Technology doesn’t work without people – the next industrial revolution will redress the balance.
“I was always a bit of a geek when it came to technology,” says Andrew Codd, a senior member of after-sales operations at Dell Technologies and host of the Strength In The Numbers (SITN) podcast. “I was the type of guy who would take things apart and put them back together. Sometimes, they stopped working altogether, but sometimes they were actually better than before.”
In Andrew’s opinion, it’s why those from an engineering background are often quite successful in finance: they can deconstruct and reconstruct things in ways that are ‘more optimal’.
A chartered global management accountant, Andrew started experimenting with coding when he was just eight years old. He has worked in a variety of accounting and senior finance roles across different industries over the years. For the last decade, Andrew has focused on fintech and people-led digital transformation.
“My big interest is how do we make the most of digital and the people we have? Gartner shared a very interesting statistic recently, which is: 85% of finance teams are actually undergoing some sort of transformation as we speak, so that’s pretty much everyone.” Yet, says Andrew, very few transformations are actually delivering on their expected outcomes.
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Andrew says this is due to incorrect assumptions around transformation and people: all too often, organisations assume that digital will change everything, with best practice happening almost overnight. “But human minds aren’t always rational, and we all have different needs. Some of us like change, whereas others need more time to warm up. I’ve seen many examples where digital transformation has left people behind.”
The recognition that people play an equally important role in transformation and should co-exist – not be replaced by – technology is crucial, Andrew insists; the next industrial development for accountancy and finance.
Andrew dates so-called industry 0.0, the early days of accounting, as taking place during the agricultural age, where accounting was predominantly around harvest or basic sales transactions. The introduction of early machine power centuries later, in the early 1700s, brought about industry 1.0, followed by the industrial revolution, which saw greater returns on investment, defined by Andrew as industry 2.0. Industry 3.0, he says, was the invention of computers, which became more commonplace during the 1960s. “Change is happening quicker because the periods between revolutions are getting smaller. We hit Industry 4.0 in the late 1990s with digital developments and machine learning. And now, some might say we’re in Industry 5.0, which is a hybrid between people’s cognitive capabilities and digital.”
With Industry 5.0, the pendulum is attempting to re-balance; recent revolutions have seen too strong a swing towards machine learning and automation in place of people. “Technology doesn’t necessarily solve problems,” Andrew insists. “People do. Yes, technology highlights problems and can help mitigate them, but ultimately, it’s people who interpret data and provide the expertise behind so-called technological solutions.”
This trend towards a hybrid approach has lead finance to become an opportunity for financial professionals everywhere, regardless of their role or level. “Digital creates a real breadth of opportunity because once people can see how it can make lives a bit easier and lead to faster outcomes, you can create meaningful benefits. People can make use of digital to utilise their existing finance skills and knowledge in so many different ways.”
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Andrew recalls a time early in his career when he was an in-house accountant for a cash-strapped company. Andrew made use of his skills from when he had worked previously in accounts receivables and payables and made use of existing technology to cross-reference accounts. “I pulled up data from supplier and customer reconciliations to see if there was a way of increasing working capital,” he explains. “I found several mortifying instances where we had either overpaid or had been overcharged, and there were also several duplicate payments. I went back to all these suppliers and was able to bring back another million into the company. Usually, supply reconciliations are done at the time, but that hadn’t been the case with this company. I was fairly junior, but this shows that anyone, even at the lower levels of finance, can bring a lot of value to the company.”
For Andrew, this meant utilising prior knowledge and existing skills to turn around an otherwise struggling company. He’s also big on sharing, which is why he set up the highly successful Strength in The Numbers podcast, where he speaks to finance professionals from across the globe with listeners from over 170 different countries.
“I discovered early on that 92% of podcasts don’t make it past episode eight, so I made sure we recorded at least 10 episodes to be in the top 10%,” says Andrew. “Three and a half years later, we’ve just recorded our 340th episode. We bring on guests from all over the world, from India to the States, including finance leaders as well as chief innovation officers, to share their challenges, learnings and top tips. It’s become a really good knowledge source.”
As well as co-hosting the podcast, Andrew is currently developing a new software solution, Finnetics (trademark pending), which he describes as the Salesforce of finance. Dubbed the ‘productivity software for the digital age, Andrew says it will help financial professionals become better at their jobs and boost their careers by a series of tools designed to enhance skills and foster better relationships and networks.
“Finnetics helps you focus on what’s important to you,” Andrew explains. “It’s very easy to be on autopilot, especially when we’re good at what we do, but sometimes we lose sight of where we’re headed and where we want to be. This is how the digital age can really benefit us: it takes the manual, time-consuming, laborious tasks off us, so we can get more comfortable with having space to think. That’s when we can become more strategic, and we can start to add value both to ourselves and the companies we work for.”