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Building a Fit-for-Future organization

The year 2020 began on the usual good note – brimming with possibilities. But soon it transformed into a year of challenges – unexpected and unanticipated. . The COVID -19 pandemic has tremendously affected the world but every adversity carries with it the seeds of benefit. That benefit has been the fast-tracking data and digital opportunities across Novartis as we look to build a ‘Fit for Future’ organization.

Time to reinvent the number game 

Gone are the days of Finance working discreetly behind the scenes as the number cruncher. The finance role is increasingly evolving as professionals are using value-added analytics to position themselves as a strategic voice collaborating with businesses. As a Finance leader, numbers play a big role in my work life and I am excited at the speed with which we have evolved by increasing capabilities in data and digital. Data science has now become the new Excel. We interact differently with data and unearth fascinating data insights to create value for the business. Harmonized systems, processes, emphasis on the use of self-service, and data will support the way we do business. Soon finance professionals will be able to share their analysis with stakeholders at the click of a button enabling them to have a real-time view of what’s going on in the business. 

Looking beyond financial data

With a rapidly-changing environment and demands, as Finance leaders, we should look at rebuilding our functions with data and digital capabilities. Financial data alone only tells a part of the story. Weaving other types of data can enrich financial insights and improve forecast accuracy. For example, embedding anticipating customer needs, marketing spend efficiency, seasonality, supplier data when creating forecasts will improve accuracy. Similarly, internal data such as time taken to fill a vacancy, demand capacity planning for filling roles, utilization metrics, etc. into the review process injects further value into financial insights. As data becomes more central and as business becomes more reliant on the finance professional’s insights to drive strategy, the symbiotic relationship between finance and data will become ever more apparent.

Unleashing the power of AI

One of the biggest enablers for finance is how we embrace and embed AI into our everyday work. It will allow tedious administrative activities – e.g. control assessments, vendor spends analysis, fraud risk management, etc., – to be traded in for a more efficient way of working. It would help us in blue sky gazing where AI will help us constantly reforecast based on actual data and time is not spent on month-long budgets/forecast meetings but on how to influence the future. The oft-asked question is will AI replace finance professionals? The answer is simple – AI will not replace finance professionals but those who do not leverage the power of AI will be replaced by those who do! 

Leading from the front

As finance leaders, we have all the ammunition to mold our teams as well as the organization and help them embrace the digital future. With enhanced security of cloud systems, finance professionals can now exchange the workplace lifestyle for more flexible/remote working. 

I see 2020-21 as being the foundation year when we work to build a strong edifice for the organization. 

We need to be torchbearers to achieve Environmental, Social & Governance (ESG) goals as laid down by the organization. These will be driven through data and digital technologies e.g. asset redeployment across locations, waste reduction opportunities, driving initiatives to achieve a carbon-neutral footprint, water/plastic neutrality, etc. We need to come together to invest our energies in being mindful. As finance leaders, we need to be wary of being attracted to the short-term bullet and will need to lead from the front.  

Author: Monaz Noble, Chief Financial Officer, Novartis Hyderabad and Novartis Business Services India

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