Digital innovation and transformation in the finance organization

January 2017

On 21-22 November 2016, members of the European Audit Committee Leadership Network (EACLN) met in Berlin for their 26th stand-alone meeting. In one session, a dialogue about the opportunities and risks of digital innovation and transformation for chief financial officers (CFOs) and their teams, members were joined by two guests: Luka Mucic, CFO and member of the executive board of SAP SE, and Roland Sackers, CFO and Managing Director of QIAGEN.  

In conversations before, during and after the meeting, guests and members considered the following topics: 

  • As technology drives companies to reinvent themselves, CFOs must respond 
    Digital capabilities are transforming the business models of established companies, and many are making money in new and different ways. Members reflected on the changes that have already occurred and the future implications of this trend for their companies. Digital advancements have opened new avenues for partnerships and acquisitions that allow companies to enter new business lines or offer new services. Legacy technologies serve as an as impediment to this progress, but there are scenarios for utilizing these systems to improve processes.  

  • Finance organizations are undergoing a massive digital transformation
    As companies take advantage of new technologies to transform business models, so too must the finance organizations that support these businesses transform. New digital capabilities can also radically transform the roles and responsibilities of CFOs. The guests presented members with accounts of how new technological tools have enabled significant cost savings and efficiencies in the finance functions of their companies. Members and guests discussed how CFOs are taking advantage of these new efficiencies and using enhanced capabilities to better inform their decisions.  

  • Audit committees must ensure that they and their finance organizations are keeping up
    Audit committee chairs are interested in the digital opportunities that are available to their finance teams and how they can ensure that their CFOs are taking the greatest advantage of new technologies.  In particular, audit committees are focused on how to effectively monitor the most pressing opportunities and risks that are tied to transformation.  As the finance organization utilizes new tools and techniques, boards must also ensure that the people who make up the finance organization have adequate skills to make the most of their capabilities.