Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, Vice President, CGMA External Relations, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants (the Association), discussed digital disruption and its impact on today's chief financial officers in his presentation to Argyle's CFO membership at the 2017 Chief Financial Officer Leadership Forum in New York on November 14. In his presentation, "Business as Unusual – Driving Agility in Disruptive Times," Noah examined how today's finance leaders can succeed in an era of "business as unusual."
According to Noah, the global business landscape is rapidly evolving. New technologies are available that connect businesses and people more than ever. Also, many business processes are becoming automated, helping companies increase their productivity and giving them a competitive edge.
Meanwhile, today's CFOs are responsible for adapting to new technologies and driving business innovation. Failure to do is problematic, as CFOs who lack agility are unlikely to help their respective companies discover the best ways to stand out from the competition.
"We are living in extraordinary times. And with what is happening on our watch, we're going to be held responsible for it," Noah stated.
No longer can CFOs operate strictly as finance professionals, he or she must allocate the necessary time and resources to ensure the finance function enables the business to grow and innovate.
"The role of the CFO is being challenged, and the very DNA of the CFO is being challenged," Noah said. "There is a lack of capabilities in the finance function."
Furthermore, CFOs must pay close attention to new technologies. If they understand the value of digital and data analysis technologies, they may be able to use state-of-the-art tools to drive meaningful business improvements.
"It is crunch time for us, and technology is making [a new opportunity] available, and we really need to take advantage of that opportunity," Noah pointed out.
Technology is taking the lead and redefining many finance processes. It helps CFOs embed assorted processes into the day-to-day operations of their respective companies, allowing these businesses to become more productive and efficient.
"The finance function is moving from the comfort zone to the value zone."
With the right technologies in place, CFOs can help their respective companies become digital businesses.
A digital business likely understands how to instantly access and analyze massive amounts of data. In addition, this company may be able to gain actionable insights into everyday processes, leading to immediate and long-lasting business enhancements.
"Digital and data are disrupting what we've seen," Noah noted. "It's not digital finance. Finance needs to become digital because businesses are becoming digital. It's not about data being available to finance; it's about data being available to the business."
If a CFO deploys digital technologies, this professional can transform the role of a finance department. In fact, digital technologies can help a finance team become an effective business partner that can support all departments within a company.
"What we are looking at in the future is embedded finance," Noah stated. "Finance will finally take on the role that we've been talking about … and truly become a business partner."
Digital technologies may help CFOs bridge the gap with business leaders as well. These technologies support collaboration and help reduce the risk of departmental silos. Therefore, digital technologies allow CFOs to share data with key business stakeholders and work with these stakeholders to achieve the best-possible business results.
"We need to partner effectively and create a strategic impact."
Of course, a finance team still requires talent to succeed, regardless of the technologies at its disposal.
If a CFO focuses on finding talented finance professionals who understand the value of digital technologies, he or she may be able to drive digital transformation across a company.
"It is about getting the right people in place with the right competencies," Noah noted. "This new operating model really hinges on the opportunity that you create at the top level [with talent management]."
Finance professionals who leverage digital technologies can help a company automate everyday processes and perform comprehensive data analysis. Thus, a CFO who employs finance professionals who are willing to adapt to new technologies may be better equipped than ever before to obtain unprecedented business insights and ensure finance becomes a primary business influencer.
"We need to be able to have skills and competencies that give us influence over the business," Noah pointed out. "We need to partner effectively and create a strategic impact."
By deploying digital technologies, a CFO can transform the finance function within any business, allowing them to deliver actionable insights to business leaders and help a company optimize time and resources.
"The finance function is moving from the comfort zone to the value zone," Noah said. "Traditionally, we've been assemblers and analyzers of information and insights. Now, we need to move into an advisory and application role."
Ash Noah, CPA, CGMA, is vice president of CGMA external relations at Association of International Certified Professional Accountants. In this role, he serves as a liaison to CFOs and CEOs to understand how finance teams are evolving and guides initiatives to help finance and accounting professionals create more value for their organizations. Noah is responsible for elevating awareness among employers and finance leaders of the Chartered Global Management Accountant designation, which develops confident and competent business leaders through a structured approach to skills development.
Noah joined the Association in 2012. Prior to that, he served as CFO of the international unit of TNT Express, the global transport and logistics provider and led finance teams in 45 countries through significant transformation. He has been involved with mergers and acquisitions in Brazil, Chile, India and Spain.
Noah is a licensed U.S. CPA and a Fellow of CIMA. He is based in Durham, North Carolina.