Avalara CRUSH Global: How digital transformation affects finance teams

Accounting is the language of business, data is the lifeblood of digital transformation, and digital transformation should be part of every company’s DNA. That’s according to industry panelists at  Avalara CRUSH Global.

Moderated by Mickey North Rizza, program VP of Enterprise Applications and Digital Commerce at IDC, the discussion featured three experts in the field:

  • Catherine Barba, a pioneer of the digital revolution
  • Paul Farrell, VP of Product Management at Oracle, NetSuite
  • Dara Meath, divisional CIO and head of Digital/Ecommerce at Conair Corporation

Avalara SVP of Global Compliance Operations Liz Armbruester also took part in the discussion.

Accounting is the language of business

For the first time in history, Farrell noted near the start of the conversation, technology is outpacing best practices. While this is exciting and presents an enormous amount of opportunity, it also puts businesses at tremendous risk. Accounting and finance departments can help mitigate that risk.

For that to happen, businesses can no longer put off key accounting tasks until the end of the day, month, or quarter. “It needs to be real time and it needs to be always available,” says Farrrell, because omnichannel sellers need billing, invoicing, and tax information at their fingertips.

In fact, most branches of business now come to accounting and finance departments for the predictive and prescriptive data they need to drive growth. Farrell says, “Accounting is a fundamental building block to any company that wants to drive digital transformation.”

Data is the lifeblood of digital transformation

Furthermore, accounting teams are increasingly expected to provide real-time information and analytics that can help their companies grow. They need to look forward even as they compile retrospective data.

Armbruester agrees finance and accounting teams should be thinking about the insights technology is giving us in real time and also how to apply those insights effectively. “If you want to get the most insights out of the data, you can’t treat it as an afterthought. It really needs to be embedded in the fabric of financial technology and processes.” She notes that finance and accounting teams have never been under more scrutiny to “provide financial insights that guide and inform business decisions.”

Because simply having raw data isn’t enough. “People need great analytics,” says Farrell, “both descriptive and diagnostic (e.g., reporting and pivot tables) … but more importantly, prescriptive and predictive analytics.” Therefore, accounting and finance teams are increasingly responsible for identifying what’s likely to happen, as well as how to solve emerging issues.

Meath takes it a step further. “To predict and understand” is key, she says, but so is having the agility to adapt quickly in response to what you learn from the data.

Consumer-oriented technology is key

While Barba certainly believes digital tools and tech-savvy employees are key to a digital transformation, in her experience, focusing on the customer is equally essential. Businesses should develop technologies that empower, incentivize, and inspire customers.

Farrell concurs. “Having consumer-oriented technologies is key” because people are used to using technology in their daily lives, as consumers. “They’re able to use any technology and they enjoy using it. They want the same thinking in their business experience as well.”

Digital transformation is in the DNA

According to Meath, digital transformation is part of a company’s DNA. Businesses have learned that digitization can help eliminate human error and improve overall performance. Indeed, IDC has found that businesses that have digitally transformed recently have seen a 15% increase in overall company performance.

You can learn more about digital transformation and follow other fascinating discussions at AvalaraCRUSH.com for a limited time. Access all the content from CRUSH City, a virtual business district featuring webinars, videos, and other content specific to a range of industries including manufacturing, small business, and hospitality.

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