Voices

How to digitally transform processes while instilling trust in staff

Register now

Digital transformation is certainly not a new concept. But has COVID-19 effectively scrapped slower plans for integration and accelerated any and all initiatives on how to make a workplace more automated, efficient and productive? Undoubtedly. The need for AI and predictive analytics, as well enhanced processes across the board, has been highlighted within nearly every sector — particularly within the financial function. Not only has re-budgeting and restructuring become a paramount procedure and concern for companies during COVID-19, but finance departments globally have been under water trying to maintain day-to-day functions, such as invoice and payroll completion. Herein lies the ever-growing need for automated processes.

But with automation comes increased program and activity complexity — allowing new attack vectors for cybersecurity threats and fraudulent activity, with fewer guardrails and human intervention to halt attacks.

As such, the question remains — how does one increase automated functions while simultaneously instilling trust in users? For instance, when there is something physical to touch, receive or use, there are assurances that it is indeed real; a paystub, for example, has the appropriate corporate letterhead. As the world moves further into automated processes, much of the contextual information is no longer available, and since human nature tells us to doubt the intangible, there is inherent distrust.

A large part of the solution is to make trust programmable, wherein there are checkpoints and validations at nearly every step. This is particularly important as it relates to cloud technology, where a community of users already exists, and there can be an innate system of checks and balances — the community creates the trust, versus a central authority (for example, a corporation) asserting the trust.

Once you have a foundation of trust alongside a system of checks and balances, anything that is generated by a member of a community can be linked back and verified through immutable and cryptographically verifiable ledger technology. This technology keeps a “digital fingerprint” of invoices, paystubs, or anything similar, and if it shows up later, it can essentially recalculate its identity and corroborate its provenance and integrity.

Once this kind of programmable trust system is put into place, processes can then be put on autopilot, thereby removing tedious tasks previously completed by human employees. For instance, a large portion of the accounts payable review, verification and delivery would be removed from the day-to-day tasks of accountants.

As a whole, this will improve productivity across the board, and further allow accountants and finance leaders the time they need to become a more strategic arm to the corporations they are a part of. And this comes at a good time — according to Sage’s CFO 3.0 report, nearly half (46 percent) of CFOs are facing increased demand to provide overall business counsel. Further, many C-Suite executives are looking to CFOs to analyze, process and make decisions from real-time data, and operate beyond financial management, and become involved in functions, such as IT and cybersecurity.

Moving forward, as millennials and Gen Z take over the entirety of the workforce, they will continue to seek out such responsibilities and working parameters — including new skills they can learn and areas of expertise they can hone. All of this will largely be influenced by their love of working and interacting with the latest technologies — including AI, machine learning and beyond. As a whole, they will grab the bull by the horns and embrace wholeheartedly the responsibility finance leaders are just now starting to take on — overarching business counsel and strategic direction.

With this new generation, trust that comes with digital transformation will certainly be less of an issue. With an age group that grew up with Instagram and Twitter, they understand the complexities and benefits of technology, and will embrace them with less hesitation than their boomer counterparts — particularly when the trust relates back to a community that has a system of checks and balances put in place. Digital transformation, in the long-term, has just begun, and so has its relationship with the trust of its users.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.
Digital transformation
MORE FROM ACCOUNTING TODAY