Following the recent period of recession, and in an increasingly complex globalised economy with very uncertain prospects, the role and scope of the Administrative and Financial Director have undergone a radical change. Traditionally concerned with managing the company’s assets and internal processes linked to their business function, they now occupy an increasingly strategic role within the company.

Their skills and responsibility are sought out for a wide range of business projects, extending beyond traditional job functions. In addition to their historic financial and managerial duties, Administrative and Financial Directors now find themselves called upon to provide input for senior management’s strategic decisions, understand and support operational departments and drive business models.

Ultimately, they need to look beyond technical aspects and their role as arbitrators to proactively innovate across all dimensions of their role.

Firmly focused on steering corporate performance, the new role of the Administrative and Financial Director requires involvement in all business projects with financial implications. They liaise increasingly closely with different operational and functional departments within the company, both within their home country and international sites. In fact, this role has evolved to become an inter-departmental and multi-country communicator.

These new challenges require Administrative and Financial Directors to be constantly alert for new information, and to have rapid access to their data to support meaningful decisions and manage their responsibilities wherever they happen to be. So what key technological levers are available in these changing times?

Technological developments, such as business intelligence, mobility and SaaS, can bring immediate benefits and added value. Myriam Radi, Cash Management Market Manager with Sage, takes a more detailed look at the contribution made by these three technological levers to the work of the Administrative and Financial Director.

Business Intelligence To Support Rapid & Meaningful Decision Making

The analysis and management of the new wave of big data has become a key area of focus for organisations today. Successive economic crises have caused many Administrative and Financial Directors to look beyond their traditional activities as generators of figures and budget spreadsheets. This has resulted in a corresponding increase in scope, with their responsibility now encompassing key performance indicators in operational processes and, in a wider sense, the company’s productivity.

Responding to increasing requests from senior management, Administrative and Financial Directors are immersed in the company’s day-to-day management and play their part in the formulation of corporate strategy. They therefore need to boost their productivity and analytical skills.

Most importantly, their field of vision must now encompass the full spectrum of the company’s activities: sales, communication, finance, IT. For this new wave of directors, the main concern is no longer the quantity of data, but the relevance of this information and how it is used.

Furthermore, in view of the multi-site, and even multi-country, nature of many companies’ operations, Administrative and Financial Directors’ risk prevention role brings them into far greater contact with operational entities. Boosting productivity and preventing risks are therefore key concerns.

Business Intelligence (BI) solutions help to address this dual challenge by providing key performance indicators, dashboards and standard or customised dynamic analyses, updated in real time. What’s more, business intelligence now represents the fourth biggest software segment. Investments in BI have remained unaffected by the recession: global turnover for BI software is expected to reach $17 billion in 2016, according to a forecast by Gartner.

SaaS & Mobility To Break Free From Technical & Functional Constraints

Administrative and Financial Directors are operating in an environment that is expanding in terms of both geographic and functional reach, making them truly “mobile” players. They therefore need to be able to access their company’s financial data at any time, securely and from any kind of terminal.

At the same time, financial systems have become increasingly interdependent, both within companies and on a global scale. Operating within a complex and extensive ecosystem, Administrative and Financial Directors face a wide range of demands: from regulatory and legal to fiscal, operational and so on.

As a result, these directors now need optimal visibility of cash flows – a basic prerequisite for the production of meaningful reports on the company’s business. They must be able to transmit accurate information in real time, particularly in view of the growing pressure on companies’ financial health.

SaaS (Software as a Service) has stepped in to provide a solution to these issues of mobility and data availability, opening up new horizons for Administrative and Financial Directors in terms of equipment and flexibility. SaaS is bringing greater agility and flexibility in a fluctuating economic climate. One of the key benefits of this technology is the ability to take decisions in real time, supported by constantly updated data, free from management, network administration and configuration constraints.

The economic and modular approach (best-of-breed) opened up by SaaS also allows them to make a gradual transition, introducing this operating mode for a specific area of their functional scope. This has the added benefit of allowing automation of time-consuming processes and access to sophisticated business tools.

The main obstacle hinges on the profession’s reluctance to outsource sensitive data. However, bearing in mind the fact that many of the Administrative and Financial Director’s contacts are outside the company’s information system, this virtual aspect is already firmly entrenched in his or her everyday working life: from the importing of bank statements to the issuing of payments, monitoring of publications by stock exchange analysts and remote fiscal procedures.