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Articles | advisory, digital-transformation, finance, reporting

The question is not if you should digitalise your finance department: it’s how and when

DATA IS THE NEW CUSTOMER

We are now in 2022; everyone is aware of technology’s impact on businesses today. Without it, you are simply losing your competitive edge as data volumes increase significantly and manual processing becomes too heavy and time-consuming. So, the question is not if you should digitalize, but rather how, when, and what software to choose. This piece will look into one emerging trend that can help your finance team – the Business technologists.

Most people in Finance can recognize this scenario. You see an ad, or someone recommends a new software solution to you. It is without a doubt relevant for your department and can solve all your problems, but then the headache starts. A headache because suddenly, you need to take more time out of your calendar. Time to research and make an informed decision. Now it isn’t just information about this specific software you need, but also its competitors, integration opportunities, and the actual ROI. You know some of it, but you need to investigate some technological pieces and learn the difference.

An example is the difference between cloud, hybrid, and on-premise, which seem intangible. Add this to the stories you hear about the implementation process of new systems. Many finance professionals dread making the wrong choice and waiting months, maybe, years for the system to be up and running. So as a result, they let it be up to their IT department, as every other department in the organization. And then a queue starts at IT. 

If you have the resources, moving IT into your department in the form of a business technologist can maybe be the cure to your headache. This way, you have an employee in your team who is well-versed in all digital – and can help bring order to your digital finance ecosystem.

THE URGENCY FOR FINANCE IS IN THE DEMAND FOR ACCURACY IN NUMBERS

If you want to be a leading organization, delaying your digital development in 2022 shouldn’t happen. We are in a digital revolution. Businesses must keep pace to survive, meaning the demands on accuracy in numbers and digital efficiency have increased exponentially. To top it off, the last years of lockdowns, remote working, and living have accelerated the need to embrace digital.

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This development in Finance is even more crucial; we depend on error-free reporting. Data is the new customer – but without tools to sort and interpret this data, we land in a minefield of manual errors and reactive behavior. At the same time, we see our competition move forward at the speed of light. All because we do not have the time and resources to look into the digital opportunities. Organizations cannot rely on IT alone; why embracing a Business Technologist can drive the needed change.

WHAT IS A BUSINESS TECHNOLOGIST?

To phrase it simply, it is a decentralized IT employee who builds technology capabilities for internal teams only. The person supports business units to embrace technology and strive towards a digital transformation. Their skillset varies from data scientists to developers. But a common factor is that they have their finger on the pulse and understand digital trends that create efficiency in your team’s work. Furthermore, they must know how to solve strategic and operational problems interchangeably.

THE MOST IMPORTANT PART: Because they work in your department, they understand the Finance function, your digital ecosystem, and your operations. Their primary focus will be to optimize your team and their work tasks – not the entire business. 

It’s a strategic role that equips and empowers non-IT resources to build digital capabilities.

Giving insight is a vital part of the business technologist role – how do we become more efficient with technology? A good business technologist works in harmony with IT departments regarding security and innovation. It means putting the responsibility, tools, and accountability for building digital capabilities in the hands of business units and not just IT. The Business Technologist can often conclude digital initiatives faster, release value quickly and mitigate competitor threats. 

Four value-adding areas of the business technologist:  

#1: INSIGHT – THE USE OF ANALYTICS, AI, AND TOOLS

How you in the finance department can best embrace technology to transform your data into knowledge

#2: OPTIMIZATION

How can finance’s critical processes be optimized to reduce error and increase reporting?

#3: ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION (RPA)

How can ‘bots’ be used to increase productivity? Of relevance to finance teams where there are high volumes of repetitive tasks.

#4: INTEGRATION OF DATA JOURNEY

How do the data story and operational journey look? Where is the ‘friction’ to be removed?

Note: Hiring an IT person outside the IT departments will put new pressure on CTOs and CIOs to protect security and data for the business. So if the business technologist is an idea for you, you need to prepare and plan for how to empower them within a secure framework.

GOOD TECHNOLOGY SHOULDN’T NECESSARILY BE COMPLICATED TO IMPLEMENT

Even though we understand the value of insight a business technologist gives (if you have the resources), one thing we often forget is that good technology shouldn’t necessarily be complicated to implement. 

So the question arises if our mindset needs to change instead. There are many possibilities to create a digital ecosystem that focuses on integrations, not on how much ONE system can bring with digital development today. Say you need an ERP system, a consolidation system, and a reporting system – the more you try to incorporate everything, the larger the system gets and the more difficult it is to implement, learn, and maintain. With cloud, the supplier looks after the software, making it simple to use, and it can integrate with everything you have. This way, you avoid the queue at your IT department, complicated implementations – and even the business technologist. Instead, you can choose systems based on your exact need. No more, no less.

WHY IS THERE A GREATER FOCUS ON BUSINESS TECHNOLOGISTS IN 2022?

However, even though the right technology shouldn’t be too complicated to implement or demand too much time out of the IT department’s time. There is still the fact that the CFOs do not always have time to look into software or the proper knowledge to choose without corresponding with IT. Consequently, we see why Business Technologists can be an essential resource, for larger organizations, in 2022 and beyond.

You need an evangelist for change at the top to equip the business units for digital transformation. Organizations that get this right embrace and walk digital in everything they do. It is good to plan how they fit into your team if you have the resources. Essentially, you want to empower the people closest to the business process to drive excellent digital transformation

Are you still in doubt if it is a business technologist you need? One thing is for sure, do not delay your digitalization strategy due to a lack of resources. So whether it is a business technologist, citizen technologist (a colleague in Finance tasked with a digital mindset), or a run-through of less heavy systems – do not wait on the IT department. Instead, ensure that the digital financial ecosystem will not be left behind.

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