TECHNOLOGY

A Tech CFO on Three Disruptive Technologies Transforming Finance

The world as we know it is changing. Rapid technological advancements are altering industries and creating new market opportunities. As the business world accelerates towards what arguably is looking like an everything-as-a-service (XaaS) economy, the next few years will be pivotal for finance departments in making the transformations necessary to update their service offerings and deliver service excellence.

Several trends are converging over the next few years that could set the stage for a service-economy shift that will keep CFOs more than ever in the driving seat. This year, 2018, may turn out to be an important turning point for the finance function as three disruptive technologies begin to be widely adopted – as the finance function of Unit4 Asia Pacific, which I lead as CFO, is finding out.

In the finance function, we are developing blockchain-enabled distributed ledgers that we plan to link to our Unit4 Financials single-ledger system in 2018

Blockchain and Self-Driving Finance

As the foundation of cryptocurrencies, blockchain has already played a vital role in next-generation finance tools. It is also gaining traction in a wide range of industries across Asia Pacific. In markets as diverse as Australia, Thailand, and Singapore, there is a strong acceptance of the technology not just in financial services, but across the entire supply chain, from food provenance to logistics.

Technology industry research organization IDC estimates that spending in Asia on developing blockchain applications – customizing the technology for business solutions such as payments, trade finance, regulatory compliance, and supply chain management – will almost double to US$281.69 million in 2018, from US$148.76 million in 2017.

There is another aspect of blockchain that could prove to be even more influential. As a technology that optimizes efficiency and accuracy of any transaction, blockchain applications can underpin the growth of self-driving finance – if these could be connected to the organization’s internal ledger.

The need for standardization, trust, and compliance are issues that have plagued auditing and financial record-keeping. The simple act of having to manually manage a database enables the entire universe of accounting errors, malfeasance and compliance headaches. Those problems are amplified when the ledger is shared among multiple partners.

By collecting data in distributed ledgers, and feeding that into a corporate single ledger finance system in real-time, reconciliation suddenly becomes a constant, innate operational function that requires no additional effort. This is what we hope to do in Unit4. In the finance function, we are developing blockchain-enabled distributed ledgers that we plan to link to our Unit4 Financials single-ledger system in 2018.  

Unified Ledger Integration

A corollary to the adoption of blockchain is the integration of unified ledgers with the performance management system. What this means is the realization of the "single version of the truth" that the C-suite has long sought in data consolidation initiatives. This would quite literally deliver 24/7 real-time intelligence to the boardroom.

Management consultancy Accenture estimates that, by replacing fragmented financial databases based on transaction processing with a unified ledger system, companies can reduce 50 percent of costs in business operational compliance and up to 70 percent of costs associated with financial reporting.

In turn, streamlined processes with lower error rates and the vast amount of data available will enhance the accuracy of forecasting and decision-making assisted by Artificial Intelligence (AI). And CFOs will be able to access both period reporting data and real-time reporting with no need for the traditional monthly close.

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