29 June, 2017

How CFOs can lead cloud adoption

CFOs have an essential role to build the bridge between their organisation and technology, and lead innovative initiatives that will bring differentiating business value.

How CFOs can lead cloud adoption
29 June 2017
CFOs know a cloud strategy can bring out positive change in a company, by speeding up digitisation and influencing the organisation's cost structure and financial strategy. Indeed, cloud computing is a powerful new tool for growth, lowering capital expenditure, reducing IT and business costs, and opening up new market opportunities.  However, CFOs often need to convince the board and employees that the cloud is the way forward. Here's what they can do before, during and after the deployment phase.

Taking the lead in Cloud adoption

With the digitisation of the economy and the advent of new technology tools, CFOs are witnessing a shift in their role from backward-looking accountants and safe-keepers of business finances to that of real strategic partners. A recent online survey of 930 CFOs globally organised by Longitude, Oracle and Accenture showed that 97 percent of them believe that their overall level of strategic influence has increased.

Monish Ghatalia, CFO at Dubai-based digital marketing agency RBBi, has witnessed first-hand the change in the profession over the past few years.

"The role of a conventional CFO was to oversee how a company performed based on a set plan. That role itself is changing as the dynamics of each market and function is being challenged by technology and new user behaviours. Today the CFO needs to deliver on these challenges as well," he says.

Convincing the board

The arguments for Cloud adoption are obvious. In the new business environment, CFOs need to go deeper into more than just figures. With the shift from reactive to predictive financial management, and as data becomes a precious commodity, the cloud has become an essential tool: 57 percent of CFOs agree that investment in big data and analytics will be a key source of competitive advantage, according to the Oracle/Accenture survey. In an increasingly competitive business landscape and as innovation spearheads growth, CEOs and the board simply cannot ignore this.

"CFOs need to understand the reasons behind the numbers," Ghatalia adds. "For instance, they need to know the insights of a purchase, understand and analyse current or past trends so that they can use them to predict future trends. All this data could then help sales or distribution departments better plan their strategies."

CFOs need a mechanism like the cloud to collect this information, he explains. "The cloud is so much more than just storage - it eases accessibility to crucial insight, gives CFOs 'the power of now' and the ability to be flexible. It can really help make today's CFOs more efficient and effective."

During the deployment phase and after

Once the CFO has demonstrated the benefits of cloud adoption and has convinced the board and employees, during the deployment phase he or she can lead efforts to track performance, impose and oversee best practices, and explore novel and improved ways to use data.

"The CFO can play an important role in making sure the cloud answers all the objectives set out, that it measures the right things and tracks the right data. He could tailor-make the cloud based on trends which would then give out more than just performance numbers," says Ghatalia.

Indeed, CFOs need information that goes beyond pure financial data such as revenue, cashflow and profitability. In a Cloud environment, they can track corporate performance indicators in other areas, from customer and partner engagement to satisfaction. These indicators must be included in planning and forecasting, and shared with the rest of the business. This will also help promote a more collaborative and efficient workplace.

"The CFO could virtually create departments in the cloud that give out data relevant to each team member. Imagine if I tailor-make the cloud as per my monthly, weekly, daily plan and give access to the team only for that particular period with analytics combined with artificial intelligence that helps their performance. The cloud can become the virtual brain that challenges conventional financial insights and data," Ghatalia points out.

Such value-added initiatives are part of the role the CFO could play in ensuring that finance is taking the lead in cloud adoption and, ultimately, real business transformation.


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