From fiduciary to visionary, CFOs should consider themselves as change agents for their organisations: Ayelet Rotblat

4 mins read

Qinthara Fasya | 20 October 2021

Ayelet Rotblat

CFO of SAP Southeast Asia

Regardless of industry – be it pharmaceutical or automotive – organizations throughout the world have realized the need to become more flexible, resilient, and sustainable during the last year. They had to rethink and alter their fundamental business strategy to stay ahead in the digital era.

According to a BCG survey, 80% of businesses across industries intend to accelerate their digital transformation. They will be able to become even more relevant to their consumers as a result of this acceleration, which will help them future-proof their firm. From fiduciary to visionary, CFOs must consider themselves as change agents for their organizations. Finance is at the heart of many business decisions, and new procedures introduced by the finance department are frequently the first step in digital transformation projects.

DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Ayelet Rotblat, who was recently promoted to Chief Financial Officer (CFO) for SAP SEA in June, on what CFOs should focus on in the next few months.

Developing Key Financial Strategies – even with WFH

In today’s post-pandemic economic climate, financial organisations need to remain nimble and enable new services-based business models. On top of that, there has been an increased focus for financial organisations to drive stability in times of high volatility and as businesses face new risks.

As CFOs, we have the data and critical responsibility to predict future business realities, to plan accordingly and to ensure we are ready to support our customers with the right tools in place.

Ayelet Rotblat, CFO of SAP SEA

We have also seen many examples of organisations that took new services to market overnight to be more attuned to the needs of their customers. For example, treasury is key to optimising working capital and cash to keep the business afloat. Due to the current unpredictability, CFOs need to have a solid enterprise-wide planning process to model and predict future business outcomes holistically. With that, they can identify business gaps ahead of time with smart predictive planning – all made possible with artificial intelligence. 

Over the past 18 months, CFOs have stepped up in their strategic roles. They will continue to identify new sources of liquidities, reimagine business continuity and focus on driving compliance and rigor in cybersecurity to help companies emerge stronger in an unpredictable business climate.

With remote work arrangements, critical finance and accounting functions, Ayelet notes that year-end audits and quarterly reviews had to be done virtually – a challenge for employees who could not be physically on-site with clients and teams. However, with the right technology and skills in place, some companies could navigate this transition to virtual work smoothly and successfully. Moreover, internal, and external digital collaboration quickly became the option for conducting financial business in the short term.

It has become clear that standardising, automating, and simplifying financial processes allow business continuity in any workplace. At SAP, it was a seamless transition for the team – whether it was making payments on time, signing documents, month-end closing and reviewing quotations, they were easy to manage.

We are seeing more and more CFOs take the lead in evaluating the transformation and acceleration of financial processes that are suitable for their companies.

Where should CFOs pump their money?

Since the subjects they must manage are more diverse than previously, CFOs are thinking more holistically. Data protection, cloud and infrastructure regulation, and information security are among them.

The idea of having only one version of the truth while adhering to regulations is quite appealing. As a result, business process intelligence will become increasingly crucial, as will interpreting data (through data mining) and identifying holes in present procedures.

Sustainability is a big topic these days and, in many cases, championed by the CFO of the organisation owing to their oversight of the company spend and the correlation between sustainability improvements in the company to financial impact. Companies are evaluating their approach to sustainability, especially with the increased expectations of global businesses to tackle climate change, spearhead diversity and inclusion and mitigate biodiversity loss. As they deliver positive impact on society and the environment, these businesses are also looking for the right technology to obtain insights, track performance and accelerate their progress. 

The deployment of AI and machine learning will certainly be central to the enablement of financial institutions in the region. We are already witnessing intelligent automation in most finance processes. Specifically, we have seen automation being deployed for revenue accounting, bank reconciliation and cash applications to name a few. While somewhat in the early stage, we can expect automation to be fully integrated into ERP solutions or can predict scenarios by working with data scientists (rather than developers).

Transiting smoothly to a digitally operated workplace

SAP adopts a three-pronged approach to help businesses navigate the new workplace environment with business-transformation-as-a-service. Firstly, they strive to deliver a modular and homogenous integrated suite of products and services. Secondly, they enrich these offerings with intelligent technologies. Thirdly, they adopt a cloud-first strategy so that their customers can increase their operational efficiency, agility, resiliency and speed of innovation. 

RISE with SAP is an approach to help companies pave their way to run as an intelligent enterprise with SAP S/4HANA Cloud, connectivity to SAP Business Network, and a selection of industry cloud solutions for any organisation’s core business. The benefits they aim to bring to organisations include lower total cost of ownership, more innovation, more speed and agility, and seamless collaboration with suppliers, customers, and service providers. Ultimately, the goal is to help organisations across the globe become intelligent enterprises by connecting with a community of networks and run a sustainable business.

Financial organisations must stay flexible in today’s post-pandemic economic context and allow new services-based business models. Furthermore, in times of extreme volatility and when firms face new risks, financial organisations have placed a greater emphasis on driving stability. Standardising, automating, and simplifying financial procedures has become obvious as a means of ensuring company continuity in any organization.