EY: MENA finance leaders agree that accelerating digital transformation

is key to implementing agile finance operating models

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Dubai – :

According to the EY MENA Financial Accounting Advisory Services survey report, ‘As CFOs safeguard now, how can they reframe beyond?, the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak has shed light on the need for finance leaders to accelerate the adoption of trends that were already underway’, 56% of finance leaders have indicated that advancing their digital and automation capabilities is a high priority. Furthermore, 69% of respondents are considering the use of automation in multiple processes within finance or are already automating multiple processes and will increase them in the near future.

These results come at a time when finance functions are facing finance and liquidity challenges as well as disruption in business operations, with 71% of leaders indicating that preserving the continuity of business operations is a high priority. Another 69% of those surveyed said that overcoming finance and liquidity challenges is also a high priority for their organizations.

Speaking about the findings, Khurram Mian, MENA Assurance Leader, EY, says:

“The enormity of the challenges faced by finance leaders cannot be understated, with many having to balance the immediate, short-term response to the crisis while planning ahead to build strength and resilience for the next phase. COVID-19 presents a strong business case to accelerate the digital transformation journey that will be key to equipping finance functions with added capabilities to thrive beyond the pandemic. The coming months will require monumental effort from finance leaders to balance their short and mid-term objectives, but they will also need to instill a culture increasingly focused on nonfinancial information to unlock long-term value.”

The move towards an agile finance operating model to support adaptability and remote working

The findings also suggest that agility and flexibility will be crucial to cope with fluctuating business needs. For many organizations, mandatory remote working was established almost overnight and customer-facing operations were halted, pressuring finance leaders to reshape the business-as-usual environment urgently. As a result, 83% of the survey respondents say that optimizing policies and processes for a remote working environment is a medium or high priority.

In addition, 38% of those surveyed say that there will be a need to make substantial changes or overhaul the finance operating model completely. The findings also suggest that agility and flexibility will be crucial to cope with fluctuating business needs. Yet, investing in transformation when capital and liquidity are limited will be a challenge. Therefore, the report highlights that finance leaders will need to take advantage of flexible service delivery models that allow their functions to evolve through balanced investments: managed services, subscription-based technologies, contingent workforce, etc. Moreover, 25% of finance leaders who plan to change the finance headcount are looking to do so by increasing their reliance on offshoring, outsourcing, or managed services.

Reframing the future of the finance function for long-term value

The pandemic has also urged organizations to increase their efforts and focus on environment, health & safety, and other value drivers such as trust, reputation, social impact, employee well-being, and culture. Beyond the current COVID-19 pandemic, advanced technologies, optimized policies and processes, and flexible operating models will pave the way for finance leaders to play an increasingly pivotal role in nonfinancial value creation and reporting.

To successfully build long-term value, finance leaders will benefit from thinking beyond the pandemic and reframing the future of their roles. The reimagined finance function should be one that drives financial as well as nonfinancial reporting, provides historical data in addition to forward-looking data, and creates short-term and long-term value for its people, consumers, investors, and society.

Omar Odeh, MENA Financial Accounting Advisory Services Leader, EY, concludes:

“Evolving the culture of finance to focus on both financial and nonfinancial reporting is the crucial bridge that will take finance functions to the next level, positioning them to play an increasingly pivotal role in long-term value creation.”

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