A Tech CFO Speaks: When Technology and Automation Upend Finance

Eric Cheung is in a sweet spot. As CFO of enterprise software provider Unit4 Asia Pacific, he has access to “change-embracing solutions,” in the company’s phraseology, that are designed to provide “real-time financial visibility and control across people, processes and systems.”

These solutions are all being deployed in the company – Unit4 makes sure to drink its own champagne – and the results can be heady, particularly when it comes to finance transformation.

It is incumbent for Unit 4 to use its own products and demonstrate success. Why would a company buy enterprise software that the vendor itself does not utilize and make work?

“We have consolidated the finances of all our offices into a single ERP system under the direction of one finance expert,” says Cheung. “It makes a lot of sense and saves us a lot of costs in the long run because in doing so, we are minimizing repetitive work and standardizing our finance processes under one regional location.”

That’s just the beginning. “I recently told our finance team that within the next five years, many of their jobs will no longer be in demand due to technology and automation.” Thanks to ERP, financial management, HR and payroll, and other enterprise software offered by Unit4 and its competitors, enterprises will no longer need people to perform low-value transactional reporting.

The challenge for Cheung, as for almost all CFOs, is the effective redeployment of the freed talent to tasks that add value to the corporate decision-making process. “There is a lot of pressure for today’s finance professionals to move out of their data-reporting comfort zone and up the value chain into higher value positions involving forecasting and strategy,” he observes.

Drinking your own champagne

Software companies like Unit4 are at the forefront of this revolution. Unlike CFOs who may worry about cost, integration with legacy systems, change management, buy-in from the top and other issues, Cheung is already ahead of the game since it is Unit4 that develops and deploys the technology systems.

Indeed, it is incumbent for Unit 4 to use its own products and demonstrate success. Why would a company buy enterprise software that the vendor itself does not utilize and make work?

There is a fair amount of champagne to sip. Unit4 specializes in developing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software for the public and commercial sectors. An ERP system is typically an integrated database that a company uses to track and manage data from various internal departments such as manufacturing, marketing and sales, inventory and shipping and payment, often in real time. This facilitates the flow of information between all the business functions, minimizes errors and raises operational efficiencies within an organization.

Other specialist Unit4 products include Financial Management, standalone or as part of the ERP system and delivered on-premise or on demand via the cloud, Consolidation and Cash, Financial Audit, Corporate Performance Management and Human Resources Management.   

Notably, it is in the human resource and talent development space that Unit4 has a niche and where it enjoys an advantage over its competitors in Asia Pacific. One example is Unit4’s Prosoft HRMS, which aims to streamline the HR function and enable firms to manage their recruitment and employee development processes more effectively and efficiently.

“All our recent product launches have been focused on providing solutions for human capital-intensive businesses,” says Cheung. “We are also developing ERP systems that address change in organizations undergoing HR overhauls as a result of M&As.”

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