CFO Services 10 most popular Insights from 2018

For CFO Services' readers, 2018 was the year of abbreviations. Some of those were four-letter words, like GDPR or IFRS. Others, like M&A, AI or SSC (Shared Service Centers), counted a few letter less. But all of them flagged complex new developments on the level of regulation, technological development and global strategy. This article contains direct links to CFO Services' most-read "Insights" from 2018. Our "Insights"-category offers strategic, deep-digging content that systematically addresses issues high on the corporate agenda.

In matters of GDPR and IFRS, readers were clearly looking for insights, clarification and guidance. Both are complex new regulations that demanded short-term compliance. M&A was a topic that was addressed in two of our most appreciated interviews: the talks we had with Christopher Kummer, a global expert on strategy and M&A, and with CFO Services' own Mario Matthys, the man who consolidated the financials of all the big breweries that eventually became AB InBev, the first truly global brewer. In a talk with Toon Borré, Howest research coordinator Mieke Vandewaetere shed some light on ways to educate the C-suite about artificial intelligence.

Readers also want to know about ways to improve their organization. In two very highly appreciated articles, Jean-Marie Bequevort shared his views on how 'internal audit' can meaningfully improve your organization, if only the methodology is rigorous enough. It will do so even more if auditors shift their focus towards more strategic and organizational topics. You do not, however, improve your organzation in Big Bang transformation imposed top-down onto the organization. 'If anything,' Maddy Lauwers and Sonja Vanheeswijck say, 'it is a bottom-up process that starts with the people who do the work on a day-to-day basis.’

1. Toon Borré, 'Setting up your Data Register for GDPR compliance'

'Essentially, GDPR compliance is about mindset,' Data to Insight Expert practice leader Toon Borré says. 'It’s essential, almost mandatory, that everybody in the organization understands what GDPR is.' During projects early 2018, he noticed quite a few flaws and omissions. The lack of a data register, for instance. Or companies seeming to be unaware of 'privacy by design', an important element that should have been incorporated in any new implementation involving personal data since May 2016. Want to see where you stand now? Read the interview.

2. Jean-Marie Bequevort, 'Improving the organization: the 3 steps of a successful internal auditing program'

After years of auditing companies in a multitude of industries and geographies, it struck CFO Services Operations leader Jean-Marie Bequevort that the way audit departments accomplish their objectives differs a lot from organization to organization. The most impactful audit programs, however, had a methodological pattern in common. In all cases, the internal audit team rigorously follows a 3-steps review to evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of the organization, and propose meaningful improvement. Read more.

3. Jean-Marie Bequevort, 'How internal audit can contribute to an effective strategy implementation'

During audit engagements, Jean-Marie Bequevort and his internal audit team observed a growing ambition from audit managers to expand their scope and push their contributions towards broader organizational topics. One of the emerging areas of audit focus has been strategy implementation, with the primary goal of assessing the consistent translation of the strategy into objectives and measures throughout all organizational levels. Read more.

4. Bo Claes, 'The changing face of Shared Service Centers'

Shared Service Centers are often perceived as cost centers, and as a good excuse for companies to relocate jobs to low wage countries. That perception proves to be biased. According to a global survey set up by CFO Services, main drivers for a company to set up a Shared Service Center are the development of common practices, cross functional end-to-end processes and the creation of a common data structure.This article discusses the survey's main findings. Read more.

5. Jean-Marie Bequevort, 'Christopher says: "An activist investor’s attack is a reaction to board members pushing the wrong strategy"'

Strategic transactions represent major challenges for companies: mergers, acquisitions, alliances, and separations create unparalleled complexity in the management of organizations. In this interview, Jean-Marie Bequevort reached out to Christopher Kummer, a renowned expert on strategy and M&A. Professor Kummer is the President of the Institute of Mergers, Acquisitions and Alliances (IMAA). Read the interview.

6. Maddy Lauwers and Sonja Vanheeswijck, ‘Continuous improvement is a bottom-up process. It starts with the people who do the work

Transparent processes can save organizations a lot of money. 'In general we estimate the savings from process transparency at around 20 percent," CFO Services Client Partner Maddy Lauwers says. Together with Sonja Vanheeswijck, Maddy has been developing CFO Services’ process narrative and services, also managing implementation projects.In this interview, Maddy and Sonja discuss the need for process transparency, the many advantages of a process mindset and the way to get there. Read the interview.

7. Mario Matthys, 'A good reporter must be on top of things. The C-suite wants added value all the time.'

Meet the man who integrated and consolidated the financials of all the big breweries that eventually became AB InBev, the first truly global brewer. Mario Matthys, ex-KPMG, joined TriFinance to set up the CFO Services’ Corporate Reporting practice. In this interview, Mario sheds some light on Brazilian business culture, increased complexity, cash flow awareness and the qualities a top reporter requires. Read the interview.

8. Jean-Marie Bequevort, 'Shared Service Center governance'

The main rationale to deploy Shared Service Centers is to develop common practices, improve controls, and deliver financial savings. Despite those expected benefits, a majority of Jean-Marie Bequevort's internal auditing engagements in Shared Service Centers frequently reveals process and controls deficiencies. Read more.

9. Mieke Vandewaetere and Toon Borré: ‘Data is like doping for AI systems

Mieke Vandewaetere is Howest University College's research coordinator. In this talk with Toon Borré, MiekeVandewaetere she discusses the state of affairs in AI. ' If more people use open software platforms and services, the companies owning them get more data and their algorithms will get better. But it’s like we would all drive the same car and use the same technology. So, we might be seriously overlooking something. Read the interview.

10. Mario Matthys, 'IFRS 16: The devil is in the application guidance details'

Interesting read by Mario Matthijs on the status of IFRS 16 projects. During a round-table discussion, some of Belgium’s top IFRS reporters discussed their experiences in implementing the new standard on Leases. First experiences show the scope of the project is often misunderstood. The new standard affects departments beyond finance and reporting. Procurement, HR, IT, tax, treasury and business teams need to be involved from the very beginning to come to an efficient implementation and rollout plan. Read more.

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