Digitalisation holds the key to unleashing the full potential of the finance function


By Jordaan Burger, Vice President Finance, Sage Africa, Middle East and Asia-Pacific

Over the past two years, chief finance officers (CFOs), accountants and their teams have played an invaluable role in steering organisations through turbulent times. They’ve been core to helping their businesses accelerate digital transformation to cater for a new world of remote work and higher customer expectations.

Now, as we look beyond what we hope is the worst of the pandemic, finance is looking at ways to build on the digital transformations of the pandemic. In fact, PwC’s global CFO survey reveals that 73% of CFOs agree that digitalisation of the finance function is a high priority. Some 44% of respondents expect their digitalisation budget to grow in the future.

Digitalisation has become a priority as finance teams seek to adopt innovative technology that provides them with the visibility, flexibility, and efficiency to manage finances, operations, and people. In automating repetitive, low-value activities and using analytic capabilities, artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, finance departments can transform their roles in the business.

In today’s volatile world and 24/7 operating environment, finance teams are no longer satisfied to be a backwards-looking reporting function and compliance hub. Digital technology empowers finance professionals to take on an even more strategic role than they did in the past, helping the business navigate a fast-changing world.

Here are three ways digital transformation is changing the role of finance:

From recordkeeper to optimiser

Thanks to modern, cloud-based accounting software, finance teams no longer need to spend as much time capturing data and manually preparing reports as they did in the past. With today’s tools, finance teams can automate menial tasks such as data entry, invoice-chasing, expense disbursements, and bank recons, freeing up their time to focus on more strategic concerns. They can focus on improving the lives of SMB owners and employees at the businesses for which they work by identifying opportunities to optimise processes, reduce costs and drive profitability.  

From reporting hub to data storyteller 

The finance team has always spent much of its time wrangling data and spreadsheets to prepare reports. But with the right cloud-based software in place, they don’t need to spend hours crunching data and preparing charts and reports that are out of date as soon as they hit the CEO’s desk. Instead, they can tap into real-time business insights using today’s cloud software and advanced analytics.

With better visibility into data about real-time business performance, the finance team can not only save hours traditionally spent generating reports but also support the business with better quality insights and analysis. They can become data storytellers who create compelling narratives about how the business can identify opportunities to grow revenues and profitability.

From gatekeeper to innovator

The traditional CFO was regarded as the gatekeeper to the company’s purse. Their role was primarily about ensuring financial stability, sustainability and responsibility. That role remains important in a challenging operating environment, but it has expanded to include new strategic roles in risk management.

Conversely, the finance function today is expected to be a change agent that uses AI, machine learning and business insights to help businesses make wise, strategic decisions. Their access to performance data puts them in an ideal position to help businesses plan in a world of uncertainty and unpredictability.

Closing word 

Digitalisation is changing the job description for the finance professional of the future. With technology making it easier for business owners to capture financial transactions and helping organisations streamline processes, they are looking to their finance teams to collaborate more closely with the business as an advisor. Digital technology will not replace accountants and other finance professionals. Instead, it will liberate them to do more for the business.

About Sage

Sage exists to knock down barriers so everyone can thrive, starting with the millions of Small and Mid Sized Businesses served by us, our partners and accountants. Customers trust our finance, HR and payroll software to make work and money flow.  By digitising business processes and relationships with customers, suppliers, employees, banks and governments, our digital network connects SMBs, removing friction and delivering insights. Knocking down barriers also means we use our time, technology and experience to tackle digital inequality, economic inequality and the climate crisis.