Even before COVID-19, South Africa’s business leaders were operating in a difficult environment, writes Gerhard Hartman, VP, Medium Business, Sage Africa & Middle East. Now, the pandemic has added new challenges – such as managing a remote workforce – to the mix for a C-suite that was already wrestling with a growing compliance burden and a low growth economy. This has added even more urgency to the mandate of digitalising core business functions.

Looking at Sage’s CFO 3.0 research, one thing that jumps out about the South African leaders in our survey is their confidence in technology. Many of them were already stepping up investments in the cloud, digitalisation and automation before the crisis – and this is helping them to navigate the current landscape with composure.

Let’s take a closer look at how C-suite executives in South Africa can square up to today’s challenges:

The remote workforce

Managing a remote workforce and leading a business through lockdown and social distancing is one of the challenges weighing on financial professionals’ minds. That’s understandable, since the world hasn’t seen disruption on this scale before. And it brings a host of additional challenges around accountability, productivity, cybersecurity, data protection, and compliance.

How to address the challenge

Cloud-based business solutions offer organisations the tools they need to manage this new landscape. They provide improved employee experiences and enable a more flexible workforce at a time many members of the team are dispersed and working in different places. Such solutions also help companies to remain compliant and enforce company policies in a distributed work environment.


“Do more with less” is the instruction from the finance department to most other parts of the business when the company experiences an economic downturn. However, a successful approach to this thorny challenge is not about cutting costs to the bone or downsizing the workforce. It is about using every possible lever to drive better business performance

How to address the challenge

Companies need to ensure that the workforce has the tools and information to make better decisions and perform at their best. Cloud and digital technology can support this requirement by putting insights at the right people’s fingertips and automating operations. Over half of the South African CFOs in our survey say automation has positively improved business productivity. Analytics tools enable accurate analysis and swift, responsible decision-making.

An expanding compliance mandate

Before COVID-19, complying with ever-evolving tax labour and industry legislation and regulation was one of the main concerns keeping executives up at night, and this challenge has not disappeared.

How to address the challenge

Emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) can streamline compliance reporting. In not being bogged down by numbers, budgets, data integration, and reporting, executives can turn their focus to serving business stakeholders.

Technology takes business in new directions

Technology is taking business in a new direction and senior decision-makers are going along for the ride – and enjoying it. Those who ride the wave will have an easier time of leading through uncertainty and driving digital transformation. That’s because the modern business leader will need to be versatile – marrying skills such as accounting, analytics, business management, and strategic-thinking. Progressive leaders are agents for change.

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