Digital transformation has been a buzz-phrase in the accounting sector for some time, but there seemed to be a big gap between talk and action. While some finance functions were adopting new technologies, accountants in business were largely going about business as usual.
The pandemic may have changed that. A transformative event in and of itself, not only has it accelerated migration to the cloud as businesses found ways to manage remotely, it has also forced a perspective change in the finance function.
Members report that the focus is shifted further onto strategic planning, analysis and real-time decision making. In many cases, new technology is necessary to meet the growing demand for this kind of service.
Has this translated into a major transformation in the average finance function? We asked our panel of members whether they are embracing digital transformation, and how things might change in the coming years.
We’ve seen a shift in our clients’ behaviours
Clare Elliott (FMAAT) CFO, ILUX
Being a tech company, I wouldn’t say that our attitude to tech and change has altered very much, as we are (and should be!) ahead of the game when it comes to implementing tech within our organisation. But by the same token, that means that we continually change quite a lot. We are definitely not afraid of change when it comes to implementing some new technology!
But we have seen a big change with a few of our clients who historically were quite resistant to change with their tech and didn’t always see the importance of keeping up with the latest innovations. That is one positive result of 2020, as there has been a shift in how organisations operate and how employees work.
It would be difficult to work at ILUX if you were resistant to change, not only because we try to be highly technical, but because we ourselves have continued to grow throughout the pandemic. We were already on a growth trajectory prior to 2020, and that hasn’t faltered as we are continuing to grow.
There is often fear around change, but I guess we just envelop it within the culture of our organisation, and so change becomes normal and expected, and therefore is not a surprise. We do endeavour to have strong communication, as that enables change to happen more effectively and efficiently, but for us change is simply the norm. We don’t envisage a time when we will not continue on this change and growth trajectory! We see both technology and change management as exciting, as it brings new opportunities, creating a pathway for a better future.
Transformation has become a top priority
Farha Jamadar (FMAAT) finance manager, Todd Doors
We rely on technology more heavily than ever. It seems the pandemic has been a catalyst and where this was not a norm previously, it has now become a part of life. Relying on instant information has become normal, this is changing the way teams work and how businesses operate.
Digital transformation was a priority but not at the top of our agenda. As soon as the pandemic hit, it became a priority. The information that we needed during lockdown was not the same as what we would need normally. We needed up-to-date information to ensure instant strategic decisions were made.
As with all change, transitions were challenging. The biggest aid with this was communication. Ultimately, the process was new, but we know the business requirements and the talent that was navigating it, which allowed us to ensure all forms of communication was open and we could troubleshoot any problems.
Business Automation has become a priority in the finance department to free up the processing element of the purchase and sales ledger. This will enable us to bring more value-add activities like business partnering, and allow us to increase collaboration with senior management to help the business grow.
Mark Rowland is a journalist and former editor of Accounting Technician and 20 magazine.