Learning “digital” should NOT be done digitally

By Christopher Argent, Founder, Generation CFO

Are you time poor, but burning to learn something new?  Have you bought a new educational book, only to find it on the shelf a year later, a chapter read?  Have you signed up to a “must learn” eLearning module, that remains dormant in your inbox?

Finding the time is one of the main reasons why eLearning has been a massive hit with time-poor professionals, as digital flexibility is helping people to find the time and the eLearning market that delivers the content is certainly having its day, as it is estimated to be worth $200bn by 2024*

Types of eLearning

  • Online eLearning
  • Learning management system (LMS)
  • Mobile eLearning
  • Rapid eLearning
  • Virtual classroom

But ever since eLearning arrived back in 1999, the great debate has been whether eLearning is better than face to face learning and whether eLearning is simply something “easy to buy and measure” but with little long-term learning value?

Many practitioners (and some of the panellist at the recent London #CFOdebate, which is why we are covering this subject) believe a combination of learning experiences is best for real long-term learning and knowledge benefits, and only a certain type of skill-based learning is OK for online.

So what does this mean for finance teams in learning mode? 

Looking at PwC CFO Priorities in 2018 “Dare to Transform” we can see for the very first time the priority is “tools and new digital technologies”, closely followed by financial and management expertise and soft skills.


But how should we be learning “tools and new digital technologies”?  Do we simply sign up to an eLearning module and schedule a Friday lunch learning hour? or would it be better to get in a classroom with my peers?

Each learning experience has its pros and cons, and ongoing coaching can enhance both learning experience, but we will highlight what is best for “new digital technologies” specifically.

People make a party!

Firstly, Finance does not need to learn data science, programming language and the broad world of IT to benefit from new technology.

What Finance does need to learn to truly transform itself, is the art of the “digital” possible, how to work on innovation, how to partner with the technology team (work Lean and Agile) and how to accelerate their own digital transformation.

And the nature of this type of learning is mainly experiential so not suited to eLearning.

  • Digital Training – “Art of the Possible” Conceptual Level
  • Innovation Accelerator Training – “How to” methods and “Mindset” shift
  • People and Soft skills ** – core competencies

The headline learning objective is to understand each area of Finance related innovation and technology at a conceptual level, aka the art of the possible and the potential benefit to you, your role and company.

But the more significantly learning is how to work as a team to generate and capture ideas, turn them into clearly defined project with business benefits, work collaboratively on delivery as a customer not a programmer or developer (which includes the critical learnings that ideas/connections need time to form and “failing” is not failure) and learning how to embed the change in our own teams when the product is developed and live.

This is a very different way of working for most finance professionals who are used to control and hierarchy plus this amount of learning will challenge most finance professionals who have to learn these skills alongside their day jobs.

But Finance needs to make time for this type of experiential learning, which is better suited to live training, and classroom experiences because;

  • Learners can work as a team, under pressure, each member responsible for very different aspects, and the dynamics of this learning can only be learned physically.
  • Learners can physically interact and discuss content, building on idea’s, get others perspectives, other solutions, and collaborate in subgroups post training.
  • During training, learners can physically ask trainers questions on the spot in real time, as well as asking follow-up questions as learning develops.
  • Face-to-face interaction allows nuances of expressions and other non-verbal behaviours that can be clues to learners about the importance of certain content, and trainers can gauge the receptivity of their learners and facilitate better learning. The quietest learner may have the best idea!
  • The experience helps build relations with fellow team members and cross-functional teams, that can be capitalised on post-training.

And whilst the conceptual learning of digital “art of the possible” can be eLearnt, you may want to use this learning as the start of your CFO innovation journey, so it would pay for a facilitator to help you learn AND capture ideas whilst learning.

Get specialist support

This session could be run by the technologists in your organisation, in the same way, finance teams run “finance for non-finance managers” training.  IT could run “digital for non-digital managers” training focused on the finance-related technology, and this would also set the scene for future project collaboration with IT.

Finance teams do not have time to lose or time to learn everything “digital” so the focus of your learning and the structure of your “new digital technology” training will be the difference between a successful finance transformation and another project failure.


Source: * Global Market Insights Report ** Based on Future of Jobs Report, World Economic Forum

Leave a Reply