SAP and BlackLine offers a Solution Extension that is a strategic third-party solution developed by an independent software partner that offers innovation and cross-industry functionalities that complement SAP business solution.
SAP and BlackLine CFOs, Gina McNamara (SAP ANZ) and Mark Partin (BlackLine) sat down and shared their views on the future of finance, how to approach finance transformation, and the importance of building trust with your customers.
SAP ANZ CFO Gina McNamara shared how she sees the future of finance by citing companies that are no longer around like Kodak, which persisted with their old solutions and ignored the capabilities of digital transformation. She said:
“One of my Colleagues says ‘get off the couch’. I think it’s a really good mechanism to think about in terms of… you know, in your own personal life when you want to get fit or you want to improve something in your life, ‘you get off the couch’. And so I think it’s a good term to put into business.”
Partin agrees with her and stressed that the hardest part of “getting off the couch” is taking the first step. He said that the first step for finance transformation is acknowledging that there is a better way.
“A forward-thinking leader, no matter what level you are in accounting or finance, you need to be thinking ‘how can I do this better? How can I get the attention and the budget so that I can get this moving now?’”
He strongly believes that now is the time to improve, especially that a lot of people, especially leaders, in the ecosystem, see the value of transformation which makes it easier for people working in finance to tell the story of transformation.
McNamara explains that as CFOs, whether from a private or public organization, they have the responsibility to the people who put their trust in them in driving change and improving business.
Finance Transformation Defined
According to Partin, Finance Transformation is about the accounting and finance people finding a path to improve the processes and eliminating repetitive manual tasks to be better strategic partners to the business. He said:
“The end goal of finance transformation, I think, is so that finance and accounting can be a strategic partner to the business. We can help leaders focus on growth, focus on decision analytics, focus on today that really matter to the companies that are trying to grow in this global environment that’s highly regulated with a lot of compliance.”
However, he stressed that for Finance and Accounting to be good business partners, they have to go through the transformation process, turning old transactional systems into a more automated and easier solution.
McNamara agrees to say that the accounting and finance team need to step outside of their comfort zone and learn new things by allowing new tools and automation do the work that they normally do. She explained:
“At SAP, we’re focusing a lot more on the transformation of a person, making sure that they’ve got a development plan, that looks at… you know, whether they want to evolve in this transformation so that they’re really a changed agent and they’re no longer, sort of, looking back in time at the historical numbers. They are more forward-thinking and looking at ‘where can we go next and how can I get my business to go there.’”
She added that developing the people in finance would make them more of a value-added partner rather than a financial accountant. The transformation not only involves taking a closer look into needed skillset of the people but the systems and processes, as well, to the point of reinventing the process.
Partin and McNamara concur that as CFOs, they understand that transformation is not only about systems and processes but also about culture and behavior, with much focus on the person. They recognize that focusing on the people development is a fundamental part of leadership, making each finance person realize their value as a strategic business partner and not just the person behind the spreadsheet.
Though the finance team seems to be the last to go through a transformation in an enterprise, according to the BlackLine CFO, they see their customers’ transformation finance projects coming together now, with the IT group and the leadership understanding the value of doing it now.
The SAP ANZ CFO cited that today’s Finance professionals utilize different financial tools based on the generation they grew up with. The younger generation who grew up with the iPhone is now putting the pressure to the older ones to leverage technology and do away with the older systems.
“I believe there’s a tipping point that we’ve reached and that so much that sits in accounting now can’t be done with legacy systems anymore and, I think that’s the realization many of our customers are coming to,” Partin said.
Essentially, automating systems and processes in finance and accounting improve people’s lives and, consequently, further drive business according to McNamara.
The Royal Commission in Banking
The Royal Commission recently revealed the lack of processes and systems in the banking industry, particularly around risk. McNamara said:
“We need to make sure that as we are working with our customers now, that we’re embedding the processes and systems. We are to take care of them and ensure the consumers are looked after.”
SAP and BlackLines partnership help customers create better visibility and transparency, especially in the banking industry. As new players come in, it’s critical that the Royal Commission is looked at to ensure there are systems in place to avoid another mishap.
The SAP and BlackLine CFOs regard the role of finance and accounting as the moral compass and the steward of integrity in organizations. McNamara and Partin believe that finance and accounting can show leadership not only in these kinds of situations but also as they transform.
The Experts Advise
Act like a CFO
“Really get invested in the business, the market, the product. Make yourself important to the leadership of the company,” Partin advised.
Be interested in helping the company grow with the right platform and systems for the team to evolve and provide leadership in the organization.
Ask for Help
“The best leaders are learning and they’re learning for people,” said McNamara.
People have to be strong and confident in admitting their mistakes, learn from it and ask help if needed.
Ask for budget
As the unsung heroes of the CFOs, the finance and accounting team need to be aggressive in asking for support as they build solid accounting systems and develop in their careers.
The Future of Finance
McNamara said that as CFOs, they have to ensure the upscaling of the people to cope with change. That includes automating systems and processes to allow the people to go out of the field and look for new markets, new business models, and stay relevant.
For Partin, Finance will continue to serve the need as the organization’s moral compass while being strategic partners and leaders of the enterprise. He added:
“For me, the future of finance is very bright because, now, tools like ours and partnership like ours emerge to help companies in accounting really drive more process-oriented systems so that they can actually start looking forward, start building their skill for… acting like a CFO.”
Visibility, transparency, and trust still need to exist in the future of finance, just how the partnership of SAP and BlackLine has established.