, this comes as no surprise. I’ve worked in the technology and business field for my most of my career, and any customer and prospect conversation revolves around the need to transform and outpace change in the digital age. Oracle is no different, and we are a true showcase on how this can be pulled off as a Fortune 100 company—at scale and with great success.

Learning from experience

At the Oracle@Oracle Experience, executives shared how we upended our entire business model. There were four principles guiding the transformation:

  1. Maximize efficiency and effectiveness: Shift focus to high value activities that drive success, increase cross-functional collaboration, and save money with integrated automation across our entire business.
  2. Make the smartest decisions: Gain end-to-end insights into our business and enhance our decision-making with Oracle’s smart data and AI/machine learning optimizations.
  3. Outpace change: Stay ahead of ever-changing trends with quarterly innovation, provided via Oracle Cloud software, for our entire business.
  4. Delight our customers and employees: Increase satisfaction, engagement, and loyalty of those we serve with consumer-grade experiences from end-to-end.

Oracle leaders across every line of business told stories and answered questions, but since this is a finance publication, I want to focus on two finance-related areas: financial management and reporting, and financial planning and analysis (FP&A).

Reimagining finance reporting

I had the pleasure of hosting one of the panel discussions at the Oracle@Oracle Experience, featuring two of our top finance executives. Corey West is our Executive Vice President, Corporate Controller and Chief Accounting Officer, and Ivgen Guner is our Senior Vice President of Global Business Finance—the organization responsible for FP&A and business partnering. 

“I basically have challenged my team to go look at how we can create what I like to call infinite scale,” Corey told the audience. “We want to eliminate human intervention in every transaction process that we can. And frankly, automating every transaction really is possible. We’re looking at every place where there is human intervention, and we're thinking about what techniques might be available—whether it's artificial intelligence, machine learning, or other techniques—to automate it.” 

An example of an Oracle customer achieving “infinite scale” is Dropbox; in a recent interview with this publication, Dropbox’s international controller Eoin Donohoe described their focus on automation and efficiency.  “I think efficiency, as a metric, is very much aligned with scale,” Donohoe said. “If we continue to grow our business, do we need to also increase our transactional headcount? To me, the answer should be no.”  

Achieving infinite scale brings more benefits than just keeping down headcount and costs. Once you’ve achieved automation at scale, you can have more confidence that your data is accurate; fewer human touches mean less human error. And you get access to the data more quickly; Oracle’s goal is to achieve a one-day close.

Reimagining FP&A

“When you eliminate a lot of the complexity out of the system, and you have the reporting available to you, all of a sudden you realize, ‘Wow, I have a little time on my hands,’” Ivgen explained during the panel. “So you can actually utilize your people's time to do real-time analytics, as well as looking forward two or three years from now. We actually have done that, using Oracle EPM Cloud, to look at long-range planning activities, and understand where we should be spending versus where we are actually spending.”

This understanding and insight is critical to making smarter business decisions. “We made a lot of decisions to really pivot the company,” as we moved to the cloud. “It's really about finance being a very strategic partner to the business, and I've seen that firsthand,” Ivgen added.

Sandra Clarke, CFO and senior vice president of Blue Shield of California, echoed those comments in a separate panel. Clarke’s team moved to Oracle ERP Cloud from a 30-year-old on-premises system. BSC cut 4 days off their close cycle—but more importantly, they now have the technology at their fingertips to support the organization’s long-range vision. 

“We are now looking at things like new subsidiaries to support providers. We are in different areas that we never even contemplated when we first evaluated Oracle,” Clarke said. One of BSC’s top selection criteria was a solution that could move the organization forward—not just to serve the needs of the finance function, but to better serve its members.

Reimagining an entire business

Delighting your customers. Moving to new business models. Mergers and acquisitions. Identifying risks and opportunities. Behind all the talk of new technologies—AI, chatbots, voice, IoT, or whatever comes next—these are the business goals that your technology must support. As your future evolves, your technology provider must be able to evolve with you. That’s why it’s critical that you work with a cloud provider committed to investing heavily in innovation and helping you get the best out of your most valuable resources: your people and your data.

“What was really exciting was to hear different angles,” said Delphine Bernard, Global Head of Finance Operations, Uber, “hearing internally what had happened, and understanding what’s possible.” 

Derek Gafford, EVP & CFO of staffing company TrueBlue, echoed those comments: “This has been a really refreshing opportunity for me to take a step all the way back, hear some different thought leadership, and reimagine the art of what is possible in the future.” 

What’s next?

As Ivgen says, “Transformation never ends. It’s a continuous process.” Oracle is partnering with our customers around the world to help them reimagine their own finance functions. We envision two things:

1. The CxO’s cockpit of the future

This is an opportunity to simplify and streamline transactional activity, leading to robust accounting capabilities. We want to demonstrate how new organizational structures, roles, technology, workflow, and a reimagined user experience can deliver real-time information from the back office to the C-suite and their directs.

2. Record to insight

Drawing on our own experience, we’ll show how real-time information can revolutionize planning, forecasting, monitoring, and reporting—helping your organization gain the insights and foresight to make the best possible decisions.

The results from our own transformation have been impressive. To date, Oracle has:

  • Eliminated 30% of manual accounting to date 
  • Reduced global expense allocations by 98% 
  • Reduced Accounts Payable close by 30% 
  • Streamlined global intercompany tie out to 5 hours to date 
  • Cut scenario modeling time down from days to minutes 
  • Redeployed 10% of headcount in FP&A from data gathering to strategic risk and opportunity analysis 
  • Slashed supply chain planning cycles from one week to 48 hours
  • Reduced supplier records by 50%

Finance is now the team that our executives turn to when they need to make strategic decisions. As Dropbox’s Eoin Donohoe said, “We want to be seen as the function that people go to for insights. We want to help set the direction of the company.”

If you’re interested in achieving the same for your finance organization, we invite you to visit us at one of our global Oracle OpenWorld events, or at Modern Finance Experience 2020. I look forward to seeing you there!

Want to learn more? Visit the Oracle@Oracle site or watch the video.

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