Only 19% of finance leaders describe digital change as top priority

27 November 2018 Consultancy.uk

With digital transformation the top priority for many aspects of modern business, with innovations presenting a key chance to get a leg up on competitors, it has been revealed that CFOs broadly do not share this enthusiasm. According to a new study, less than one in five view digital change as a top priority, while feeling uncomfortable with change programmes when they do occur.

In a climate of anxiety, Chief Financial Officers at companies across the world face up to seemingly unresolvable uncertainties surrounding Brexit in the UK and the mounting threat of international trade wars more generally. As CFOs have grown more risk-averse, and are predictably placing greater emphasis on defensive strategies for the coming years, they are increasingly turning to technology to help them combat this array of issues. To that end, a recent survey by Accenture found that eight in ten CFOs were spearheading digital transformation at firms where it was occurring.

This is a positive scenario for many firms, as thanks to their role and skillset, many CFOs are actually the ideal candidate to take such a leading position. The combination of their financial acumen to develop the business case for digital change projects and their placement in the firm which enables them to showcase how digital tools can transform the efficiency and productivity of their own department. Unfortunately, according to RSM, while a growing number have done this, many are yet to grasp this opportunity.

Finance leaders' attitudes to a digital change

The new study from the auditing and advisory firm demonstrates that while 92% of finance leaders believe digital will have a moderate or major impact on their role over the long term, a mere 19% describe digital change as their top priority. This demonstrates a failure among many Finance departments to understand how digitalisation intersects with other issues, or how it can improve a company's survives the.

Part of the unwillingness to interact with digitalisation likely stems from a lack of confidence in CFOs' own abilities. Within the c-suite, CFOs are the least confident in their potential to lead digital change projects. Just 25% said they had all the skills they need to do this. This compared to 57% of business leaders more generally, and 51% of IT leaders. The title of a professional’s role also seems to play a role in compartmentalising their perception of their remit, as CFOs believe digital change is more the job of the business leader or the IT leader than the finance leader.

Technologies finance leaders have adopted in their organisations

RSM also found that finance leaders are slow to adopt new technologies for their own departments. The right digital updates can transform the way the finance function operates – slashing the time it takes to process transactions, reducing the use of valuable resources, and making it possible for teams to collaborate on richer and faster insights for the management of a firm. 

However, just 42% of finance leaders have adopted cloud computing. In a fast-moving digital world, this will only hold teams back. To further illustrate that point, RSM found that big data and analytics had been deployed by only 27%, while only 14% had engaged in automation and AI solutions.

In conclusion, the authors summarised, “Too often, finance leaders are so overwhelmed by the day job – pulling and presenting business insights and preparing for month or year-end – that they struggle to find the time to horizon scan for new innovations. Yet technology is the one investment that can reduce their time spent on these activities. Those who are able to reconcile their day job and a digital change agenda will, over the long-term, find success in a digital world. Those that don’t run the risk of remaining uncompetitive in a fast-changing world.”

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Four ways digitalisation is transforming car brands and dealers

16 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

From changing expectations from the customer to new stakeholders entering the industry, the digital transformation of global automotive industry means it is facing the wholesale transformation of its business model. In a new white paper, global consulting partnership Cordence Worldwide has highlighted four major digital trends that are transforming the relationships between car brands and dealers with consumers.

With digital transformation drives booming across the industrial spectrum, automotive groups are no different in having commenced large digital transformation programmes to improve productivity, efficiency, and ultimately profitability. Falling sales figures mean the automotive sector is facing an increasingly difficult road ahead, something which means companies in the market are even more hard pressed to find new ways to improve their bottom lines.

While it offers major opportunities, the industry’s move to digitalise is not without complications. It has triggered a series of major internal changes, which have presented automotive entities with the challenge of becoming a “customer-oriented” industry. A new report from Cordence Worldwide – a global management consulting partnership present in more than 20 countries – has explored how automotive companies are navigating the rapidly changing nature of digital business.

New business models

The level of change likely to be wrought on the automotive industry by digitalisation is hard to overstate. Automation could well lead to significant reductions in the number of accidents, higher vehicle utilisation and lower pollution levels, while leading to a $2.1 trillion change in traditional revenues, with up to $4.3 trillion in new revenue openings arising by 2030.

As a result of this colossal opportunity, it is easy to see why almost all automotive groups now have digital departments, with generally strong communication within the digital transformation and the customer approach. The changes to society which this may have are potentially distracting automotive firms from the change it is leading to in its own companies though, according to Cordence’s paper.

The automotive market is dead, long live the mobility market

Because of this, the sector’s business model is set to transform over the coming decades. With digitalisation speeding up the appearance of concepts such as car-sharing, a subscription package model will likely become more palatable. At the same time, car and ride-sharing models will cater to the sustainability criteria of millennials, who will rapidly become one of the automotive market’s leading consumer demographics in the coming years.

