The role of finance continues to evolve into strategic business advisors
As business becomes more complex, immediate access to accurate and comprehensive data becomes critical. The Accounting and Finance (A&F) organization manages and analyzes more data than any other department. Therefore, A&F is in a unique position serve as a strategic advisor to business leaders in helping them interpret the data for critical business decisions. This includes identification of leading technology that can transform with the organization. Companies that support this collaboration recognize clear benefits and a competitive advantage over those that have not adopted this approach. An added benefit is more employee engagement and retention which is a key initiative in today’s business climate.
Susan Parcells, Vaco Practice Director for Finance Transformation, added “now is an exciting time for Accounting and Finance as it shifts from that traditional cost center whose primary purpose was to prepare financial statements and budgets to a true business advisor, working hand in hand with the other business leaders to make the best decisions possible for the betterment of the company, the stakeholders and their customers.”
More data and making sense of it all is overwhelming the people, current systems and processes
As the adage goes related to data: garbage in, garbage out. More data is not necessarily better – more and accurate is better. However, achieving accuracy is difficult in environments subject to manual processes and human error. The A&F team’s exposure as a strategic advisor magnifies the necessity for automation (when possible), and detailed reviews of manually driven processes. Again, accuracy is paramount.
There is a need for better systems and more standardization and automation (better processes, technology and skillsets)
With this additional pressure on the A&F team, risk of errors and/or employee burnout exists. For this shift to be successful, companies need to reassess A&F’s current activities, controls and processes, how those are being performed, and who is doing the work. It is a good time to ask the following questions:
- Are the activities adding value?
- Do we have the right people working on the right things at the right time?
- Where is the team spending the most time and does it make sense/add value?
- What processes take the most time and are there opportunities to automate them?
Answers to these questions can be used to identify opportunities to reduce processes and deliver efficiency. A&F’s role as a strategic advisor will become essential in growing a company’s bottom line.
Luckily, advancements in technology are allowing companies to take advantage of automation and standardization, thus freeing up time for analysis and collaboration. A realignment of roles and responsibilities can be undertaken to accelerate A&F’s enhanced value-add function.
Don’t overwhelm your people and drive them away from the organization…how to do this?
As companies make this transition from the traditional work to more analysis and advisory, it is important to consider the impact to employees. Aspects to consider include:
- Two-way commitment and communication from and with executive leadership is critical. Two-way communication reduces questions and concerns, and it demonstrates a commitment to continual improvement.
- Changes must be managed in an organized manner (define the what, why, how, when and who); address the WIFM (what’s in it for me).
- Collaboration is key. Engaging A&F team members is crucial to understanding the pain points, inefficiencies, and ideas for streamlining the processes.
- For many A&F team members, this shift will be a positive experience; using different skills, learning more about the business, and feeling like they are truly contributing and adding value to the company.
- For others, it may mean that their current skill set is no longer needed and, if they are not interested nor well-suited for developing a new skill set, they may need to look for a new opportunity.
As A&F leaders, we have the opportunity to drive transformational change. Let’s get our teams excited about the new experiences this change will bring to the organization including building new skill sets, creating strategic partnerships with other departments, gaining a more in-depth understanding of the business and contributing to better business decisions.
Best of all, A&F will no longer be looked at as just a cost center, but as true advisors and partners within the organization!
Jeff Ramsey is national director of accounting/finance consulting services at Vaco, a talent and solutions firm serving more than 40 markets around the globe.