By Scott Stern   February 27, 2019

Finance Transformation: The Convergence of People and Technology

If you work in finance, odds are that you are hearing how robotic process automation (RPA), the blockchain, and artificial intelligence (AI) will forever reshape your organizations. Despite limited use across finance today – there is excitement in the air!

To assess what is fact vs. fiction – modern CFO's are evaluating how to optimize the benefits of these technologies. Many are asking – is the future of finance new technology or new people or both? This was the main topic for a recent executive workshop with OneStream Software and Ernst and Young (EY).

Held at EY's Detroit office, the event was hosted by Scott Mullan, Central Region Automotive & Transportation Advisory Leader at EY and included Tom Shea, OneStream CEO and OneStream customer's Guardian Industries & Henniges Automotive. Here are some highlights:

Modern Finance is Happening Now

EY's Scott Mullan kicked off the event with 3 main themes:

  • Modern Finance is Happening Now – Finance transformation is not a story about the future – but is happening today. 67% of finance leaders believe their organizations should continue to improve their forward-looking, business partner focus vs. traditional backward-looking reporting and analysis[1]
  • The future of finance is NOT about people versus technology – While technology advances will add productivity – E&Y does not see it replacing humans
  • The future of finance WILL be enabled by people working with technology – New technologies will complement people to process transactions quicker, create better insights and generate more robust forecasts

Mr. Mullan then discussed the technologies EY believes[1]will play a significant role in transforming finance, including:

  • Advanced Data Analytics: Developing forward looking analytics using big data to improve forecast accuracy
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Software that can be programmed to perform repetitive tasks
  • Artificial Intelligence (AI): Systems that can learn from data ingestion, interactions and respond to situations Machine learning (ML) is a branch of AI
  • Blockchain: A real-time distributed database that will track transactions across a network of computers

Next, Mr. Mullan focused on the convergence of people and technology. According to E&Y – more than 50% of CFOs see risk management, planning & forecasting, and analytics as critical capabilities to meet business demands in the next 5 years. To address this, Mr. Mullan suggested that leaders consider a platform that aligns with how they manage their business and enables collaboration throughout the corporate performance management (CPM) process.

Mr. Mullan concluded, "This is why we work with OneStream. With OneStream's platform approach, Tom Shea and team have approached the office of Finance the same way EY does."

SmartCPM™ Gets Smarter

Mr. Mullan introduced Tom Shea, OneStream CEO, to present his vision on how OneStream's SmartCPM™ platform will leverage new technologies – offering specifics for the impact on two core business processes:

How to run or record the business with ERP applications

How to manage or enrich the business with CPM applications

Figure 1: Transformative Tech & CPM

As illustrated in figure 1, while adoption is early – Mr. Shea sees RPA and blockchain impacting ERP systems because of their ability to automate repetitive tasks (e.g. RPA) and add better transparency & productivity for contract like transactions (e.g. blockchain).

"CPM will be a benefactor from these new technologies," said Mr. Shea. And it is within CPM where Mr. Shea believes ML will play a major role because it "goes beyond predictive forecasting and learns" – which is not what basic predictive models are designed to do. With OneStream, Mr. Shea sees ML adding value in two key areas:

Autonomously Scaling Cloud Platform - Based on usage patterns (e.g. month end, budgeting), the platform can be trained to scale up or down server resources – optimizing performance and cost

Planning, Budgeting & Forecasting - ML models can add unbiased forecast scenarios – enabling collaboration and enhance decision making. For example, if the business is planning to enter a new market – ML models can leverage external factors like industry growth trends and internal data like historical sales and create a forecast scenario to guide business plans.

To support the business, many organizations are investing in data scientists to align ML models with financial & operational plans. Like with legacy CPM products, the current approach results in moving data between systems on what are often static models – which is not real-time. Similar to how finance, sales, and operations teams can download and deploy applications from the XF MarketPlace to plan their business – OneStream will enable data scientists to align ML models with financial and business plans. For data scientists, this solves a big challenge – which is to deploy their ML models in a way business leaders can use. For Finance and business leaders – having a non-biased forecast scenario will take their partnerships to new levels and optimize performance.

Customer Panel: Unifying People and Technology with OneStream

Next, Mr. Shea introduced the customer panel to talk about how they are leveraging OneStream.

Comprised of Alex Beired & Rachel Murphy from Guardian Industries and Linda Hellebuyck of Henniges Automotive – the panel covered why they chose OneStream, integrated business planning and OneStream's annual customer conference, Splash.

Prior to OneStream, Guardian and Henniges Automotive used disparate systems and processes to handle financial consolidation, reporting and planning – adding time and complexity to their close and limiting visibility into the business. Mr. Beired, Global Director of FP&A for Guardian noted, "as a strategic partner, you want to speak in a common language with the business, and this goes beyond financials and into the metrics. By understanding the KPIs, we create awareness of the financial goals."

Henniges Automotive, which manufactures sealing systems for the automotive industry, had similar challenges. "With thousands of SKUs and multiple manufacturing sites, we needed to gather part level information and understand detailed customer & product profitability," said Ms. Hellebuyck.

Another goal for Guardian and Henniges was to simplify their CPM process, increase controls, and reduce their financial close cycle. After evaluating OneStream versus legacy vendors like Oracle Hyperion – Guardian and Henniges chose OneStream. Both see OneStream's unified platform for consolidation, reporting, planning, forecasting and analysis as a foundation to provide flexibility and scale as their needs evolve.

Ms. Murphy, Global Manager of FP&A at Guardian also commented on OneStream's advanced features such as Extensible Dimensionality® and Relational Blending. With Extensible Dimensionality®, "we can support the needs of our European business operations and still report back to corporate for consolidated reporting," said Ms. Murphy.

The result is that Guardian can align financial goals and plans with operational plans within the same application. "Leveraging the platform with planning, operational information, and financial history in the same application is one of the biggest value drivers," said Mr. Beired.

The Learning Never Stops at Splash

The customer panel ended with a discussion about Splash – OneStream's annual user conference.

Featuring presentations from OneStream leaders, partners & customers – Splash is a hands-on, interactive experience for customers. "Every time I go to Splash, I come back with a new list of features to add," said Ms. Hellebuyck. Ms. Murphy noted, "I've attended all the Splash conferences and learned something new each time." Held in New Orleans May 14-17th – this year's event includes keynote presentations from legendary football coach Lou Holtz and OneStream CEO Tom Shea, who will share more about OneStream's SmartCPM™ vision for the office of finance and beyond.

Learn More

To learn more and hear more from our customers – register for Splash 2019 here and check out additional OneStream eventsnear you.

[1] EY: "Is the Future of Finance New Technology or New People?"