One of the stone cold realities of today’s business landscape is that it is marked by growing competitive intensity & disruption. In fact, recent research shows that since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist as a result of digital disruption. The ways in which one can deal with today’s digital disruption start by understanding how it differs from past industry changes, making sure that we don’t make the same mistakes again, and exploring ways in which we can make change a trusted ally instead of a vindictive enemy. The other reality? Most executives don’t have a road map for change.
With the goal of trying to solve the conundrum of talent shortages, explaining how finance departments can adapt to change, learning new processes and identifying technologies and techniques that can scale, the session turned into one of the most insightful and memorable events that Auxis has hosted to date. The below recap attempts to briefly recapture the essence and highlights of the event.
“Today’s business landscape is marked by growing competitive intensity & disruption with traditional corporate finance models that are outdated and are not going to cut it for most organizations any longer.”
When Auxis CEO, Raul Vega kicked off the event with this hard hitting statement, he had set the tone and the message was clear. The successful and “modern” CFO must help the CEO drive strategy and outcomes. He stressed that finance teams are spending entirely too much of their time focused on traditional transactional processes and instead need to be the catalysts for change, instilling a financial approach and mindset throughout the organization. Mr. Vega also added that leading organizations today want finance leaders who are no longer “scorekeepers” but true business advisors. Today’s CFO needs to identify ways in which he or she can:
- Add value to the Enterprise
- Drive Operational Transformation across their Companies
As the session segued into the panel discussion, the first set of questions revolved around change and perhaps Sam Meyer from Outer Stuff summed it up best when the group was asked how finance has changed: “Finance has changed dramatically.” What a finance person is, what a finance person was and what a finance person should be, is now all about somebody who is a business person, first and foremost.”
When the group was asked what drives change and whether it was a people issue, a solution issue, or a tech issue? The answers were thoughtful and yet insightful but also revealing. For example, Kim Copeland talked about how important adaptability was, and having the ability to adapt to change regardless of what that change was. She added: “You can have the best technology in the world, but it’s your ability to adapt and then learn the new processes from that technology that will determine whether you’re actually going to gain new efficiencies from it.”
Cortney Dominguez, in talking about the drivers of change, boiled her company’s efforts down to two simple questions: “How do we do things smarter and how do we do things more efficiently?”
“I’d rather you come to me with a great idea, and let me help you with the technology part of it and then we’ll figure out a solution for it.”
-Cortney Dominguez, World Fuel Services
Kim Copeland, Sam Meyer, Cortney Dominguez.
From there, the questions and the conversation quickly shifted to RPA initiatives. As a primer, Mr. Vega asked the group about what the catalysts were for considering RPA and how did the group get started. For World Fuel Services and Ms. Dominguez, it was about starting small to see what the benefits of an RPA project could be. By doing this ‘pilot project’, they were able to prove the value of RPA extremely fast. In her opinion, the risk and cost was so low that it was worth trying, and the results? “We took a process that would have taken a week, and we took it down to being done in less than three hours.” But in order to really make RPA work for your organization, Mr. Meyer suggested to try not “boiling the ocean” and really trying to focus on some quick wins. And that proved to be an underlying theme with the panel for the discussions that revolved around RPA and automation in general.
The collective opinion of the group was that everyone views automation differently throughout their respective organizations so it is imperative to focus your efforts; it’s also important to identify where the opportunities are for cost savings. As Ms. Copeland explained, “Particularly when talking about our shared services model and our outsourcing efforts, it’s not just finance and accounting, it’s IT, it’s production, it’s also marketing.” “When you’re going through that process and looking for cost savings, you’re looking for your service provider and partner to leverage technology.” Mr Vega then added to that, “One of the problems with a lot of organizations though, is focus and where to focus.”
As the floor was then opened up to questions from the audience, the majority of questions were on the topic of RPA. One question in particular revolved around whether it was good to have a regular audit process after the bots have been installed to make sure there’s no “drift.” Mr Vega instructed that “part of implementing RPA,is about providing a lot more discipline and rigor to your documentation and your support structure, it’s not a huge component of cost but it is something that you have to consider.”
Another question from the audience was if they knew of anyone using RPA for client billing? Eduardo Diquez, who is the RPA Practice Director at Auxis, chimed in that, “It’s a great use of the technology, IF you have all the data that you need to be able to create a detailed invoice for each one of your customers.” He added that, “all of your business rules need to be in some type of digital form so that we can take the necessary actions to do it accurately.”