The rise of the new cloud-based financial leader in small business

The role of financial leaders such as chief financial officers (CFO) in Australian businesses has evolved. Similarly, the focus of financial decision-makers in SMEs has moved from being purely responsible for historical analysis to becoming a leader of business strategy and driver of digital transformation. This has led to the emergence of a new cloud-based finance function that is creating more opportunities for SMEs.

Over the past two years, many financial decision-makers have implemented digital technologies for their organisations, with 72 per cent having the final say on the technology direction of the business. Since COVID-19, financial leaders have recognised the urgent need to capitalise on cloud technology that helps businesses scale with agility to achieve growth, while building resilience against economic challenges.

A recent study found that 38 per cent of Australian SMEs were actively working to automate key financial functions through cloud-based platforms. Best-in-class businesses that had already adopted cloud-based finance tools were achieving a 98 per cent reduction in the cost of processing expense reports and a 30 per cent overall increase in productivity.

For this reason, SME finance leaders are broadening their responsibilities and taking the lead in technology investments that deliver more data-driven insights and high fidelity of predictive forecasting.

In the new digital workplace, financial decision-makers are increasingly recognising cloud-based technologies as a real differentiator in terms of driving growth through business responsiveness, scalability, and innovation.

These technologies are also changing the role of the finance function itself, in that SME finance decision-makers now need to have much broader knowledge across both finance and technology.

In addition, finance duties are becoming virtual, empowered by cloud-based platforms. These capabilities are helping SMEs achieve greater finance and operational efficiencies across the board, which reduces business costs.”
Through tools such as cloud-based travel and expense management solutions, SME finance leaders are gaining much faster and better business and market insights, more business model flexibility across products and geographies, and innovation in services and customer experience.

There is a growing trend in large enterprises where the role of the CFO is transforming to become more closely aligned with the chief information officer (CIO) in delivering a true cloud business technology platform. This same trend will translate to small businesses over time, so SMEs need to consider the technology platform that can support and elevate their financial decision making into the future.

Ultimately, it will be automated cloud-based finance software that differentiates SME market leaders who will have much higher levels of productivity and greater business efficiencies, with lower operating costs, than SMEs that continue to rely on the legacy CFO business model.