When it comes to the future of finance, the challenge, in my view, is to constantly ensure that the Finance organisation has the right mix of skills whilst ensuring processes and technology are implemented as efficiently as possible.
In the past, we have seen many Finance organisations focus on process efficiency through standardisation and scale. More recently, enabling technologies have advanced so much that they are redefining the way that Finance operates. Companies are investing in cloud-based solutions, data analytics and smart automation, all within an environment of ever-increasing regulation.
However, it is important to ensure that Finance organisations don’t get carried away with the many challenges they are facing today. In this blog I will cover some of the main challenges. Is your Finance Function facing any of these challenges?
Proliferation of and timeliness of data
Finalising month end close two weeks into the following month just shouldn’t happen anymore. Technology is now so advanced that organisations should be able to get financials in near real time, but only if the underlying processes are set up to support. The sheer amount of data out there, challenges finance functions to know what to report on and how frequently it should be done.
Finance should always have a seat at the table, and always have access to the critical data and ultimately, will likely always end up owning it. As the stewards of the organisation, Finance is best placed to manage the data in a structured way.
Keeping pace with changing skill set requirements
Working with the business, Finance Leaders tend to be the sponsors, owners and drivers of change. Finance Functions need to be positioned to embrace change more readily and rapidly. For some organisations this means reviewing the skill sets within the organisation and ensuring that Finance teams are equipped with the right skills for navigating within this uncertain future.
Finance Leaders of today typically need to be more dynamic and open to change than they were historically. They need to be careful to make sure they have the right people with the right mix of roles that have an understanding of finance but who can also be hands on with the technology.
Know the problem to solve
Some companies start from a position of wanting to automate everything, thinking that robotics is the only solution. They often fail because they want to start scaling up the robots without really understanding the business issue. It could be that some element of your ERP system requires optimisation, or maybe bad habits have crept in. I would always encourage organisations to ensure that the chosen solution is the right fit for the process area under review.
Your business is still your core business, so it’s not just about new technology, it’s also about understanding what your business needs, what the strategy is, and how finance can support that. It’s then a matter of making sure you have the right operating model, the right people, processes and technology.
We don’t know what many of the jobs will be in 10 years. The technology is there and we can’t be afraid of it, it’s far more accessible and sophisticated now.
Change is good, and in some ways Finance is dramatically changing, but in my experience, the same fundamentals apply. Finance leaders need to work side by side with the business to make sure it’s successful.
My advice - embrace the technology but don’t over complicate it.
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