How the finance team at Telefónica is becoming a business partner in decision-making
To thrive in the fast-paced telecoms sector today, FP&A teams need to become growth enablers for the organization, says Laura Abasolo, CFO at Telefónica. Here, she tells us how her team plans to keep up, and why data on its own won’t solve everything.
What has COVID-19 changed for FP&A?
We’re in a sector that was already changing fast – even before COVID-19. Our company is linked to technology that’s growing exponentially and having an impact both on our customers and on our way of operating.
I think what Covid has shown is that we can work in a very different way. It made us realize that as an organization we can adopt technology really fast. And in this sector we need to evolve in finance – or we won’t survive.
What do you see as your biggest challenge in this new world?
In the wake of Covid, predictive scenario planning and risk assessment is becoming more and more important. And everyone in the company is talking about data. Data is at the heart of the finance organization and it's needed either to make the best decisions or to anticipate potential situations.
Our biggest challenge is delivering a huge amount of data in an automated way and ensuring that the accuracy and integrity of that data is robust enough for our decision-making.
As things stand, are you confident in your predictive capabilities?
We can do a lot with our forecasting tools, but it wouldn't be honest to say that it's never misinterpreted, or that there’s never any duplication of data.
After all, we needed to change our way of working completely and we are in the middle of an ambitious three-year transformation plan. We call it the Iris Project, because we will be able to see everything across the organization. We want finance to become a business partner in the decision-making process by providing fruitful and timely information.
How much does your team rely on data over intuition to forecast and plan?
It’s a combination of both. We can’t replace human knowledge with machines, but that doesn’t mean teams should stay as they are – they need to train and they need to evolve. And crucially, when you allow for the efficiency gains from technology you free up resources for the thinking and intuition that are so important.
This is especially true because decision-making is more difficult than ever. There are so many options when it comes to investing in technical new services and data services, on top of connectivity and so on. To make the right decisions, we need knowledge and insight combined with the best information.
And having people that understand process is as important as having people with big data skills. If we automate a process that doesn’t make sense, then the automation won’t make sense either and we will lose all the agility. We have to focus on simplicity.
Through our transformation, I'm positive that the power of humans combined with artificial intelligence and machines will be a very powerful tool.
Are you considering any external partnerships as part of that finance transformation?
I think working with shared services could be a win-win model. They have more scale to see what technologies are in the market, but they need to be proactive in terms of illustrating the value they can bring.
They could help us modernize our processes – for example by analyzing and eliminating potential bottlenecks in transactions, or proposing solutions or simplification opportunities. I think we have to build the journey together.