Introducing the Digital Finance Function

If CFOs can not act on the digital agenda and agree where to start, there will be severe repercussions on them and their teams.

The increase in new business demands and technologies has dramatically changed the ecosystem that CFOs and their teams operate in. But the way in which accountancy is taught, understood and operates has not really changed.

This is not sustainable. We need a new unifying framework as a reference for what industry accounting and finance has become.

Alongside this need for a new framework, there are new requirements for finance function competencies and capabilities around domains of expertise like data and analytics, data visualisation, automation, collaborative modernisation, which are neither properly understood nor being met. This is acknowledged by the in the accountancy profession and industry leaders but not reflected in any definitive model.

Due to these changes, and the rise of digital transformation, the finance function is going through an existential crisis: it is not clear on its own remit, it does not know what skills it needs nor how to organise itself and it struggles to resolve a dislocation not only in how it interacts with other business functions but within itself with ‘digital’ vs ‘traditional’ schisms.

In Memo to the CFO, recently published by McKinsey, we are reminded that CFOs have been given a clear mandate to lead digital transformation in their teams and across their businesses, yet CFOs still spend less time on digital trends than they do on traditional finance activities. The CFO is also critical to digital investment and innovation, as explained in Gartner research.

Both reports also highlight that many CFOs are unsure where to start, and despite thought leadership from accounting institutions, such as the ACCA’s Digital Intelligence Hub, this is not enough to enable CFOs to operationalise the digital shift.

Why is there such a lack of focus and uncertainty from finance leaders who have a clear mandate to lead? Because of poor organisational design resulting from confusion around what finance actually does and needs to do.

 

The Digital Finance Function Model

If CFOs can not act on the digital agenda and agree where to start, there will be severe repercussions on them and their teams. That is why the Digital Finance Function Model was developed.

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Agility during a crisis and beyond…

2021 will be a tipping point for business management due to the forced change of 2020. The pandemic exposed the weaknesses in our processes, stretched our people and technology, whilst the need to invest in transformation increased in priority.

Consequently 2021-2025 will be a period of mass change, with agility and technology enabling a shift in traditional methods, from performance management and forecasting, to automation and remote working, both having a significant impact on the talent we employ and the core skills our teams need.

Whilst agile organisations have performed better in 2020, we need a strategy to create a sustainable transformation of our teams, and we are starting with the boiler room of any business, the accounting and finance teams under the CFO.

 

People centric change, not technology first

DFFM is a people-focused approach to build your teams motivation, understanding and ability over time. The reason we focus three parts of the model on strategy, people and process, and one part of technology and governance, is because we know people are the main reason for project success, and failure, not technology.

It’s well documented that technology first programme of change, have over a 60% failure rate, with under 10% due to the technology, so people are the key to success. The DFFM is a journey over time, a way of working, thinking and collaborating whilst getting the day job done.

The end result of this is a motivated cross functional team, fully aligned to create, invest and deliver a digital finance project or programme and create significant business value where it is most needed.

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Core Components of the DFF Model - The Three A’s

Analytics: Data is at the core of the DFF model. By harnessing the power of big data analytics, finance teams can deliver insights that drive strategic business decisions. Predictive analytics and AI-driven forecasts enable a forward-looking approach that anticipates market trends and customer needs.

Automation: Automation technology is a game-changer in the DFF model. It streamlines operations, reduces manual tasks, and minimizes errors. This shift allows finance professionals to focus on value-adding activities rather than routine number-crunching.

Agility: Agility in the DFF context refers to the capability of finance functions to rapidly respond to internal and external changes. This flexibility is crucial for adapting to market shifts, regulatory updates, and technological disruptions.

Author

Christopher Argent, Founder, GENCFO
GENCFO Team

Chris is the founder and MD of GenerationCFO.com and creator of the Digital Finance Function Model and a contributor to many articles on our platform. Chris focuses on the shift toward digital transformation in accounting and finance, shows you what good looks like, then helps to get you there!

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"The worst thing that can happen in any transformation is the suspicion that something's going on behind closed doors.”
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Time for a topic as controversial as pineapple on pizza: digital transformation and the use of technology to improve business. 
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