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Perspectives

Finance in a digital world: It’s crunch time for CFO’s!

A series on digital transformation in finance

Explore the latest installment, “Crunch time III,” in which we provide insight into how and where cognitive technologies can play a role in the finance organization. Then, understand the various digital disruptors and their impact on the original “Crunch time” report, and read CFO's thoughts and experiences on making the digital journey in “Crunch time, too.” Wherever you start, one thing is clear: from cloud computing and robotics to analytics, artificial intelligence, and cognitive technologies, a new class of digital disruptors is transforming how business gets done.

Crunch time III: The CFO’s guide to cognitive technology

Cognitive technologies have been adopted in other areas of business, inspiring finance to start learning about them, experimenting with them, and figuring out how to use them. The goal, as with any finance technology initiative, is to create a more efficient, insightful, and controlled finance function, yet only 42 percent of surveyed CFO’s said their finance team is knowledgeable about emerging technologies, including cognitive.1

Crunch time III: The CFO’s guide to cognitive technology provides a collection of examples based on currently available technologies we’ve seen companies begin to test and adopt, in addition to our experience working with many finance organizations that are devoting more resources—financial and human—to deploying new technologies in these early days of cognitive.

It’s important to remember that none of these technologies stands on its own. There is no Internet of Things or blockchain without cloud computing. There is no cognitive pattern matching without advanced analytics. The technologies build on one another. And what do they build into? Faster and better ways of getting work done.

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Digital transformation

No matter what future you see ahead for your finance organization, one thing is sure. If business leaders around you are going to compete in the digital world, they will need to process more information more efficiently, and turn that information into deeper insights faster than ever. It will likely require new technology—and a group of people who are curious and skilled in using it.

Deloitte's original point of view, Crunch time: Finance in a digital world—based on extensive research with finance executives, including in-depth interviews with CFOs of global businesses—explores the various digital disruptors and may be the quickest way to understand what's in store for finance organizations as they hurtle toward the future.

In the follow-up report, Crunch time, too: CFOs talk off the record about finance in a digital world, 30 CFOs share their unfiltered thoughts and experiences around a broader discussion of finance and what it means to make the digital journey. Deloitte knows that one way to stay abreast of new developments is to join in focused conversations with other finance leaders, across multiple industries and geographies, so this is a good place to start.

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Digital tools for CFOs

Some of the new digital tools available to finance focus specifically on updating core systems and existing capabilities. Other tools, "exponentials", are designed to deliver new and different capabilities. Together, they form a toolset finance can use to improve its own performance and serve the business more effectively, especially when they are used together. 

Our research suggests that seven technologies have growing interaction and relevance for how the work of finance get done:

                              
Cloud
Cloud is a kind of computing that uses scalable, elastic technology to deliver services over the internet. Instead of making large investments up front, finance can get the full stack of finance functionality “as-a-service,” delivered through public, private, or hybrid clouds.
                                Process robotics
Process robotics automates transaction processing and communication across multiple technology systems. Robots perform recurring processes just like humans, but with less risk of errors and fatigue.
                                Visualization
Visualization refers to the innovative use of images and interactive technology to explore large, high-density data sets. Visualization suites complement business intelligence and analytics platforms, offering rich graphics, interactivity, and usability on par with leading consumer experiences.
                          Advanced analytics
Analytics has long been part of the finance arsenal, but new techniques are helping business people tackle the crunchy questions with insightful answers. Often that means combing through big data to see patterns that suggest future opportunities.
                                  Cognitive computing
Cognitive computing and artificial intelligence (AI) simulate human thinking. This technology includes machine learning, natural language processing, speech recognition, and computer vision.
                            In-memory computing
In-memory computing refers to storing data in main memory to get faster response times. And because the data is compressed, storage requirements are reduced. The result? Speed and access to quantities of data that were previously unimaginable.
                          Blockchain
Blockchain is a digital distributed ledger, where transactions are verified and securely stored on a network of distributed and connected nodes, without a governing central authority.

 

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"CFOs can leverage digital transformation tools to improve finance operations’ performance and provide better insight to the business—faster."

Talent essentials for digital transformation

The growth of digital business is already reshaping the talent marketplace, far beyond finance. As organizations seek to upgrade their workforces in all areas, they are placing a premium on people with the relationship and analytical skills, who can also understand the business. Talent essentials for digital transformation include:

  • Leadership: A sharp view into the future and a clear roadmap for getting there
  • Culture: Less predictability, more experimentation, and innovation
  • New skills: Technology savviness combined with business understanding
  • Engagement: An opportunity to learn, grow, and innovate for digital natives or millennials

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“Digital transformation is fundamentally human-centric because it’s about imagining new ways of value creation. For that to happen, people have to be digital enablers as well as users of new digital capabilities.”

Framing the future

Which path makes sense for you? What kind of roadmap will you need to realize the benefits of digital transformation? In the end, organizations will need to chart their own courses. But no matter which future you envision, the leaders will likely be those who figure out how to make digital work for finance—and for the whole business, too.

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“Not having a roadmap would be really dangerous these days because the pace of transformation is speeding up in every industry. Be on the lookout for quick wins and use them to validate your direction.”

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