Highlights From InTheBlack Singapore, 2019

This week, InsideSAP Asia attended BlackLine’s InTheBlack conference at the Marina Mandarin in Singapore. The focus of ITB is on automating and streamlining accounting practices, with a strong tie in to SAP.

BlackLine’s founder and CEO Therese Tucker opened the conference with her presentation, “Trust is in the Balance.” Tucker took us through the changing expectations on CEOs and CFOs. The CEO’s primary role now is to drive trust, whereas the CFO is being pulled between managing risk and driving strategy. She asks, “can we solve real business problems with technology?” According to Tucker:

“Digital transformation must be top of mind. It’s the only way out of a difficult situation.”

Joon Ar Chiang of EY conducted three live polls of the audience, revealing concerns over increasingly complicated systems and diminishing skilled workers are top of mind for in-house accountants. According to Chiang, finance needs to become forward-looking instead of reactive. Building digital know-how will become critical. He tells us:

“The transformation age demands agility… predictive and data driven approaches will be the future.”

EY’s Doris Cheng followed up to give us a prediction of the future for finance personnel, that new jobs and skills will be required. With an increase in robotics-driven finance, industrial data scientists, RPA engineers and AI auditors will be required. Businesses will require a strong ability to change.

SAP and Finance

For InsideSAP Asia, the highlight was a presentation by Richard McLean, CFO of SAP Asia Pacific / Japan. In the first time this talk was presented, McLean announced that SAP has kicked off another wave of finance transformation. With new intelligent technology, repetitive processes can now be automated, enabling finance to take a more strategic role in business. This will be achieved through

  • Process automation
  • Dynamic analytics
  • Next-gen UX

McLean revealed that SAP’s strategy is to deliver the intelligent enterprise. S/4HANA ERP allows all operational and analytical data to be held in one place, giving businesses agility, analytics, assurance and paving the way for automation. He explained why cloud is the best choice for ERP, allowing for:

  • Flexibility, granting SMEs access to the same computing power and tech of much larger companies
  • Support standardization, in reference to the record-breaking deployment by NZ company Kapura
  • Agility and Scalability

Cloud ERP levels the playing field. Through the intelligent enterprise, SAP is creating a culture that encourages people to explore design thinking. To fail quickly, learn quickly and continue experimenting. Finance, he tells us, should become agile collaborators and co-innovators. He said:

“Stop over thinking agility and get on with it.”

There were many more presentations and amazing speakers, including some excellent breakdowns by BlackLine product specialists of RPA and technology that will affect the industry. The key takeaways for InsideSAP Asia were that finance must be empowered to decrease the reactive workload, whilst still increasing productivity. Doing so with the help of technology will enable finance to take on more innovative roles in business.

Overall, digital transformation allows mundane work to be replaced with high value work. This leads to further agility, further transformation and innovation.

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