Over the years, the convergence of emerging technologies has culminated in a few notable tipping points that have propelled financial analysis into the next era of insight and efficiency. The transition from punch cards to disk and magnetic tape in the 1970s took data storage processing out of human hands and into the digital realm. In the 1990s, widespread adoption of the Internet brought unprecedented insight and collaborative potential to financial analysts everywhere.

Today, the maturation of Big Data analytics, cloud, mobile and social media has led us to a new tipping point at which businesses must revaluate their digital strategies. With these technologies in place, modern businesses can automate many of their traditional processes and develop new analytical capabilities that will help them secure their positions as market leaders in the digital era.

With growing competition and evolving market demands driving the stakes so high, organizations are increasingly turning to CFOs to weigh in on their IT investment decisions and help focus them. With their extensive skillset and analytics background, CFOs are well placed to identify the “sweet spot” for IT purchases and help businesses align their digital transformations with their future goals.

As such, CFOs are becoming more ingrained in the development of investment strategy and taking on additional responsibilities as “chief technology advisors” to the board, delivering forward-looking financial insights to their businesses while still managing vital analysis and reporting operations.

 

Building the Business Case

While data analytics, the cloud, mobile and social media tools have become indispensable for businesses to remain competitive in today’s fast-moving market, it will be up to CFOs to help shed light on this reality for the company’s C-level executives. Moreover, it will fall to finance to help businesses direct their investments to ensure they make IT purchasing decisions that will best serve their specific needs.

One of the main challenges for CFOs will be to highlight the opportunities that companies stand to benefit from if they can capitalize on the convergence of emerging technologies. With many organizations still relying on legacy systems and a good number unsure of where new technology investments can take them, finance executives will need to concretize the business case for intelligent IT purchasing initiatives for the board. Fortunately, CFOs’ strong analytics background and aptitude for assigning monetary value to business decisions makes them ideal candidates for the job.

A recent global study sponsored by Oracle and Accenture points to the transformational power of the finance department today, with 68% of respondents agreeing that the CFO is a strong evangelist for the role of technology within the business. Moreover, 66% of people surveyed believe that the finance department is “change-ready” with regards to adapting emerging technologies and systems, pointing to the CFO as a leader in extracting value from leading-edge IT for the rest of the business.

 

Uncertainty Breeds Opportunity

Although CFOs are showing strong support for emerging technologies, a significant number of businesses remain unsure of how to direct their IT investments to make modern systems and applications work for them. In fact, 45% of respondents to the global survey cite the uncertainty associated with integrating new systems as their primary concern when considering investment into emerging technologies.

While there is inevitably some form of risk attached to any investment, the convergence of cloud, mobile and Big Data has made the business case for implementing new IT tools stronger than ever, as has market demand for quicker and more flexible services. CFOs can help their C-level counterparts capitalize on these opportunities by highlighting how leading technologies can enable them to optimize back office tasks so they can focus more energy on developing new relevant offerings to secure a strong industry position.

 

Moving Past Just “Keeping the Lights On”

Organizations today are spending a large portion of their valuable time and money just to keep their current systems running, often at the expense of allocating time and budget to actually driving growth. Many of these companies still rely on outdated data and paper-based back-office processes to make key business decisions, an approach that compromises their ability to make fully informed financial judgment calls.

Moreover, more than two-thirds of CFOs cannot deliver important up-to-date insight into their businesses’ finances to the CEO, which means that potentially lucrative investment decisions are delayed and companies could risk missing out on potential first-mover advantages.

Businesses today require a reliable real-time vision into their performance and financial position. Emerging technologies can provide CFOs with this insight and enable the finance department to automate time-consuming back-office processes. This could in turn open the door to exceptional levels of efficiency and operational agility behind the scenes, and empower CFOs to deliver forward-thinking insight to businesses that will promote more informed future planning.

 

The New Technology Evangelists

CFOs today have unique insight into how their businesses operate, and as such are quickly becoming catalysts for meaningful modernization of their companies’ IT infrastructure. With Big Data analytics, cloud, mobile and social media tools now maturing and delivering substantial value to organizations across EMEA, the expertise that CFOs bring to the table has never been more valuable for businesses looking to take the lead in their respective markets.

In their new role as technology evangelists, it will be up to financial executives to shed light on the value of these emerging technologies and help companies align their investment strategies with their future goals. In doing so, CFOs can build on their reputation for expert analysis and solidify their position as trusted strategists on the executive board.

 

Karen dela Torre is vice president, ERP Application Business Group, with solutions provider Oracle Corp.