INTERVIEW OF THE MONTH
INTERVIEW WITH MR. BHASKAR BHATTACHARJEE,
GBS Director, Philips
In your opinion how has the finance function evolved over the last few years and what are some of the key drivers to this change?
In the context of a products and services company, Finance has focused a lot on operational efficiency and reduction of finance department costs, through improved operational speed and efficiency, springboarded by enhanced data handling capabilities and widespread adoption of low code/no-code digital tools for automation and reporting.
In fact, as per a recent global study, median finance-dept costs have declined over the past decade, with ~40% increased efficiency in transactional activities and reduced compliance costs, and finance leaders spending more time now in value creation activities.
For e.g., harnessing RPA and non-RPA automation to execute transactional processes at scale has allowed refocusing of finance resources toward business transformation and business partnering.
The rapid evolution of cloud computing, data science, AI, and big data capabilities has already brought a paradigm shift in the expectations from finance.
In addition, location-agnostic work environments especially over the last 2 years have accelerated knowledge process centralization (in spite of a geographically dispersed workforce), promoted offshoring, and pioneering hybrid (WFO/WFH/WFA) collaboration models.
In the next five years what are the new ways in which the finance function will drive business transformation and orchestrate better performance?
As per a recent global report, finance will focus increasingly on using big data, analytics, and predictive modelling to inform business strategy and decisions.
Cloud, AI/ML, IoT, Metaverse and 5G are poised to bring in massive disruption, with increasing demand on finance to provide real-time compass and velocity towards aspired business outcomes.
Widespread adoption of IoT across the business value chain, and fully leveraging cloud adoption will improve compliance, as well as the quality and timeliness of finance advisory for business decision-making and real-time course-corrections triggered by potential real-time alerts and forward-looking insights from advanced AI/ML analytics embedded into cross-functional processes.
5G spectrum hasthe potential for instantaneous availability of finance and operational data in all formats, which will accelerate new business models, and enrich customer experience.
Last but not the least, virtual collaboration tools underwent exponential innovation over the last 2 years but will continue to evolve. Metaverse can in turn propel new ways of driving innovation and collaboration in a geographically dispersed workforce, inspire newer product offerings as well as models of customer engagements
What in your opinion will be the DNA and distinctive qualities of a successful Finance leader of the future?
Future finance leaders have to get better at managing data and fostering data-driven decision-making to guardrail against intuitive decision-making in the organization.
In addition, they have to be well versed with capabilities and use cases of available and emerging technologies in data, analytics and AI – to successfully promote and lead the adoption of digital alternatives within the organization, and also create an ecosystem for constantly trying out new ideas.
Future finance leaders will also play a lead role in advocating data literacy across the organization to realize the full benefits of investments in digital transformation.
Most importantly, building hybrid finance teams – with a premium being placed on data scientists, business analysts, and “storytellers” – fusion teams delivering impact and value-oriented strategies will be the key to the success of a finance leader.
This means, in the post-pandemic hybrid working:
- fostering collaboration, innovation, and employee engagement across geographically (and culturally) dispersed workforce; and
- balancing empathy and compassion with organizational drive and ambition in a semi-virtual work environment with reduced office space will be keys to success and talent retention, and a finance leader will have to re-orient traditional people skills.
How will digital technologies have an impact on the finance function of the future? In what ways can the finance function leverage these technologies to drive business performance?
As per a recent global survey, Finance will continue to automate, but the focus will shift from operational finance to financial insights. Automation will target end-to-end processes affecting multiple business areas, not siloed activities.
- Reduction of finance costs through waste reduction and improved operational speed and efficiency will continue to remain a north star.
- Finance will continue to evolve its delivery model through accelerated adoption of Intelligent automation, AI-enabled Smart Narratives, Chatbots, and self-service dashboards replacing excel and ppts, while improving the speed of delivery from idea to impact.
- Automation of routine tasks (through ERP/RPA/others) and speed towards a ‘touchless backoffice’ will continue to free up finance talent to upskill and redirect towards enterprise value creation.
- Large scale ERP transformations – eg S/4 Hana Central Finance implementation – can help finance leapfrog from constraints of legacy systems landscape towards value-creating delivery models.
- Forward-looking insights, Advanced modelling and scenario planning to manage economic volatility – supply chain disruptions, inflation, crude.
What are some of the steps that you are taking to identify and develop future finance leaders?
As a health technology market leader where finance is in a disruptive change cycle, it is imperative that all our future finance leaders are upskilled to nurture a hybrid multi-talented and dispersed workforce through successive change iterations and innovation cycles, while leading business partnering and helping enrich customer experience. A key upskilling requirement is that digital competencies have to be overlayed onto current finance competencies for successful outcomes.
We follow a multi-dimensional approach in building tomorrow’s capabilities inour future finance leaders, which focus on the following key areas:
- Learning agility for problem solving, change management,data, analytics, business processes and systems landscape
- Learning resources for data, analytics, AI/ML, and other digital finance technologies
- Lead cross-functional collaboration, engagement and partnering for enterprise-wide integrated digital and analytics innovations and deployments
- Inspiration to test and innovate new digital tools and platforms, champion data driven analytics and digital solutions globally
- Internal talent mobility, rotations for business proximity