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7 Ultimate Digital Transformation Tips for CFOs in UAE

Leen Shami

November 6, 2023

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Key Takeaways

The finance landscape is undergoing a seismic shift in an era of unstinted technological advancement. Back in 2018, a PWC report found that amongst the top 12 challenges that financial organisations faced, 4 of them were technology-related. It wasn't about deciding whether to implement digital transformation technologies but more about understanding the enterprise value these investments would add.

According to Deloitte, adopting the right digital transformation strategies can increase market value by up to $1.25 trillion across Fortune 500 companies. But how can organisations implement these strategies successfully?

The CFO's Perspective on Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is no longer just a buzzword; it is a mandate for modern businesses, and the CFO plays a central role in this paradigm shift. Gone are the days when the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) position revolved solely around balance sheets, budgeting, and compliance. The modern CFO is now tasked with leading the charge in the digital transformation of the finance department.

With its vision of becoming a global technology and innovation hub in the UAE, the need for digital transformation is even more compelling.

Why is digital transformation so vital for a CFO?

  • Real-Time Financial Insights: Real-time access to financial data can be an invaluable asset in combating expense fraud. Digital transformation allows CFOs to detect irregularities promptly, leading to timely intervention and reducing the financial losses associated with fraud.
  • Enhanced Reporting: CFOs can generate comprehensive financial reports more quickly and accurately, aiding in transparency and stakeholder communication.
  • Cost Reduction: Automating financial processes can lead to cost savings, such as reduced labour and operational costs.
  • Strategic Planning: Digital tools help CFOs analyse financial data and create insights to make strategic decisions and adapt to changing market conditions.
  • Compliance and Risk Management: Digital solutions assist in maintaining compliance with changing regulations and mitigating financial risks.

What is the best digital transformation tool for you?

As a CFO, your journey towards a comprehensive digital transformation should be guided by specific features that enhance financial efficiency and help combat one of the most prevalent issues—expense fraud. Here's what you should look for in a digital transformation tool to achieve these goals:

1. Full Control Over Budget Allocation and Spend Visibility:

Access to complete control over budget allocation and clear visibility into how those budgets are spent is the foundation of sound financial management. Your chosen digital transformation tool should empower you to allocate resources efficiently and make data-driven decisions.

2. Real-Time Closure with ERP Integration:

Moving from traditional month-end closures to real-time closures is a game-changer. This transition ensures you have real-time insights into your company's expenditure, allowing you to address financial challenges swiftly. An essential component of this is seamless integration with your ERP system, which provides instant access to financial data.

3. Elimination of Petty Cash Usage:

Digitization of financial processes is a fundamental aspect of modern financial management. To achieve this, focus on strategies to eliminate petty cash usage as much as possible. Consider solutions that offer alternatives, such as merchant-specific cards, fuel cards, and PRO cards, which reduce inefficiency and enhance security.‎

4. Advanced Expense Fraud Detection:

Expense fraud is an all-too-common challenge faced by many companies. Leveraging digitization to combat this issue is essential. Look for a solution equipped with world-class Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to identify duplicate receipts and suspicious transactions. The goal is to ensure transactions are monitored in real-time and in an automated manner, such that financial compliance is continuously maintained.

5. Improved Audit Process for Accounting Teams:

Ensuring an enhanced audit process is a vital component of your CFO responsibilities. You must seek a digital transformation tool with two critical features for this. First, accounting automation powered by ERP integration streamlines financial processes and reduces the potential for human error. Second, the tool should provide 100% visibility into all receipts across the company, creating a comprehensive audit trail and reducing the likelihood of discrepancies.

6. Insights and Forecasting:

To thrive in a rapidly changing business environment, a CFO must have a finger on the pulse of their company's finances. A 360-degree digital transformation solution offers complete real-time visibility into all company expenditures. This feature allows you to provide timely, data-driven insights and forecasts, enabling proactive decision-making.

7. Multi-Subsidiary Expense Tracking:

In the UAE, as businesses achieve a reasonable size, they often evolve into multi-subsidiary or multi-branch entities. Given this common trajectory, it's imperative that the chosen digital transformation tool supports multi-subsidiary expense tracking. This ensures that financial data from all parts of the organization is aggregated and analyzed effectively. Not only does it provide a holistic view of the company's financial health, but it also enables consistent monitoring and control of expenses across the entire organization.

To illustrate the power of these digital transformation features, let's look at real-life business examples from the UAE:

1. Dubai Blockchain Mandate: Dubai is on a mission to become the world's inaugural blockchain-powered city. The Dubai Blockchain Mandate, led by the Smart Dubai Office, lays out a clear path for integrating blockchain technology across the city. By embracing blockchain technology, Dubai has the potential to realize annual savings of 5.5 billion dirhams in document processing alone, equivalent to the value of one Burj Khalifa every year.

2. Dubai Government Services: The government is committed to digitizing its services, the rate of which in 2023 stands at 99.5%. Currently, 87% of all government service transactions are digital. Furthermore, the government has also developed over 100 smartphone apps with cybersecurity and data law compliance.

The digital transformation process is an ongoing journey that entails mobilising the entire workforce and instilling a change-oriented mindset with no pre-defined endpoint that might extend well beyond your current leadership. It serves as the fundamental framework for an organisation's survival in an era marked by disruptions. Achieving success in this context involves formulating a strategy around making purposeful investments in the digital realm. It requires the prudent allocation of resources toward innovative technologies that can drive the organisation's strategic initiatives.

Ultimately, the successful execution of digital transformation mandates the ability to communicate to stakeholders that every digital initiative undertaken is a deliberate move to enhance the organisation's prospects for sustained success.

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