• Tom van der Heijden, Partner |

Technological advancements are fundamentally changing the scope and ways of working of all business functions – but arguably none more than Finance. As part of the NextGen Finance Virtual Meeting, Gordon Toole (Global Head of Financial Planning & Analysis at Royal Philips) and Joris Juttmann (Partner KPMG) gave their insights into how a broad range of technologies have already transformed Finance, and how this function will continue to evolve in the years to come.

Gordon Toole kicked us off by outlining how Finance – and in particular Financial Planning & Analysis – has supported the ongoing transformation at Philips, which has evolved from a diversified technology conglomerate to progressively refocus into a health technology leader. Over the past decade and more, Philips has taken a series of bold steps to streamline its portfolio and apply a concerted strategy aimed at operating in attractive segments by building on existing assets. Today, Philips has a so-called ‘quadruple aim’: to improve health outcomes, patient experience, staff satisfaction, and lower the cost of care.

Finance has played a key role in facilitating and driving this transformation, leveraging technologies to seize opportunities and better support the business. A decade ago, the Finance function was relatively fragmented, lacked standardization, and had a complex operating model. By further embracing digitalization and key technologies, and mobilizing to eliminate stranded costs, the cost of finance has progressively fallen over time; in addition, Finance has become a much more effective business partner. Over the past three years, over one million work hours have been robotized. Moving forward, Finance will continue to implement cross-functional business improvements and break down silos, as well as applying efforts through its DRIVE pillars (Digital, Right first time, Integration, Value creation, Engaged Workforce).

Following this insightful presentation, Joris Juttmann offered a compelling presentation into how – more broadly – technology is reshaping the Finance function and shifting the workforce toward more value-adding activities. The current wave of new technology disruptors for Finance includes: Cloud ERP and EPM, process data mining, robotic process automation, iBPMS, natural language processing, and cognitive technologies. Collectively, these technologies are opening up a wide range of Finance benefits such as driving efficiencies, improving process compliance, monitoring improvements over time, reducing repetitive manual work, improving quality of work, enabling data integrity, connecting front- and back-end operations, ensuring internal alignment throughout the organization, and much more. The next wave of disruptions will likely be driven by quantum technologies, including computing, sensing and communication.

Key takeaways from the breakout discussions

• A lack of technological understanding at management levels can compromise execution and transformation; digitalization must be a key part of the strategy.
• An organization’s culture and values are to driving the successful transformation of the Finance function; we must encourage curiosity and an openness to innovation.
• E2E roles are key and will be so even more moving forward. We need to train young talents to have a full view of the possibilities and impact of technology.
• A combination of short-term success and long-term ambition is to a strong transformation journey in Finance. Investments will need to balance both short- and long-term needs.
• Building solutions with the wrong technology is too often a pitfall – vendor selection is key when defining technology choices.
• Transforming the Finance function will lead to more engaging, value-adding activities. After all, as Finance professionals, we are all addicted to the thrill!