Agility and Automation Key to Helping CFOs Deliver Insights

Andy Watson

According to Andy Watson, Senior Vice President & General Manager, Asia Pacific Japan and Greater China at SAP Concur (pic), agility and automation are the key to weathering the current economic climate back to success.

“When I was a CFO, we used to have monthly reports – expense reports on what everybody’s already spent it on – and those days are long gone. We absolutely needed real-time visibility and real-time ability to impact in terms of managing spend. So that’s going to be important when we talk about the remote workforce. We have the ability to drive the business forward; to help make business decisions, but to do that around strong policies, strong workflow enablement that allows people to have that real-time visibility.

“So we don’t want manual processes; to drop these invoices in ‘sometime before the end of the year’ to make sure I get my money back before Christmas, and that we have this real-time ongoing automated processes which enable us to do business, and I think that by doing that, we will have this view of the liquidity of the company, and to make the correct investments,” he added.

He said this during a live webcast organised by SAP Concur called ‘Recover Your Business: Improving Strategic Cash Flow and Liquidity to Ensure a Safe and Successful Relaunch of Economic Activity’ streamed online recently.

Moderated by David Breslin, Vice President of Service Delivery at SAP Concur Asia Pacific and Greater China, the live webcast also featured Saurabh Jain a Management Consulting Partner at PwC; Dennis Chia, StarHub Ltd’s Chief Financial Officer; and Brendon Silver, Chief Executive Officer of VATIT VAT Reclaim.

When asked about technology trends that helped companies with liquidity, Jain mentioned that technology is the backbone of how companies look at liquidity; it’s all about visibility. “Other aspects being payables and receivables – how do you manage those extremely well, and given the current scenario, I think it’s very important to do a very fine balancing act, because as much as technology can help with your liquidity, it’s also important to see how you can support your entire ecosystem in the current times.”

For Chia, advances in open-source platforms have led to a situation where CFOs can understand the data a lot better. “More importantly, for those whose careers span years or even decades, it’s about upskilling ourselves and understanding these new platforms and technologies e.g. blockchain, so that we can rely on them as we move forward. It’s a very interesting time, to be honest.”

Speaking about future technological trends, Silver pointed out that technology was moving at a quick pace at the moment.

“The technology we’re investing in revolves around big data and how we can process that and provide immediate and real-time insights into that data, and how we can automate all of our processes in the cloud. Some of these technologies include optical character recognition (OCR), and that’s linked to machine learning and artificial intelligence. I think if you can build a platform where you can implement workflows, rule engines, and then you can overlay that OCR and machine learning, it would really become a powerful tool to provide immediate insights into this big data that we’re seeing.”

Meanwhile, Watson highlighted the benefits of using modern technology to identify and obtain tax refunds or claims. “It would be a travesty not to. We talk about this ability to have this real-time insight into where we’re putting the budgets, where we’re spending the money, and the government doesn’t want us to leave this money on the table either; it wants us to reinvest and really make sure that we continue to push the business forward.”

Beyond that, he also noted that performing better data analysis and bringing better insights to the business will really make an impact on the liquidity and financial stability of companies.

“At a time when a lot of companies are paralysed by what’s going on, and the predictability of the top line is very threatened, and the uncertainty of the customer base, you need to be much more secure in terms of predictability of costs and investments to minimise any damage done to the bottom line.

“In my heart I’m still an aspiring CFO. The mindset of what you’re doing as a CFO is going into a business, helping that business grow, and implement strategies that put it in place to be a success in its market and to make its own customers a success.

“It’s not about stopping people spending – it’s about spending wisely. It’s not about reporting on numbers – it’s about influencing decisions. In adopting that mindset, it’s probably never been a better time,” he concluded.