Over the last several years, finance leaders in South Africa have been faced with unprecedented challenges surrounding their response to the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As businesses look ahead to the “next new normal”, a fresh set of challenges have emerged as CFOs and business leaders look to respond to inflationary pressures, climbing energy prices, strained supply and the threat of a looming downturn.

In  this specific Business Day Dialogues in partnership with Kolleno, Alishia Seckam spoke to South African business leaders on how CFOs and executives are responding to uncertainty and positioning themselves for future growth through greater automation and digitization.

Getting right into it, Seckam asks Rowan De Klerk, CEO at The FD and CFO Centre, what some of the obstacles are for CFOs in the current South African climate when it comes to digital transformation?

De Klerk compares South Africa to a boat in the ocean, saying that we are a smaller vessel compared to the global players. “South Africa needs to watch what is happening globally so that can reinvent ourselves.”

Bongi Ngoma, Head of Audit at the Auditor-General of South Africa, mentions that the cost of doing business is going up, meaning that the role of the CFO has become more difficult. Pre-Covid decisions were tricky, but adding in real estate pressures and hybrid work models have made it that much more challenging.

Sipha Ndawonde who heads up Africa Operations at Kolleno added that when you are talking about digital transformation, you need to look at a business strategically, “ultimately you are trying to ensure that the actions that are taking place within the organization repetitively are helping you to enforce the strategy you’ve decided on.” He carries on to say that it really is all about having the right information to respond accurately and that, at the end of the day, digital transformation does help you do your job more efficiently.

Chief Financial Officer at UCT & Chairman of SAICA, Vincent Motholo pointed out that organisations need to adapt or cease to exist. “Finance is strategically positioned in organisations and it can’t exist in silos, it has to work collaboratively with other departments.”

De Klerk hones in on the importance of data analytics of financial and non-financial information and even more importantly on the leadership who is analysing this data to make better choices to move the business forward.

Motholo added that a barrier to get this right is company culture. “Culture is key, if people are not adaptable and open to change, that makes culture a big barrier.” Its understanding that digitization is not a destination, but a journey.

Regardless of the size of your business, identifying where you are and where you want to be is the first step, embracing change, investment into the right technology and training will result in better data analytics and rolling forecasts.

Digital transformation remains imperative for any business that wants to remain top of mind for their customers. Business leaders are using digital transformation to let go of mundane tasks and focus on innovative and profitable business opportunities to enhance agility, speed and data-driven decisions, while designing a business that’s future-fit.

For more information on the digital transformation tools and products, visit www.kolleno.com

To watch the full discussion, click here

Image source: Pexels / Oladimeji Ajegbile