Antoine Glutron – a Managing Consultant with Cordence member Oresys, and the report’s author – said of the situation, “These ‘old school industries’ are now working on creating new opportunities, but in so-doing are facing challenges and threats: new jobs, new technologies, new ecosystem of partners, necessary reorganisation, different relationship with customers, and even new businesses. The customer approach topic is in fact a real challenge for car companies as it implies changing their business model and adjusting their mind-set to address the customer 4.0: from product-centric to customer-centric, from car manufacturer to service provider.”

Digital customer experience

In the hyper-competitive age of the internet, even top companies face an uphill challenge when it comes to holding onto customers through brand loyalty. Digital disruption has resulted in changes to consumer behaviour, which is forcing a range of marketing strategists to reconsider their old, possibly out-dated strategies. As modern customers wield an increasingly impressive array of digital tools and online databases, they and are now able to quickly and conveniently compare prices, check availability and read product reviews.

The automotive sector is no exception to this trend, according to the study. In order to adapt to the needs of the so-called ‘customer 4.0’, car companies will increasingly need to change their business model and move away from product-centric companies to customer-centric ones, from car manufacturers to service providers.

Glutron explained, “As an automotive company, you can no longer expect customer loyalty simply with good products; you must conquer and re-conquer a customer that “consumes” your service. The offer now has to be global, digital and personalised. Your offer has to be adapted to this customer’s needs at any given moment. A key issue related to data control is to build customer loyalty by creating a customer experience 'tailored' throughout the cycle of use of the 'car product': purchase, driving, maintenance and trade-in of the vehicle.”

One way in which the sector may be able to benefit from this desire for a tailored experience is via connectivity. Consumers are generally positive about new connective features for automobiles, and many are even willing to pay upfront for infotainment, emergency and maintenance services. Chinese consumers, where the connected car market is set to hit $216 billion, are already particularly interested in paying a little more for navigation and diagnostic features in their future new car. This can also enable automotive companies to exploit a rich vein of customer data, enabling them to rapidly tailor their offerings to consumer behaviour.

New automotive segments

Digital transformation has also brought with it the rise of completely new application areas. As mentioned earlier, the most well-known example is the autonomous or self-driving car, where the last steps forward were not taken by major automotive groups but by technology companies such as Tesla. While this may have given such firms the edge in the market briefly, a number of keystone automotive names will soon be set to take the plunge into the market themselves, leveraging their car manufacturing prowess and huge production capacities to their advantage.

Before companies rush to invest in this market, however, it is worth their while to remember that the readiness and uptake for such vehicles differs greatly geographically. For example, following a study published in 2018, 92% of Chinese would be ready to buy an autonomous car, compared with only around 35% of drivers in France, Germany and US. Meanwhile, the infrastructure of different nations will also be significantly less accommodating of the new technology.

Use digital for steering thr activity

Elsewhere, Cordence’s analysis has suggested that hooking the cars of tomorrow into the Internet of Things is also likely to see a rapid change in the business model for car maintenance, providing real-time diagnostics for problems. This presents chances for partnerships to improve the connectivity of cars, especially with tech companies; for example, PSA partnered with IBM for a global agreement on services in their vehicle. Meanwhile, data could also be sold to other parties with an interest in this data, such as the government, which could use it to manage traffic levels, or ensure that only adequately maintained vehicles take to the road.

Glutron added, “With the increase in the amount of client data and connected opportunities, the recommendation is to set up data-centric approaches. The value is now in the customer data. The general prerequisites are to rework the data model and the Enterprise Architecture and generally build up a data lake including data from all sources (internal and external, structured and unstructured).”

From automotive to mobility

Relating further to the idea of connectivity, the report claimed that automotive firms must now adjust their models in line with the provision of end-to-end mobility, rather than treating the sale of a car as an end point in their relationship with the customer. In order to realise this transformation, transformations are likely to become more and more important.

A network of partner companies means automotive firms can provide a global mobility experience. As the vehicle is increasingly connected to its environment, new partners can also be cities, governments, and other service providers within the global mobility services industry in which the car brands want to take part.

According to the study, the target is clear. Companies must look to a holistic transport service, offering to move customers from A to B in a unique and pleasant way – otherwise they might as well take public transport. At the same time, they should extend the services reachable “on-board” (especially the enhancement of the connectivity between the car and smartphones or other connected devices), and reach high standards in terms of user experience (online sales, online payment, customised experience during and after the use of the car).

Concluding the report, Glutron stated, “These mobility market transformations could be considered a threat for the car manufacturers. Quite the opposite: if they take up the challenge and review their business model so that they become the service provider – communicating no longer to a driver but to a ‘mobility customer’ – they can then take advantage of their expertise and their position as a historical player. The most convenient means of transport are cars, and building a car is highly-skilled work.”