Even though Tapan calls himself a corporate strategist, entrepreneurial thinker and result-oriented problem solver, the one thing that keeps him going is unearthing ways to add value to his work. He also firmly believes that the financial department of an organisation plays a pivotal role in operational excellence and impacting the company’s bottom line. In his career span of close to 16 years, Tapan has worked as an Investment Banker, Corporate Finance Executive, and Chief Financial Officer, with various brands. His previous stints have been with commendable growth brands like Baazi Games, Car Dekho, Den Networks, Fidelity International and Moody’s Analytics Knowledge Service. In his current role at SugarBox Networks, he is responsible for building a tech-based financial and legal & compliance infrastructure, building business partnerships, and overall planning and budgeting to enable business growth. Tapan is a Chartered Accountant by qualification and also holds a Bachelors in Commerce from Panjab University.
CFOs are the financial experts, who manage responsibilities like overseeing the financial statements, data interpretation, compliance, regulations, financial report analysis, and much more.
Traditionally, the finance teams worked in isolation causing delays in operations, due to lack of communication and visibility on key aspects, across the organization. Their tasks would be time-consuming and often prone to human errors. However, the global pandemic saw unprecedented levels of digitization as businesses were forced to move their operations online. Decades ago, if someone indicated that a day in future we would order food online, indulge in e-commerce or that decisions in cricket would be impacted due to technology – we would have heartily dismissed all of these because we never imagined (or expected) them to be digitized.
But with the advent of technology, everything has changed in our life. For instance, today the world of cricket has changed with the use of modern technologies including hawkeye, hotspot, DRS, powerboats, and speed guns. I, personally, don’t remember when was the last time that I went to a mall to buy clothes or groceries – since delivery at home is now an option. In modern times when we do almost everything digitally including shopping, ordering food, booking cabs, attending court hearings, it is important for CFOs to transform themselves into ‘Digital CFOs’. A digital CFO is now a strategic partner to the CEO, with a long-term vision, focusing on minimizing the risk and accurately forecasting cash flow.
The role of a coach is important in cricket and for decades coaches have been those silent motivators of the game. Their role came under scrutiny with the evolution of technology and are no longer back-officers of the game. A batsman or a bowler is digitally tracked by a coach if his batting speed or bowling action needs improvement. His (coach) role has shaped from just monitoring & training the team to someone (strategist) who can drive the team. Similarly, in the modern era of the corporate world, the finance function cannot survive as a back-office function, spending time on operating manually intensive transactional processes, rather than focusing on driving strategic objectives.
Today, the role of a CFO is under far greater scrutiny, internally and externally, with the never-ending pressure to cut costs, grow revenue, and ensure control. Economic uncertainties (including the current scenario due to the pandemic), increased regulatory requirements, and heightened investor scrutiny has shifted the role of a finance team from an ordinary accountant to a strategist. In the present fast-paced business landscape, CFOs need to make informed strategic decisions to deliver better business outcomes. This requires their functional (finance) strategies to be aligned with the overall organizational objectives. Modern CFOs are privy to oceans of data at their fingertips and with the use of technology, CFOs are now able to translate data into meaningful information (insights), to support eventual business decisions. Going forward, the Finance domain might find itself at crossroads, pushing for the need to reinvent itself and yet stay relevant.
IDC, in one of its latest reports, has predicted that companies will invest about US$7 trillion in digital transformation by 2023. Thus, if (we, as) CFOs invest a small portion of that in digitizing our functions, we could be real propellers of growth. Revenue management, cash collection, payables management, employee reimbursements, treasury, tax management, legal contracts management, statutory compliances and periodic MIS reports – almost all functions can be partially or fully automated, using available digital tools.
In business, the responsibility for executing digital transformation possibly falls on the chief marketing officer, the chief business officer or even the chief innovation officer. However, the role of the CFO within an organization’s digital transformation is very important and should not be underestimated. The question is not whether; in fact, it is where and how much their company should spend to compete in an increasingly complex digitalized marketplace. We often relate technology deployment to new revenue and cost savings and if CFOs can show their colleagues the money saved (cost savings) and money generated (revenue) with the implementation of new technologies, the partnership of finance and non-finance teams will strengthen further.
In fact, through on-demand dashboards and live cost analytics, finance departments are participating in this (digital transformation). As the finance function is ultimately about the allocation of resources (Capex and Opex), CFOs are inadvertently establishing a clear organizational culture for digital transformation without even realizing it.
It’s important to understand that digital transformations (however important) have complicated the decision-making process, especially when it comes to selecting the technology your company uses. When an entire organization is digitally connected, the technology selected by one department has a wide-reaching impact, which is why cross-functional teams should be organized to help make those decisions (seamless).
Finance teams must look for collaborative management platforms that can collect data from all sources – enterprise resource planning systems, client relationship management tools, general ledgers, operations, customer care, marketing tools – in real-time. Today, the key to success is to strategize with the assistance of technology, so as to create an impact. By driving digital transformation, finance teams could stop looking back at history to measure and predict the future, and instead, look forward to building future growth pillars.