Public sector finance leaders must think like chief data officers

SAP Concur Technologies ( Australia) Pty Ltd
By Matt Goss
Tuesday, 01 December, 2020

Public sector agencies need real-time data insights that enable them to be more agile and responsive.

The role of public sector finance leaders has evolved. Traditionally, they managed the department’s financial reports and forecasts. Now, they’re using data to advise on organisational decisions and strategic direction. In public sector agencies, the data-led insights that chief financial officers (CFOs) can provide are even more critical to leading the organisation’s strategic direction, and the resulting community impact, in the post-COVID-19 world.

The events of 2020 have put public sector agencies under extreme financial pressure, so accurate, timely data has become crucial to supporting longer-term decision-making. According to PwC, half of CFOs expect a revenue decrease of up to 25% as a result of COVID-19, with 81% considering implementing cost containment actions.1

To manage such rapid change, public sector finance leaders recognise they need real-time visibility into where, how and why money is being spent. This is becoming even more important as public sector organisations are mandated to replace manual processes with e-invoicing by July 2022.

The reality for all public sector agencies is that they will continue to face ongoing financial challenges in the fallout of the 2019–20 summer bushfires and COVID-19, combined with a looming deadline to adopt an automated e-invoicing solution and completely change their supplier invoicing processes within 18 months.

Considering that most Australian organisations have embraced digital transformation, it makes sense for government agencies to adopt digital solutions that provide real-time, data-led insights while also achieving the compliance requirement for e-invoicing.

There are several benefits for public sector agencies that replace manual processes with automated, cloud-based solutions. These include:

  • significant cost, time and process efficiencies
  • greater organisational agility
  • the ability to return cash flow to Australian businesses much faster.

Automated solutions give government agencies access to extensive data sets that can be used to drive real community solutions. There are three key ways that public sector finance leaders can use data-led insights to help rebuild the nation’s economy.

Demonstrating consistent and trustworthy information

Through accurate, timely data insights, public sector agencies have factual information that supports decision-making and assists community engagement. While it’s easy to argue about information based on guesswork, it’s much more difficult to make a case against solid statistical data. This is where data-led insights can help public sector agencies build a strong case for investment or non-investment in projects.

Let data foster collaboration

Public sector agencies are building more pathways to collaboration and, in many cases, using automated technologies to achieve this. Moving forward, automation will support finance teams across agencies to foster greater levels of data sharing and the development of new national data standards.

A more transparent government

All levels of government come under public scrutiny, making information transparent and traceable. While government agencies aim to provide publicly accessible data as much as possible, often this data can be many months old, leading to further scrutiny and distrust.

Public sector financial officers can now use secure, cloud-based tools that deliver real-time data analytics, which can be shared sooner. E-invoicing technologies can also help public sector agencies reduce the time it takes to make supplier payments from 30 or 60 days down to five days, which demonstrates a greater commitment to getting cash flow back into the community faster. This ability to speed up cash flow further demonstrates a more responsive, transparent government.

Like all organisations, public sector agencies must adapt to the post-COVID-19 world. This means being able to deliver real-time data insights that enable them to be more agile and responsive to community and market needs. Automated, cloud-based tools are the key to empowering public sector financial leaders to behave like chief data officers (CDO).

Matt Goss is Managing Director, SAP Concur Australia and New Zealand.


Image credit: © Wang

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