“In today’s era of volatility, there is no other way but to re-invent. The only sustainable advantage you can have over others is agility.” It is a sobering – if inspiring – statement from the founder of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, and one that businesses the world over are increasingly being forced to heed.

In 2020 – as the pandemic was at its peak – Statista found that global business spending on digital transformation topped $1.3tn. Of course, that figure was likely artificially inflated by the crisis, but spending had already been rising and, today, is continuing to grow apace. According to work by Gartner, in fact, a full 63% of organisations report increased funding for digital transformation.

Nor are these revolutions limited to industry spending. On the contrary, the very term ‘digital transformation’ is becoming increasingly commonplace across businesses everywhere. Once muttered furtively at the conclusion of boardroom meetings, it now enjoys pride of place in c-suites everywhere. It ultimately comes back to what Bezos stressed: being agile and able to respond in real time is key to any business worth its salt.

“Digitisation is an unstoppable global force and we see it all around us in our daily lives,” says Lloyd Pitchford, the CFO of Experian, the global consumer credit powerhouse. “It has a huge power for good as it lowers the cost and the friction in all our daily lives, and the finance function is no different.”

Digital transformation means providing your finance teams with business-wide insights.

The power of digital

Pitchford says the world now works in real time – with monthly financially close cycles becoming a thing of the past. But what does that mean in practice? The truth is that one organisation’s reality is very different to another’s. Depending on your industry, your business structure, and where you sit within it, digitisation will mean something different to you than it does to your competitors – or even your cross-enterprise colleagues.

All the same, digital transformation essentially means providing finance teams with meaningful insights from across the business. Gone are the days when finance was finance and other parts of the business were siloed entities that only came to you when there was a problem.

“As a technology company, we are constantly changing and evolving, and finance within the company is no exception,” says Pitchford. “We’ve radically transformed our finance department over the past decade, using technology and innovation to change the way we do things.”

Lloyd Pitchford, CFO of Experian.

Experian, for its part, has created a so-called ‘Global Finance Services’ organisation, which has progressively taken on ever-more complex global finance services. The shift began with transaction processing, but quickly moved beyond that into complex financial planning and analysis, controllership and business partnering. Now well over half of the company’s global finance team operates within it.

For a business this size that is no mean feat. Experian, after all, operates across 43 countries, employing around 20,600 people, and tracks the financial behaviour data of 2.3 billion consumers globally. From there, meanwhile, Pitchford says the next phase of the transformation is to bring digitisation to the company’s financial processes, enabling the shift of finance from batch to real time. “This,” he explains, “involves investment in ever greater harmonisation of data structures across the globe, investments in data scientists within finance and training the next wave of finance talent in digital skills.”

This transition will allow the consumer credit firm to make even greater use of its already efficient global single enterprise resource planning (ERP) and single customer relations management (CRM) systems, as well as its single data lake.

It is a move Pitchford believes will allow the company to use “ever fewer” enterprise systems across the prospect to cash (P2C) cycle, enabling it to look “ever more seamlessly” across its data. “We are working towards fully integrating our P2C systems globally to allow auto forecasting, including revenue forecasting, across complex revenue accounting bundles directly from source data in our CRM.”

People power

All the same, it’s also clear that these complex transitions aren’t just about the systems themselves. Rather, they also encompass providing employees with the tools and skills they need – ultimately changing the business culture along the way.

Michael Casamento, CFO at Amcor.

“This use of data obviously means finance professionals need to have a broader business skillset,” stresses Michael Casamento, CFO at Amcor, a global packaging firm with over 45,000 employees across 225 sites. “Our finance team is filled with business people as well as technical and financial specialists. Everyone has a role to play in being a business leader.

“In today’s environment, speed is of the essence, so we’ve moved to be quick, agile and adaptive to changing circumstances,” Casamento continues, adding that employees have to be able to cope with a growing number of vital tasks. “Technology is a crucial enabler of this – driving system enhancement and standardisation to optimise work processes and reporting.”

Describing the changes to Amcor’s finance function as “considerable”, Casamento says his team has moved beyond simple numbers and accounting, to become integral, forward-looking partners across all areas of the business.

“Finance is now resolutely business focused,” he stresses. “Technology has also allowed Amcor’s finance team to become ever-more connected and aligned across the globe, ensuring best practice and efficiencies are increasingly being shared to enhance performance and productivity.” This is vital, he says, given Amcor business comprises decentralised groups. “It means we can use the same systems, processes and standards to be efficient globally.” This was particularly valuable during the most challenging days of the pandemic. Amcor staff were provided with multiple device systems to collaborate digitally while working remotely. Digital benefits extend to operations too, with the company becoming increasingly flexible with its supply chains, automating tasks and driving new competences.

“A great example of this is our use of real-time sensors to support automation and reduce waste, as is our use of augmented management, which helps us make the right decisions more quickly on supply chain or customer issues,” Casamento explains. As well as the positive impact reducing waste has on the environment, he adds these technologies are also helping to manage energy use more effectively too.

The benefits of financial digitisation do not stop at the office door or factory gate – customers see the value in Amcor’s digital evolution too. “Our customers need more integration, so we are constantly looking to provide them with new digital channels and smarter analytics,” Casamento says. “We’re providing faster quotes and producing different packaging from multiple locations thanks to technological innovation, but there is so more to do.”

Overall, Casamento believes digitalisation provides an opportunity for customers to be increasingly integrated with Amcor, with the company aiming to solidify this “tight connect” whether it be for product development, communications or customer service. “By continually investing in this technology,” he says, “we’re looking to stay ahead of the curve”.

Amcor staff were provided with device systems to collaborate digitally while working remotely.

Times are changing

Beyond improving the state of their respective businesses, meanwhile, both Casamento and Pitchford agree that these rapid digital advances have also changed their own roles. Pitchford speaks for them both when he says that though he has always seen the CFO role as involved right across his business, in partnership with the CEO and COO, what has changed is the increasing power of data – which has become central to good strategy and operational execution.

That’s true, he emphasises, across financial data – but also “enterprise data, in real time, and that’s an arena finance can play a central role in organising”.

For Casamento, meanwhile, CFOs have become true business partners for growth, who he suggests understand business processes and can support present operations and help define future ones.

“Today’s CFO is incredibly closely aligned to business operations and involved in driving value creation,” he says. “It’s become a much more forward-looking role and also a more social one. Connection with people across the organisation is absolutely critical in helping to link strategy with performance.”

Casamento also touches on another benefit of digitisation: the ability to free up time that would previously have been spent on manual financial administration, creating space for what he calls “more strategic and forward-looking” business-creation work. “The times are changing,” he says, “and Amcor is changing with them.”

It’s a view likely shared across finance departments the world over. Even for those businesses too small to need a boardroom, digitisation and automation will inevitably become critical to their success, as products and services become ever more entwined with day-today operational functions. Whatever else you may think of him, Jeff Bezos is clearly onto something.


Experian’s total workforce across 44 countries.



The estimated contribution to global GDP of digitally transformed businesses by 2023.

International Data Corporation report (2020)