Ten Minutes Talking Tech with a CFO!

For this edition of ‘Ten Minutes Talking Tech’, I connected with Darshan Parikh, CFO/CTO at Club Assist, to discuss how his organisation is leveraging the latest technology trends, reflections and advice for fellow CFOs, plus his insights on the broader economy and future of finance in an age of AI, Blockchain and RPA.

Recent Impactful Tech Advances & Adopting New Finance Tools

Parikh noted the significant shift from traditional tools like Excel to modern cloud-based ERP systems that offer rich out-of-the-box reporting capabilities. “We’re seeing tools like Power BI, which we use at Club Assist, empowering finance professionals to create complex financial reports with user-friendly graphical interfaces and dashboards,” he explained. “This shift allows finance teams to focus more on providing valuable insights and narratives to stakeholders, rather than spending time as report builders.”

Club Assist has also been leveraging machine learning algorithms for scenario planning and modeling. “By feeding historical sales data, weather data, and pricing data into these models, we can intelligently predict future demand and gain a deeper understanding of our sales drivers,” Parikh said. “The ability to quickly test the impact of multiple variables has greatly improved our supply chain management, ensuring we have the right stock at the right locations.”

Outlook on AI, Blockchain and RPA

Parikh sees emerging technologies like AI, blockchain, and RPA as exciting developments that will continue to shape various industries at different paces. “These technologies will help automate labor-intensive, repetitive tasks with clearly defined logic and rules, speeding up processing times,” he said. “AI, although still in its early stages, will continue to learn and adapt, assisting finance professionals with more complex analyses over time.”

While these technologies will undoubtedly enhance the speed, quality, and depth of insights generated, Parikh believes human leaders will remain invaluable in interpreting the information, making the right decisions, and providing better context to the output.

Advice for CFOs on implementing new technologies and process

When it comes to successfully integrating new technologies into finance operations, Parikh emphasizes the importance of clearly defining business objectives and identifying the specific problems to be solved. “It’s crucial to assess whether new technology is truly the answer or if better utilization of existing technology could suffice,” he advised.

If new technology is deemed necessary, Parikh recommends selecting the right technology and ensuring seamless integration with existing ERP and reporting systems. “Visualizing and documenting the desired end state helps in understanding how everything fits together,” he explained. “However, it’s best to start small with a minimum viable product in the first phase to ensure the technology is delivered and working before adding further improvements. This approach allows for faster and more successful implementation while realizing benefits sooner.”

Current Economic Sentiment

Parikh currently holds a cautious view on the economic conditions as supply chain disruptions continue globally and inflationary pressures exist in every industry. It is not easy for companies to simply cover the cost increases with an increased sell price as it is affecting demand and competition is fierce in the market.

We will see more business consolidations in this time as smaller players may not survive and larger players may see this as an opportunity to gain market share especially due to nominal organic growth opportunities.

Key CFO/CTO Takeaways

Shift to Modern Tools: Embrace the transition from traditional tools to modern cloud-based ERP systems and powerful reporting tools like Qlik and Power BI.

Leverage Machine Learning: Utilize machine learning algorithms for scenario planning and modeling to predict demand and understand sales drivers better.

Define Objectives and Start Small: Clearly define business objectives, select the right technology, and start with a minimum viable product for faster and more successful implementation.

Emerging Technologies: Recognize the potential of AI, blockchain, and RPA in automating tasks and enhancing insights, while acknowledging the continued importance of human leadership.

Darshan’s current tech stack at Club Assist:

Size: Mid-market

ERP & General Ledger: Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations

Budgeting/Forecasting: Excel and Power BI combination, with Excel being the input and Power BI being the output

Consolidation: Excel and Dynamics 365, with Dynamics 365 providing the base data and consolidation and statutory accounts preparation in Excel

CRM: Dynamics 365 Customer Engagement and Marketing

Payroll: Micropay

Time & Attendance: Excel, currently under review for a new system

HCM/HRIS: Connx and Culture Amp

Performance Reporting: Power BI

Statutory Reporting: Excel

Tax Reporting: Excel

Other Tech Stack solutions: Concur for credit card expense management