How CFOs can lead on technology, talent and sustainability


Organizations around the world and across industries are striving to update operations and processes for a new era characterized by unprecedented levels of risk, uncertainty and volatility. I recently spoke with Jenn Ryu, CFO at RPG, a leading business transformation consultancy, which provides an overview of the overlapping issues faced by businesses of all kinds – and by CFOs who manage their financial functions. Throughout the conversation, a theme emerged: the CFO is no longer an observer of business transformation, but a leader player in it, and CFOs need to step up that role.

Jeff Thompson: You started your career at RGP with an overhaul of the company’s two-decade-old ERP system and implemented technology to improve invoice-to-pay cash flow as well as data auditing and analytics . Why is it important for organizations to keep pace with technology, especially in the area of ​​financial planning and analysis (FP&A)? How does technology keep workers engaged and attract new talent to organizations? What have you found to be key to successfully overhauling outdated systems or executing technology implementations?

Jenn Ryu: Digital transformation and automation of finance and accounting processes helps finance teams improve operational efficiency and auditability. We find that more and more organizations are investing in automating close processes to eliminate bottlenecks, provide clearer real-time data intelligence insights, and make the audit process more efficient. . CFOs and finance teams really play a critical role in driving this change and creating value through the ability to plan and forecast quickly. He must start by structuring the budget and financial flow processes in order to develop analytical and forecasting skills.

From a talent perspective, people want to do value-added work and have opportunities to learn and help customers solve their problems. Millennials and Gen Z employees tend to gravitate toward tech-embracing companies because they’re tech-savvy and motivated by meaningful work that impacts their lives. the company.

Teams must plan for change management – ​​the “people part” of transformation – throughout the project and cannot simply consider it part of go-live or post-go-live. Everyone says finance transformation starts with “people, process, and technology,” but often the “people” part gets ignored in the rush to automation. For digital transformation initiatives to succeed, organizations need to improve the digital skills of their teams across all functions and dedicate time to training and knowledge sharing.

The way ERP systems support the modern enterprise is also changing, and companies need to treat cloud migration as business transformation. Whether you’re migrating to the cloud or preparing for a system upgrade, the challenge is as much about people, process and data as it is about the technology itself. Organizations should take the time to assess and improve their processes for working with the new systems, planning for proper risk management by taking incremental steps. Think of technology as an enabler of business transformation and capabilities.

Thompson: In response to climate issues and growing inequalities, organizations are adopting ESG objectives. Yet to achieve these goals, organizations must be able to measure, record and report on their progress. What was your approach to sustainable development at RGP? How do digital transformation and operational improvements help organizations achieve ESG objectives? What new skills do you and your finance team need to develop in the area of ​​ESG reporting?

Ryu: We have been focused on continuously upgrading our infrastructure and operations to support an accelerated transition to virtual service delivery. In fiscal 2020-21, we reduced our global real estate footprint by over 60,000 square feet and plan to reduce our physical footprint by an additional 100,000 square feet over the next few years. We created designated virtual offices and deployed new online technologies, processes and workflows to reduce employee travel and business travel.

Digital transformation and operational improvements are certainly key to creating value and mitigating climate risks as part of any ESG strategy. This should start with collecting benchmarking data, determining the priorities that are important to your business and your stakeholders, developing an ESG risk profile, and developing plans to mitigate potential business impacts. .

We are also focused on expanding our online technologies and processes to plan for our future reporting needs. We have launched an ESG committee to ensure that we engage all of our stakeholders to identify internal skills and resources across all functions. This includes our team of consultants who already provide ESG services to clients.

Thompson: RGP has a long history of advising its partners on the changing needs of the workforce, and probably at no time in modern history has the role of work undergone such rapid and sudden change as in the last two and a half years. What do you see as the emerging future of work and the new expectations and demands of global talent? How should business leaders, especially CFOs, respond to these changes and challenges?

Ryu: The world of work has fundamentally changed and organizations are learning to work differently amid the converging changes taking place in the labor market. More and more companies are evolving their workforce strategies to achieve transformation with greater speed, efficiency and agility. They understand that they don’t need to have all the talent their projects need, especially for transformation initiatives where skill sets are constantly changing. As a result, organizations are creating more agility and resilience in their approach to the workforce, and many are solving today’s biggest business challenges with a project-oriented framework to bring independent thinking to solutions. .

At the same time, qualified professionals seek portfolio careers based on choice, transparency and flexibility. Talents seek more flexibility and mobility in their work experiences as well as opportunities to do meaningful work for the brands they align [with] on shared values, empathy and flexibility.

As businesses continue to prioritize investments to digitize finance functions, having a champion within the organization to align with business goals, manage project governance, and provide vision is critical. . It is also important to understand the long-term and short-term roadmap when investing in technology capabilities, as well as a proactive understanding of the available solution capabilities.

The role of CFO has also evolved and we are now driving digital transformation initiatives and operational improvements to modernize the business. CFOs are better positioned as value creators who provide operational insights to business units and partners.


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