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Four tips on how CFOs can work with CIOs to drive business transformation

Hervé Duborjal Profile picture for user Hervé Duborjal November 16, 2021
The role of the CFO has changed. Hervé Duborjal of ServiceNow asks how CFOs can optimize new and existing systems to grow cost effectively in partnership with CIOs.

Executives meeting scenario with CFO and CIO © Medienstürmer - Unsplash
(© Medienstürmer - Unsplash)

Recent years have seen the distinctions between C-Suite titles continue to blur. The rapid pace of change has made business transformation an essential goal for every department, and that means everyone in the senior leadership team carries digital transformation responsibilities and needs to work in tandem with their CIO to ensure a coherent systems architecture.

CFOs have a responsibility to bear. No longer just ‘holder of the purse strings’, we find ourselves deciding what, why, and how transformation needs to happen, how best to maximise value, when to start from scratch and when to learn from others. 

The potential wins of getting this right are significant. But conversely, failing to change means becoming just one of many operators in the industry, following the pack rather than leading it.

So how can CFOs secure growth and scale while avoiding the potential pitfalls? And how can they make the most of the technologies on offer, while holding onto what works?

Here are my four tips to do just that.

1. Decipher what you’re missing

One thing many businesses fail to do – or fail to do fully – is to work out where their current tech is lacking. If you want to cut a forest, sharpen your axe. The same is true of digital tools.

There’s a number of things to consider: do you know and understand the assets you currently have, as well as their benefits and limitations? And have you done a full inventory of what you do have? 

It matters, because many businesses simply struggle under the weight of all the tech they pay for. It’s weighing them down, and comparatively nimble competitors end up providing similar or better infrastructure at a significantly lower cost. It’s not surprising many consumers choose them over other businesses.

If you can figure out what you have now and then what you need, you can start thinking about what to add and what to get rid of, as well as the necessary implementation times and costs. This will help you to draw your digital transformation roadmap.

Carrying out inventory can be a complex exercise: if you just start from your spend, you will miss all of the shadow IT / legacy infrastructure the team is supporting in the background. The best practice we have comes from some of our customers, specifically those in the Financial Services Industry, which is to carry a bottom-up review of the tech stack. Even elements that may not show up as direct Opex in the P&L carry a cost and will need to be addressed.

Not doing anything, however, is not an option. If you fail to start the process now, you’re likely to lose out to those who have.

2. Restore order to your legacy tech

It’s important to note that taking stock of what you have doesn’t mean throwing out everything existing and starting again.

Complex tangles of existing systems are no doubt driving up costs and slowing down business. Integrating advanced tech, such as RPA, Nature Language processing capabilities or bots, matters. But the best way to maximize ROI is simply to use existing tools better, not to add new, more complex solutions for the sake of it. Workflows are a critical part of the toolbox here.  The secret is to only invest in new tech where it will simplify and speed up the work you do. Otherwise, leave it be – no matter how shiny it looks.

A great example of this is how we self-consume the ServiceNow platform in the Finance department at ServiceNow. We run the business on SAP, so by building workflows on the top of SAP, including bots for customer queries, we are able to greatly optimize our collection processes. Imagine you are a customer and want a reminder of your latest invoice amount or the account number to pay us, well this bot helps us address those simple queries. Soon, this bot will be customer facing and won’t require human supervision. Though this type of technology may be common in the B2C world, you’d be surprised at how radically innovative it’s viewed in the more complex B2B world in which we operate.

By looking at tech, old and new, judiciously, you can adjust your tech capabilities based on what works, not what’s newest.

And that will save you money that you can re-invest where it counts, ensuring you stay well ahead of your competitors.

3. Create the infrastructure to own your customer relationships

Success relies on creating the infrastructure and the pipes needed to own the entire customer relationship: removing middlemen, and harnessing the value of having a direct relationship with both your customers and the ecosystem.

New models of business are emerging in SaaS, such as consumption and more sophisticated subscription-based models. And the same can be said across many industries: from direct to consumer, to omni-channel distributions, and digital native brands moving to brick-and-mortar, organisations are constantly evolving the way they work to meet customer requirements. But it’s worth noting that there is one macro-trend – and goal – behind this shift: creating more intimate relationships and experiences with customers.

So if you’re not already, it’s time to build the infrastructure you need to create a direct link to your customers. Infrastructure from the front-end like self-service, consumption, deployment, support) through to back-end activities such as provisioning, metering, payment, settlement) .And make sure you gather the information you need to nurture those relationships along the way, too.

4. Partner up and think long term

We all like to do as much as we can ourselves, and there’s certainly benefits to trial and error.

But when it comes to processes as complex as digital transformation, it really is best to learn from the experts. Take ITSM, for example. You could create a platform from scratch – but why would you?

Ultimately, attempting to solve your problems with homebrewed solutions often results in a mismatch of different ecosystems, creating ineffective – perhaps even detrimental – solutions.

This is all the more important as CFOs start to look ahead in terms of years, rather than quarters. Investing in the right way is key to getting long-term pay-off, rather than a stopgap solution that only works for a season.

ServiceNow — enabling long-term resilience

At ServiceNow, we pride ourselves on providing solutions that bring about real change in the short and long-term.

Our platform-of-platforms is a simple layer that sits between you and all your other tools, helping you to maximise existing infrastructure and conserve ROI where you can. That, in turn, means you can focus your money where it really makes a difference, and ensure you’re ready for whatever comes next.

For more examples on how ServiceNow is helping CFOs ready themselves for the era of digital transformation, read the case studies on our site.

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