August 17, 2021

SAP CFO: Focus on Transformation, Operations & Low-Hanging Fruit

3-minute read

Leading CFOs are driving digital transformation and supporting new business models by finding ways to create early momentum with automation.

That was one of several topics covered in a recent airing of the Financial Excellence with Game Changers radio show with host Bonnie D. Graham. The show’s panelists were SAP North America CFO Anthony Coletta, Luke Carlson of Carlson Cash, and BlackLine Transformation Expert Molly Boyle.

SAP’s Coletta noted that even though the concept of digital transformation was already top of mind for many finance leaders, finance automation accelerated during the past year as many businesses turned to working remotely.

He says, “One thread connecting the resilient companies that effectively navigated the pandemic was a digital platform that allowed them to turn around new business models faster.

Building new business models and interacting with others outside Finance will become even more important, Coletta says, in the future. “Finance will need to interact more and more with the business, with other stakeholders, with customers and partners.”

Getting Started with Transformation

Panelists agreed that starting with simpler projects—seizing the low-hanging fruit—is a winning strategy for those companies that are just getting underway with digital transformation.

Boyle says that in some cases, companies can become overwhelmed by the sheer number of opportunities available for digital transformation. However, she notes that “one of the things CFOs do particularly well is to drive these projects forward by finding the areas most ripe for transformation.”

A prime example: spreadsheets.

“The good news is that controllers, CAOs, and other finance leaders know that the low-hanging fruit is in those spreadsheets,” she says. “Addressing the processes that take the most time—and the most capacity—away from their talented resources is a really good way to jumpstart these broader transformations.”

Another Pandemic Lesson: Cash is King

Luke Carlson points out that cash position and cash forecasting quickly became top of mind during the pandemic.

“For the longest time, companies would come and talk to me about the more exciting aspects of treasury—hedge management, exposure management, credit risk, market risk. Then the pandemic hit, and overnight companies’ cash positions and forecasts were inaccurate and unpredictable.”

Now, he says, more people than ever before want to talk about accurate and reliable cash forecasting.

Coletta agrees. “Cash obviously took a front seat for many senior executives—not only Finance. It became an imperative to have a solid balance sheet in the early days of the crisis. You need to have a culture of cash management. When I started as a CFO, I needed to ask my treasurer about our positions. Today I have that at my fingertips—and that changed the game.”

Embracing Technology for Transformation & Growth

The panel agreed that CFOs will have an increased focus on digital transformation in 2021.

“Increased focus on digital transformation will be required by CFOs in 2021,” says Coletta, “and that focus will likely pay important dividends.”

With digital transformation, “CFOs will have an opportunity to embrace the growth that is ahead of us. I see an opportunity to really embrace the technology, and for Finance to be an architect of growth.”

Read our latest issue of BlackLine Quarterly for more stories like this and become better prepared to take advantage of new opportunities that will undoubtedly arise throughout the year.

BlackLine Quarterly

Digital Transformation