Digital Transformation Strategies for Finance and Accounting Teams

Written By: Eric Kimberling
Date: August 31, 2023

The Finance and Accounting departments possess unique requirements and considerations in relation to their digital transformations. What distinguishes the process of digital transformation in finance? This is the subject of our discussion today.

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A significant portion of our clientele consists of the Finance and Accounting groups. In many projects, the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) and their direct reports within these groups play pivotal roles.

However, the needs and focus points of the Finance and Accounting departments during digital transformations can be distinct from those of other departments within organizations. In this context, I aim to elucidate the aspects finance and accounting professionals should consider during a digital transformation. This discussion is pertinent not only to those in the finance and accounting sector but also to professionals from other departments or those part of a digital transformation project team. The objective is to offer insights into addressing the specific needs of Finance and Accounting stakeholders within an organization.

Project Financial Controls

One of the primary priorities for a Finance and Accounting group, which should be equally significant for any stakeholder within the organization and any project team member, is to ensure the establishment of proper financial controls. This means ensuring that the project remains on course, with timely implementation and adherence to the budget. Often, stakeholders and project teams overlook the critical importance of this aspect, assuming that the finance group will regulate spending and monitor the allocation of resources. For members of the Finance and Accounting team, it's crucial to ensure intelligent investments in the digital transformation, avoiding the pitfalls of overspending. Establishing these financial controls is among the most vital responsibilities of a finance and accounting professional.

Risk Mitigation

Another crucial responsibility that Finance and Accounting groups frequently assume in digital transformations is risk management and mitigation. This involves proactively identifying and addressing risks before they escalate into significant issues. Often, there is a dichotomy for finance and accounting professionals: while departments such as internal audit or other risk management-focused groups typically fall under the purview of the CFO or finance department, these professionals might not be experts in digital transformations. As a result, they may not discern the associated risks until they manifest prominently.

While it remains essential for Finance and Accounting team members to recognize and counteract risks, it's equally crucial to understand that external assistance might be needed to pinpoint certain risks. A potential pitfall to note is that software vendors and technical consultants might not be the best sources for risk identification, mainly because their primary focus is on implementing technology, not on business risk.

Therefore, it's advisable to engage an unbiased third party with no vested interest, equipped to help identify and address risks. This external resource can assist in preemptively addressing potential threats, ensuring that risks are mitigated effectively. Risk mitigation thus stands as a fundamental role for Finance and Accounting professionals in digital transformations.

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Business Value Creation

Another vital responsibility for Finance and Accounting team members in projects is to concentrate on areas where value is created as a result of the digital transformation. While it's essential to emphasize risk mitigation and cost control, as previously discussed, it's equally critical to ensure the realization and optimization of business value derived from investments in digital transformations. Many organizations commit significant funds to a digital transformation, and even if the project stays on course budget-wise, the expected return on investment (ROI) or outcomes might not materialize.

A primary role for Finance and Accounting professionals is to quantify potential business benefits and hold the organization accountable for attaining these benefits. Without a structured mechanism or governance to ensure the realization of business value, most organizations might fall short. There's a need for dedicated focus on measuring this value, swiftly identifying the reasons if expected outcomes aren't met. Finance and Accounting departments are well-suited for this function, making their emphasis on value creation a significant aspect of their role in digital transformations.

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Financial Processes

Another vital responsibility of Finance and Accounting team members is to provide input into the project as subject matter experts. This involves delineating future state business processes and ensuring that the technology being implemented aligns with the needs of the finance department. This alignment pertains not just to business processes and workflows but also to the outputs from these workflows. Such outputs encompass reporting, analytics, business intelligence, consolidation results, and period-close results derived from future state systems. It is imperative for Finance and Accounting departments to possess a clear vision regarding these deliverables, thereby ensuring the implemented processes cater to the requirements of their department.

Private Equity Considerations

Furthermore, for organizations bolstered by private equity investments, the Finance and Accounting team may encounter unique areas of focus and responsibilities. Most private equity firms exhibit a limited tolerance for excessive project expenditures or for projects spiraling out of control. This makes the areas previously discussed even more critical for organizations backed by private equity firms. Additionally, these firms often set clear expectations and criteria for digital transformations. Thus, it is essential to regard these private equity stakeholders as pivotal and undertake a targeted change management approach, ensuring that their requirements and views are integrated into the project's overarching strategy. For organizations under the umbrella of a private equity firm, it is crucial to ensure the satisfaction of these stakeholders.

As you navigate a digital transformation from the vantage point of a finance or accounting professional, consider the points mentioned above. 

I would enjoy brainstorming ideas with you if you are looking to strategize an upcoming transformation or are looking at selecting an ERP system, so please feel free to contact me at eric.kimberling@thirdstage-consulting.com. I am happy to be a sounding board as you continue your digital transformation journey.

Be sure to download the newly released 2023 Digital Transformation Report to garner additional industry insight and project best practices.

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Eric Kimberling

Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.

Author:
Eric Kimberling
Eric is known globally as a thought leader in the ERP consulting space. He has helped hundreds of high-profile enterprises worldwide with their technology initiatives, including Nucor Steel, Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, Kodak, Coors, Boeing, and Duke Energy. He has helped manage ERP implementations and reengineer global supply chains across the world.
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