In the era of digital transformation, the significance of a data-driven culture cannot be overstated for Vietnamese companies, as it empowers them to harness the potential of emerging technologies, make informed decisions, gain competitive advantage, and adapt to the evolving business landscape, according to the Vietnam CFO Association, who held an event on the topic in Ho Chi Minh City last week.
|With technology, more decisions can be made swiftly based on real-time data, photo Le Toan |
There, Takeshi Murakami, CFO for Microsoft Thailand and Vietnam, said the company’s data-driven culture existed even before the digital transformation.
The company’s former COO, Kevin Turner, was instrumental in building this culture. Turner created a scorecard system that allowed each country to compete on the same definition and target. This culture was further developed by current leaders, who have expanded it and ensured that all employees have a digital transformation mindset.
“We have developed a process that allows us to adapt quickly to the rapid cycles of technology. We have a team dedicated to staying on top of the latest trends and implementing them in our operations. We also have a strong focus on training our employees to get comfortable with these new technologies and adopt a mindset of continuous learning and adaptation,” Murakami said.
Lai Thi Thu Thao, CFO at Bachy Soletanche Vietnam, used to generate reports manually, a laborious and time-consuming process. However, the advent of automation now means reports are derived from automated outcomes, allowing the CFO to focus on analysing report trends.
“With the help of technology, when dealing with large contracts worth hundreds of billions, decisions can be made swiftly based on real-time data. All profitability ratios are clearly displayed. This technology offers visualisation of data, which allows CFOs to quickly understand and tackle any issues,” she said.
A centralised foundation
Leadership plays a crucial role in the transformation. A prime example of this is how Microsoft’s leaders responded to the pandemic. In Japan, for instance, when a boss is in the office, the norm is for the staff to go home.
However, many Microsoft leaders were the first to start working remotely, setting an example for their staff that it was okay to work from home. This approach is reflective of their strategy in digital transformation: leading by example and continuing to push until the transformation takes hold.
Tin Dang, who is the founder and CEO of TC Data, also shared his insights on the importance of a centralised data foundation for financial and accounting departments.
He suggested the importance of a data analyst to consolidate data, but also acknowledged that different departments have unique metrics and outcomes.
“For instance, the results reported by the finance department would differ from those of the marketing department. Therefore, it’s crucial to have an accurate data source for the entire enterprise, from which different departments can draw for their respective analyses,” Dang said.
Looking towards the future, he highlighted what he termed “Level 4” businesses. These forward-thinking organisations are moving towards establishing a data platform or data warehouse.
This centralised system allows for efficient data collection and management, enabling businesses to make more informed decisions.
An outstanding aspect of these data platforms is their ability to efficiently handle planning and forecasting tasks. Businesses can utilise outcome data, feeding it into widely used tools such as Excel to facilitate efficient and reliable planning and forecasting processes.
The cost-effectiveness of this approach further enhances its appeal to firms.
One of the key challenges in digital transformation, as discussed by Murakami of Microsoft, is the acceptance of a data-driven culture, especially when it comes to key performance indicator (KPI) metrics.
“Each department within an organisation often has its own data and KPI metrics, leading to inconsistencies. The solution lies in creating a culture where everyone is on the same page and makes decisions based on the same data,” he said.
Vietnamese enterprises are grappling with a critical issue pertaining to the abilities of their finance and accounting departments, according to a representative from CFO Vietnam.
The knowledge base they possess, which largely inherited from the nation’s higher education institutions, is increasingly becoming obsolete. Most are still aligned with the Vietnam Accounting System standard, while the international trend among businesses is to transition towards the International Financial Reporting Standards.
“Furthermore, the training provided by Vietnamese universities lacks the practical components needed for graduates to familiarise themselves with the latest technologies and advanced practices currently used around the globe. As such, the most urgent and initial step is to enhance the quality of financial and accounting education at university level,” the representative said.
Dang of TC Data believed that most Vietnamese businesses today have not yet reached Level 4, where data is assembled as a foundation.
Therefore, the most pressing requirement is to establish a solid foundation before effective implementation of machine learning can take place.
Thus, it is advisable for businesses to initiate the digitalisation journey by tackling a small project, one which directly addresses concerns of the management leadership.
This initial trial project should ideally span two to three months, demanding a modest budget.
By the end of this period, businesses will have taken their first steps in cultivating a data culture, acclimatising to its demands, and gaining momentum for future endeavours.
Leaders like Dang also agreed that demonstrating the positive impacts and efficiencies of data-centric operations to the company’s decision-makers paves the way for more substantial investments in data-centric operations.
Dang placed the emphasis on starting small, highlighting the importance of a measured and thoughtful approach in this transformative journey.
“Short, incremental steps can cumulatively build a strong data-driven culture. This advice extends to consulting entities, urging them to recommend their clients to begin their data transition journey with small, manageable steps,” he said.
The creation of such a platform is not without its many challenges. Dang stressed the importance of data governance in this context.
“As businesses become increasingly data-driven, the need to control data security and maintain the integrity of the data becomes paramount. This process of ‘filtering’ would ensure that only accurate and relevant data can be used in business decision-making, thereby enhancing operational efficiency and effectiveness.”
Murakami of Microsoft said the commitment to digital transformation is not just from the top down, but also from the bottom up.
“It is about getting everyone on board to make sure that they understand the value of the transformation. The key is to have a strong leader who can drive the change,” Murakami said. “It is not just about having the technology - it is about having the right leadership in order to change the culture and instil a digital transformation mindset in each employee.”
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