ICAEW.com works better with JavaScript enabled.

Digital transformation in finance functions

27 January 2020: Michael Izza looks at our Tech Faculty’s latest project and new thought leadership report.

Michael IzzaA key part of our thought leadership work on technology and the profession focuses on real-world research – we ask questions such as, how are our members using technology to do things differently, what are the practical challenges and what are the implications for jobs and skills? Building deep knowledge and understanding of how change is actually happening is vital in order to prepare for the future.

Our Tech Faculty’s latest publication, Digital transformation in finance functions, focuses on practical experiences, drawing on interviews with around 20 CFOs or digital transformation leads in finance functions from the UK, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Indonesia and Cambodia, and shares key lessons about the challenges of transformation in practice.

Key findings

The role of digital technology in finance is clear – it can be used to automate standard, repeatable processes and thereby free up staff to spend more time on higher-value work, such as critical thinking, problem-solving and business partnering.

But our research also highlights a range of challenges that typically need to be addressed, and the report focuses on three important messages in this regard:

  • The pace of technological and business change is creating an urgent need to build the capabilities and demand for higher value activities – it is no longer an option, finance teams must act now.
  • People are the key to transformation, and finance functions need to prioritise reskilling, training and cultural change in their activities – partly around tech skills, but also business and commercial awareness and soft skills.
  • Transformation is difficult, it doesn’t happen overnight, and therefore small steps matter – focusing on marginal gains can prove helpful in managing the expectations of stakeholders and keeping staff motivated.

These points mirror a lot of the conversations I have with members around the world, where finance transformation is a key priority but challenging to deliver.

International perspectives

The research was conducted in collaboration with the Institute of Singapore Chartered Accountants (ISCA) and this international dimension has provided a richer and more diverse range of experience. Our partnership with ISCA, a fellow member of Chartered Accountants Worldwide, is a great example of the profession working together to share learning and experience.

Please view or download a copy of the report and consider how well your finance function is prepared for the changes at hand.