Keynote Spotlight: Gauthier Vassier and the 7 Keys to Digitalizing Finance
Feeling overwhelmed by “Big Data” and unsure how to leverage the flood of information available to your organization? Is your team spending hours each day in Excel, manipulating numbers and producing manual reports?
In the rapidly evolving global environment, finance teams are continually asked to support a faster pace of innovation and run more efficient processes to remain strategic business partners. The key to this, according to Stanford University Professor and RMAFP Keynote Speaker Gauthier Vassier, is mastering data and using it to your advantage.
After many years in executive-level Finance positions across the globe (eventually ending in Silicon Valley), Vassier turned his passion for Big Data into a career teaching young minds to think differently about how information can be digitalized and harnessed in the business world. RMAFP recently caught up with Vassier to chat about his hopes of bringing one key theme to the RMAFP audience - that data is within everyone’s reach.
Was there a defining moment in your career when you really felt the value of digitalizing data, processes, and technology? How did it become a passion of yours?
I clearly recall the very day when I realized that efficiently digitalizing my activity was going to be a game changer. I was group controller at Remy Cointreau and drowning under spreadsheets and endless manual processes. The group was struggling its way out of FX and Rate management issues and the complexity of analytics had increased to become barely sustainable to me and my team.
A consultant showed up in my office one day talk to me about Business Intelligence. I had all the reasons to send him away. After all, us Finance people were the excel gurus and we had nothing to learn from dull data management. Curious, I handed over a complex spreadsheet I was pretty proud of. To cut the story short, he reversed engineered it into a real data process and ran an update. What would have taken me 20 minutes of manipulation in Excel, took him less than a minute. As he pushed his laptop over to me, he added: “and yours is wrong.” And he was right. That was it, I was sold. I immediately realized that applying this level of efficiency and accuracy to all the daily, weekly and monthly analysis would save us massive amounts of time. We would finally be able to focus on what mattered, become great business partners and constantly expand and improve the quality of our reports.
What value does “going digital” have for a finance organization?
Going digital is a mean to an end. Companies are aiming for agility, innovation, insight, and collaboration. For years, companies have been summoned with these goals by armies of consultants, but making them strategic goals didn’t make them any easier to deliver.
This is where “going digital” comes into play. What will foster progress is empowering the people to work faster, to process more information efficiently and holistically for better analysis, and free up more time to work as a team across silos to solve and anticipate challenges. By delivering tremendous productivity and quality gains, digitalization just boosted our ability to grow and become better across the board.
I’ve witnessed first-hand how going digital enabled everyone in my team to free up more than 1 to 2 hours a day. With more time and peace of mind, we opened up to more domains, we engaged with more departments and actually started a progressive polenization of our data driven approaches across legal, treasury, and procurement.
What is the biggest challenge facing finance practitioners in implementing a digital data strategy?
The technology and data management part is easy. Anyone can become data savvy and really harness the power of data-driven processes. The biggest challenge resides in managing the change with people. Driving your team to embrace these new approaches proves to be, if not difficult, very complex.
You have to deal with a vast array of expertise to begin with. Then you have personal sensibilities coming into play: not everyone is a geek or a techie. You also have to take into account a legacy of work and processes that will be obliterated (that’s how it will feel) and that will cause frustrations and oppositions. Finally, corporate incentive systems don’t help. Bonuses are often attached to shortsighted successes. Well planned, long term projects that will take a few steps back before leaping far forward don’t get much credit in a quarter-to-quarter reward culture. But we can change that.
Learn More about Gauthier Vassier here.