Finance leaders sit at the intersection of two increasingly complex worlds - one inside the business and one outside the business. Finance leaders have to navigate external issues such as geo-political changes, environmental, regulatory, competition, technological innovations and new markets which now affect their business. These strongly compete with traditional accountability to boards, shareholders, employees and customers.
Undoubtedly this is a time of great change and it is taking place at an unprecedented speed and scale. This new landscape presents a host of challenges, but it also presents huge opportunities for those willing to seize the upside of disruption.
By making decisions about technology, people and process, the role of the Finance leader has evolved to become more of a strategic adviser.
1. Keeping pace in the transformative age
Digital technologies are driving the next phase of finance transformation. Data and analytics are changing the way Finance leaders think about business problems, opening their eyes to new opportunities, and challenging accepted beliefs.
Yet, many organisations are struggling to turn the promise of data analytics into the reality of improved performance. This presents an important opportunity for Finance leaders to step in and transform their organisation by translating data analytics into measurable performance gains.
The most agile finance and reporting teams are using automation to drive new levels of operational agility. They are advanced in using robotic process automation to drive new levels of efficiency and automate high-volume transactional finance processes.
Finance leaders can use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to look for underlying patterns in data as well as machine learning to predict scenarios and improve outcomes. AI is having a significant impact on the way finance drives data-driven insight and it is critical that Finance leaders keep on top of developments in AI.
2. Embracing uncertainty and change
Alongside rapidly advancing technology, globalisation and legislative changes, environmental issues and shifting demographics are changing business and society faster than ever.
As an open economy, Ireland is exposed to the potential disruptive trends emerging in the global environment. There are threats to international trade flows from the imposition of trade tariffs and the growing possibility of a No Deal Brexit. This would have significant macroeconomic and trade impact as well as potential adverse economic and social impact. With global growth projected to slow this year, there is no room for complacency.
Finding enough certainty to be able to make decisions in this volatile risk landscape is a major challenge for Finance leaders. They are taking an increasing role in risk management and in future, that role will be even bigger, particularly in large organisations.
3. A new talent mix within the Finance Function
Finance leaders have a key role to play in the way they shape and develop their team. To attract and retain top talent, it is important to focus on engendering an open culture where innovation thrives.
As Finance Functions adopt new technologies, it means they also require to introduce a different talent profile and skill sets to complement their existing skill-base.
The Finance Function will benefit from team members with a range of new capabilities beyond traditional finance and accounting skills, including strategic awareness of new technologies, such as AI, and knowledge in disciplines such as data science and advanced statistics.
4. Shift from historic reporting to near real-time reporting
Technologies and tools can help Finance leaders to account for and explain performance more clearly and coherently. Finance teams can utilise new technology to manage data, and adopt new skills to report their long-term value. They can do this by using the data at their disposal and turning it into a strategic asset. However, many organisations are failing to seize these opportunities, often not knowing how to mine this data.
The starting point can be confusing and overwhelming. The change to your mind-set is just as important as changes to technologies and processes.