As companies in every industry strive to become end-to-end digital enterprises, Oracle CEO Safra Catz—who earlier in her career led that very transformation at Oracle—offers this advice: “The attitude you need to have is not ‘think outside of the box.’ Instead, it’s ‘don’t even see the box.’”
These profound business transformations promise to reshape the responsibilities of every C-level executive, and for CFOs the new challenges center on driving digital-first priorities, processes, and culture across teams that, in most companies, are chafing to get the heck outta that box—permanently.
The best way out for CFOs and their finance teams, says Catz, is a complete commitment to an enterprisewide overhaul that obliterates silos; integrates data and collaboration; demands new skills and approaches; and leverages fast, flexible, and powerful new cloud-computing technologies.
“It totally changes the role of what finance does,” said Catz, speaking at the Oracle Modern Finance Experience conference in 2015.
“The real way it was in finance—in the world I grew up in—is we spent all our time looking backwards. And what Enterprise Performance Management brings to it—especially when it’s connected with core finance operations via Enterprise Resource Planning—is now it’s about looking to the future.”
CFOs have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to help build that future by taking a leading role in a three-stage digital journey: in digital disruption, they got a glimpse of what customers will need and demand in the future; in digital transformation, they’re scoping out the path to a smarter, nimbler, and more customer-centric future; and now they’re planning how to complete that transformation and emerge on the other side as a modern and end-to-end digital business.
To explore just what that future holds, and to help digital CFOs navigate the journey successfully, Oracle late last year commissioned a detailed research survey called The Digital Finance Imperative that revealed large and troubling gaps separating the modern, customer-oriented data and insights that CFOs say they need, and the fragmented and incomplete data their current legacy systems provide.
For example, the global survey of 744 executives from 34 countries identified this huge disconnect involving intangible assets, with CFOs saying they simply cannot generate or find sufficient data about the customer-oriented issues they feel are most vital to their businesses:
- What they want: The top three drivers of business value identified by respondents are customer satisfaction (76%), quality of business processes (64%), and customer relationships (63%).
- What they have: Only 25% of respondents are able to assemble and analyze data on customer sentiment (while 76% say customer satisfaction is their #1 value driver), only 33% said they have metrics on the quality of their business processes (whereas 64% said it’s essential), and only 20% can access data revealing the impact of their brand (in spite of 63% saying customer relationships are critical to their business).
So how do CFOs close those troublesome gaps between what’s needed and what’s available? How can they become the “digital guidance systems” for their businesses? Oracle Senior Vice President Rondy Ng, who has worked with hundreds of CFOs while building and leading Oracle’s booming cloud ERP business, offered this perspective:
“Finance is running the risk of sitting on the sidelines while more digitally savvy lines of business deliver the insights that management needs to differentiate and grow. By unlocking the value of data using a modern and complete cloud-based ERP and performance-management system, CFOs and their finance teams can seize the unique opportunity to become the new digital guidance system for the enterprise.”
And, one of the lead authors of The Digital Finance Imperative report, Dr. Noel Tagoe, says CFOs have to aggressively seize the “digitization” opportunity. “As digitization makes it more difficult for businesses to differentiate and earn a premium, the quality of decision-making has become essential to success, and finance can take the lead in ensuring this quality. It has the enterprisewide overview and skill required to work with diverse internal stakeholders, ensuring that the business assembles, analyzes, and applies data to improve performance.”
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Bob Evans, Oracle