Technology Trends Manufacturing CFOs
SHOULD Prioritize

Democracy Comes to Technology Innovation

One of the more important manufacturing technology trends currently underway is potentially beneficial for manufacturers and their workforces: the democratization of technology. 86 percent of the executives in a recent survey stated that their organizations must train people to use and customize technology solutions at the individual level, but without highly technical skills. Industry leaders like Microsoft have been supporting this development for a long time. Today, many of the company’s software tools enable manufacturing CFOs and managers to simplify processes and bring more insight to their work. They work well with Microsoft 365 Office applications many organizations use and the Microsoft Dynamics 365 ERP systems Sikich often implements for manufacturers. In the Microsoft Azure cloud, they are accessible to users at any location.

The Microsoft Power Platform offers CFOs and their colleagues such tools as Power Automate and Power Apps. With simple steps and intuitive graphical interfaces, both are designed for users who know their business but may not have development or deep technical skills. In manufacturing companies, experts and managers especially in engineering, product development, and production management still use stand-alone spreadsheets or specialized tools to do their jobs. Power Automate and Power Apps unleash people’s creativity to unify data sources and deliver meaningful data and decision enablement to anybody who could benefit from them. On the Azure cloud platform, they can scale to practically any number of users, large and growing data volumes, and any data type.


Learn how Sikich helps manufacturing CFOs, CIOs, CEOs, and other stakeholders, review and optimize processes, deploy and modernize technology, plan hardware and software investments, and empower your people to do great work.



Automation, sometimes referred to as Robotic Process Automation
(RPA), is an element in the digital initiatives underway in many companies. According to Gartner, the market for RPA software grew by 62.9 percent in 2019, when it was also the fastest-growing segment of the software market for a second year.

Currently, close to 350,000 organizations worldwide use Microsoft Power Automate. With this solution you can automate any function that involves keystroke interactions. Several hundred connectors make it easy to incorporate existing business systems and functions. You can also enhance your automations with AI capabilities to recognize and streamline frequent actions, like invoice approvals or forms processing.

To build your automations on the best process standard, you can use a tool called the Microsoft Process Advisor to record people’s keystroke as they perform the same task. The Process Advisor then compares their practices and recommends the most efficient one for automation.

Process Automation - 4 manufacturing technology trends CFOs should prioritize

Microsoft Power Apps uses similarly intuitive functionality to enable savvy businesspeople to create their own apps quickly. They can rely
on an arsenal of prebuilt, well-proven templates Microsoft provides. Companies use Power Apps to deliver a huge range of capabilities such as more efficient, smoother cross-team workflows, more satisfying and streamlined customer purchasing experiences, or improved generation and management of sales leads. Gartner names Power Apps as a leader in its 2020 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Low Code Application Platforms.

Many organizations use Power Automate and Power Apps together. A Total Economic Impact study performed by Forrester for Microsoft documented some of the remarkable outcomes.14 For instance, companies can expect to reduce their application development costs by 70 percent. They can also save software vendor licensing fees by developing their own apps, with the savings depending on the licensing amounts. The two solutions generated a payback in under three months and generated an ROI of 362 percent over three years. 

Several hard-to-quantify benefits also made a difference for the companies participating in the study: faster and more assured decision-making, increased employee empowerment and satisfaction, and better outcomes for many processes. In the many organizations that used Power Apps and Power Automate to develop and streamline mobile solutions and workflows, it was easier to ensure their security than if they would have been created through other means. They already connected to Active Directory and already present Microsoft security solutions, which minimized the IT tasks of controlling permissions at data and application levels.


CFOs in manufacturing companies have many opportunities to help direct technology investments to achieve a healthy ROI and to enable employees and teams to do their best work. In many organizations, consolidating the data that resides in sometimes hundreds of spreadsheets and other documents into a single, securely available repository can make an immediate, substantial difference in employee productivity and job satisfaction, time and cost savings, and error reduction.

Another fast road to desirable business outcomes is providing workers with the right tools to collaborate and communicate within the organization or with trading partners and customers. In many companies, a solution like Microsoft Teams can help keep remote and mobile workers connected to their colleagues, including production teams working onsite and sales and service reps anywhere. They can see each other, share files and resources, and collaborate on projects in conversations and conferences that may be electronically mediated but which can be as natural and rewarding as in-person, onsite engagements.

Many manufacturers have also found that, with a relatively small investment, they can develop closer, more productive and profitable relationships with customers and trading partners. They offer online portals, where these external stakeholders can review and submit documents, review product and design choices, access multimedia training content, and more. Companies can use templates and reusable elements to streamline portal design and offer a welcoming, branded environment. With multifactor authentication and other data protection capabilities, portals can also be highly secure.

Standardized, robust devices like Microsoft HoloLens deliver AR and MR capabilities to anybody, anywhere, offering practical training and closing gaps in expertise when machinery poses unique challenges.


Before the pandemic, many manufacturers were already exploring augmented reality (AR), virtual reality (VR), and mixed reality (MR) combining VR, AR, and physical environments. For example, VR modeling can enable engineers and technologists in multiple locations to collaborate on product designs or to workshop new product capabilities with customers. AR, VR, and MR can keep engineering collaborations and many other activities going when travel is not safe, too costly, or too disruptive. AR and MR also support many possible scenarios for training or supporting professionals at a job site, maybe with real-time assistance from an expert mentor at another location. 

Standardized, robust devices like Microsoft HoloLens deliver AR and MR capabilities to anybody, anywhere, offering practical training and closing gaps in expertise when machinery poses unique challenges. Using MR this way may allow manufacturers to assign broadly trained technicians to work on their own or customers’ machinery, getting the work done sooner and without incurring the costs of in-depth, specialized training on certain tools or equipment types for the entire maintenance or services team. HoloLens can integrate with Microsoft Dynamics 365, the ERP system, so mobile service technicians can access technical documentation and customer information on the Dynamics platform.

Sikich consultants understand what matters to CFOs and which complexities they face every day.