Business transformation in the ‘next normal’


By Gary Epstein, EasyBiz Technologies MD


Businesses can no longer solely focus on financial data to assess their performance, drive long-term strategies and generate sustainable value. They must effectively engage their employees in strategy conversations, create a culture of performance and accountability, and allocate resources in ways that ensure efficient and effective execution of the business strategy. Essentially, people will be the key to business success.

 The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) and The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) conducted interviews with 34 companies across the USA, the UK, South Africa, Singapore, and Brazil. Their report indicated seven good practices that businesses should implement to drive better business performance, namely:

  • Have a clear line of sight between activities and strategy to help employees develop ownership and accountability.
  • Factor in environmental and social impact into business values and day-to day decision-making to attract and retain talent.
  • Engage employees with developing and refining business strategies to meet strategic objectives.
  • Combine responsibilities for both strategic goals and functional excellence to sharpen performance.
  • Improve cooperation and coordination across functional silos to optimise decision-making and resource allocation.
  • Align personal objectives and incentives with organisational strategy at all levels of the business.
  • Connect external and internal information with financial outcomes to ensure effective decision-making.


Digital transformation and finance

The primary aim of digital transformation is to solve challenges concerning efficiency, effectiveness and cost, and companies that do not rapidly develop and implement these strategies are unlikely to keep pace and compete in the new digital reality. Cloud computing, for example, will handle routine requests from business leaders, giving finance the opportunity to be more proactive.

 With digital transformation, finance roles are changing. More will be required in terms of business partnering, advisory, reporting, planning, as well as tax, treasury, and more. These roles will continue to grow.

 Employees must spend less time preparing data for analysis, and more time asking ‘What does this data tell me about the business?’ and ‘How can the business close gaps in performance expectations?’ Answering these questions requires an understanding of financing and capital, and being able to advise on resource distribution.

 Assign a team to learn how other organisations are using digital tools and automating finance processes. The technologies that will matter are already being considered somewhere. Find out who’s doing what. Examine one of your most labour-intensive processes and imagine eliminating it through automation. How would this kind of change impact your organisation?


Focus on people

Implementing new technologies is relatively easy compared to changing your talent model. They’re connected, but cultural and organisational shifts related to your workforce may take much more time and care to get right. Your finance organisation should be looking at every new hire through the ‘next normal’ lens. Top companies see talent as their scarcest resource, and treat it as such.

 Work with HR to define the talent requirements you think your business is going to need. Identify people in your organisation – as well as new hires – who exemplify the kind of talent you’re striving for. If you want people to become more collaborative or tech savvy, make sure you’re evaluating them on those qualities. Get comfortable leading people with skills you don’t fully understand.


Be a business with purpose

Top-performing organisations know that purpose is both a differentiating factor and a must-have. A strong corporate purpose is a company’s unique affirmation of its identity and embodies everything the organisation stands for from a historical, emotional, social and practical point of view.

 Future-ready companies recognise that purpose helps attract people to join an organisation, remain there, and thrive. Investors understand why this is valuable, and factor purpose into their decision-making: the rise of environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related funds is just one of the ways they acknowledge that purpose links to value-creation in tangible ways.


Create a value agenda

While all companies have a strategy for how they create value, few can really show how they will achieve it. Future-ready companies create a map that puts their ambitions and targets into tangible organisational elements such as business units, regions, product lines, and even key capabilities. These companies can show where value is created in the organisation, what sets the company apart from others, and even what might propel its success in the future.

 The key is to use the value agenda to focus the organisation’s efforts and instil a sense of what really matters in every employee. Organisations must be able to leverage this clarity – knowing exactly what differentiates them from everyone else.


Build a unique culture

Culture is that unique set of behaviours, rituals, symbols, and experiences that collectively describes the culture of the company. Among the most successful companies, culture forms the backbone of organisational health and fuels sustained performance over time.

 Transforming a business to become future-ready during this unique time is a challenge that every business-owner must take on if they want to continue operating and to be successful. Making the necessary adjustments, especially in terms of technology and people, will make it possible for businesses to thrive in a constantly changing world, and be around for whatever the next normal might be.


Gary Epstein is the Managing Director of EasyBiz Technologies, the authorised local partner for QuickBooks Online in South Africa. Epstein played a critical role in growing QuickBooks Accounting Software from a 0% market share in 2000 to a top three accounting software choice in South Africa today.


Find out more about putting people first at the Future of HR Summit

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