CFOs must prepare for future disruptions as part of their post coronavirus recovery programme, according to Terry Walby, CEO of Blue Prism Cloud.
Speaking on a panel at this year’s CFO Agenda, Walby said businesses need to consider certain factors as part of their digital transformation plans.
“What we need to be thinking is not how to invest in technology to respond quickly, but how do we create a technology underpinning for my organisation that allows us to be more responsive, more reactive, more agile, more scalable in the future.”
“We can talk about post coronavirus, but do we really know when that’s going to be and what shape that’s going to take? Do we really know what’s coming next?”
Ciaran O’Donnell, CFO and founder of The Virtual FD said uncertainty around the pandemic has put more emphasis on near term forecasting with the next three months being “very important for disruptive businesses”.
“I think instead of planning for a three-year period, with a huge amount of uncertainty, it’s made it a lot easier to focus everybody’s attention on near term forecasting. The next three months are pretty important. We can have a think about month four, or five and six, but really, they’re so dependent on month one, two, and three.”
The pandemic provided many businesses with the opportunity to accelerate growth and understand the changing roles within the company, said Walby.
“What we’ve seen as a consequence of the pandemic – in most cases – is an acceleration of initiatives that were already underway. That’s been through the technology being used, an increased importance of digitisation, or the changing nature of roles within the organisation.”
The past few months have also seen “more and more” CFO’s taking an active role in being “generators” of innovation.
“CFOs are really much more now involved in thinking how can we create a different business dynamic that allows us to be more agile, more receptive, more responsive, whether that’s through business operation change, underpinned by technology or with it through the deployment of technology in a certain way,” Walby said.
Digitalisation was a high priority for many businesses during the pandemic. A McKinsey report showed consumer and business digital adoption had jumped five years forward in the space of eight weeks. Bina Khatwani, executive finance lead at CBRE, said firms should not overlook their main strategy in digital transformation.
“For me, digitalisation has to align with your overall strategy.
“We always need to be thinking about where we’re going in terms of digital transformation. This pandemic has accelerated companies to think about that and open their minds a bit more to bringing in new ideas and raise these strategies further up the priority list.”
However, digital transformation can mean looking at the technologies already in use at the organisation, and making more of them, according to Abby Obomoghie, head of financial planning and analysis at Hitachi.
“Sometimes it’s just the way of doing things better using the technology you have. So, it’s not about just going out there to buy a technology. It’s taking that technology, which we’ve always had, and then making it work.”
Digitalisation isn’t the only thing that businesses should be focusing on, said Khatwani.
“I think we need to take what we’ve learned from what we’ve been through. And for every company, that’s an individual journey. Everybody’s got a different priority, and I think it’s taking what’s been learned this year and ensuring that that is now baked into the future strategy going forward.”