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Bob Woods | Finance Transformation Leader and Seattle Office Managing Partner, PwC

Digital transformation is bringing both rapid innovation and drastic changes to the core functions of chief financial officers. When CFOs don’t adapt to these new technologies, they can’t proactively manage new opportunities including evolving workforce expectations and growing data capabilities. Forward-thinking CFOs leverage tech like artificial intelligence (AI) and intelligent process automation (IPA) to simplify and expedite common, repetitive processes, which frees their teams to work on high-value strategic initiatives that have real business impact.  

Victor Casalino, CFO for Microsoft US, has lived through this change: “By consistently applying and scaling the early gains and efficiencies we saw in areas like credit and collections, we were able to save around 1,800 hours per month and reduce manual touchpoints by 12,000 queries per month. These are real, meaningful efficiencies that free our team up to focus on more value-add activities.” 

However, many CFOs find that they need more than short-term capacity gains. They need analysts, often untrained in the rigors of data science, to help the C-suite make smarter decisions – but how?

Enter the citizen data scientist and digital upskilling. 

Your automation approach should unlock the potential of your people – not the other way around 

Consistent with Satya Nadella’s perspective that digital transformation relies upon “tech intensity”  one component being the internal, enterprise-wide adoption of new technologies and skills  PwC believes that “sticky” digital capabilities and change reside with your most important resource – the citizens who make up your workforce. 

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When CFOs can train, incentivize, and empower their workforce as citizen data scientists to fully leverage these tools, every individual can drive business productivity and modernization.  

In his own team’s data-visualization transformation work, Victor Casalino recalls the impact on Microsoft US: “When we built a single source of truth for both financial and business metrics, we not only saw a huge uptick in traffic from around the business, some 7,000+ regular users, but we ourselves reduced data compilation and validation times by 20%  over 150,000 hours per quarter saved. The impact is real.” 

Starting the innovation journey with citizen data scientists 

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Real change starts with culture, and CFOs need a stated, clear outcome for their digital transformation that aligns to enterprise culture. PwC identifies a digital aspiration as outcome (disruption, workforce) + culture (experience, leadership). Digital aspirations could be built around modernization, increasing efficiency, redefining the business model, or breaking new ground in markets or industries.

The first step is an evaluation of the organization’s digital “health.” PwC’s Digital Fitness app is one tool that helps leaders understand where weaknesses can be addressed and strengths can be turned into peer leadership.  

Empowering your citizen data scientists with Microsoft technology

Citizen-led innovation is also an iterative cycle: Initially, the early adopters are inspired to build and then leverage their skills, and they are given the tools to support and grow their digital upskilling and implement their ideas. Improvements are incentivized, helping to inspire and grow the next wave of innovators.  

PwC calls the modern workplace facilitating this cycle a “Digital Lab,” an internal site hosted in Microsoft Teams that provides the ability to download desktop tools, access learning materials, participate in competitions, and share, rate, and enhance digital innovations.  Benefits include: 

  • Empowering citizens to apply the skills they’ve learned to solve issues they identify. 
  • Citizens are paid and recognized for submissions based on adoption and usage. 
  • Access to the underlying source files allows for solution customization. 
  • Active, social community learning through peer rating of solutions and applying digital skills.

By facilitating these changes, the CFO becomes the glue between the citizen data scientists and the Digital Lab and is perfectly placed to incentivize sign-ups, drive participation, and manage governance of the Lab. Some of the most common ways this is handled are below: 

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For more on how to digitally transform your organization, watch the Modern Finance webinar series.

Learn more about PwC’s Finance Transformation integrated solution. 

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