First, let’s start with a great example of how wearables are transforming the customer experience in the hospitality industry.  Just this year, Meliá, Spain’s largest hotel chain, has begun offering its guests electronic bracelets at its Magaluf resort.  They can be used in the hotel to unlock guest rooms and pay for restaurant meals and spar treatments.  And, there’s no need to worry if you’re cooling off in the pool (they’re waterproof) or have kids (you can use an app on your phone to set spending limits – phew!).   

It’s not the first example of wearables being used in the industry, but it did catch my eye for a number of reasons:

1.  It can be used in multiple locations outside of the hotel - the local Starbucks, a Mango fashion store, and at nearby theme park

2.  The overall cost was a lot lower than I was expecting

3.  The Magaluf resort is one hotel from a chain of nearly 400, if successful, this will become be widespread.

Now being an accountant by trade and having forged a career in helping Finance functions transform, I can’t help but read about Meliá without reflecting on what the impact on Finance is going to be. 

My view: Wearables will be a great opportunity for Finance to add value and help drive the business, but only if it’s got the agility to cope… 

If done in the right way, there’s masses of potential for insightful data to be generated that explains consumer behaviour, buying patterns and other trends which organisations could harness.  Finance will need to understand this data and, as it continues to evolve from ‘bean counter’ to ‘business partner’, it can play a role making sure financial considerations are more carefully thought-about in business decision making.  

But to do this, organisations need to have the tools to analyse data rapidly and Finance needs bandwidth to work with the business.  Based on my experience, Finance spends too much time reconciling and sorting out data quality issues with too much reliance on manual processes.  For some organisations, adding wearables into the mix would just add to the problem.  It’s not just accounting for another revenue stream, it’s also managing the payments local merchants and, where Excel is highly used, creating meaningful insight would get more challenging, labour-intensive and further from real-time. 

Now of course things don’t have to be like this, the tools do exist and there are plenty of success stories out there.  The world is moving on, business models are constantly evolving – Finance needs to keep up.