CFOs and Digital Transformation: 3 major concerns addressed

March 4, 2021

First published on by Bart van Praag, Workiva EMEA General Manager on February, 24, 2021.


CFOs were most likely already busy enough with optimal digital transformation within their department. Now that the coronavirus is disrupting the entire world, digital transformation is suddenly of the utmost importance: employees who previously worked little or not at all in the cloud now have to find a way to get all the work they would normally do in the office at home - surrounded by their partner, children and pets... After all, requirements, legislation and restrictions have suffered little from the coronavirus crisis and reporting deadlines are not (or not too far) postponed. There is work to be done, but at home. What now?

In short: finance departments will have to transform as quickly as possible. But that is easier said than done, because digital transformation has not yet been implemented before. What I hear when I join customers is this:


1. Is my sensitive information safe in the cloud?
One of the biggest fears of listed companies is the situation where financial information that provides insight into the health of a company is accidentally disclosed (or taken!) and thus affects the price of a share. However, thinking that the cloud is a kind of 'Wild West' where information is available for the taking is inaccurate. Storing this type of sensitive information on an on-premises server that no one outside the local network can access feels more secure for many organizations. But data sharing is in many cases safer in the cloud. 

First of all, providers of cloud solutions must meet the highest security requirements (precisely because of that misplaced feeling of insecurity that companies have). Today, 75% of Fortune 500 companies use Workiva solutions and store sensitive business data in the cloud. Second, documents are available in a safe environment for anyone who wants to work on them, and they remain in that safe environment. This means that employees always have access to the correct version and no sensitive data is emailed back and forth. The available information is always up-to-date and easy to restore in the event of, for example, a power outage or a defective device: documents are stored while working and can be immediately retrieved in the cloud.


2. Is moving to the cloud worth the investment?
In many cases, your cloud solution also replaces part of your on-premises IT, potentially wiping out previous investments you have made in hardware. That can feel like you are throwing money away. Yet I always ask companies to put that in perspective. A new solution requires a new investment, but at the same time also provides a new, more efficient way of working. This saves valuable hours, and boosts efficiency, which can deliver long term savings. A cloud solution also increases employee satisfaction because users can work more flexibly. They can get started with the necessary documents wherever and whenever they want.

In addition, it ultimately also saves on IT investments, because costs are no longer incurred for the purchase and maintenance of on-premises solutions. Business continuity in the future will not be endangered in the event of a crisis as we see it now because the transition to working from home can be made much easier with a cloud solution. Cloud solutions are scalable and can be adapted to any number of users. 


3. How long does the implementation process take and what burden will it have on my employees?
Implementing new tools and software always takes time from users and is not always accompanied by great enthusiasm. Therefore, look for a cloud solution that matches the look and feel of the programs and tools you used before. They exist and ensure that users can achieve maximum results with minimal effort. Moreover, digitization relieves the pressure of processes that previously had to be done manually, took a lot of time, or were repetitive or even downright annoying. When the implementation has been completed and the aforementioned processes have been automated, companies can focus on what really matters, namely improving services and reaching goals. Finally, coronavirus-like scenarios (with crises of a biological nature) will then play an important role in new risk analyzes. Companies that still work with legacy systems will need far too much time to catch up and will be too far behind. 

In many cases, these arguments for not digitizing could always be refuted, but under pressure from the coronavirus crisis, they actually disappear completely into the background. The question is not whether you should digitize, the question now is when you can be done with it so that your business continuity (at least for your financial department) suffers as little as possible from COVID-19. Moreover, you prepare yourself for the future. The coronavirus has put us face to face with the facts: the 'enemy' is not always visible or recognizable, but can also be a virus that seems to completely shut down society. Guaranteeing business continuity in a period of immobility is crucial, and continuing the digital transformation of your financial department is a very important part of this.


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